Are you really Hispanic?
Yep! 50% Cuban, on my mother’s side. I know the red hair and vampire skin make everyone dubious, but I’ve got that Cubano temper to prove it.
Why did you write The Stars and Stripes?
I grew up surrounded by the whole political spectrum. In my immediate family alone, I’ve known and loved diehard Republicans, fervent Progressives, traditional Liberals, Libertarians, moderates, and the indifferent. Because of this, I’ve always prided myself on my ability to sit down with pretty much anyone and have a reasonable conversation, maybe even a pleasant one. It’s been important, in my upbringing, to put aside vehemently held opinions in favor of personal relationships. To listen to what a person is saying and not just what they represent. To avoid leaping to the worst-case assumption.
If I hadn’t, our family dinners would have been a nightmare.
This skill has added real richness to my life. The conversations I’ve spent years seeking out have challenged me, pushed me to think deeper. I’ve changed my mind countless times on countless issues and expect that trend to continue. It’s made me a better, stronger person. And, happiest of all, I’ve built true friendships, based on mutual trust and respect.
But all that seems to be changing.
Nowadays, I feel like we’re encouraged to judge harshly, decide emotionally, and leave no room for redemption. Twitter pushes us to ideological extremes that aren’t compatible with respectful debate. Families are falling apart. Relationships are failing. On both sides, there seems to be the growing idea that to be friends with someone who disagrees with you is to condone their beliefs, to be weak.
I’m not willing to accept that.
The Stars and Stripes Between Us came about because I wanted to believe in a world of grace and forgiveness, where people can disagree and still spend time together, even fall in love. I wrote the world I wanted to live in, where ideas aren’t stagnant and people don’t have to be perfectly compatible to be friends. Nate and Marina see eye-to-eye on almost nothing, but they’re still made for each other, halves of a whole, and together, they create something stronger.
At least I’d like to think so.
Who are you voting for/what do you believe?
I know this is an unsatisfying answer, but as much as possible, I intend to withhold my own politics. If I’ve done my job right, I want my audience to have no idea which “side” I fall on.
There are three reasons for this.
First, I really dislike the modern-day trend of cordoning off entertainment by political affiliation. Everything, literally everything, is political these days, or at least it feels that way sometimes. More and more creators are being forced to take a stand. There’s immense pressure to make big, bold statements about who their audience should be, who their art is for. I hate that. Wouldn’t it be tragic if I sent the message to someone moved by my stories that those same stories “aren’t for you”? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of inclusive, generous, welcoming art? I sure think so. If my books can speak to a person who disagrees with me, maybe touch their hearts or open their minds, then all the better! I’d hate to ruin that because of some need to send the right signals on Twitter.
The second reason is this: if there’s anything I’ve learned in my life, it’s that I can be, and often am, wrong. I am a flawed, short-sighted, complicated human, and the idea of me having the definitive answer on pretty much anything is laughable. As a person, I have opinions, and strong ones. But as a writer, I don’t think it’s my job to share them. Novels, in my view, are tools to ask the hard, complicated questions that don’t have obvious answers. I may not know the truth, but perhaps I can add to the discussion. And besides, a book preaching only my ideas would be boring, shallow, and unrealistic. F that! No, I want to write about the world as I see it, even the parts I disagree with, and invite the reader to make their own interpretations. It’s far more fun that way.
Finally, I’m not a politician or a pundit. My goal has never been to push a specific issue or convince people to vote a particular way. I’m not trained to do so and have no interest in learning. I write entertainment. I write to make people think. If that leads them down a road I don’t fully agree with, then OK. See the above paragraph. But I’ve made the choice to trust my audience, and, by extension, people. I don’t want to treat readers as votes to be earned or arguments to be won, but as intelligent individuals capable of formulating their own valid beliefs. I think as a society we’re losing trust in each other, and that’s a tragedy. Hopefully I can work to change that, in my own small way.
I will say that I believe in open dialogue. I believe in being kind to one another and listening and learning. I believe in compassion, empathy, and that love conquers hate in all its forms.
And I believe in books 🙂
Do you have more books coming out?
You betcha! I am currently working on two romance trilogies, a short story anthology, and a poetry collection. So there’s lots in the pipeline! Keep an eye on this space to find out more, or follow me on Facebook or Instagram.