We offer our first and exclusive Q&A Interview with Carmen Baca, a writer whose literary works have been featured on our Spillwords pages as well as being Author of the Month of December 2021.
What does it mean to be selected as Author of The Month?
The Author of the Month nomination came right before my birthday, and the notification of my winning the title came on my 66th birthday. The nomination gave a much-needed boost to my confidence as an author. The actual selection felt like a gift from my readers, friends, and family who support my endeavors as a writer and appreciate what I write. That means everything to me.
How have your friends and/or family influenced your writing?
When I wrote my first manuscript in 1992, I was a high school English teacher. I told everyone I knew—friends, family, students, colleagues—I would publish it one day. Their support propelled me to do just that, even though the book didn’t publish until 25 years later. Their positive feedback on that book influenced me to keep writing.
What inspires you to write?
Most of what I write comes from real life experiences, those emotional events, stages of development, and universal situations we all undergo. I set my stories in the mountain canyon where I live and in many of the small rural communities or towns which surround my home. I’m inspired by these settings and by the people who reside (or resided) there, most especially my ancestors. I incorporate my culture’s traditions, customs, dialect, and every facet I can think of to share my Spanish heritage with readers. Because I live in the “Land of Enchantment” that is New Mexico, I’m influenced by my culture’s legends, folklore, spirits, cryptids and boogie men (thorough most of ours are women). They usually make their ways into my stories, which is why I write magical realism and quiet horror more than other genres.
What was your writing catalyst?
My father and his forefathers were members of my culture’s religious brotherhood; my mother and I belonged to the women’s auxiliary society known as Las Verónicas. When the brotherhood disbanded in 1986, I, as the youngest, was chosen to house their artifacts and records. (I am now the last living member.) When my husband broke open the lock of a wooden box which had held my curiosity all my life and the contents revealed what I suspected about the brotherhood, I knew I had to write their story to dispel the negative rumors and speculations about them. My first book was born as a tribute to my father and the brothers, los Hermanos.
Tell us a little bit about your writing process?
My writing process begins when I come up with a concept for a story, whether it’s a book, a short story, or something else. As I write, the plot forms in my imagination as though I’m experiencing it through virtual reality. I write what I see. However, I’m finding with three future books that I’ll have to combine my discovery method of writing with a little plotting since two are sequels and one is a companion book.
What would you say is most fulfilling about writing?
The thrill of discovering characters and bringing their stories to life excites me. The search for the right words to convey emotion, setting, tone, etc., tests my skills. And experimenting with genres, points of view, and other elements of writing challenges me. Those are the most fulfilling aspects of writing for me.
Does the addition of imagery help to tell your story?
Imagery combines with diction, details, literary devices, and syntax to establish a certain tone for whatever genre I’m writing, whether it’s literary fiction or horror and everything in between. I very much enjoy creating images for my readers, especially in emotional scenes or in scenes where I convey a cultural element, such as a ritual or a traditional practice I want them to understand fully. Creating imagery means I get to have fun using literary devices like the extended metaphor or effective foreshadowing for a specific reader response.
What is your favorite reading genre?
Ever since I fell in love with Nancy Drew mysteries as a child, I’ve been drawn to anything with a mystery: murder, thriller, horror, paranormal, supernatural, etc.
What human being has inspired you the most?
For me, it’s more than one. My parents, who grew up in the early 1900s, lived through the Great Depression, and joined the war effort during WWII, are the two most inspirational. They now serve as my muses, inspiring me to use my small voice to tell their stories and keep our culture alive. The late Rudolfo Anaya, our state’s most famous author, inspired me to pursue writing.
What message would you have for the Spillwords Press community that voted for you?
Having the support of readers who appreciate my stories means so much to me as a writer. I’m an author now because of you. I can’t say thank you enough to express my gratitude to each of you.
What would you like your legacy as a writer to be?
I hope my legacy is that my works will continue to be read long after I’m gone, serving as a record of my culture’s dying traditions which today’s and tomorrow’s generations will never know. As an editor, I’ve helped a number of writers become published authors to date; I’d like to be known as a writer who supports others on their writing journeys.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I’d like to thank Dagmara K. and everyone at Spillwords Press for nominating me for Author of the Month. I’m thrilled beyond words to have been nominated at all. To have won is an honor. I owe my gratitude to you, to editors and publishers who publish my works, and to those who help me turn book manuscripts into publications. Publishing is a team effort. I’m living a dream because of people like you who give me a reason to be proud—all because I love to write stories.
DECEMBER 2021 AUTHOR OF THE MONTH at Spillwords.com
Carmen Baca retired in 2014 from teaching high school and college English for thirty-six years. Her command of English and use of her regional Spanish dialect contribute to her story-telling style. Her debut novel El Hermano published in April of 2017 and became a finalist in the NM-AZ book awards program in 2018. Her third book, Cuentos del Cañón, received first place for short story fiction anthology in 2020 from the same program. To date, she has published 6 books and over 60 short works in literary journals, ezines, and anthologies.