Enter if you dare: The Bog Zone—Author Interview #1 with Eleanor Parker Sapia
Eleanor Parker Sapia agreed to sit in the hot seat for a round of Q&A . . . welcome this brave and creative soul to The Bog Zone, and make note of Eleanor’s debut historical novel, A Decent Woman, to read, and once you do, a rating or review would be most appreciated. Writers want to hear from their readers and fans.
Puerto Rican-born novelist and painter, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s life experiences as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker, inspire her passion for writing. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago a second time.
Welcome, Eleanor, and fasten your seatbelts . . . try to answer quickly, off the cuff, and edit later.
Hi Justin! Thanks for inviting me to The Bog Zone! I’m excited to visit with you.
- ~twirls imaginary villainous mustache~ Terrific, Eleanor, and so it begins: what was your last great meal? Make us hungry.
Oh, I got this! A friend from Front Royal visited me Saturday evening and brought the entire meal—from the appetizer, entrée, wine, dessert, to the cocktails. It was a perfect evening for an al fresco dinner under the grape arbor, so we brought out the ingredients and turned my old Moroccan table into a meal prep station. While feasting on seedless, black, Greek olives in brine with crunchy bread and bits of mozzarella cheese, we sipped Vodka Gimlets. When the sun went down, my friend lit the grill and prepared a beautiful piece of salmon with dill, pats of butter, sea salt, crushed pepper, and Herbes de Provence I happened to have on hand. I prepared a salad of kale, romaine lettuce, juicy Heirloom tomatoes, purple onions, and then got busy with the fresh vinaigrette and Hollandaise for the asparagus, which my friend wrapped in tinfoil and placed on the grill next to the wrapped salmon. This stupendous meal was served with Santa Julia Pinot Grigio from Mendoza, Argentina, and for dessert we enjoyed strawberry ice cream from Trickling Springs Creamery in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Great meal, don’t you agree?
Maybe I should’ve ended with this question; you certainly made me hungry. Anyone else out there ready for a meal like this? Killer heirloom tomatoes and Vodka Gimlets—say no more.
- What is the one book you wish you wrote?
I wish I’d written the fascinating novel, The Red Tent by Ann Diamant. It’s among my favorite novels, and one of the few books I’ve read more than once. Diamant took a minor character in the Bible and through fleshing out Dinah’s life we’re rewarded with stories of life of the literal red tent, where the women of Jacob’s tribe were forced to remain while menstruating and/or after giving birth. Like the women in my family, on both sides of the family—mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, and nieces, they found refuge, support, and encouragement within the sisterhood. I love this book and the idea of sisterhood which is an important theme in my stories.
- What’s the craziest thing you’ve done for love? Your fans certainly want an answer to this question.
Three months into a new relationship, I wrote a heartfelt love poem to a man. The relationship ended a few months later, and I learned important lessons from that experience—make sure the person you’re spending time with is worthy of your affection and attention, and never feel bad about losing your heart so quickly. Since that relationship, I’ve written many poems, some about love, but I’ve never dedicated one to a particular man. Perhaps that will change one day.
- What song is stuck in your head?
‘It’s A Man’s World’ written by James Brown and Betty Newsome, and sung by Karise Evans. She’s a fantastic Australian blues singer who won Australia’s ‘The Voice’ competition in 2014. It’s the best rendition of the song I’ve ever heard. I’m hooked and mesmerized by Evans’ raspy, sensual voice. Her first CD is great and I hope to hear more from her.
I’m going to iTunes right now.
- What is your favorite first sentence in literature?
“Ages ago, Alex, Allen and Alva arrived in Antibes, and Alva allowing all, allowing anyone, against Alex’s admonition, against Allen’s angry assertion: another African amusement…anyhow, as all argued, and awesome African army assembled and arduously advanced against an African anthill, assiduously annihilating ant after ant, and afterward, Alex astonishingly accuses Albert as also accepting Africa’s antipodal ant annexation.” Walter Abish, Alphabetical Africa
I’ve heard about this wild book and now I must put it on my To-Read List. Thank you for the reminder.
