I’d been promising you more interviews and here is a very special one for me. I loved the novel Carta a Charo when I first read it in Spanish and I was lucky enough to be asked to translate it. Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to a Spanish writer, Estrella Cardona Gamio, and her novel Letter to Charo.
First, the author tells us a bit about herself.
I have a BA in Fine Arts and I’m an author of novels, stories and children’s tales, I have also been a member of the Spanish Association of Journalists and Correspondents, and I’ve contributed editorials and short tales to different publications. I have also collaborated in radio with my own featured programmes. My first novel was self-published in paper years back, El otro jardín (The Other Garden). In March 2006, I published a book of short stories, La dependienta (The Shop Girl), with a publishing company in Madrid, hybrid publishing. In 1999, my sister, María Concepción, registered the publishing company C. CARDONA GAMIO EDICIONES (that started as an online publishing company that same year). From 2006 we started publishing books in paperback format and from the 28th April 2012 we are on Amazon, in Kindle format, broadening our horizons.
Here are the questions:
When and how did you start writing? I started writing novels when I was eight years old, instinctively copying others. I was an avid reader and wanted to imitate the writers I read. It was a game to start with but with time it stopped being one.
Describe for us your experience as an independent (self-published) writer: Very satisfying. Like many first-time writers, I went through the litany of sending inquiries to publishing companies and finally when Amazon reached Spain, I found what I was looking for, a serious and honest company. My official baptism of fire in the indie world couldn’t have been better.
Is there a moment that you remember with particular affection from your career as a writer, up to now? For me, the experience of writing is already the best of all moments.
What made you decide to translate your novel Carta a Charo (now available in English as Letter to Charo)? The fact that the action of this novel, now Letter to Charo, develops through the exchange of letters, between London and Barcelona, and I thought it would be very appropriate to translate it, and as you are an excellent translator (her words, not mine) I approached you with the project.
Tell us a bit more about your novel. It’s a novel written with plenty of love and I enjoyed the possibilities the interaction between the protagonists all immersed in the same novel, but so different between them, gave me, as they progressively share with us their thoughts and their personality. Charo’s character is a jewel, a true finding, as without her there would be no novel.
Do you have any advice for your writer colleagues (and especially for new writers)? Not to feel disappointed if they are not successful from the very beginning. Writing is a beautiful but thankless profession. We shouldn’t look for millions of sales, or for becoming one of the top ten writers, we should try to write well and not lose our patience in the process. All the writers who persevered triumphed in the end and that’s the important thing.
Here a review, written by a publisher, Marlene Moleon:
“Epistolary novels allow us to get close and personal with the intimacy of a character in a way not possible through any other narrative form. It is like entering the world of a person as she is, without embellishments or interpretations on behalf of the narrator. Estrella Cardona Gamio shows us her mastery of the genre with LETTER TO CHARO.
A short novel where rich human feelings and passions fit perfectly in the short number of pages given.”
Thanks so much to Estrella for her interview and on my behalf for her words and to her and her sister Concha for the opportunity to translate this great novel, thanks to all of you for reading and don’t forget to like, share, comment and CLICK!
Title: Graveyards of the Banks – I did it for the money: Seven Seasons of Midnights at the Most Successful Bank in the Universe Author: Nyla Nox ASIN: B00U7HRVNK Published: March 2015 Pages: 176 Genre: Business and Money/Banks and Banking. Contemporary Fiction/ Women’s Fiction
One woman’s toxic workplace hell.
Nyla Nox stumbles into a world of corporate bullying and shame at the world’s most successful institution. You won’t believe what goes on there…
The graphics center of the Most Successful Bank in the Universe (a real bank, but not its real name!), where Nyla ends up, is a graveyard of broken dreams where artists, psychologists, historians, philosophers and even teachers end up ‘doing it for the money’ while the bankers, who treat them like scum, are being brutally groomed to become the leaders of tomorrow.
What do you really know about life inside the Big Banks?
