Thursday, September 20, 2018

Interview with Author J.A. Marzán

Don’t Let Me Die in Disneyland: The 3-D Life of Eddie Loperena

1. What really inspired you to write your book, to force you from taking an idea or experience and conveying it into a book?
Several inspirations that I can’t exhaust here. One was to give myself a good excuse to write humorous prose. Another was to satirize what self-flattery “Puerto Rican” means in an English speaker’s mind and satirize what self-flattery “Newyorican” means to an island Puerto Rican’s mind. They two sides survive on fairy tales about themselves and each other, one superior the other proving equality, the two side just humans who ultimately will fail at both. What Eddie hears is a hodgepodge of overestimated sociopolitical talk that doesn’t mean anything to him. He says, “We’re equal not because we’re good as they are. We’re equal because we’re as full of shit as they are.”

2. What is it about and whom do you believe is your targeted reader?
The tagline summarizes it: The picaresque, smart and smartass memoir of Harvard lawyer Eddie Loperena’s Newyorican life in “the country I was offered.” Frankly, my targeted reader is any literate person who likes writing that is witty, humorous, and intelligent. Readers looking for social consciousness will find that too but not delivered by prefabricated jargon about tragic young characters. Puerto Ricans actually do become adults, a fact not easily imagined if judging from the YA and teen romance niche that the major publishing houses has reserved to sell to schools and libraries. In sum, I am targeting a reader with literary sensibilities, a social consciousness, and a sense of humor.
3. What do you hope will be the everlasting  thoughts for readers who finish your book? What should remain with them long after putting it down?
The novel is written as the memoir of Eddie Loperena, who wrote his 3-D story because he knows American eyes only see him in predictable two dimensions, whether in antipathy or sympathetic political correctness. What he creates is a world wider in the imagination than what Eddie calls our “sociological swamp” and his story ends up being not about exotic characters but universally, like all fiction, about the reader. What I want to remain is a dissolution of the American obsession with difference– race, ethnicity, minority and majority– whether to defend equality or supremacy. Tragic and central though that obsession may be to the American conversation, intellectually it is how Eddie sees it, a consecration of the risible.

4. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers?
I don’t think that wishing them good luck counts as wisdom, so I’ll try harder. Don’t be your writing’s defender; be its most severe critic. Hemingway’s wording: a good writer must possess  a “built-in, shock-proof shit detector.”

5. What trends in the book world do you see and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?
Smaller and Independent literary book publishers are perforce a balancing act, of budget and artistic standards, They often address readers looking for novelty. But the book publishing "industry" responds to the constant gauging of a more conservative  book-reading audience. It's a business looking to make money, not change the world. Major publishers offer readers foremost the money-makers, the familiar and not the exotic. Few translations except for international stars. The same for minority writers. Recently I have noticed that agents take on mainly young authors. There seems to be a proliferation of young adult books. In previous years publishers sought blockbusters and wouldn’t turn one down today if they felt strongly that it was a winner but more routinely they produce highly marketable books, young adult and children’s fiction and nonfiction on pop culture, self-help, pop journalism, not essays but creative nonfiction. I’ve taught creative writing classes where the students want to learn to write but don’t read. In other words, the industry has long been responding to the decline in literacy although I forecast a comeback. 

6. What great challenges did you have in writing your book?
Trying to figure out what it was about. I never know what you really want to say until I start writing inspired by what I think I want to say. 

7. If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours?
Because it is funny, insightful about many things readers thought they understood–America, the Seventies, True Love, Puerto Ricans, other Latinos, political correctness, Disneyland– and most important, because it is written in highly entertaining prose.

J. A. Marzán, a graduate of Fordham U., (B.A.), Columbia U. (M.F.A), and New York U. (Ph.D.), was Poet Laureate of Queens, N.Y. from 2004-2007. His novel, The Bonjour Gene, was a University of Wisconsin Press submission to the 2004 Pulitzer Prize. “Marzán displays the wit and intellectual verve rarely seen in contemporary literature."—Pulitzer Prize winner Oscar Hijuelos. Nonfiction credits include the landmark: The Spanish American Roots of William Carlos Williams, (U. Texas Press). “...determines how Williams is read today.”– guest editors,  The William Carlos Williams Review, 2017. Poetry credits include: former Poet Laureate of Queens, New York, Translations without Originals (English, Ismael Reed Books) and Puerta de Tierra (Spanish, U. Puerto Rico Press). Poems  appear in several editions of various college texts, among them The Bedford Introduction to Literature, Latino Boom, and Literature: Reading to Write and in distinguished journals, among them Ploughshares, Tin House, and Harper's Magazine. A profile of him was published in the fall 2009 issue of Columbia Magazine. J.A. Marzán makes his home in Queens, New York. For more info, see:

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America and participated in a PR panel at the Sarah Lawrence College Writers Institute Conference.

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