Tamara Romero is a new author whose novelette Her Fingers has received glowing reviews from some of the most prominent Spanish science fiction and fantasy blogs: La Bilbioteca de Ilium (review in English and in Spanish), Leemaslibros (review in Spanish) and Sin Solapas (review in Spanish), to name a few. Thus, it is pleasure for me to publish this interview of Pedro Román with Tamara Romero (you can read the Spanish translation at Pedro's blog).
Pedro Román: Let our readers know a bit about yourself
Pedro Román: Let our readers know a bit about yourself
Tamara Romero: I live in Barcelona. I have a degree in Media Studies and my specialty is film theory. I started working as a TV sports producer, but I quickly lost all interest in television. Then I worked at a big publishing house for four years, as a press manager and assistant editor. After that, I did a long trip around the US, and then I became a freelance editor and professional reader for several companies. This is more or less my background. Nowadays I have a steady job on marketing and editing in online media, and I combine it with my writing. I haven't done much more, I'm still quite young!
PR: When and why did you jump into writing? Why in English?
TR: I guess I’ve always written as a hobby, but being published in English in the US was just pure chance. I wrote Her Fingers in Spanish in the summer of 2008 and since it’s a 70 pages novelette I thought that it would never have a chance to be published here, in a market that is a bit obsessed with long sagas.
Last year, in February, I discovered Bizarro Fiction (as they say, it’s literature’s equivalent to the cult section at the video store) and I was really happy to find out about their formats: weird pop culture-influenced books and novellas that could be read in one sitting. So the fact that they were open to publish novelettes was what made me remind of Her Fingers and tell them. They liked the story pitch and I started working on the translation. So it’s been a format issue. I never bothered to send Her Fingers to any editor in Spain simply because it would have been too short for them.
PR: The genre market in Spain is…
TR: Dispersed, scattered, a bit invisible, and with an outstanding obsession with epic fantasy.
I have to say that I don’t read many Spanish authors, but I have the feeling that some of the most remarkable novels have been published in non-genre imprints and that didn’t help us to build a fantastic lit tradition. Spanish editors do not take many risks either. Although we never had any big author. We didn’t have a Stanislaw Lem. I also think that South American writers have had fewer complexes.
As for the audience, fantastic literature has been a bit in the margins here until the arrival of Harry Potter and A Song of Ice and Fire. These two sagas have brought thousands of new readers in Spain and that’s a great opportunity for genre writers.
PR: Translating a book (even a short one) into English sounds scary. Did you undertake it?
TR: If you are very interested in the fantasy genre I guess that you end up reading in English –or trying to, because there’s so much fantastic fiction that doesn’t have room in the Spanish market. So I’ve been reading regularly in English for the last ten years and ended up having a really proficient level. Also, I watch tons of movies in original version and this has helped me to deliver decent dialogues in English. When I pitched the story to Eraserhead Press they told me that it sounded very interesting but they were reading manuscripts only in English, and if I could translate some of it they would have a look. So I started by the two first chapters and sent them, and after that, I received the editor’s OK to go on.
So I translated Her Fingers myself. Then a bilingual writer helped me to polish, and finally my editor changed some British expressions. I didn’t hire any professional translator. But I must say that I dared to do this because it’s a short text, a 70 pages novelette. It was three weeks of intense work. I’m not sure if I could do this again with a full length novel. It’s quite hard, and I don’t think I would write directly in English either.
I don’t think that the text has lost any quality with a translation. On the contrary, I improved many things. There are some new facts in the story. If the text is ever published in Spanish, I should re-check it again and fix them.
PR: Would you suggest this path to other writers?
TR: I’d say that American audience, for instance, is not really used to reading translations. Translated writers are rare and they might see them mostly as somewhat exotic. But if you write fantasy, or sci fi, or horror, then you should consider it seriously and try to perfect your written English. The fantasy market in English is bigger, so there’s more room for new writers, and something that I consider quite important: there are magazines were you can publish your short fiction. That does not really exist here. There are also lots of small presses with open submissions periods.
It’s 2013, there’s Internet and we have hundreds of possibilities to explore, from small presses to self-publishing. Right now it’s a great moment to be a writer.