Did you know that, right now as you read this, a hidden tribe of jobless humanities graduates is working deep inside those secret and powerful institutions? Do you have any idea how toxic these workplaces are? And how badly most of the workers in the banks (who are not bankers themselves) are treated? Do you know why they are treated like this?
‘Graveyards of the Banks’ tells the truth about life in the Banks, about life as a single woman in London, about saying farewell to broken dreams and surviving (just!) a hair raising sequence of corporate attacks on your dignity, your self-esteem and even on your physical health, night after night, just to make rent.
Life is never dull at the Most Successful Bank in the Universe. The night shift is a battle field of bullies and bitches, emotions go wild at 4AM, and Nyla has to fight for survival every single minute.
Do you realize that the corporate bullying and shaming is not an accident? Nyla stumbles into that world, the Bank’s playground and training ground for Survival of the Fittest. The top bankers talk about it as their ‘killing ground’.
Nyla Nox was interviewed about her life in the Banks by the London Guardian and has written about her book and her experience in many well known international magazines. Her story seems to be an inconvenient truth, too extreme to believe. But her truth has been confirmed, again and again, by the Big Banks themselves, through their own announcements.
Read for yourself how the toxic banking system rots our hearts and minds, and our society. And as Nyla’s story shows, you don’t need to be a banker to be directly affected.
Whoever you are, the Banks are deciding your life for you.
“..Quite a few interviewees have described investment banks as abusive environments. But they seem to consider this an outcome, not an act of design. Nyla Nox thinks it’s deliberate. [Her story] struck me as perhaps extreme, but reading her experiences perhaps she did see the beast in the eye.”
Joris Luyendijk, The Guardian.
“ Wow. This was an amazing, moving book. … You know how a show like The Office perfectly captured everyone you work with in an office setting? This book does that with the financial world, while at the same time making you feel like you’re walking through this financial hell with Dante.”
Aaron Hoos, Financial Fiction Reviews
“… Graveyards of the Banks is somewhat reminiscent of Kafka’s ‘The Castle’ The Castle, in its descriptions of labyrinthine hierarchy and bureaucracy. … reminiscent in some ways of fascism, a brand of fascism without swastikas and SS uniforms. Nyla Nox also compares bank work conditions to Mordor, the land of evil in Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’.”
‘Dear Kitty’ social justice blog.
I am reviewing this book as part of the Lit World Interviews review team and was offered a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Nyla, the protagonist of this novel-cum-memoir (the author is also called Nyla and in the description of the book she explains the narration is born of her personal experience working for a bank, which although it remains nameless, it’s ‘the Most Successful Bank in the Universe’) works for the department preparing the publications that seemingly are the only visible output the bank produces. These always show predictions of growth for their clients, although as she discovers, such predictions are based on no real data. It’s a con but it must look good.
We only know the basics about the protagonist, who is an anthropology graduate and after years of trying to make a living out of her vocation is close to destitution (in fact at the beginning of the novel, when she’s going to undertake the selection test to get the job that will occupy the rest of the book, she only has £3 in her pocket). We know she lives in a bedsit, but nothing about her personal life, family or relationships. She talks about her love of studying, books, Philosophy, and the first person narration puts the reader inside her head, and we suffer with her the claustrophobia, the harassment, the bullying, and the minor joys (very minimal) she experiences. It does not make for easy reading, let me tell you.
Nyla is very insightful, both about the world and society around her (and she offers great anthropological, sociological and political insights, including how this bank’s behaviour towards his employees is only different in style rather to historical fascist regimes, even if they prefer to see it as social Darwinism) and about herself. She observes others, she tries to study ways of surviving (she’s doing it for the money, she keeps telling herself, to try and get to ‘a better place’), and she knows she is no better than others. Her comments about becoming the witch bitch reminded me of an article I read years back by Barbara Creed about Alien and what she called ‘the monstrous feminine’. Oh yes, she can be scary, but she’s strong.
There are lighter moments, like her songs dedicated to the sweets machine (and although she doesn’t name them, we know them) but these get swallowed up by the soul-destroying routine of working at the bank.
