Please welcome my special guest, Puerto Rican author Jonathan Marcantoni, whose novel, Traveler's Rest will hit the shelves on June 28th. The author talks about his inspiration for the book, themes he enjoys exploring in his writing, his work habits, as well as the editing and publishing process. I hope you'll enjoy the interview!
About Jonathan Marcantoni:
Jonathan Marcantoni is Editor in Chief for Aignos Publishing, a new bi-lingual independent press specializing in experimental and innovative literature. He is the co-author if COMMUNION with author/playwrite Jean Blasiar. He lives in San Antonio with his wife and three children, where he is currently working on his next novel.
"Traveler’s Rest started as a book of short stories about how the modern world enslaves people through political, familial, mental and societal constraints. The book’s themes were inspired by Nietzsche and Fernando Pessoa, Portugal’s greatest poet. However, during the writing of it I began to explore other themes, particular those of cultural identity and political activism. In doing so, the separate stories began to coalesce and eventually the book became a single narrative," states the author.
About his book:
From the political turmoil of 1920s Puerto Rico to the aftermath of a devastating hurricane in 2005, Traveler's Rest provides a kaleidoscopic look at a family that has lost its identity and torn itself apart. The ghosts of the past and the horrors of the present follow Tony, a recovering heroin addict, as he seeks to reclaim his family's legacy and set his own path in an increasingly chaotic world.
Would you call yourself a born writer?
Yes, although it took me a while to firmly settle on doing it for a living. I have been writing as far back as I remember but I also grew up doing theatre and thought I would be an actor or director for the longest time. I decided to dedicate myself to writing when I found it to be the most satisfying and also the most practical career path, as theatre requires the sort of dedication that gets in the way of having a steady job and paying the bills.
Welcome to Latino Book Examiner, Jonathan! Tell us, what was your inspiration for Traveler's Rest?
It was my wife’s suggestion, and after trying several others, it was the one that continuously came back up, as though the universe demanded I use it.
What themes do you like to explore in your writing?
The effects of the Puerto Rican diaspora on both Puerto Rico and those born in the U.S.; cultural identity and assimilation; Puerto Rican independence; political and social corruption; transcendentalism; existentialism; human rights abuse; the thin veneer of civility that keeps society in place; the plight of the poor and the exploited; man’s relation to time.
How long did it take you to complete the novel?
The first draft took nine months, from April 2005 to January 2006.
Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.
I am not the most disciplined writer. I basically write whenever I get the chance to, even if it is only for twenty minutes, and then the next time I have the chance, whether at work or at home, I jump back onto the computer and write some more. I have no set method or schedule, just persistence at making time for the work.
What did you find most challenging about writing this novel?
Two things: Persistence in the face of rejection, because the early incarnations of the book received a ton of flak, and looking back now I understand why. The original manuscript was incredibly experimental and not very accessible. There was little punctuation and no quotations, as my goal had been to create an almost dreamlike state in which the characters existed. That quality remains in a few scenes, particularly in the chapter “On the Road”, but I toned it down a lot. And I added quotes, which suddenly made the work much more acceptable to presses. You can get away with experimentation when you are an established author, but when you are breaking in, you have to follow the status quo up to a certain point.
The second thing was the editing process, not because I didn’t like having to edit, I find editing quite necessary, but because the book went through so many changes, both length wise (13 chapters to 9 chapters) and content wise (connecting the stories and making adjustments so the separate narratives gelled into a single one). Also, the editing done with Savant was the first edit on the work in three years. I wrote the book when I was 21 and now I’m 28, I’ve changed a lot as a person and in the confidence of my beliefs. I used to be very coy about expressing my political views, and now I don’t really care what people think of my beliefs. The book is much more political now, and its arguments for Puerto Rican unity, independence, and the preservation of our culture is better defined. And doing all that took a ton of work on mine and my editor’s part.
What do you love most about being an author?
Giving back. I’ve been a freelance writer and editor for eight years, so I’ve amassed a wealth of experience, much of it very bad, and I’ve gotten to the point where I can actually help and teach newer writers and editors about our field and what traps to avoid. The work itself, the actual creation and writing down of the story, that’s the best thing about being an artist, but when you’re a published author the only real joy that you can derive from it is by helping others. Any sort of fame or recognition is fleeting and ultimately hollow, what endures is how your work and your experiences touch other people’s lives.
Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self published? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?
Small press, which I love doing because it provides the tools and support of a larger press but with more freedoms. Perhaps I’m biased because I now am part owner and Editor in Chief of a small press, but I really do love the system. Small presses tend to be willing to push boundaries and take risks that larger presses aren’t willing to do. Unless I got a huge following, I would stick with small presses. The process is pretty simple, but also different for me because I was working for my publisher, Savant Books, as an editor initially, so I submitted it and it was picked up, and then my assigned editor and I got to work molding it. I knew my editor personally and he was the one who wanted me to publish the book through Savant, so my experience was different than if I had submitted to a publisher who didn’t know me. I had been with Savant for 3 years, so I knew what to expect of the process.
Where can we find you on the web?