Apr 16, 2014

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Latina Spotlight on Liz DeJesus, Author of The Jackets

First Frost, Latina Spotlight
Liz DeJesus  is a novelist and a poet. She has been writing for as long as she was capable of holding a pen. She is the author of the novel Nina (Blu Phi’er Publishing, October 2007), The Jackets (Arte Publico Press, March 31st 2011) First Frost (Musa Publishing, June 22nd 2012) and Glass Frost (Musa Publishing, COMING SOON). Join us as we shine this week’s Spotlight on Liz and learn more about what motivates her to keep writing! 

What inspired you to write The JacketsFirst Frost and Glass Frost?

The initial inspiration to write The Jackets came from the movie Sin City. I was drawn in by the little pops of color in the black and white film and I decided to play with colors in my short stories to see where it would take me. The story “Yellow,” that’s featured in The Jackets was inspired by a music video, the song is titled ‘In the Rough’ by Anna Nalick. And “Brown” was inspired by the song ‘Nature Boy’ by Nat King Cole. The other stories were also inspired by Greek Mythology (which I love) and everything sort of came together.
First Frost was inspired by a commercial for a local children’s museum. I started thinking about how kids are often into different things at different stages in life, such as trains, cars, pirates, and fairy tales. Then I thought about a fairy tale themed museum and the idea of that seemed incredibly cool.  I know I would want to work there. I jotted down a few ideas in a notebook and eventually the story sort of wrote itself. I was able to combine my love of fairy tales and magic to create a very interesting little series. And Glass Frost is the upcoming sequel to First Frost. It picks up right where the first book ends. I’m also working on the third book which is tentatively titled Shattered Frost. The dream is for this to be an ongoing series.

How have you seen your work impact others?

I think my work has had a positive impact on people, particularly teens that I’ve spoken to at local high schools. Just being able to share my love of literature with them has been incredible. I love seeing the look on their face when I tell them that ‘Yes, you can be a writer or an illustrator.’ That they can make their dreams come true if they work hard enough and believe in themselves.

Who or what inspires you to think big?

My mom was the first one to inspire me to be a writer. But it was my father who was the first one to tell me to never, ever give up. I had boyfriends that told me that I wouldn’t ever amount to anything. I even had a boyfriend tell me that if an editor ever got a hold of my novel that he would dip the whole thing in red paint and hand it back to me. Safe to say, those relationships didn’t last very long (for other reasons) but instead of letting naysayers bring me down it only added more fuel to my fire. It made me even more determined to make something of myself. I wanted to prove them wrong.
I couldn’t afford to go to school. I came to the United States when I was seventeen years old and had to get a job in order to help my family pay bills at home.  How did I learn to write?  By reading.  I read everything I could get my hands on.  I slowly figured out what these incredible writers were doing that made their story work.  How the dialogue flowed, how to describe characters and scenery. I’m still learning. I don’t ever want to stop learning. I took the time and worked on my craft by reading ‘How To’ books and every writing magazine I could get my hands on.

How do you deal with the “F-word”—failure?

I don’t think about failure. It’s not something that’s present in my mind. My main focus is on writing and being able to share my stories with anyone that’s interested in reading a good story. My goal is to entertain the reader from the moment they pick up my book until they turn that last page. Everything else I do is just fun.  Being on Facebook, Twitter, livejournal and scheduling book signings is just another way to meet people and to share with them what I’m doing on a daily basis.

What is your advice to aspiring and established Latina authors?

To follow their hearts. I know it sounds cheesy but it’s the honest truth. Don’t try to follow trends (like writing books about vampires or zombies thinking that they will sell). Stay true to yourself. Don’t let anyone pigeonhole you into being a certain type of author. If you want to write a book in different genres then you should be able to do that. You don’t have to be an author that writes only insert genre here.  Hopefully that makes sense to anyone reading this.
Another bit of advice is to help other authors. You would be amazed at how many times I’ve extended my hand to other authors (some that I’ve never even met in person) and they’ve repaid in kind. People will always remember kindness.
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Tanisha Love Ramirez

Tanisha Love Ramirez

Tanisha is the Managing Editor at NEW LATINA, and a social commentary and pop-culture writer/blogger from New York City. She studied Sociology and Women's Studies at Bowdoin College, where she developed a strong interest women's issues and community advocacy. Tanisha has written for the Bowdoin Orient and has interned at BUST Magazine and Jezebel.com.

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