A.E. Santana

 

V: What does being Latina mean to you?

 

A.E.: For me, being Latina means to be part of a larger community of women with different experiences. I love the diversity within our community. Our hair is different, our body shapes are different, our accents are different, even the way we speak Spanish or our Indigenous languages are different from one another. But we have a shared strength, a raw power that flows through us.

 

V: Who are your Latina influences? This can be anyone!

 

A.E.: My grandmother, Clara Delgado, who I was close with. She taught me to sew, gave me a love of Elvis Presley, and was a secure and beautiful force in my adolescent years. Through her, I learned perseverance. She told me stories of her mother and sisters, instilling in me the generational strength we share. I miss her every day.

Laura Esquivel, who wrote Like Water for Chocolate (a family favorite), was my first introduction to a Latinx writer. I was immediately enamored with her artistic writing style and whimsical storytelling that cut to the heart of her readers. As a young Latina, seeing her work—seeing that she existed—inspired me to continue with my own writing.

Gabriela Quintero who is part of the musical duo, Rodrigo y Gabriela. The first time I heard Gabriela play I was astonished and deeply impressed. I’m not trying to ignore her partner, Rodrigo Sánchez, and his talent, but seeing Gabriela totally kill it on her guitar filled me with an amazing sense of pride—for her, for me, for all Latinas. Watching her play, I contemplated the hours she had to dedicate to master her craft, which urged me to double down on my own endeavors.

 

V: How did you begin your writing journey?

A.E.: I couldn’t get enough scary stories as a kid. I begged my parents, my grandmother, aunts and uncles, to tell me scary stories. I got a lot of La Llorona and El Chupacabra stories, haha. Eventually, I decided to make my own. The first story I ever wrote was titled “It Came from Under the Bed” and was accompanied by a crude and bloody drawing of a monster hand underneath a kid’s bed. That was in the first grade, but I didn’t know I could BE a writer until the third grade. Since then, becoming a writer has been my primary goal.

 

V: Advice for other Latinas wanting to begin writing.

 

A.E.: Be yourself! The Latinx community is diverse. There’s no one way to be Latina. When you write your stories, mix your individuality and personal experiences into it. Create your voice, find your niche, and be true to yourself. Those stories are the ones people will remember, because they’ll be unique—they’ll be you.

 

V: Three favorite books written by Latinas.

Swift as Desire by Laura Esquivel. This was the first book by a Latina I ever read, and it stuck with me my entire life. Esquivel’s musical voice, skilled storytelling, and masterful use of magical realism definitely left a lasting impression on me.

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado. As a lifelong lover of horror, urban legends, and folklore, I am smitten with Machado’s short story collection that includes call backs to personal childhood favorites (like “The Green Ribbon”) and taps into the terror of being a women.

The Accidental Santera by Irete Lazo. What a joy to read! A powerful and beautifully written story of a Latina’s spiritual awakening and her journey into Afro-Cuban Santeria, all the while still attempting to keep her everyday life together.

 

V: What was your inspiration for your story in Latinx Screams?

 

A.E.: “Imperial Slaughterhouse” was inspired by a variety of elements from my childhood. A turbulent home environment, the struggle to be a “good” daughter, the place I grew up in—Imperial Valley, California, where the slaughterhouses still stand—and the rumors and ghost stories that haunt that place. But the story was also inspired by, as an adult, understanding my feelings of anger, unfairness, a need for justice, and other difficult emotions.

 

V: What draws you to horror? Favorite horror film?

Horror and fear are part of my personal history. Growing up, I didn’t identify with princesses, warriors on a quest, or children who find themselves on fantastic and wonderful adventures. While I am not dismissing those characters or types of stories, for me, it was the characters who were afraid that the thing in the house was going to kill them. Even if those characters didn’t look like me, I recognized their fear as my own. Seeing them made me feel less alone.

This is true not only for books, but for film as well. My favorite horror film is “The Body Politic” based on the Clive Barker short story of the same name and was featured in Quicksilver Highway. If you can’t trust your own body, what can you trust? (Also, Sleepwalkers, but only because of my obsession with cats, haha!)

 

V: SELF-PROMO! How can we support you and your endeavors right now? Where can we find you on social media or online?

I update my blog at www.aesantana.com every month with a mix of book reviews, craft analysis, listicles, and personal writing current events. I’m also the true horror/paranormal editor at Kelp Journal (we’re always looking for true paranormal stories, if you got them!) and the co-curator and co-editor for Voice to Books, a monthly short list of reviews dedicated to highlighting diversity in literature hosted by The Coachella Review. Find me on Instagram or Twitter @foxfur.

Monique Quintana

V: What does being Latina mean to you?

