August 30, 2010

Q&A WITH AUTHOR... VICTOR CASS

  
TELENOVELA, Outskirts Press, January 2009



Q:   Tell us about yourself. What is your job when you are not writing?

I was born in Kingsville, Texas, but was raised in my hometown of Pasadena, California. I was actually born in the same hospital as my mother, author Thelma T. Reyna. I’m a sixth-generation American of Hispanic descent. My cultural heritage includes Spanish, Irish, Scotch, Mexican and Native American roots. My ancestors include a New Yorker in General Zachary Taylor’s army who married a Mexican war bride, and a Spanish immigrant who fought for the Mexican Army on the opposing side during the U.S.-Mexican War of 1846-48.

When I am not writing, I serve the citizens of Pasadena as a 17-year-veteran police officer of the Pasadena Police Department. For the last 3 ½ years I have been on the Homeless Outreach-Psychiatric Evaluation (HOPE) Team, a law enforcement mental health crisis team. I am also the founder and chairman of the Pasadena Mental Health Advisory Committee, where currently we are working with the city health department to put on a Latino Mental Health conference in November 2010.

I was the recipient of NAMI California 2010’s Criminal Justice Professional Award, given to the "criminal justice professional who has advocated for and has been an integral part in implementing best practices that have resulted in the decriminalization of persons with serious mental illness.”


Q:   Tell us about your latest book, TELENOVELA. Do you begin with a character or a theme?

With TELENOVELA I wanted to write a non-traditional romance that dealt with the complicated and often challenging love lives and friendships that American Latinas experience. My protagonists are two American women of wholly different Latino cultural backgrounds—one is from a traditional Mexican family and the other from an Argentinean family. While they each have their men and the drama that comes with infidelity, dreams dashed, and love lost, the story is really about the friendship that develops between Lorena Sandoval and Miriya Fronzini.

When I write I usually begin with an idea or theme, like what would happen if one woman had a man who wouldn’t marry her, so she had an affair with another man who started dating her future best friend, and then build upon that.


Q:  Your mother is author Thelma T. Reyna. Did she inspire you to write?

My mother was definitely my inspiration. As far back as I could remember, I knew that my mom was a published author. She was also an English and creative writing teacher, and made sure that my sister and I spoke properly. It was natural that she not only inspired me by encouraging my own creative writing efforts, but by supporting my love of books and reading. My mother and her short stories are very influential to me and my writing style. While her themes are vastly different than mine, her narrative pacing and the feeling in her words make me want to be a better writer.


Q:   What is the most important thing that your mother has taught you as a writer?

She has taught me that there are stories and important themes, as well as life lessons, in the mundane and ordinary details of simple people’s lives. She is also a great editor and has really made me a better proofreader, even of my own work.


Q:  What other authors / books have inspired you?

I think that Phillip Roth is the greatest writer alive today. His books often move me and his writing style is so precise, yet wholly emotional and compelling. He is the Jewish John Updike. Speaking of Updike, he is also one of my big influences, as is Raymond Chandler. Beautiful writing, both of them. Whenever I feel myself getting in a rut, I crack open THE BIG SLEEP and read the first paragraph. The same with Stephen Crane’s RED BADGE OF COURAGE—they both have two of the best-written, most beautiful first paragraphs of nearly any book.


Q:   What is your writing routine?

I am often told that I’m a “disciplined” writer, which I think means that I have the patience, time, energy (or all three) to sit my behind down at Starbucks and literally stay there for four to eight hours at a time working on my books. I think I go to Starbucks to write because there are too many distractions at my apartment (I’ll start picking up other books to read or thumb through, or I’ll start tinkering on my hobbies). I also like the dull hum of people and activity at a bustling coffeehouse. I’m able to concentrate more and think clearer than if I’m sitting in silence.


Q:   What are you writing now? What is that story about?

I’ve just finished a book, THE POLICEMAN’S DAUGHTER, which I will be shopping around, which is about a half-Jewish-half-Mexican cop who time travels 500 years to the future only to find himself on the run from agents of a US police state in which race is a thing of the past, and perpetual war a thing of the present. The detective’s daughter, a small child in his time period, 2009, is at the center of a conspiracy a half-a-millennium removed. It’s surprisingly apolitical on purpose, as I leave the reader to grapple with conflicting issues of right and wrong. ♥



VICTOR CASS
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THELMA T. REYNA
To read The Latina Book Club interview of Victor’s mother, click here.