Author: Claudia H. Long A thrilling and passionate debut about a sheltered landowner’s wife whose life is turned upside down when she visits the royal court in seventeenth-century Mexico.
Title: Josefina's Sin
Published On: Aug 9 2011
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Romance
Publisher: Five Directions Press Purchase Links:
When Josefina accepts an invitation from the Marquessa to come stay and socialize with the intellectual and cultural elite in her royal court, she is overwhelmed by the Court’s complicated world. She finds herself having to fight off aggressive advances from the Marquessa’s husband, but is ultimately unable to stay true to her marriage vows when she becomes involved in a secret affair with the local bishop that leaves her pregnant.
Amidst this drama, Josefina finds herself unexpectedly drawn to the intellectual nuns who study and write poetry at the risk of persecution by the Spanish Inquisition that is overtaking Mexico. One nun in particular, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, teaches Josefina about poetry, writing, critical thinking, the nature and consequences of love, and the threats of the Holy Office. She is Josefina’s mentor and lynchpin for her tumultuous passage from grounded wife and mother to woman of this treacherous, confusing, and ultimately physically and intellectually fulfilling world.
A thrilling and passionate debut about a sheltered landowner’s wife whose life is turned upside down when she visits the royal court in seventeenth-century Mexico.
Why did you decide to become a writer?
I didn’t decide to become a writer, a writer decided to become me! Even before I started writing novels, after my now-adult daughter was born, I wrote terrible poetry and some not-too-bad short stories. But once my daughter was born I felt the creative urge unleashed. I wrote a romance, and got a phone call from a publisher who said she couldn’t publish it because it was the wrong era, but that she loved the book. I wrote some food articles for the paper. I wrote some bad poetry. And then I wrote a mystery. I self-published it, in the very very early days of self-publishing. It sold, and it was actually good. Then I wrote some, er, adult fiction, and that too sold quite well. (I’m a pillar of the community. Of course, I used a pen name!) And then, at last, I wrote Josefina’s Sin. I got an agent, Simon & Schuster published it, and the rest is history!
Who/what are your writing inspirations?
History, poetry and art are my biggest inspirations. I grew up in Mexico, so Mexican poetry was a major influence on me, but all of my works have a deeply personal element to them.
What are your favorite genres to read?
I love cozy mysteries, good Hispanic literature, delicious stories about Scotland, modern Jewish literature, old poetry and urban love stories. I read about a book a week, sometimes more, unless I’m in a writing frenzy, and then I do cross-word puzzles instead!
Favorite writing food / snack?
Coffee! Coffee! Coffee!
What do you hope readers take away most from your writing?
The world is complex. Nothing is ever black-or-white. I love the nuance and conflicting needs that reside in each human being, and every exploration keeps in mind that there are never any easy answers. Humanity is not a sound-bite.
Who’s the favorite character of yours that you’ve written and why?
I love all of my characters! I even love my villains. In Josefina’s Sin, I must admit that Sor Juana is so dear to me. But I didn’t invent her, of course, she was very real. I did give her voice. If you read my second book in the set, the Duel for Consuelo, you’ll meet Susana, and she might be my favorite. She has a small role in that book, and a larger one in Chains of Silver, but she never gets her own book.
What is your writing style? Outliner/Planner or Seat of the Pantser?
I’m a plotter with a pantser’s soul! First I research. That’s so much fun, since it involves reading books, searching on line, going to museums, seeing plays, making notes, and chasing scraps of paper all over my office! Then I outline. And outline. And Outline.
I write all my first drafts in November, 50,000 words in a month, as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.) It’s a powerful way to ignore the censor that lives at the end of your fingers, that keeps you from writing what you really want to write.
Once November starts, I start to write, and the story takes off in surprising directions. My characters go off outline and do crazy things. And I have to let them, since they know what they want. So I revise the outline… and keep on writing!
And then, I start revising. That can take a year, or even more, and four or five drafts. Then, finally, I send it to my agent. If she likes it, we’re good to go.
If someone wanted to become a writer, what tips would you give to them?
Write from the heart. And go to writers’ workshops and take the classes. I have learned so much from taking classes. And then write. And write some more. Never write “for the market” because by the time you’re done the market will have moved on. And did I mention to take some classes?
Have you ever purchased something from a late-night infomercial? If so, what?
No! But I’ve bought books from Twitter mentions!
If you could collaborate with any other author (living, dead, or undead) who would that be and why?
I would sit at the feet of Sor Juana. I would read Jane Austen’s drafts. And I would fly to Scotland and learn to create a world you never want to leave from Alexander McCall Smith. I would beg Isaac Bashevis Singer to teach me to see humanity in simplicity. I would ask Julio Cortázar how to break my own heart. The list is endless.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you do?
Well, I also practice law. I’m a mediator for nasty employment cases and complex business dissolutions. I’ve raised a couple of children and I’m a grandma, so I guess there are a lot of things I do when I’m not writing. But really, I’d be a cook.
Coke, Pepsi, or?
Coffee! And Pamplemousse La Croix. I’m addicted to the stuff.
Is there a character that has the most “You” in them? Or the opposite of you?
I think Consuelo has the most “me” in her, from The Duel for Consuelo. But in Josefina’s Sin, I think I poured most of myself in Sor Juana. Josefina is a much nicer person than I am!
If we lived in a Fahrenheit 451 culture, which book would you want to memorize?
One Hundred Years of Solitude. Though I bet there would be a lot of competition for that one.
Have you used Beta Readers? If so, what did you think of your experience and would you recommend it to other authors?
I haven’t really used Beta Readers. My husband reads all my books in the second draft, and I always have had a mentor (like my writing professor) read the third or fourth draft, but I don’t send a draft out to a set of readers outside of those two categories. But I’m working on a new book, and I had my sister read it in second draft because she figures largely in it and I wanted to get her take on it. She loved it. I hope she still loves it when it’s in final, about two more drafts from now.
But I would say to new writers, if you use Beta Readers, use at least four, and listen to them. If something doesn’t ring true to three people, it doesn’t ring true. If one doesn’t like something, weigh the opinion and ask questions. It’s your book, but always ask yourself, “Is this interesting to anyone but me and my family?” That, I think, is the bottom line!