Anjanette Delgado: The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho

Anjanette Delgado is an award-winning novelist, speaker, and journalist who has written or produced for media outlets such as NBC, CNN, NPR, Univision, HBO and Vogue Magazine’s Latam and Mexico divisions, and for Telemundo, among others. She’s covered presidential coups, elections, the Olympics, both Iraq wars and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Early in her career, she became fascinated with heartbreak, the different ways in which it occurs, and the consequences it brings. Her human-interest television series “Madres en la Lejanía” won an Emmy award for its depiction of Latina mothers working as undocumented nannies in the United States, while living with the consequences of having left their own children behind in search of a better life.

Her original screenplay for HBO, “Good in Bed,” was a thesis on the life moments in which sex, love, identity, self, and society collide.

Her first novel, The Heartbreak Pill (Atria Books, 2008, 2009), about a modern-day Latina enmeshed in a battle between her brain and her heart, won first prize at the Latino International Book Award for Best Romance in English, was a Triple Crown Winner for Best Romance Book in Spanish in 2010, and first prize for Best Romance in Latino Literacy’s “Books into Movies” competition in 2011.

The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho is Anjanette’s latest novel. Set in vibrant Little Havana, it tells the story of Mariela Esteves, a woman whose choice to renounce her true calling results in two failed marriages, a brush with murder, and a lot of heartbreak. It will be released in the Fall of 2014 by Kensington Books Publishing, and in Spanish in the U.S. and Mexico by Penguin Random House. Both novels have also been optioned recently for film and television.

Anjanette was interviewed by Fabienne Sylvia Josaphat for Sliver of Stone Magazine.

Anjanette Delgado author photo (B&W)

 

Your story opens with a scene in the Hotel St. Michel, a landmark in Coral Gables. In fact, the entire novel hinges on the authenticity of place. How important was it to you, while writing this novel, to emphasize Miami?

I’d been captivated by Little Havana for a very long time. One time, in 2003, walking its streets early on a Sunday, I grew absolutely convinced that I was in love. Turned out to be a mirage. But the feeling of energy and of loving mankind stayed with me. That’s what I hoped to convey: the power of place on our spirit.

How did the character of a clairvoyant come into play? Is clairvoyance or an exploration of the sixth sense something that’s always interested you?

Yes. I’m endlessly curious about the things that can happen when we are able to see a situation clearly. The difference is night and day. In this novel, the problems I was going to get my protagonist into needed a history of willful blindness, and so the reverse of that state would have to clairvoyance.

How much research did you have to do in order to delve into clairvoyance? Where did the idea come from?

The ideas always come from my trying to find a literary structure or frame on which to hang the thing that interests me. For this story, I interviewed several clairvoyants, psychics, and seers. I also read the many great classic tomes on the subject. I was surprised by how mainstream clairvoyance used to be for our parents and grandparents.

You have a colorful cast of characters in this book, and they feel as complex and multi-dimensional as the setting you created (Coffee Park). Did you have a list or map or diagram of these characters in order to keep continuity? How did these characters come to you?

Wow. I’m honored you think so. I lived with this novel for so long (It was my MFA thesis), that after a while I knew everything about them. How they walked, I imagined them speaking, their accents, their demeanors. Now, I look back and I have no idea why I didn’t have a map for keeping track. But, I’ll tell you what I did have: a casting dossier of each one. It’s one of the techniques in my course, “Finish Your Novel the TV Way.

Casting your characters, interviewing them before you “hire” them helps you play devil’s advocate with yourself before you commit. After all, you’re recruiting them to play an important role in your story. Do they have what it takes to do the things you need them to do or not do?

Why did you choose to fictionalize the place within the setting of Calle Ocho, especially when other settings in Coral Gables are not?

I needed a place to create a certain kind of community… It was where I thought Little Havana was headed. But if isn’t there yet. And so my thesis professor at the time, Lynne Barrett, had the brilliant idea of having me create a place within a place. That way I could respect Little Havana’s history, but still show my vision of what could be.

The great thing is people go searching for Coffee Park all the time and are surprised when I tell them I made it up. For a writer, that is the coolest thing ever.

I like  the recurring theme of unity among women in this novel. There is a strong sense of bond between them, and also, there is a sense of forgiveness for wrongs. Is there a deliberate underlying message here?

Absolutely. It was important for me to show that forgiveness, that bond. I felt that it gave the female characters the depth and dimensionality that is so present in real life, and so often absent from general literature.

You dictate the steps of recipes throughout this novel. How did these come to be?

Can’t claim credit for that idea: it belongs to my editor, Mercedes Fernandez. One of the recipes I owe to Dr. Etti, a local holistic practitioner right here in South Florida who helped me when I was unhealthy. Others, like the recipe for kissing, I just made up, trying to figure out how someone with the patience of a chef might kiss.

 Is there a clairvoyant in your life that you wished to tell us about in this novel?

Not at all. Mariela is a lousy clairvoyant throughout much of the novel. Most of the clairvoyants I’ve encountered are quite gifted.

 Do you believe that we can teach ourselves clairvoyance?

I believe that we can train ourselves to be more aware… to stop and listen to our instincts about what is going on around us.

I think we train ourselves to be the opposite of clairvoyant when w walk around with our eyes trained on a phone instead of on faces, and places, and feelings.

You mention early on in the novel the fact that women have “trouble radar” and that they lose it if they refuse to see beyond the tip of their nose. This suggested to me that women all have a sixth sense. Would you say that’s true? And if so, is that a talent reserved for women only?

My character believes that only women have it. I think we all have it when we nurture our “femenine” side.

What’s next for you after this novel?

Another novel! I can only tell you that I am so excited about what I’m writing now that I have days of wishing I could do just that, living in the world I’m building until nighttime when my husband gets home. It will be a novel about our hungers. All of them.

I always like to ask authors how they’ve changed as a result of writing a novel. Has writing The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho changed you or affected you in some way? What have you learned from it?

I learned that I could write a story in English. It was really hard and I thought i would not be able to do it. I had written in Spanish and translated to English, but I’d never done the actual midwifery in English. It was very empowering.

***

Anjanette has an MFA in Creative Writing from Florida International University and was admitted as a contributor to the prestigious Bread Loaf Writing Conference in 2013 and in the upcoming 2014 session. She teaches writing at the Miami International Book Fair’s Florida Literacy Arts Center and lives in Miami with her husband Daniel and her mini dachshund Chloe. She is a native of Puerto Rico, has two daughters, and drinks a café con leche made with almond coconut milk every morning at precisely 7:45 a.m. You can learn more or connect with Anja via www.anjanettedelgado.com.

 

Trackbacks

  1. […] with Janet Burroway, Joe Clifford, Anjanette Delgado, Barbara Hamby, and José Ignacio Valenzuela (also available in Spanish). Visual Arts by Steve […]

  2. […] Magazine, The Florida Book Review, and Writing Class Radio. Merci, Abel Folgar, Andrea Askowitz, Anjanette Delgado, Ashley M. Jones, Barbra Nightingale, Danielle Boursiquot, France-Luce Benson, Grant Stern, Hector […]

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