We offer this exclusive Q&A Interview with Gabriela M, Author of the Year of 2019, a writer whose multiple literary works have been featured on our Spillwords pages, as well as previously being Author of the Month of April 2019.
What was an early experience where you learned that language and writing had power?
First, thank you to the Spillwords team for their professionalism and their generosity. Second, thank you to my readers – on various social media outlets – who voted for me and helped me get this award. I said it before, and I am going to say it again: this award is as much theirs as it is mine. I would not be Author of the Year without the Spillwords Press and, by the same token, without my readers’ kindness.
The earliest experience I can remember is Mama calling my name and saying I love you to me; the tone of her voice, sometimes grave, matched only by her extraordinary generosity and beauty. Of course, later I learned that language skills tend to build support among various audiences and strengthen and/or destroy relationships. Language skills are one of the factors that help people achieve various forms of power.
When did I realize that writing has power? When I read my first book. I probably was six or seven years old. Reading taught me that the writer has power over the reader: the power of making the reader feel; the power of making the reader question the world, as in questioning certain events; the power of immersing the reader in magic. Of course, all that happens in the measure to which the reader is responsive to writing. Everything depends on the interpretation of the reader. Do I sound like a postmodernist? If I do, it is because I am one. Someone very dear to my heart told me that there is always a certain French anarchical flavor about me. If true, that is something that I owe to the writings of Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida.
Later, I experienced the influence of my writings on my own readers; my power to touch the soul of a reader when she or he reads me in the silence and solitude of their bedrooms. This is an extraordinary experience. It’s miraculous. Most of my readers do not know who I am. However, they can contact me. The outpouring of love and generosity I have received has been like a rain of rose petals pouring on me from the highest of heaven: Dante’s Empyrean.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Oh, it energizes me beyond words. It is terrible to love writing and reading so much – and to love art in general – that you can hardly exist without it. Nothing wakes me up more than the voices of my own fantasies screaming to descend on paper.
How many hours a day do you write? And in a perfect world how many hours would you like to dedicate to writing?
I can’t write every day. I have a very demanding profession that requires a lot of energy and time. I like my profession. Yet, the days in which I cannot write I have to compartmentalize my brain and my soul, and then bury my fantasies. My fantasies speak to me so I must make them shut up. It’s difficult. It’s as if I must exorcise my alter ego. I’ve never been fully successful. My fantasies’ ghosts follow me, and I get to the words of Arthur Rimbaud, my most favorite poet: “I is another…. I witness the unfolding of my own thought: I watch it, I hear it: I make a stroke with the bow: the symphony begins in the depths, or springs with a bound onto the stage.” That’s life for me.
In a perfect world how many hours would I like to dedicate to writing? As many as humanly possible.
Does ego help or hurt writers?
I don’t think we have a clear answer to this question. If one looks at the ego as simply as “the self,” then I would venture to say that I dislike people who have an inflated sense of self, regardless of their accomplishments. There is a distinction between saying “could you please read what I write, perhaps it will speak to you and that will make me happy,” and “you should read what I write because I am the best.” Anybody can go online and find tones of pages written by all sorts of people on the topic of whether the ego helps or not. Some of those people don’t have the credentials to write or speak about it but they do so because they have an audience. I said enough, so I’ll stop here.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
I do not know. I probably have many weaknesses when it comes to writing. What affects me the most is that I do not have the time that I need to write. Days are too short. Even if sometimes I transform the nights into days. However, back to my weaknesses: we probably should ask my readers first.
Do you summon your muse or does it come naturally?
I love to write. It’s a constant burning desire. It means the muse is there most of the time. Yet, there are moments when I get blocked. Then I extend my hands and grab one of the four volumes of Lawrence Durrell’s novel The Alexandria Quartet. I have read plenty of books: from the writings of the titans coming from the Latin American space to the writings of their counterparts coming from the Slavic space. Yes, I am an American, but I am also a child of Europe. I have been fascinated, mesmerized, frightened, brought to tears, left speechless by the greatest writers of Europe. I still am. Later I discovered America’s greatest: Faulkner, Hemingway, Miller, Poe. Yet, in my darkest moments – like those rare moments in which I cannot write – only the writings of Lawrence Durrell bring my muse back.
All I need is to read a few lines like these ones:
“Who invented the human heart, I wonder? Tell me, and then show me the place where he was hanged.”
― Lawrence Durrell ‘Justine’
“Landscape-tones: brown to bronze, steep skyline, low cloud, pearl ground with shadowed oyster and violet reflections. The lion-dust of desert: prophets’ tombs turned to zinc and copper at sunset on the ancient lake.”
― Lawrence Durrell ‘Balthazar’
My muse gets freed. I can write again.
Is the support of your friends and family important to your writing process?
Absolutely. I would have never accomplished what I have until now without the support and understanding of my family. I am beyond grateful to them for everything they have done, and they still do for me.
Do you ever Google yourself?
No, not really.
Do you have any suggestions to help others become better writers? If so, what are they?
These days you cannot go on any social media without receiving advice on how to become a better writer: at what hours of the day you should write, when you should exercise, what types of vitamins you should take, and very important how many words you should write per hour, per day, per month, etc. My point is that there is plenty of advice out there. To me, writing fiction is an art, although I learned in the US that writing novels and/or poetry do not make you an artist. It makes you a writer: meaning a professional such as a plumber or a medical doctor. Whatever, that’s fine. I usually refrain from giving advice, apart from advising my students, which is a different story.
Yet, because I was asked, I am going to say this: read a lot, let yourself be taken to the point where your imagination touches that of others. It is when your imagination is freed that the miracle of creation starts. Forget about societal constraints (although I have to admit that being a woman is still very difficult to do so) and let your imagination fly. Listen to that voice that says:
“come to me so you can burn your deep desires in my arms let your longings roll and roll don’t be afraid I am just the mirror that always will reflect your soul”
That’s me talking. Don’t listen to me. Listen to that magic voice that speaks to each and one of us. Then write.
What does it mean to you to be the Spillwords Press Author Of The Year 2019?
It is extremely humbling. I am grateful, honored, ecstatic. Once again, my most sincere thanks to the entire Spillwords team, and to my readers. Happy writing to everyone.
APRIL 2019 AUTHOR OF THE MONTH / 2019 AUTHOR OF THE YEAR at Spillwords.com
Gabriela M. is a US university professor and author of three novels. Her poetry book, Passions: Love Poems and Other Writings, was published by Vita Brevis Press under the pen name Gabriela Marie Milton in April 2020. Gabriela published poems in Spillwords Press, Vita Brevis, Indian Periodical, Gioielli Rubati Poetry (translated in Italian by Flavio Almerighi), Tuck Magazine, KashmirPen, “Heretics, Lovers, and Madmen,” Literary Yard, Proletaria, Free Verse Revolution, and other venues. She was selected “Author of the Month” at Spillwords (April 2019). Her poem “The Breath of Love and Death” was voted “Publication of the Month” at Spillwords (November 2019). Gabriela’s work was included in the following anthologies: America’s Emerging Poets Southeast Region (Z Publishing House, 2018); Florida’s Best Emerging Poets (Z Publishing House, 2019); and Pain & Renewal (Vita Brevis Press, 2020). She blogs at shortprose. Christina Schwarz, the author of the New York Times Bestseller “Drowning Ruth,” on Gabriela’s poetry: “With lush language and lavish imagery, Gabriela M. evokes a fantastic world ripe with emotion.”