CARMEN FERREIRO ESTEBAN TALKS TO SANDRA CAREY CODY
Carmen Ferreiro Esteban was born in Northern Spain and grew up among the misty mountains of Galicia, the land of rolling hills and green valleys surrounded by ocean, believed in medieval times to be “Finisterre,” the place where the world came to an end. She attained her Ph.D in biology from the Universidad Autỏnoma in Madrid and went on to work as a postdoctoral researcher at universities and government institutions in both Spain and the United States. Carmen and I met and immediately became friends when we had a joint signing at a local bookstore. I’m pleased that she has agreed to share her writing experience with the readers of Birth of a Novel.
SANDY CODY: What prompted you to become a writer?
CARMEN FERREIRO ESTEBAN: I was born a storyteller. I think in words, not images, so writing was inevitable for me.
CODY: What part of writing do you find most satisfying?
ESTEBAN: Plotting, that is, making up stories and bringing them to a satisfactory conclusion.
CODY: What part do you find most difficult?
ESTEBAN: Plotting also. Does this even make sense?
CODY: What comes first for you? Characters? Story? Setting?
ESTEBAN: All of the above. The origin of each of my three novels was different.
Two Moon Princess started as a retelling of The Ugly Duckling, my favorite fairy tale when I was growing up, so I guess the character came first. The King in the Stone is a personal story. Requiem for a King grew from two scenes that sprang to my mind while I was researching medieval Spain for an historical novel. In the first scene, a servant boy sits under a willow tree by the river carving a hawk out of wood. A red haired girl dressed in a blue gown and slippers comes looking for him. The boy resents the girl because she is the princess and he is but her whipping boy. He fears that she will have him flogged for skipping his chores. He resents her even more when she asks him for the hawk. The boy looks up to refuse but, as his eyes meet hers, he sees her not as the princess, but as a girl and, in that moment, he falls in love with her. The second scene takes place in the king’s chambers. The princess stands at the door while two guards drag the boy away and the king, sheathing his sword, roars, “He killed the queen.”
But setting is also very important in all my books. The door between worlds in Two Moon Princess is a broken arch in a beach in Northern Spain, a scene I used to visit when I was young. Andrea enters the arch in her world and travels to a similar arch in California. Unknown to me when I first wrote the scene, an arch does exist about two miles north of the place I lived when I arrived in California. In The King in the Stone, the mountains in the story, Los Picos de Europa, are a real place of breathtaking beauty, also in Northern Spain. In the book, the mountains have a mystical quality that makes them almost a character. In Requiem for a King, I mention Moon Lake. Moon Lake is based on the Laguna Negra, a lake in the crater of a volcano I visited long ago in Central Spain. (You can see a picture and read a description at http://onpublishing.wordpress.com/209/11/06/rejecting-rejection-2/).
CODY: Tell us about Two Moon Princess.
ESTEBAN: Two Moon Princess is a novel for teens and adults. It was published in 2007 by Tanglewood Press and was recognized with the bronze award in the Juvenile Fiction category by ForeWord Magazine. The paperback edition was released this past June. The story follows Andrea, a strong-willed princess, from her Spanish medieval world to modern day California. When she accidentally returns to her world with the California boy she fancies, she sets off a chain of events that brings war to her kingdom. Her well-intended but foolish attempts to stop the war and keep her love interest alive, will have unexpected consequences that challenge her beliefs and change her forever. Sarah Bean, writing for TeenReadsToo called Two Moon Princess “… a wonderful book that kept me up turning pages and reading well into the night” and said “… the author’s parallel worlds were richly described and all the characters grew throughout the story.” The Page Flipper praised the “…completely original plot” as “…consistently thrilling and packed with exciting plot twists…” Princess Andrea was praised in http://thecompulsivereader.blogspot.com as “…headstrong, clever and sometimes a little foolish.” A reviewer on http:///www.myshelf.com said “…girls in junior high and above will identify with a young woman’s attempt to enter those activities traditionally reserved for men.”
CODY: How much of this story is based on your own experience of transitioning between two different cultures?
ESTEBAN: Here’s the blurb: A Spanish Princess. An American Boy. A King set on revenge. An unrequited love and a disturbing family secret bring a world to the brink of war.
Although the blurb focuses on the fantasy aspect of the book, Two Moon Princess is a coming of age story. It is the story of a girl, Princess Andrea, who grows up in a patriarchal society where girls have no power and, thus, no choice. Andrea discovers a portal into another world (modern-day California) where she has the freedom to become whoever she wants to be. So it is no wonder that when she accidentally returns to her own world she will spend all her energy trying to go back. She needs to save not only the life of the boy she has brought with her (and who her father wants to kill) but also her own newfound freedom. How is the story personal? I grew up in a very patriarchal society and I know from experience that, once you taste freedom, you can’t go back.
CODY: What other projects are in the works?
ESTEBAN: Tanglewood Press has agreed to publish The King in the Stone, the sequel to Two Moon Princess. You can read a chapter at http://onpublishing.wordpress.com/authors-writings/carmens/the-king-in-the-stone-upcoming-2010 I just finished another young adult novel, Requiem for a King, a love story shrouded in mystery that takes place in an imaginary world, reminiscent of medieval Spain. Here’s the pitch: In the days following her mother’s death, Princess Ines remembers growing up with Nowan, the boy she came to love despite their class differences and who now, accused of the queen’s murder, awaits execution in the castle’s dungeon.
CODY: What other authors do you especially admire?
ESTEBAN: I’m a great fan of Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Tales. His descriptions of battles and military strategy are flawlessly drawn and engaging. In young adult fiction, I love Lene Kaaberbol’s The Shamer Chronicles and Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief/The Queen of Attolia/The King of Attolia.
CODY: What do you do when you’re not writing?
ESTEBAN: If I’m in the middle of writing the first draft, I plot in my mind what happens next even when I’m not typing. For a living, I do translations, Spanish<>English. I have a Ph.D in Biology so I specialize in Pharmaceutical/Medical translations. I would love to do literary translations too, but haven’t broken into that field yet.
CODY: Do you have a schedule for writing or do you squeeze it in when you can?
ESTEBAN: I usually write in the mornings and evenings.
CODY: What refreshes you creatively?
ESTEBAN: Talking with other writers, walking, laughing. I think laughing – laughing at jokes, laughing at ourselves – is very important. If we are not having fun, our readers won’t either.
To learn more about Carmen and her books, you can visit her website: www.carmenferreiroesteban.com She shares her thoughts on the publishing world at www.onpublishing.wordpress.com and writes movie and book reviews at www.carmenferreiroesteban.wordpress.com