us a little about yourself.
I'm a writer. I was born in El
Paso, Texas, and I've been living (on and off, but mostly on)
in Mexico City since 1986. My books are Miraculous Air: Journey
of a Thousand Miles through Baja California the Other Mexico,
which has just come out in a paperback edition, and Sky Over
El Nido, a collection of short stories largely set in Mexico.
I'm also a literary translator,
founder of the bilingual (English / Spanish) Tameme Chapbooks
- Cuadernos www.tameme.org and
editor of Mexico: A Traveler's Literary
Companion, a collection of Mexican fiction and literary
prose. I am really excited about this book, as it offers a portrait
of Mexico's incredibly diverse regions through the voices of
its own writers. Many, such as Carlos Monsivais, Rosario Castellanos,
Juan Villoro, Fernnando del Paso, and Angeles Mastretta, are
considered literary stars here, and yet they are almost unknown
to English language readers. My website, www.cmmayo.com,
has information about my books as well as many of my articles,
stories, translations and book reviews.
Because my husband is Mexican,
and after we got married, he wanted to live in Mexico City more
than anywhere else on earth. He was persuasive, what can I say.
a good travel writer?
An eye and ear for detail
in other words, a practiced ability to pay deep, unwavering attention.
Compassion. Languages. A deep knowledge of the literary tradition
and respect for readers. Aside from that, stamina, a handy notebook
and pen, thick socks, and indestructable walking shoes.
Do you go
through a certain process when writing a book?
The idea comes as a spark, the
outline hazily appears, the beginning is a breeze - and then
the whole thing becomes obscure. Structure is a rickety mystery.
Crowds of clashing metaphors. I nudge and cajole and slog. I
cut dozens, maybe hundreds of pages. Weeks, months, years go
by. Then, towards the end, suddenly, it all comes togetherit
begins to feel like gliding.
a certain incident or moment that stood out for you when you
travelled through Baja California?
In the little farm town / artist
colony of Todos Santos, I was interviewing Professor Nestor Agúndez,
a retired schoolteacher and the founder of the town's Casa de
Cultura. He told me that, in 1994, he had invited the leading
presidential candidate, Luis Donaldo Colosio, to visit his town.
Professor Agundez waited for
a response. Finally, it came an acceptance
on the very day that Colosio was assassinated, shot in the head
at close range in a crowd in Tijuana. As Professor Agundez was
telling me about how shocked he was, all alone in his house watching
the bloody images on television, and with that letter in his
handhow he had tried to control himself by
drinking glasses of water, but he couldn't help it, he cried
and cried I started to cry.
It was a powerful reminder: we're
all connected, bajacalifornios, chilangos, Mexicans, North Americans,
the living, the dead.
any particular authors, Mexican or foreign, that have influenced
Diaz del Castillo, whose True
History of the Conquest of New Spain is one of the greatest
stories ever told. Frances Calderon de la Barca, whose Life
in Mexico is like a box of bonbons
you can just lift the lid and dip in, anywhere.
The travel writers I have most
enjoyed and learned from are V.S. Naipaul, Bruce Chatwin, Jan
Morris, Bill Buford, M.F.K. Fischer, Sam Quinones, Juan Villoro,
Carlos Monsivais, and Ian Frazier.
As for novelists, Manette Ansay,
Anton Chekhov, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Anne Patchett, Gustave Flaubert,
Henry James, Edith Wharton, Paul Bowles, Truman Capote, and Thornton
Wilder. It's such a long list. It's always growing, always changing.
Can you tell
us a little about your latest project, The Last Prince of
the Mexican Empire?
It's an epic historical novel
set in the 1860s, something like "Gone with the Wind a la
mexicana." It's based on a true story and I've done extensive
original archival research in Mexico, Washington DC, New York
City, and Vienna.
I've begun posting bits and pieces
about it, including an essay about a journey to Maximilian's
Italian castle, on my Maximilian website, www.cmmayo.com/maximilian.html
I expect the novel may be out in late 2008.
time between the United States and Mexico do you feel you get
the best of both worlds?
I am a relentless optimist.
it was a pleasure talking to you, thank you for your time.