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Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Expert Genre Bending



Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a talented writer with a knack for writing colorful, inspiring, and exciting stories no matter the genre. Kat tells us about Silvia's life and what drives her to write. Gabe shares information about the diverse books Silvia has written and how her existence in the genre fiction world has changed Gabe's reading life.


Sources in this Episode: How Silvia Moreno-Garcia's shapeshifting visions of Mexico took over the bestseller list THE PEN TEN: AN INTERVIEW WITH SILVIA MORENO-GARCIA LocusMag Innsmouth Free Press

 

When Everything Feels like the Movies: The Life & History of Silvia Moreno-Garcia by Kat Kushin


RED: Quotes, someone else's words.


Fun Facts about Silvia Moreno-Garcia -

  • They’re the same age as NK Jemisin, only 41 years old.

  • They have a masters degree in science and technology studies from the University of British Columbia, and their thesis was on eugenics, women, and the work of H.P. Lovecraft.

  • They don’t stick to just one genre, and write many different kinds of books.

  • One of their books has a cool playlist - Signal to Noise


Her Life -

Just as a general note, alive and fairly young people don't always have a ton of information out there about their lives, their histories, etc. I searched a lot, and ended up having to piece together a bunch of different interviews to have somewhat of an overview on their overall life. For this reason, there may not be as thorough of a background as might have been expected. There are many interesting stories and anecdotes however, that are definitely very interesting. Many of the interviews I read from her were very interesting, so I definitely recommend checking them out, they’re linked in our blog.


Silvia Moreno-Garcia was born in Baja California, Mexico on April 25th, 1981. Her parents both worked at a radio station as journalists, so they always had a lot of books in the house. Her mother was very into science fiction and fantasy. There were the classics like Dune and Tolkien, and then more modern authors for the time (1970s) like Tanith Lee, Anne McCaffrey etc. In an LA Times article she mentions “My mom was a sci-fi and horror fan. She read [Frank Herbert’s] ‘Dune,’ Stephen King — and she had a love affair with H.P. Lovecraft’s work.” These are the stories she grew up reading as well, and her mother had many books in the house translated from English into Spanish, and some in English as well. This love of books and stories was generational, as her Great-Grandmother was an oral storyteller. In the same LA Times article, she spoke on the influence of her Great-Grandmother. She could not read or write but spoke her stories, and Silvia recalls “So for her stories were told, not written, and everything had a pace. You couldn’t rush my great-grandmother when she was speaking. You let her talk. You trusted her.” Silvia was very impacted by the stories her Great-Grandmother told her, and said that they helped shape her, and her love of storytelling.


Growing up in Mexico, Silvia learned English from Kindergarten on. She noted that there weren’t many children’s books available for her growing up so she immersed herself in older fiction, specifically The Three Musketeers at the age of eight. This helped develop her vocabulary at an early age, and influenced her to read many different kinds of books. She read everything, in Spanish and English, from the Bible to mythology, anything she could get a hold of. Reading was her passion, and she spent a lot of time in the Mexican chain bookstore, ‘Gandhi Bookstore’. She noted that reading wasn’t especially common in her social class growing up, but because her parents were journalists, they had lots of books, and people thought she was odd in her love of reading. Books were the main thing that they would spend their money on, and luckily older books were inexpensive. When they were young they were very impacted by the short stories of Edgar Allen Poe, and this was their first introduction to horror Literature. After Poe, they discovered H.P. Lovecraft and that is something that deeply impacted their life, and they went on to write their masters thesis on Eugenics, women and Lovecraft. They eventually also edited anthologies inspired by Lovecraft’s stories. Ultimately they read as much as they possibly could, across genres, fiction and nonfiction, whatever they could read they read.


