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Hispanista: Interview With Daína Chaviano- Part II

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Two weeks ago, we introduced you to Cuban writer Daína Chaviano. On this second and final part of the interview, Daína Chaviano delves into her book The Island of Eternal Love.

Hispanista: What inspired you to write the story (or I should say, stories) in The Island of Eternal Love?

Daína Chaviano: I had always meant to write a conclusion for my series, a novel that would include the protagonists of my previous novels. But I was not sure how to do it. Then, one night, I was with some friends in a night club at Little Havana (the same bar that appears at the beginning of the novel), and I was watching one of those old musical clips described in that chapter. I felt the urge to tell the story of a lonely woman from another time —the same time from those musical clips. I took a half-wet napkin and, in the dark, while my friends where dancing, I scribbled some lines. Then I realized I was writing the beginning of the novel I wanted to write.

H: How long did it take you to write it? Did you have to do a lot of research for it?

DC: It took me almost seven years. There was a lot of historical research, but also a lot of work in terms of plot structure. Also, in those days I was still working as an editor in a magazine, so I did not have much time to write.

H: A lot of people know you as “the writer of The Island of Eternal Love,” and some don’t realize you wrote a lot of other books before this. Why do you think this particular novel became so successful?

DC: Well, this only happens among my English-speaking readers. My Spanish readers had known me for some years after my previous novels. I think there might be several reasons why this novel has appealed to such a global audience. It is a story that travels around the world, throughout three continents, and spans more than 150 years. Also, the plot covers a lot of genres. It includes a ghost story, some historical and genre issues, love stories, paranormal phenomena… But I think the main reason is the characters themselves. In their letters and emails, the readers always talk to me about how they love the characters, even the nonhuman creatures. In one way or another, they find them very appealing

H: Is your family and heritage in any way similar to Cecilia’s family and heritage? Are you in any way like Cecilia?

DC: No, my family does not have anything to do with Cecilia’s heritage, although each author (and I am not the exception) many times builds their characters based on some aspects of his or her personality. Cecilia has a little bit of me, although my life does not resemble Cecilia’s.

H: Cecilia seems to represent a group of young immigrants (or children of immigrants) that turn their back to their heritage, and Cecilia is in a way forced to face it because of the phantom house and the woman at the bar; did you do that on purpose? Or is that just my interpretation?

DC: Cecilia’s personality represents a trend that is usual among the Cuban immigrants of recent generations. When we arrive to US, many of us are so tired of Cuban politics that we spend some years trying to forget about it. But at the end our own personal ghosts (i.e. the family and friends we left behind, and our own memories) compel us to look back and evaluate our past from a different and new perspective. Something similar happens to Cecilia, although her particular circumstances are very peculiar.

H: Did you write The Island of Eternal Love with Cubans like Cecilia in mind? Did you want to inspire Cubans to connect with their heritage?

DC: I never intended to inspire anyone to do anything. I just wanted to tell a story about this girl that is trying to avoid her past and her heritage because she is worn-out by her experiences, but at the same time she is surrounded by strange events. At the same time, I wanted to write a story where the life of an immigrant, always so lack of poetry and mystery, would be immersed in ghosts, imps, and paranormal phenomena ―something that is part of my own experience. I have always lived a double life, not only here but also in Cuba, because I have always been in the middle of political upheavals while my inner self is witnessing paranormal events. I wanted to give other persons an idea about how this world (my world) is.

H: In your opinion, what is the message or theme of The Island of Eternal Love?

DC: I think a book has as many messages as readers. Each person must look for what the story or the characters might reveal to him or her.

H: You told me you are in the middle of a new novel: can you tell us a little bit about it? Is it similar to The Island of Eternal Love?

DC: I prefer not to talk about any book I am writing. If I do, I can lose the energy I put in this book. I can only tell that it will be completely different from The Island of Eternal Love. The only similarity would be the mixture of history and certain unexplained events, although the time and plot of this novel will not have anything to do with the previous book.

–Silvia Viñas


Written by whitney teal

May 7, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Posted in Hispanista

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  1. I like this site but am somewhat visually impaired and find it near impossible to see the white print on the mustard yellow background and can’t see the light blue against the white background. I suggest less fancy in color — go back to black on white. The lavendar purple works on the white. I do want to read the content. I suppose there is a way to change the color but I’m not very computer-savvy and haven’t figured out how. thanks, catherine :cat Heron: steele

    Catherine Steele

    May 11, 2010 at 12:51 am

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