“To See Pedro Infante” is a visceral sensory experience: the sense of cramped living spaces; dirty fingernails; the images on the billboards; rubbing a thumb across smooth, cool glass. Readers’ impressions of a story are formed as much by the setting as they are by the characters. How did you come to explore this particular setting, the world of a young woman trapped in amber?
When my grandmother was fifteen she went to work as a secretary. One of the highlights of her brief career was the day actor and singer Pedro Infante walked into the office and winked at her. Picture yourself at fifteen and Brad Pitt has just walked in through the door and noticed that you exist, you among a pool of a dozen typists.
It was a story she told often, the time Pedro Infante came to the office, and sadly it was one of the only things that ever happened to her, as she saw it. This is a story inspired by my grandmother who spent her whole life wishing for a different existence, a kind of Mexican Madame Bovary.
Cecilia is shaped by the limits of her environment and her desire to escape its bonds. Her struggle for identity, for something greater in her life, speaks to the existence of many women today, young and old. How do you see fiction reflecting this struggle?
Many of my stories are about a desire to escape, which is simply one of the earliest emotions I recall. I cannot speak about fiction in general but my fiction is based on my life and the people in my life. One of the things that happened when you were a woman, and still happens, is that you exist with a set of limited opportunities. Men, they can go to sea and explore the seven seas, but for a long time in many societies women could not do the same thing. And there was a kind of martyrdom, of denying oneself in Mexican society, which I found abhorrent. I write about escape because I know several women who did not escape, who simply sat at home and aged and saw their life pass by, unhappy and unable to imagine anything else.
No seven seas for them.
As a writer who is female, what do you feel artists can do to better promote the stories of women, particularly women of color?
Talk about them, not as items for exotic consumption that come up once in a while (hey, it’s Mexican Writer Week) but as everyday occurrences which occupy the same spaces as any other writers. Mostly, just talk.
This story freely slips between genre labels — magical realism, urban fantasy, women’s literature. What are your thoughts on the use of genre labels and how they influence reader expectations?
I like to write stuff that crosses over and bleeds into one another, and also to explore the limits and expectations of certain fiction. It is unfortunate that categories sometimes stifle both writers and readers so that something like women’s literature can be immediately perceived as dull or unworthy. Categorization can also relegate you to being a “type” of writer and I have no interest in being a type of anything.
Your novel Signal to Noise is a work of magic, love, and the bittersweet line between the two. It evokes memories of the ’80s, and a sense of the gentle melancholy that often comes when you realize you haven’t outlived your dreams of yesterday, merely forgotten them. How much of your own experiences did you put into that story?
A lot of what I write is autobiographical in some way and this is no exception. I am the daughter of two radio station employees, so I was interested in writing about sound. I grew up in the ’80s and the world I saw appears in the novel.
What other projects do you have in the works? What can readers expect from Silvia Moreno-Garcia in the future?
I finished rewrites of my second novel, which is set in Mexico City and involves narco vampires. I’m almost done with my third novel, which is a romance set in the Belle Epoque. This fall marks the release of She Walks in Shadows, the first all-woman Lovecraftian anthology. I’m one of the editors of that.
Spread the word!