We interviewed author Richard Gonzales, whose nonfiction book, Raza Rising: Chicanos in North Texas, was published by the University of North Texas Press in March 2016. His novel, Deer Dancer, was published by Sleeping Panther Press in July 2017. He was a contributing Fort Worth Star-Telegram op-ed columnist for six years (2001-2007). His work has appeared in the Americas Review, a TCU college reader, and out-of-state newspapers. He was selected by LatinoAuthor.Com as the number one Latino author for nonfiction in 2016.
What you’re reading right now:
I’m reading Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Although it’s been out a few years, I finally bought a copy. I find it insightful on how a commercially successful writer started from a hard-scrabble life and overcame personal problems and the grind of making a living to reach his dreams. The book is inspirational and offers helpful tips on how to persist and improve the writing craft. His memoir humanizes King and offers hope to the rest of us scrambling to excel.
A book everyone is raving about that you just can’t get into:
I’ve started reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest and find it a chore to persist through his encyclopedic tome. He has a masterful vocabulary that constantly sends me to the dictionary. However, I have difficulty sympathizing with any of his characters and the problems they present. I’ve heard this work is a must-read for the high-brow. Therefore, I’ll persist in spurts to earn the bragging rights to say I’ve read this complex work. I feel I’m in a maze which demands my focus to make it to the end.
How do you decide what goes on your reading list? Word of mouth, reviews, friends?
All the above. I read the New York Best Sellers List, Nook E-book top sellers, and talk with fellow writers about their favorite books. I look for books that have people of color in them to see how the writer handles the characterization.
A classic novel you recently read for the first time:
A classic that I recently read and for some reason missed in high school and college was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. This is a jewel I regret I had not read sooner. His excellent writing, along with his characterization had me riveted. His moral lessons about Hester Prynne’s plight and the reactions of her community apply through the ages.
What moves you most in a work of literature?
Works by Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gabriel García Márquez, Vladimir Nabokov, and Toni Morrison move me because of their exquisite writing style and enchanting stories. These writers capture me from the first page to the last. I know it sounds trite to say, but I’m disappointed the book ends. Their works are magical as it draws my imagination and emotions into the characters and their struggles.
Favorite book growing up:
I enjoyed Lord of the Flies by William Golding. This allegorical story was action-packed with interesting kid characters. In my younger age, I loved flights of fancy and imagining being stranded on an island with no adults. The deeper meaning crept up on me and thereafter, I began seeing the book had a depth I had not anticipated. After reading it, I started searching for themes and meaning in novels.
You’re trapped on an island and can only have three books. What are they?
This is a hard question to answer. The books I could read multiple times are Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, and Love in The Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. All three involve some version of men desperately in love. Of course, in Lolita, Humbert Humbert is in pursuit of forbidden fruit. Still, I relish how the authors dramatized the central male figures’ intense passion and their quest to capture their heart’s desire. The writing styles are angelic.
Authors/books that have influenced your writing style the most:
Authors I’ve enjoyed reading are Leonard Elmore for his near-perfect dialogue and colorful characters; Ernest Hemingway for his writing style and subtle passion; Gabriel Garcia Marquez for his lyrical writing and magical realism. I love Alice Walker’s The Color Purple and the earthy characterization through Celie’s letter writing. Recently, I’ve been influenced by Anthony Doerr for his All the Light We Cannot See. I happened to be on vacation in Paris the year it was published and bought a copy at Shakespeare and Company—what a treat. I read the entire book on the eight- hour flight back to the States.
What do you read when you’re working on a book?
Just about nothing. I throw myself into a writing project with as little distraction as possible. I do read the morning paper to keep current. Otherwise, I’m in deep sea diving mode with the novel.
What do you have coming up?
I’m excited to teach Writing Past Cliché in the fall. Through writing examples by published authors and the participants’ works, I hope to facilitate an understanding on how we can develop characters, dialogue, and the stories into more realistic and authentic representation. The workshop will involve some self-exploration on our similarities and differences and how we incorporate this knowledge into our works. The familiar adage of “Write What You Know” is a helpful starter’s guide but it limits a person’s understanding of the wealth of diversity all around us. Our world has always been different, but the writing and publishing club limited the membership to whom they thought would appeal to reading audience. Times have changed and our audience expects to see diversity that reflects their real world. I hope to assist the workshop’s participants to immerse in the writing world of diversity in an informative, supportive, and fun manner.
This interview is the fourth in our Fall Series. To read from the beginning, click here. Richard’s upcoming four-part class, Writing Past Cliché: Reflecting Real Diversity in Literature, will take place at The Writer’s Garret on Tuesdays and Thursdays from October 3 to October 12. Find out more here.