- What is the first sentence of A Decent Woman?
“Many devout followers of Our Lady of Guadalupe feared the Virgin Mary had turned her back on the flock.”
Intrigued already . . .
- If you were a literary character, who would you be? Why?
Great question! Without a doubt I’d be the protagonist of Erica Jong’s fantastic historical novel, Fanny: Being the True History of the Adventures of Fanny Hackabout-Jones, after Fanny becomes a pirate. I first read the novel when I was a freshman in high school, after removing the racy book jacket so my mother wouldn’t suspect I was reading what she would have considered inappropriate for a girl my age. I got away with it. Jong’s book is a brilliant and fun read. I recently bought a copy of the book and just discovered it is soon to be a Broadway musical. I can’t wait to see who plays Fanny, and will definitely buy tickets for that production.
- What was the last risk you took?
I stood on a rickety, old chair to replace a burnt-out light bulb in the light fixture hanging on my kitchen porch. I didn’t take a tumble, but I took a dumb chance. I know better and don’t need any broken bones at my age.
Having my own hobbling injuries this past year, more than I could possibly list to bore everyone with, I wish you health and wisdom.
Brief writing prompt interlude Challenge:
Write three mini-stories (limit 200 words each) to account for a single event given here. Each story should be different—in characters, plot, and theme—from the other. Plotting is the game; there are many different ways to skin a cat!
A man and a woman face each other across a law office conference room table.
A) Nice tie, jerk. Are you sleeping with her? Look at you leaning in, turning your body toward her, your mouth mere inches from her soft cheek. So casual, yet intimate. Look at you two, feigning it’s all business. Oh this is rich—you’re whispering in her ear. If you’re talking about me, she’ll look at me, or if she’s real clever, she’ll remain stoic and keep her eyes firmly on the papers in front of her. Our divorce papers. Nice job, Red. Your eyes didn’t betray you this time, but the corners of your mouth twitched, just a tiny bit. But I saw it. You’re definitely sleeping with your client, who happens to be my husband. They should disbar your ass.
Ah, there you are. Yes, look at me, husband of twenty five years. Is that smile filled with even an ounce of regret or warmth? Doubtful. I’d love to stand and slap that smirk off your face, you son of a bitch, and then hang you from the rafters by that ridiculous, happy face tie.
God, I hate my lawyer. I should have retained a good looking, younger man instead of this old fart. But rest assured he’ll wipe the floor with that new lover of yours.
B) God, I’m dead. Fifteen minutes late to the meeting and I look like I tumbled out of bed, which I did. Katherine is dominating the meeting per her usual brilliant manner and oratory style. Look at her—she’s perfect. How does she do it? Does she not have a social life? She probably gets exactly seven hours of sleep every night and never splurges on fatty foods or snacks. I wonder how much it costs to maintain that perfect body, hair, and skin. I know her suits must cost a pretty penny. Probably Italian. Her black suit is cut so her gorgeous curves are accented, but not too much, and her bra is barely visible under that pristine white, silk blouse with black buttons. As always, she pulls her platinum blonde hair back in a low chignon. I wonder how long her hair is? I’ve never seen her wear it down. And she always smells so good. I wonder what’s she like in bed?
Oh, oh. She caught my eye. Why didn’t I ask Stacey to leave last night. And why, oh why did I sleep with her again? I knew better than to buy her that second drink.
C) “So what do you think? Should we buy this place?”
Les’ face is more animated than I’ve seen in a very long while. I like the house, but I could keep looking. He loves it, and I do see his point—it’s in a good neighborhood and a short commute to work for both of us. The house has three bedrooms we asked for, hardwood floors, and a super kitchen that I know Les is salivating about. I can actually see him in that kitchen, preparing his favorite dishes with our friends standing about drinking good wine. It’s a great house for entertaining. I see him holding court on the patio with family and friends. I need to decide before the realtor returns to the conference room with the contract.
“Honey, I know you love this house, but don’t you think we should look at a few more; maybe a little further out?”
