DÉSIRÉE ZAMORANO has said that she “writes in order to shred the cloak of invisibility thrust upon Latinas,” something she has done with force in her commentaries for the Los Angeles Times, NPR’s Latino USA, and Publishers Weekly. Zamorano’s desire has found its latest vehicle in the form of the literary novel. The Amado Women (Cinco Puntos Press), unlike narratives centered on undocumented immigrants struggling to make it in the “land of opportunity,” focuses on upwardly mobile, middle-class Latinas in contemporary Southern California. Her protagonists — a matriarch and her three adult daughters — are successful women, though not without the troubles many, regardless of economic status, encounter: failed marriages, family pressure to play an “appropriate” role, self-doubt in one’s parenting decisions. An entertaining and important novel, The Amado Women offers a valid, realistic depiction of a group of Latinas largely ignored in US literature.
DANIEL OLIVAS: What inspired you to make the women of the fictional Amado family the center of your first non-genre novel?
DÉSIRÉE ZAMORANO: I had just finished my fourth private investigator novel, Human Cargo (which was represented by a very big-deal NYC agent), and I felt the time was right for me to expand my vision, that I was ready for a non-genre novel. The wonderful thing about writing mysteries is that the story structure, for the most part, is so certain and comforting. Stepping outside of that form was intimidating, but I knew I wanted to write a compelling story, with a narrative imperative that kept the reader engaged and turning the page. I also knew I wanted to write about women committed to each other. This went round and round in my head until I realized the obvious: the women in my family are the center of my life. It was going to be a family drama.
How did the writers in your group — whom you thank in your acknowledgments — help you shape your narrative and characters?
What is wonderful and perhaps unique about our writing group is that we meet monthly to cheer each other on. We are a mixture of fiction, nonfiction, business, and memoir. We bounce ideas off of each other, share resources, and applaud one another’s accomplishments. We’re much more a support group than a critique group.
Could you talk a little about placing your manuscript with Cinco Puntos Press and the process of preparing it for publication?
A few months after I sent my very important agent a draft of The Amado Women, her assistant called to tell me they were dropping me. Heartbreak, of course. After I recovered I began to query publishers directly, and one of them, Cinco Puntos, actually said please call and pitch us before you submit. I did.
They were intrigued enough by my draft to give me notes and recommendations. I dove in, then sent it off, and continued to work on two other novels, Modern Cons (Lucky Bat Books) being one of them. They sent the draft back, with more notes, saying it was not quite ready.
At this point, my little bruised heart just didn’t have room for further changes, my dazed brain was unable to process the notes. I was done with The Amado Women. I put the manuscript and their comments away for two years until Lee Byrd of Cinco Puntos Press emailed me and asked me where my next draft was. Wait, she was querying me? I looked back through those notes; my heart was a bit more seasoned — the comments were far from devastating, and easily addressed. I made a commitment to Lee to finish it, and, with the cheering squad of my writers’ group, made the deadline.