Sunday, May 20, 2012

An Interview with Isabel Allende by Lucy Hannau

By Lucy Hannau for Lost in Fiction

Lucy Hannau: Which of your characters do you feel more connected to? Why?

Isabel Allende
Isabel Allende: I heard once that the author is in every character and that every character represents an aspect of the author.  I don't identify with one character in particular but in most of my books the main female protagonist is a strong willed, independent and rebellious woman who struggles to beat the odds against her. She is also sentimental and passionate. I feel very connected to those protagonists.

LH: What does "writing" mean to you?

IA: Life. Telling stories is the only thing I want to do. Writing is like breathing. Literature has given me a voice, has given sense to my life and it has connected me with millions of readers worldwide.

LH: Getting published is always hard, how did you find Carmen Balcells?

IA: My first novel, The House of the Spirits,  was rejected by several publishing houses. One day the receptionist in one of those publishing houses told me that there was no hope of being published without a good agent and she mentioned Carmen Balcells. Later, Tomas Eloy Martinez, an Argentinian writer, gave me Carmen Balcells address in Spain and recommended her as the best agent for Latin American literature.

LH: In one of your interviews you said, you have a cinematographic vision when you write. New technologies are changing our lives today, almost everybody is on Facebook or tweets daily and then there is the e-book revolution: how do you relate to them both as an author and as a person? What do you think about e-books?

IA: I don't have Facebook and I don't tweet because I have no time: I am too busy writing. Usually I have a pile of books on my night table waiting their turn to be read. I like to touch and smell books, but I prefer e-books when I travel because I can carry as many as I want in my iPad. I think that in the future, books will be rare items for collectors and libraries and we will be reading everything on a screen.  

LH: It's been many years since you have been living in California where your "tribe" lives too. How do you keep your written Spanish so "polished," without even a minimal English interference in the vocabulary or in the syntax?

IA: Oh! I wish that were true! My Spanish has deteriorated gravely. Willie, my American husband, thinks that he speaks Spanish but his syntax sounds like Polish and when he doesn't know a word, he makes it up. After 25 years in his company I am writing the way he speaks. A young man in Spain, Jorge Manzanilla, corrects my manuscripts to eliminate Willie's pernicious influence.

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