I'm happy to welcome Francisco X. Stork to Becky's Book Reviews. I was thrilled when he agreed to an interview!!! Because I loved, loved, loved me some Marcelo in the Real World. I think it is one of the BEST books I've read this year. I think it's a true must-read. And if it's possible, it's a book I love even more after having this conversation with him! Visit him on his site, or his journal.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and your journey towards becoming a published author?
I was born in Mexico. My mother was as an unwed mother who married an American citizen who adopted me and brought us to the El Paso, Texas when I was nine. I wanted to be a writer ever since I was about seven and Charlie (my adoptive father) gave me a typewriter for a birthday present. It wasn’t until high school that I started writing seriously in a journal and in school literary magazines. I kept writing in journals until after much effort my first novel was published when I was forty-eight years old!
What inspired you to write Marcelo in the Real World?
Marcelo in the Real World started out as a novel about Aurora (Marcelo’s mother). It was the story of a mother whose son dies and a year later she goes into his room and begins to read his journals and discovers what a holy person he was. Once I started describing Marcelo, his voice came and it was clear to me that it was his story that needed to be told.
How long did it take to write?
It took me about three years to write. Once it was accepted for publication I worked on revising it for an additional year.
Did the character of Marcelo come to you all at once, or did the character take some time to evolve?
I think Marcelo was a character that was brewing inside of me for a long time. I’ve always loved reading autobiographies of religious people of various religions and I think that Marcelo was forming inside of me throughout my readings.
Were any of the characters inspired by real people?
Some of the not very nice lawyers who worked in the law firm were probably inspired by people I have met in my many years as a lawyer.
Do you have a favorite scene or a favorite quote from the novel? What is your favorite bit that you’re extra-proud to have written?
The scene between Marcelo and Rabbi Heschel when Marcelo has the lapse in faith is one that touched me in particular because Marcelo was asking questions about life and the nature of suffering that I personally struggle with. But I have to tell you that the scene in Vermont with Amos’ crazy father was a lot of fun.
Do you share Marcelo’s interest in religion?
Yes. I’m interested in how the different world religions have tried to answer the fundamental questions of life: Why are we here? What happens after we die? How should we act towards one another?
What was your first impression of the cover art for Marcelo in the Real World?
I wanted to have a tree house just like that! I love the cover. It was both realistic and symbolic: Marcelo descends from his tree house and is led into life by Jasmine.
What do you love about writing? What do you find the easiest? What do you find the hardest?
I love how writing is an act of exploration and discovery in so many ways. The easiest part for me is just to write not really knowing where I’m going. The hardest part is going back and giving direction to what I have written.
Can you describe what a typical day is like as a writer?
I have a day job as a lawyer that takes a lot of my time and mental energy. Sometimes I can get up at 4 in the morning and write for a couple of hours before I go to work. Sometimes this becomes too demanding and I have to just catch an hour or two in the evenings and do most of my writing during the weekends.
Can you tell us anything about your current work in progress? Do you have any upcoming releases?
I have a novel coming out with Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic in the Spring of 2010. It’s very different than Marcelo. I think it is important to challenge myself in my writing.
How do you find the time—do you find the time—to keep reading? Do you have any recent favorites?
Reading is what suffers the most in my life. I just don’t have enough time to read the books I need to read as background for my writing, to read the wonderful Young Adult books that come out every year, and to read all the other significant books. Besides, I am a very slow reader because I tend to re-read passages I like to see how the author accomplished the effect he or she accomplished. I end up reading on my hour commute to and from work and in the evenings instead of watching television.
If you had twenty-four hours, a time machine, and a limitless supply of money, what would you want to do?
I would build very nice schools everywhere where kids would love to come and I would pay teachers and librarians the best wages because their jobs are the most important.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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