JK: New Spain is obviously unexploited and fascinating material for novels in English. How did you come to be interested in the time and place?
CHL: I fell in love with Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz when I was an undergraduate. After all, what 1970s girl could resist a feminist nun who wrote poetry and subversive letters to the Bishop of Puebla in 1690?
JK: No argument here! I've spent a fair share of time studying Sor Juana, too.
CHL: I wrote my senior thesis on her, and remained fascinated by her daring and works. It didn't hurt that I grew up in Mexico City, either!
I agree, though, that Mexico and the 1650-1800 time period are a completely untapped world. One of the reasons for that is traditional publishers' hesitance to publish non-English-Regency-Historicals. I got lucky, Atria/Simon & Schuster took me on for that book... but I get ahead of myself here.
JK: How long did it take you to write your first book, and how did it come to be published?
CHL: It took me two years to write Josefina's Sin. I'm a veteran of NanoWrimo, and almost every November I have written a 50,000 word novel with them. I have a number of Women's Erotic Fiction books under a pen name, and even those were usually written in a Nano-November. But because Josefina's Sin was my first breakthrough mainstream novel, I then took more than another year to expand, rewrite, rewrite some more, and polish the book. I was very lucky. I got an incredible agent, April Eberhardt, who sold the book to Simon & Schuster.
But when it came time for the next book, The Duel for Consuelo, my editor at S&S had left, and the house didn't want the sequel. While I was at the Historical Novel Society's conference in London, an editor of a major house, who had considered The Duel for Consuelo, counseled me on my book: "I loved Consuelo, you write beautifully," she said, "but does it have to be about Mexico? I mean, nobody wants to read about, you know, Mexico!"
When I picked my jaw up off the ground, I realized that this mentality was seriously impacting the sale of the second book!
JK: Is that what prompted you to turn to small publishers this time around?
CHL: My agent did eventually place The Duel for Consuelo with Booktrope, and I am very excited about their model. I don't regret not being with a major New York house this time around. At the majors, the author has very, very little control over the marketing, and if one isn't J. K. Rowling, one doesn't get much in the way of support. Although I must admit the prestige is fantastic.
I was attracted to Loose Leaves Publishing because of The Fiery Alphabet. I read about the book in the She Writes newsletter. I liked the sound of the book and bought it. As soon as I started it, I was entranced. Who publishes such a book? I wondered. No major house would take a chance on such an esoteric topic, despite the fact that The Fiery Alphabet could be a best-seller. I checked and it was Loose Leaves. The choices, and the beauty of the publication, point to a fine, truly independent house.
I can't wait to see more of Loose Leaves Publishing. They are THE house to watch, I think.
JK: Thank you, Claudia! Dear readers, that was unsolicited! And thank you, Claudia for coming by my blog to talk about your wonderful books and complex publishing journey.