Author Interview: Maria Elena Sandovici Storms of Malhado
JMR-Welcome to the Books Delight, Elena. Tell our readers where you live, what you do for fun and what does the perfect day look like?
ES- Hi, Jeanie! Thank you! I’m excited to talk to you. I live in the Heights in Houston, which is a lovely neighborhood, full of old houses. I love reading, cooking, walking my dog, painting, and the occasional day trip to Galveston. The perfect day is one where nothing much happens, but the weather’s nice, I write, paint, make something good for dinner, and am reading a good book.
JMR-What’s your favorite historical time period? Why?
ES- Early 1960s. I love the aesthetics, yet am appalled at the race and gender inequalities of that decade. It’s a fascinating time to witness as an outside observer. As a woman, I’m so happy we don’t have to live in those times. Then again, some of the current social and political tension we’re experiencing reminds me of the 1960s. Perhaps we’re undergoing a similar transformation?
JMR-Who is your favorite historical figure? Why? If you could ask them one question, what would it be?
ES- Coco Chanel. I love that she was an entrepreneur, also a strong independent single woman. I love her role in democratizing fashion, making style affordable, getting rid of some of the constraints women had to deal with (literally: the corset). It would be so hard to pick just one question to ask her. It would probably be: What’s your advice for success selling luxury goods at a time of economic upheaval?
JMR- How did you come to be a writer? You are also an artist how does that influence your writing?
ES- I can’t imagine not being a writer. I think it came to me at an early age – an extension of my desire to escape boredom (read: school) and to try to live more than one life. I always daydreamed myself somewhere else, imagined myself in other people’s shoes.
Being an artist goes really well with being a writer. It stems from the same desire for escapism but also from a desire to know the world and the settings I love in a more intimate way. Both art and writing force you to slow down and truly examine things, to see details one might normally gloss over, and to make a decision about what is interesting enough to be included.
JMR- Your first book is set in Galveston, Texas. What elements do you use to immerse the reader in its history, the sort that make them feel a part of the story? I’ve spent many a day at Galveston, would I recognize it in your book?
ES- Storms of Malhado is indeed set in Galveston, but it is not my first book. It’s my first historical novel, also the first book that I’ve taken the time to properly promote, which is why it’s my most successful one. I have written five previous books, all contemporary women’s fiction, set everywhere from NYC, Cancun, West Texas, Paris, Bucharest, and the Black Sea. Setting is very important to me as a writer, and Galveston, where I lived for three of the most transformative years of my life, is a favorite.
If you spent a day on the Island you would definitely recognize it in my book – even smell it! I think the best compliments I received are from readers saying they could smell the salt air.
The haunted mansion in the story is inspired by the League House, a real mansion on Broadway. The different historical eras show the progression of the Island from a wealthy port town to the devastation of the Great Storm of 1900, the decades of economic struggle afterwards, then finally its rebirth after Ike. While the characters often find the Island stifling, the book is ultimately a celebration of Galveston’s magic, of its capacity for survival and reinvention.
JMR- I live south of Houston and have ridden out many hurricanes. I am currently watching as Hurricane Iota blasts into Central America. How do you capture with words the enthralling terror of a hurricane?
ES- In some ways waiting for storms is more frightening than the storms themselves. But aside from that tension, there are scary moments featuring hurricane winds and rising water in the book as well. I don’t want to give too much away, but characters actually die and readers get to experience the storms from their point of view. The only spoiler I’m willing to give up is that the horses live. I would never ever kill the horses!
JMR- Elena, tell us about your book, Storms of Malhado.
ES- Storms of Malhado is a historical novel with paranormal elements. Galveston is the perfect setting for it, as the veil between life and death is so thin there. Through three historical eras, three women with strikingly similar destinies face deadly hurricanes in the same Broadway mansion.
JMR-What projects do you have in the pipeline? I see you are trying a Kickstarter approach to publishing your next book. How did it go?
ES- I’m currently writing another historical novel set in Galveston. The Glory Days of Aimée Bonnard is a historical mystery about a Galveston prostitute in 1898. You’ll notice I picked a year without a major storm, and that is on purpose. There’s so much more to Galveston’s history besides storms, and the history of prostitution is certainly fascinating. I was very much inspired by historian Kimber Fountain’s work on the Red Light District, and her idea that prostitutes were not driven into their line of work by desperation but rather by a desire to be free in a world that offered women few avenues for independence. I found that worth exploring.
The Kickstarter is a first for me. Usually I pay for all professional services that go into my books (editor, formatting, cover, advertising, etc.). These are expensive but well worth it. They do make it hard to earn any money, though, as royalties must first cover these substantial costs, which can take years… I’m ready for my writing and publishing to no longer be an extravagant hobby, but rather something that pays. People love to help. They love to see creative projects come to fruition and creators rewarded. It’s a fun way, too, to offer my readers a little something extra, a way to engage with this story and the characters in a more personal and meaningful way. For example, Aimée herself will send some of the backers letters and tell them a secret that’s not included in the book. Isn’t that fun?
JMR- Tell our readers how to find you on social media and the web.
ES- The best place to find me is my blog: HaveWatercolorsWillTravel.com. I’m also very active on Instagram (@mariasando) and so is my dog (@biggestdogintheuniverse). I also have a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/mesandovici) and a Twitter account (@SandoviciME).
JMR- What question were you hoping I’d ask but didn’t?
ES- What’s the link for the Kickstarter? Lol https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2003567733/the-glory-days-of-aimee-bonnard-a-historical-novel?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=the%20glory%20days
JMR- Thanks for stopping by Maria and for a fascinating interview. Good luck with your campaign. Readers if you'd like to see more about Maria's book, Storms of Malhado, click on the Amazon button.