“No, Jessica,” he says. “This is the one. We’ve looked long enough. I want it and I know you’ll be happy there, too.” I smile weakly and shrug, not sure how to tell him that I love the house…I just don’t know if I want to live in it with him.
I enjoyed your three pieces of flash fiction. Wonderful. I wonder about why authors choose certain points of view, and I like your use of the first-person. It’s immediate, and gets me into the scene.
- What’s your biggest indulgence?
I have two, if I may—French wine and 500-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets and pillowcases from Overstock. I’ve been known to splurge on a bottle of great wine, and by now I would have an impressive wine cave if I hadn’t partaken of the nectar soon after purchasing, or certainly within a day or two! But I’m also an advocate of not saving the remaining wine in a bottle. If you can’t drink and enjoy the bottle over dinner with friends, don’t open it. Russians will agree that rule applies to a chilled bottle of vodka, which you must drink with a fresh tomato.
Once you’ve slept on 500-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, you’ll scour every outlet and online store for sales to replicate the experience. They are divine. I also love camping and sleeping outdoors, so don’t get the idea I’m a diva—but those sheets. Wow.
- Who is your fictional nemesis, a character you love to hate?
The character, Kathy Nicolo, in the novel, House of Sand and Fog by Andres Dubus III, is one such character—a character you love to hate. I pitied Nicolo, a former drug user, in the first half of the novel, but my daughter had an immediate negative reaction to the character that continued until the end of the book. We agreed Nicolo was the cause of much, if not all, the heartache and tragedy in the book, and all I have to do to get my daughter riled up is say, “Oh, remember Kathy Nicolo?” and she goes off!
House of Sand and Fog is one of my favorite novels as well. Memorable madness.
Eleanor, thank you very much for being the first author to answer questions in The Bog Zone.
My pleasure, Justin! I had a great time and wish you the best with your writing!
Here is the description of A Decent Woman:
Playa de Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the nineteenth century: Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past, but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her twenty-five year career as the only midwife in town.
Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children who marries an older wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. A crime against Serafina during her last pregnancy forever bonds her to Ana in an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal, and preserve Serafina’s honor, her new marriage, and her place in the world.
Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of these two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.
And, here is a short excerpt taken from the very first Chapter of A Decent Woman:
La Conservadora de Asuntos de Mujeres ~ The Keeper of Women’s Business
Playa de Ponce, Porto Rico ~ July 1, 1900
On the morning of the Feast of the Most Precious Blood, Serafina’s waters discharged and labor pains commenced. Ana Belén hurried along the dirt road as ominous storm clouds rolled in from the east, threatening to obscure the last of a hazy sunset. The only sound on the deserted street, save for the bleating of a goat in the distance, was the rush of the ocean. When the winds picked up and the first ta-ta-ta sounded off zinc roofs, Ana was nauseated, all part of the familiar heaviness she now experienced before every storm. She lowered her head as the first raindrops dotted the dusty road ahead and noticed cool rain droplets glistening on her ebony skin. Pulling the heavy linen skirt up to her knee to avoid the splatter of mud, Ana picked up her pace. Inside the black leather satchel she gripped tightly, the steel instruments jingled with every step.
Heavier raindrops pelted the dirt street and bounced before settling into the warm, wet earth. That’s the way it always was; the rain formed narrow streams in the parched riverbeds that created fast-flowing creeks. A few days later, the water would find its way back to the sea–the source–or dry up. What a waste of energy, thought Ana. In a few days the streets of La Playa would return to dry, cracked earth. When the wind switched direction, a palm frond flew by, inches from her face, and rain soon followed the wind. The acrid smell of burning sugarcane reached her nose; always a reminder of her childhood in Cuba as a slave.
Eleanor Parker Sapia
A Decent Woman, now available on Amazon
Author Blog: http://www.thewritinglifeeparker.wordpress.com
Thank you everyone, for checking out this first The Bog Zone author interview . . . much more to come, but I need your help to share the news with your reading fiends . . . why not recommend A Decent Woman to your local bookstore or Book Club? That would be incredibly kind.