The bank (and the author’s descriptions of the place and the situation brought to my mind not only Kafka and Orwell but also the movie Brazil) is next door to an old graveyard where the protagonist spends some of her waiting time and this London graveyard is the perfect backdrop to the action and a mirror image of the institution, only the graveyard doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t (and seems more welcoming). Like the air conditioning system, filled with nobody knows what, and a nest of corruption and sickness, the whole empire seems to be a bomb ticking. Like Nyla, who fantasises about being sacked, but worries about how she’d manage, we want to see the place collapse but don’t want Nyla to go under. The ending of this first book in the series is a cliffhanger for what might come when Monsters Arise.
This is a fascinating book, a very subjective experience for the reader, but not a novel with a plot full of action. We get to know the inside of the character’s mind but not her life. I don’t think it’s a book for everybody but it’s a scary look into a world some might have suspected existed, but not quite like this. If you want to know more about investment banking from a totally unique perspective, and you dare, go for it.
Ratings: Realistic Characterization: 4/5 Made Me Think: 5/5 Overall enjoyment: 4.5/5 Readability: 4/5 Recommended: 4/5 Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Buy it at: Format & Pricing: Kindle: $3.05
I thought I’d share some ‘pearls’ from the book:
‘After all, the Bank was supposed to know things nobody else did and could penetrate the darkness of economic confusion as well as predict the future. I have no idea how much our clients knew about our processing methods but in reality they were part of a ‘one size fits all’ production line.’
‘After all my time at the Bank, reading so many of their Books, I am at a complete loss to understand why the clients kept coming back, and kept paying our exorbitant fees for a service (‘copy and mutilate’) that was insultingly incompetent and had been discredited time after time. The only explanation I can come up with is that they must have been true believers in the natural leadership of high finance, and as such impervious to experience. ‘
‘After all, we were not one of those inept public service bureaucracies where the staff got sick leave and pensions.’
Title: Chaos Is Come Again Author: John Dolan and Fiona Quinn Print Length: 350 pages Publisher: Tention Publishing Limited (October 21, 2014) Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc. Language: English ASIN: B00OSP0AGW Genre: Thriller/romance/? The publishing business, murders and madness
I have read and love the three books (so far) in the series Time, Blood and Karma by John Dolan. I know Fiona Quinn from her fantastic blog (I recommend it to anybody interested in writing thrillers. I had the pleasure of being one of her guests). And I was very intrigued by their collaboration. If any more encouragement were needed, the reviews were great too.
I had read interviews about the process involved in writing the novel and I wondered how it would have worked in reality, as it sounded fairly complicated.
Given all that I had been looking forward with trepidation to reading the novel and it did not disappoint.
The novel is seamless. I could not pick up parts that I fell were more likely to have been written by either author (I might have my theories, but nothing stood out), and once I got into the story that was no longer important.
The novel has two main protagonists: Sean, a young Englishman, a barista diagnosed with schizophrenia and with a violent incident in his past that weights heavy in his mind (although we’re never given any details), and Avery, an American woman, a literary agent burdened with a mother suffering from dementia, and whose difficulties provide at times light entertainment and at others add poignancy to the proceedings.
The two storylines: life in the literary world, a woman’s point of view, friends and chocolate cakes; and London’s gritty life, anxiety and self-doubt, together with a writer with a penchant for scandal (some would say blasphemous), an aspiring poet/singer and girlfriend with no evident redeeming qualities, and a mysterious serial killer, create as many plot threads as any eager reader would wish for (possibly even more).
Social media (Twitter in particular) helps bring them together and reels us into a thriller/romance, with a disquietingly open ending.
It’s dynamic, flows well although the rhythm varies according to whose point of view we’re seeing the story from, and with its mixture of characters and likable central duo it’s difficult not to find somebody to root for.
This is a book for readers who like to explore outside established genres and don’t mind open endings. I’m not sure die-hard thriller fans would approve but writers will have a chuckle. I did.