While reading was her passion, writing became her passion as well out of financial necessity. They spend a lot of time in school, but don’t mention that leading to much, if any financial prosperity. They got a Bachelor's degree in the states and in 2004 they moved to Canada to get their masters degree as I stated above. It seemed that a lot of their motivation came from just loving learning, and wanting to learn as much as possible as a way to make sense of the world. Growing up they didn’t have a lot of money, so the need for money was something that heavily motivated them to get into writing. They even go as far to say that writing was their only marketable skill, so they got into writing because that was the only way they could think of to make money and help their family. In an interview on LocusMag they say “I started writing fiction because I needed money and I was depressed. I wrote ‘King of Sand and Stormy Seas’ and ended up selling it to Shimmer, and that was one of the first stories I sold. After that I realized I could sell – that I had maybe a marketable skill. We had immigrated to Canada, my husband was working two jobs, and I had a baby and couldn’t get full-time work. I was doing journalism for this little weekly rag, writ­ing stories for like $40 a pop. Sometimes they wouldn’t pay with cash – they would pay with food coupons to a bar where I would take my baby and eat. My mother was sending money from Mexico, which was very shameful. You move to another country to make a better life, and then your mother sends you 100 bucks so you can cover the rent. We were burning through our savings, so I was in a lousy place. When I sold that story, I thought: I can do it. The good thing about commercial speculative fiction, as opposed to literary fic­tion, is that markets tend to reply fast and they tend to pay. They may not pay much, but at the time getting $20 or $30 was big, and I could write with a baby on my lap. I was doing freelance journalism anyway, so fiction was one more thing I could do, and then at least I wouldn’t feel like such a horrible, piece-of-shit loser. You graduate magna cum laude and everybody says you’re going to be great – I’d gone to the States with a scholarship, I was supposed to be this smart person – and then you live in a horrible place and you’ve got no money. I was hanging out with a baby all day and wondering what happened. My friends were doing great things, and I was like, ‘How did I end up here?’ Writing stories made me feel better, because somebody appreci­ated what I was doing, and it brought in this trickle of cash. Then I got a job – a horrible full-time job. I was working in video production, and it was terrible, minimum wage, and soul-destroying. I got a better job, doing communications in an office, and things were economically stable, but I kept doing the short story thing, because I had gotten used to it. I could crank them out. When you’re a journalist, there’s a deadline. A lot of times writers talk about, ‘Oh, writer’s block,’ and I’m like, ‘That’s bananas.’ If you’re a journalist and it’s 5 p.m. and you don’t have your copy done, you’re fired. I come from that mental­ity. Even with a full-time job, if I had an hour in a day, I could crank a story out in a couple of weeks. It’s just a process. It’s not magic. I had a friend who was studying creative writing, and she was writing one story a year. When she was done with her degree she had two or three stories, like 5,000 words each. That’s ridiculous. You need to exercise your writing muscles. The only way to get better is to write.” They worked with their friend Paula Stiles, who was living in Vancouver as well, and in looking at the gaps in the publishing market, they noticed that it was heavily saturated with white men, and very little else. If there were women, they were white women. The industry was missing BIPOC and women. They looked online and noticed the internet was filled with forums of women who were really into weird fiction, Lovecraftian horror, and other themes. There were women who were fans of the genres and some that wanted to write it or were already writing but weren’t getting published. Silvia and Paula came together and realized if they weren’t getting published but had the energy, the skill, and the passion for it, maybe they had to create a place for it. They had to make a space for them, since one didn’t exist yet. They created Innsmouth Free Press from this idea, and it started as a magazine and small website. They made several anthologies and books, which resulted in the all-women Lovecraft anthology She Walks in Shadows, and it ended up winning the World Fantasy Award. They described it as a place for “the women men don’t see, and therefore nobody sees”. Which is just really awesome, that they created that kind of space, and that it’s working. They also work to translate works by authors who haven’t been translated, to help get their work to English reading audiences.


In terms of what she’s been doing lately - she’s been getting published and winning awards!

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of a number of critically acclaimed novels, including Gods of Jade and Shadow (Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, Ignyte Award), Mexican Gothic (Locus Award, British Fantasy Award, Pacific Northwest Book Award, Aurora Award, Goodreads Award), and Velvet Was the Night (finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Macavity Award). We’ll be covering Certain Dark Things by her next week.


In another interview I recommend checking out, on pen.org, THE PEN TEN: AN INTERVIEW WITH SILVIA MORENO-GARCIA written by: Jared Jackson she answers some cool questions, i’ve quoted some below: (I didn’t include all the questions because we’ll be covering Mexican Gothic at a later date, and didn’t want to give accidental spoilers ahead of that content)


2. What does your creative process look like? How do you maintain momentum and remain inspired?

I look at my checking account. I know that sounds flippant, but I feel many times you’re not supposed to accept the material realities of working in the arts. I like writing, but I also like eating, so I’ve taught myself to write efficiently within the constraints of my life, which include a day job, a family, and stuff like that. The hard part is not inspiration. That’s easy. It’s the other stuff that takes a bit of juggling. But I tell writers who are starting out to figure out what their pace is like and stick to it. If you write 500 words a day Monday to Friday, you’ll have a short story in a few weeks.


3. What is one book or piece of writing you love that readers might not know about?

Thomas P. Cullinan wrote three great novels beginning with the letter B: The Beguiled (1966), The Besieged (1970), and The Bedeviled (1978). I had to fish The Besieged from the vaults of my library. You just can’t find it in print. His other two novels have been recently reissued. The Besieged is what might be called a “potboiler.” It’s a multi-point of view novel where every point of view is unreliable. I wish more people would know Charles Williams, who was a great noir writer and has been oddly forgotten. And not enough of Rolo Diez’s work has been translated. He’s a wonderful noir writer, too. I think the only book available by him in English is Tequila Blue.