The impact of any particular writer on your own work is hard to discern.
I began visiting Lima’s prisons back in 2007, when my first novel, ‘Lost City Radio,’ was published in Peru.
I like radio because you can do an hour-long interview and then three days later have a finished piece.
I write in English because I was raised in the States and educated in this language.
It’s true that there are people who live the idea of being an artist, as opposed to the idea of making art.
Publication in ‘The New Yorker’ meant everything, and it’s no exaggeration to say that it changed my life.
I think probably the thing I’m worst at is the most ephemeral stuff, like blogs. I find it really hard to write. And I’m often been asked to write columns for papers in Peru. And I can’t. I would die. There’s no way I could write a column.
I’m a sucker for any band named after a work of literature. Los de Abajo take their name from Mariano Azuela’s famous novel ‘The Underdogs,’ and that says a lot about who they are and the music they make.
When I started writing seriously in high school, English was the language I had at my disposal – my Spanish was domestic, colloquial, and not particularly literary or sophisticated.
When I was younger, I was able to write with music playing in the background, but these days, I can’t. I find it distracting. Even when the music is just instrumental or has lyrics in a language I don’t understand, the clash between the voices in my head and the song can be very disorienting.
For fiction, I’m not particularly nationalistic. I’m not like the Hugo Chavez of Latin American letters, you know? I want people to read good work.
Writing a novel is not at all like riding a bike. Writing a novel is like having to redesign a bike, based on laws of physics that you don’t understand, in a new universe. So having written one novel does nothing for you when you have to write the second one.
At the most basic level, I appreciate writers who have something to say.
Peru is a country where more than half the people would emigrate if given the chance. That’s half the population that is willing to abandon everything they know for the uncertainty of a life in a foreign land, in another language.
I have to really think hard about how to structure sentences, and do more mapping when I sit down to write, so it does impose a certain discipline, intellectual and linguistic.