Living the Writer's Life: Reyna Grande
Melinda Palacio -- December 8, 2006
Reyna Grande's debut novel, Across a Hundred Mountains, is not the usual immigrant story and Reyna Grande is not the typical immigrant. At age nine, she crossed the border with her father and she has gone on to become a UCSC graduate, a 2003 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices fellow, and a new author. Most would say, she is living the American Dream. However, after the favorable reviews have been cast and her first book tour comes to a close, she is simply a writer, hard-working, talented, and with eyes set on her next books and a film production of her first novel.
Grande has always been a writer. When she was in junior high school, she won a writing competition for one of her short stories. As an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz, she published a chapbook of her short stories, Under the Guamuchil Tree, with a grant from the university. However, it wasn't until she was working at a middle school that she wrote an 80-page children's book and realized that she was ready to produce a novel. She finished the children's book in two weeks and wrote two chapters every day. "For me it was a breakthrough because up until then, all I had written were 12-page short stories. It helped me feel I could finish the novel."
Across a Hundred Mountains has received favorable reviews from Publisher's Weekly, People Magazine, and Kirkus Review, to name a few. The success of her first novel sent the young author, 31, into a whirlwind of excitement that began when her manuscript was first accepted for publication by Atria Books. "I was holding my breath," said Grande. "I was too excited to think about anything else." The moment of her dreams arrived and Grande went along for the ride. In hindsight, Grande would have started serious work on her second novel as soon as the manuscript was accepted.
"It was a year wasted. I do regret a little bit not writing. The bottom line is there's no excuse for not writing. I should've been writing. I had the time to write. It all comes down to being disciplined. Writing a second novel and letting go of what they are going to say about you can be more difficult."
Another distraction that came with the success of her first novel was Grande's first book tour. It was an exhaustive tour, but Grande enjoyed meeting her readers and answering their questions. Grande is a very giving person. Her candid blog is a peek into her personal and professional life. She doesn't mind sharing her life as a writer with her readers. She enjoys the fact that her book signings are are more of a forum for her readers to get to know her than an actual reading of her novel.
"My readings are 80% about me. I don't talk about the book. I share more about my own experiences and what led me to write. For me it's opening up o the audience. I get personal questions--that's pretty much the tone of my readings, opening up and answering questions."
Grande finally has time to focus on her second novel. It's almost done! The novel explores the lives of four women and the world of Folklorico dancing. The Los Angeles resident loves Mexican folk dances and Folklorico's vast variety of the music, steps, and costumes. "I find them very creative," she said, "that's one of the beauties of Mexico. It's kind of like Mole--every state makes it different." Her favorite dance is the Paleacate from her home state of Guerrero.
An excerpt of Grande's second novel will be included in the forthcoming anthology Latinos in Lotus Land by Bilingual Press 2007. Reyna Grande's Across a Hundred Mountains is available in bookstores. To read more about Grande, visit her website and blog www.reynagrande.com.