What the book is about: An American female literary agent, a British man struggling with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and concerned about a previous incident of violence, an irreverent author, a wannabe narcissist singer, who all come in contact with each other thanks to Twitter and the literary world. Ah, and a London serial killer.
Book Highlights: The London atmosphere, seen both through the eyes of locals and through those of newcomers. The inner workings of a literary agency. The relationship between Avery and her friend Lolly that adds a touch of chick-lit to the proceedings.
Challenges of the book: The book moves comfortably between the terrains of chick-lit, thriller, and accurately observed London life. The changes of registry, and the fragments of Travis’s novel might prove challenging to some readers, or at least not sit comfortably with everybody.
What do you get from it: That the cooperation between writers can lead to great things. And, that where there is a will, there is a way.
What I would have changed if anything: Being a psychiatrist I found it difficult not to diagnose and treat a few of the characters and I wonder how somebody with similar problems might react to some the way some of the characters are treated (Goose and his obsessive behaviours, for example) but it did reflect reality (it was probably fairly tolerant compared to reality).
Who Would I recommend this book to?: This novel moves across a few genres. I’m convinced most writers will enjoy it, and those who love thrillers with a degree of quirkiness (rather than straight procedural or cosy mystery lovers).
Ratings: Realistic Characterization: 4/5 Made Me Think: 4/5 Overall enjoyment: 4.5/5 Readability: 5/5 Recommended: 5/5 Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Title: Cured Meat: Memoirs of a Psychiatric Runaway
Author: Polly Trope
Print Length: 232 pages
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Published: April 21st 2014
I am a psychiatrist and therefore you’ll understand I would be interested in a book with such a title. I didn’t expect what I got, though. This is an extraordinary book. Extraordinary both, in the sense of not your normal type of book (whatever that might be) and also because it is one of a kind and exceptional.
I’ve read some of the reviews comparing it to Sylvia Plath, Derek Jarman…I understand. This is a book that is told as a memoir, narrated in stream-of-consciousness, with poetic interludes and fragments that come slightly closer to a diary narrative, but vague, uninterested in places and times as such, and much more focused on sensations and feelings. The wandering nature of the narrative (we travel from Berlin, to London, New England, and back in and out again, and also travel inwards, into the inner bowels of the city, particularly London) reminded me of the Beat Generation, particularly On The Road. If Jack Kerouac’s book was so much more than a travel book, this is also a memoir of not only a person, but a place, a time, and extreme experiences.
The problems with mental health (or with the mental health services, although I’m not particularly familiar, other than what I’ve read and watched, with how they function in the US) of the protagonist, her difficulties with drugs, her fall into a bottomless pit of prostitution and drugs aren’t told as a news item or a call to action. Sometimes in the middle of the most abject experience or ugliness, there is such beauty in the language that it’s difficult to reconcile the content and the tone. But it is, after all, art.
Lyrical, full of brilliant lines, breath-taking description, but also harrowing passages, it is not a book for everybody, and it is not an easy read (both from the point of view of the language and of the emotional impact). But it is a very rewarding one for those who dare.
Here a brief example…
So here I am sitting before the pyre of an awful
past, a king in purple gown, a crown weighs me into my
throne, with golden fork and golden knife, and on the table
before me a high piled heap, the rusty pieces that on my
battles with the sea, when I was wielding my powers —my
magic sword, yeah— those rusty pieces I saw along the
side, never knew what they were, the arms of dead dolls,
perhaps the tusks of a mammoth?
This is not a book for everybody, but if you like a challenging read, that will make you think and will transport to places and experiences outside your comfort-zone, I recommend it to you. Be brave!
Buy it at: Amazon Format & Pricing: Kindle e-book: $4.78 Paperback: $16.82 Ratings: Realistic Characterization: 5/5 Made Me Think: 5/5 Overall enjoyment: 5/5 Readability: 3/5 Recommended: 4/5 Overall Rating: 5/5
Thanks for reading, thanks to Polly for her outstanding book, and you know, if you’ve enjoyed it, like, comment, share…and CLICK