M: When I was younger, I thought that I'd reach a self-actualization place in my identity, but I realized my identity as a Chicana/Latina is fluid and changes. Now I hope that it always stays this way because it pushes me to grow and keep my family and friends my biggest priority. I do believe that being Latina is about finding your community. Not everyone is for you, and that's OK. Keeping looking for the individuals that are part of your energy, the light, dark, and in-between parts of it.

 

V: Who are your Latina influences? This can be anyone!

I'm influenced by women that find beauty in the grotesque. My grandmothers, one is living, one is dead, have both been maximalist aesthetically. They love to decorate their house with flashy things, do arts and crafts projects, make clothes. They told me stories about bad things that happened to little girls who didn't heed their grandmother's warnings. I found creativity and grotesque beauty in their home. I love frilly feminine things, gaudy dolls, bright and dark fabrics, seeing faces in the wallpaper. I love camp, humor, chisme, melodrama. I found all these things in my grandmother's homes.

 

The women in this anthology inspired me to write and express themselves in multi-faceted ways using technology. I've read so many stories, poems, essays, and journalism from these women, and seeing the way they manifest encourages me to do the same. I'm honored to know them and be in a book with them.

 

 

V:How did you begin your writing journey?

 

M: I first started imagining stories when I was a little girl playing with my dolls. I created entire narratives about where they came from, their attributes, and who they were in love with. I had a cassette tape recording device that I used to catch it all. I was a shy and quiet child, and making up stories and writing has always been my best means to express myself on my own terms while still tapping into my creative influences, like other women, film, music, and fashion.

 

V: Advice for other Latinas wanting to begin writing.

 

M: Create an online portfolio that is free and accessible to a lot of different readers. For me, this means blogging on my website and publishing work in online magazines. Try your best to spotlight other writers and their projects. This way, you make someone else visible at the same time you're making yourself visible. One of the ways I do this is by doing mini-interviews and book reviews. I'm OK with not getting paid for most of these things, so I do what I can, what I can fit into my schedule. You can help a lot with a three-question interview or a 100-word book review. You can publish these projects on your blog or ask a magazine if they have space for it. Many publications are looking for content like this. If you're looking for paid opportunities, I recommend subscribing to Duotrope. It's five dollars a month, and they send you a nicely organized newsletter with paid and unpaid writing opportunities in all writing genres in addition to access to their submission tracker. Creating different kinds of online content has helped me find my digital communities, but I take breaks when needed. If you set clear boundaries and expectations for yourself, social media and these digital communities are game-changers.

 

 

V: Three favorite books written by Latinas.

 

M: Dahlia Season and Painting Their Portraits in Winter by Myriam Gurba. Both are story collections that explore California, border crossing, and sisterhood through a Chicana Gothic lens.

 

In The Dreamhouse by Carmen Maria Machado. This is a hybrid memoir about domestic violence with meditations on Sci-Fi media and fairy-tale tropes.

 

V:What was your inspiration for your story in Latinx Screams?

 

M: My story, "The Throats of Neptune," was inspired by mermaid narratives I heard growing up. As a kid, I was fascinated by cryptozoology. My grandmother Quintana read The Sun Magazine, a tabloid magazine from the U.K. that often published outrageous cryptozoology stories. I've always considered mermaids and sirens monster figures because they're often used as scapegoats for men falling into tragic situations, especially when exploring new land territories. I've revisited my fascination with sea cryptozoology in recent years, looking at sea monsters through a postcolonial context. I believe that sea monsters were often used as a metaphor for BIPOC women in colonial travel and social structures. I wanted to interrogate this idea in my story.

 

V: What draws you to horror? Favorite horror film?

 

I like the feeling of ansias. I find it healthy to address the fact that we feel fear and anxiety on a nearly daily basis as women. Horror and The Gothic have helped me do this with a lot of autonomy. In the late 80s and early 90s, I spent a lot of time with my aunt and cousin, who were avid horror fans. We loved a wide range of horror films, from big-budget period films like Bram Stoker's Dracula to low budget slasher films like The Slumber Party Massacre series. A few of my favorites were Popcorn, Sleepwalkers, and Body Parts. The films that came out during the Post-AIDS crisis helped me see how horror responds to trauma. My top three horror films are The Lost Boys, Interview with the Vampire, and Sante Sangre. These films are so vastly different. I fell in love with them at three distinct phases of my life—young girlhood, adolescence, and mature womanhood. They range from "pop culture" and "the Avante Garde." Those intersections will excite me and inspire me creatively always.

 

 

V: SELF-PROMO! How can we support you and your endeavours right now? Where can we find you on social media or online?

 

You can find links to my work and writer updates on my website at moniquequintana.com. I'm also on Twitter @quintanagothic and Instagram @quintanadarkling.

 

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