Welcome to the latest in a series of author interviews from talented writers around the world. Today I am thrilled to introduce the very gifted Trinidadian, Glynis Guevara, author of, Under the Zaboca Tree and the upcoming YA novel, Black Beach. Glynis is a traditionally published writer and I’ve enjoyed hearing her take on the process.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Glynis Guevara. I was born in Trinidad, but have lived in Canada for over twenty years. I started writing my first novel at fourteen, and even though it was never completed I never gave up my love for writing. I am a graduate of Humber College School for Writers creative writing program and was admitted to the bar of England and Wales, and Trinidad and Tobago. In 2012, I was shortlisted for the Small Axe Literary (short fiction) Competition, and my YA manuscript, “Barrel Girl” was a finalist for the inaugural Burt Award for Caribbean literature. “Under the Zaboca Tree” is my debut YA novel. My second YA novel, “Black Beach” will be published in September 2018.
2. What do you do when you are not writing?
My second love beside writing is reading. I also love to travel. I have been to England, (I was a student in London for four years), Sweden, Finland, Russia, USA (California, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut) and Grenada. I hope to travel to Africa next year.
3. Do you have a day job as well?
Yes, I am an instructor. I teach adult literacy classes full time during the day and also two evenings a week. I love my job and I enjoy working with diverse learners in my literacy class.
4. When did you first start writing and when did you complete your first book?
I started writing my first novel when I was fourteen, but it wasn’t completed; however, I never gave up my love for writing. I actually didn’t attempt to write another book until 2006 after I was laid off my job. It took about six months to finish the first draft.
5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
The first book I wrote was an adult contemporary novel, but it has not yet been published. I then wrote several YA books. In the beginning, I didn’t set out to write a YA book; it just turned out that way. So far my first YA novel, Under the Zaboca Tree, has been published and a second YA novel, Black Beach, will be published in late September this year. Social issues influence my writing.
6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Not really. I have a lot of ideas in my head! I have permanently injured my right ear which can affect my ability to concentrate at times, but other than that I am quite lucky.
7. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I start with a theme, but no outline. As I begin writing, the stories shape themselves. I myself am usually surprised at the outcome!
8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
There are many writers I admire, but amongst my favourites is the Trinidadian / American writer, Elizabeth Nunez.
9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Initially, I tried to find a literary agent. Looking back now, I realize my earlier works were not ready for publication and probably why I found it so difficult to secure an agent. I hired a private editor and he helped me grow as a writer. This was probably the best money I have spent. Hiring an editor helped me polish my work and as a result allowed me to secure a publisher.
10. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
I am happy with my publisher, Inanna Publications. My only regret is that I wish I didn’t have an ear issue that has affected my ability to market myself better.
11. How do you market your work?
I am working on improving my marketing skills. Currently, I market by word of mouth, social media, including Facebook and Twitter. I am hopeful I’ll be able to do a number of readings and personal appearances once Black Beach is released in later this year. I’m also trying to figure out how I get time off work to travel to other countries, including Trinidad and Tobago and other provinces in Canada to promote my work. I’m working on having my work included within the portfolios of literary festivals, local and national.
12. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
I have two complete books that remain unpublished. That said, I am on the verge of sending them out for assessment. Wish me luck!
13. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
My debut YA novel, Under the Zaboca Tree, is a contemporary coming of age story about a young girl affectionately called, Baby Girl, who moves from Toronto, Canada to Trinidad with her dad. Baby Girl silently longs for her mother, a woman she can’t recall ever meeting and doesn’t have a photo of. Under the Zaboca Tree is a contemporary coming of age novel that explores multiple issues including the challenges of being a motherless adolescent, searching for one’s identity, the unbreakable bonds of family, and the ability to adapt to difficult situations.
14. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
There is nothing in my published work based on my personal life experiences; however, in general, social issues influence my work.
15. What project are you working on now?
I am in the early stages of writing two YA novels. The working titles are, Poui Season, and, Gift in my Pocket.
16. Will you have a new book coming out soon?
Yes, my second YA novel, Black Beach, will be launched at Ben McNally Books in Toronto on September 28, 2018. Black Beach tells the story of sixteen-year-old, Tamera who lives in La Cresta, a fishing village on a Caribbean island. Tamera’s mother suffers from severe mental illness. Also, one of the young girl’s schoolmates disappears and no one knows anything about the missing girl’s whereabouts. An environmental disaster strikes the small community devastating the fishing industry. Tamera finds herself at the centre of the mystery of her classmate’s disappearance, the resolution of which shocks the people of La Cresta.
17. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
Inanna Publications published my first book, Under the Zaboca Tree, in 2017 and will publish, Black Beach, later this year. Inanna will also publish a third book, Barrel Girl, in 2019. I have completed two other manuscripts. However, the character that I feel a strong desire to write more about is Baby Girl, the protagonist from Under the Zaboca Tree. Every day I think about what has happened to her. The rest of her story needs to be told.
18. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been your greatest compliment?
Before I even contemplate sending my work to any publishers, I work on my manuscripts with a professional editor. I am so thankful for all that I have learnt from my current editor. I have grown as a writer because of the constructive criticism he has provided.
I have received many compliments from readers since my debut YA novel, Under the Zaboca Tree, was published. But I think the compliment that stayed with me above all was from a literary agent regarding one of my unpublished works. After reading the first twenty pages of the manuscript she said, “You write dialogue well. Not a lot of people can do that.” These words helped build my self-confidence and gave me the belief to continue.
19. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
I don’t know if I’m qualified to give advice. My first novel was published in 2017 and I am still learning about the writing and publishing business. However, I think aspiring writers need to be consistent readers and writers. Take writing courses, enter writing competitions. Be active on social media. Believe in yourself and don’t allow anyone’s negative words to discourage you.
20. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you to everyone who has taken time out of their busy schedule to read this blog interview and also thanks to all who have purchased my debut novel, Under the Zaboca Tree. I look forward to your continued support over the coming years. You are all invited to the book launch of, Black Beach, on September 28, 2018 at Ben MacNally books in Toronto.
Please join me in thanking Glynis for taking part in this interview and for sharing her experiences as a traditionally published author. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Glynis Guevara via the following links.
Please show your appreciation by checking out her work on Amazon using the below links:
Link to Black Beach at Amazon.ca
Link to Black Beach at Amazon.co.uk
Social media contacts:
Previous publications and links:
Link to “Under the Zaboca Tree” (Publisher’s website):