PR: Who are your literary references? How much of them did you pour into Her Fingers?
TR: I have many literary references and if I name them, probably you can see some in Her Fingers. I’m certain I wouldn’t have written it if I hadn’t read Perdido Street Station by China Miéville. Jeff Noon is also one of my favorite writers, and I’m very happy that he’s back after ten years. I’m also a fan of Marion Zimmer Bradley and her ‘Darkover’ series. The last book that I read just before writing Her Fingers was The Mists of Avalon. I also like Poppy Z. Brite, Clive Barker, Jeff Vandermeer, Ursula K. Le Guin, H.P. Lovecraft, Philip K. Dick (mostly his short stories), J.G. Ballard… I enjoy classic erotic literature (Story of O is one of my favorite novels), and what I call the ‘hegemony in US and Europe’: Michel Houellebecq and Jonathan Franzen. When I was a bit younger I used to read books by Irvine Welsh or Dennis Cooper and the use of drugs is quite present in my stories too, often in the shape of legal, new, magical substances. Right now, Carlton Mellick’s books are also being an inspiration for working on new bizarro stories. And Dostoyevsky, always.
PR: If I understand it, Eraserhead Press released your novelette as a test: if it sells well enough, you will be offered a contract. How is it faring so far?
TR: Exactly. Her Fingers is published under the New Bizarro Author Series, an imprint of Eraserhead Press. Every year, they pick a group of new authors and they publish their books in November, at their annual convention. We have a year to sell a specific number of copies, a few hundreds, and if we manage to promote our work properly and deliver high quality weird stories we can opt to a contract in the following year. Eraserhead Press is a cult indie publishing house and bizarro genre is getting bigger and bigger in the US. They have a lot of fans. When my book was announced, there were already people looking forward to reading it and that’s the dream of a newbie. I already had an audience. The first reviews have been very enthusiastic! I won’t have an update on sales figures until next month or so. But so far, everything’s great.
PR: Society analysis, the exploration of personal and collective roles and, definitely, the abundance of ideas, are core points of your novelette. Are they also part of your trademark? What else?
TR: Ideas are my most appreciated tool when writing and fortunately I never run out of them. I like to provide something new, weird, and powerful, if I can, in every page, so you want to turn it and find something else that drags you deeper into that world. I like being extremely generous with ideas. I don’t save them for other books. It might be overwhelming and a bit baroque sometimes, but personally that’s what I enjoy as a reader. Sometimes I hid literary references to the classics. In Her Fingers there’s a Crime and Punishment one.
I also like having a political approach to fantasy stories, even if it’s just a story about teenagers. I like detailing political systems and I guess I somehow end up writing about the control of societies and control in general.
PR: Full of vibrant ideas and with plenty of room for development, do you plan return to the world of Her Fingers? Will it be a cornerstone for new books?
TR: I don't plan to go back to Her Fingers’ world, but I don’t dismiss it either. I might think about writing some short stories set in that universe –definitely not a novel-, maybe about the Sleepwalkers, or Barsiddharta’s dictatorship period, but mind that I wrote the first version five years ago. Then, until last year, the story was kept in a USB in a drawer and I almost forgot it completely, because I’ve been working on a long novel for the last two years, and it’s a story with a more detailed and complex world that keeps me quite busy right now.
PR: What are your future projects?
TR: I’m just finishing a novel in Spanish. It’s my longest piece so far. It’s a dark fantasy story about two detective girls, set in a strange mountain-city with a very high density of twins and some weird events going on after the disappearance of a young girl. It also has a dense political background, night clubs, strippers, rock bands, an evil female governor... I’m not sure if you’ll be able to read it this year, I’d like to find an editor first. I’m very happy already with the first draft, but it still needs work. I’ll also be working on some short fiction in English and I hope to write a couple of novelettes in 2013. And, obviously I’ll be supporting Her Fingers out there. That little book is very dear to me and the e-book edition is coming very soon.
PR: Where can our readers find more about you and your work?
TR: Visit my site for occasional updates! (I’m a terrible blogger). Meantime we can always talk about books and movies and life at Twitter. (@tamara_rom)
(You can also read this interview in Spanish at Leemaslibros/También puedes leer esta entrevista en español en leemaslibros)