Monday, 4 November 2013

Blog Tour Interview: Gracianna

As a reader I am such a nosey nellie. I'm frequently just as interested in the author and the writing process as the book itself. My inclination to be nosey reached an almost all-time high as I read Gracianna. How could it not considering the premise - Gracianna is based on the life of the author's great-grandmother in Nazi occupied France. Read on to find out how Trini Amador, author of Gracianna, felt about writing his great-grandmother's story and how he feels it is important to chronicle the Holocaust.

I found Gracianna to be an inspiring book - I came out of it feeling a new sense of determination and courage. Is this a reaction that you hoped for? Was there something particular you wanted people to take away from the experience?

Thanks you so much for inviting me to LitNerd. I appreciate your comments about Gracianna. I hoped folks would think about the commitment and effort of past generations. They did not complain, they had it hard, they sacrificed. Facebook was one of the reasons for writing the book. I thought of about young folks (maybe a young girl around 19, Gracianna’s age in the book) that post pictures and socialize….what might they believe in, today, so completely, that they would act heroically like Gracianna? 

Did you face any challenges writing Gracianna's story given the family connection?

The challenges were many. Firstly, Gracianna never talked about the war or her past much in detail. She never spoke about it with me since I was just a young boy. For example, I did not know until the day I stated writing the book that Gracianna’s sister had been in a concentration camp nor that she has lived through it.  Families are complicated, meaning along with that comes the difficulties of communication and getting the complete story like in any other family. Overall I relied on my wits and own research to get the underlying facts that I needed to write the story. 

What inspired you to tell her story?

We had been working on our family wine brand for several years and had been thinking about her since we named the winery after her. When I was a boy she used to talk about being thankful…. “Be thankful…,” what does that mean to a five year old bay? Not much but it stick with me and as I grew older I better understood the meaning. 

I love how well researched this book is - particularly the details of Basque culture - how did you find researching the novel? Did you find anything particularly revealing about the past?

I went to the Basque Country to get a feel for where Gracianna was from. Lisa and I ended up in St. Jean Pied de Port – an ancient walled city. It was rugged but beautiful. The hillsides were steep and rocky. I read anything I could on the Basque. It was a wonderful awakening.  I had learned the Gracianna might be from Baigorri and it made sense that Juan was from Laxia (Laxague was his Basque given name). We drove all around the countryside in wide wonder. 

I know the story is based on the true events of Gracianna's life - how much of it is fact and how much fiction? Did you struggle creating fiction around the facts of your great-grandmother's life? 

The book is full of facts. It is hard to put percentages on it but I had no problem filling in the blanks. As a boy I had fantasized about the gun and how it had gotten in her night stand. There was not a long way from the lip to the cup to get it in her hand doing the impossible. She was tough. She was resolute. I had nearly fifty years to let the story roll around in my head – by time I was ready to write Gracianna it burst onto the page. 

I holed up in a hotel room in Asia for three days and wrote and wrote and wrote. The typical novel is 100,000 words, I wrote 12,000 words in three days. 

Many writers (both then and now) feel like writing about events such as the world wars and the Holocaust is important because they 'bear witness' to such atrocities. Did you feel like you were doing that with Gracianna? How important do you think it is to narrate these past events?

It was important to “chronicle” the war and the Holocaust. I went to Auschwitz as part of my research. I had no delusion that I could tell much new about the war or the atrocities but I did feel, when I got to it, that some of perspective might have been different. It was not easy to research. I learned more than I had expected. I am glad I did. It adds to my constant journey toward gratitude.

Does Gracianna have anything further to tell us or do you have something different in the pipeline?

Huh, funny you should ask. There is another story and my publisher has asked if I would be interested to write it. I will decide as we get into the New Year. I would LOVE to write again and hope to be able to do that. 

Finally, could you share with us your favourite reads of 2013 so far?

Favourite read is to go back for me, always: The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane. I love this story and come back to it over and over again. It was the first time that I understand that a “story” had a deeper meaning. It was not just the words on the page and the story itself but there is always a message…well good work has a message right?

Thank you to Trini for answering my questions so wonderfully! Read my review of Gracianna here.


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