Dirty Girl on the Record
by Vivian Lake
Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez , a former journalist with the Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times, broke into the publishing stratosphere in 2004 with the publication of Dirty Girls Social Club at the dawn of the chick-lit movement.
Her story of six Latina American women's friendship and individual struggles to find themselves and establish careers became a a New York Times bestseller which launched her career as a novelist, but the chica-lit offshoot of chick lit. Seven novels and later, as the third Sucias [Dirty Girls] novel hits the shelves, Valdes-Rodriquez, also a columnist on Mamiverse.com, answered some questions via email from Literati about the new book, her upcoming Kindred series and the impact of the Cowboy, the man in her life, has had.
Q. What can you tell us about Saints of Dirty Faith: A Dirty Girls Social Club Novel?
A. This is the third book in the Dirty Girls Social Club series. It catches up with three of the six women from the first book, in their mid-30s. It's not chick lit, but sort of a romantic suspense novel.
Q. Which girl would you say is most like you?
A. Lauren. She is a grossly exaggerated version of me.
Q. What are the pros and cons of writing a series? Do you get sick of the characters?
A. I am very intrigued by the freedom and control that new technology offers writers, and I wanted to explore it and see how it went. If it's a resounding failure, I won't go there again! It's all up to the readers now.
Q. How has the digital revolution changed publishing? There is no hardcover edition of Saints; do you think printed books will disappear?
A. There could easily have BEEN a hardcover version if I wanted to release it that way on my own. I chose to release it in paperback from the get-go to keep the cost down for readers during a recession. Printed books will never disappear. Most people who buy e-books seem to buy printed books as well. I think we'll see more people buying both, so they have the beauty and longevity of a paper book at home, and the convenience of reading that same book and hundreds or thousands of others on an e-reader that weighs a couple of ounces. E-readers are perfect for traveling, commuting, etc., but will never replace paper books in, say, the bathtub.
Q. What can you tell us about the Kindred series and what was the inspiration for it?
A. Oh, boy! I am so excited about the Kindred series. I truly feel this is the most innovative and interesting work I've done in my life, period. The books will launch in the summer of 2012, and hopefully the film will come out soon after. It's a teen series, but I hope all ages will read it. It's about ghosts, parallel universes, and the intersection between faith and science. It tells of a ghost boy who meets his soulmate in a living girl, and how they are able to navigate their different dimensions. I've honestly never been so excited or invested in a project in my life.
Q. Were you actively pursuing a film sale? What is working on the film like?
A. I wrote the Kindred series to be films. That was my goal from the start, to write both the books and the films. I am a co-producer on the film for the first book, TEMPTATION (the film is THE TEMPTATION OF TRAVIS HARTWELL). I'm also the screenwriter. So far, working on the film has been wonderful. My fellow producer Harris Tulchin is amazing. Willie Kutner, who has helped me polish the script, is brilliant. And our director, James Foley, is absolutely incredible as a talent, intellect, visionary and all-around nice man. I am super excited to enter the film world. It's somewhere I'd like to stay.
Q. Any chance Sucias will become a film?
A. Highly unlikely.
Q. If you were casting Sucias.....?
A. I don't even go there anymore. I've given up hopes for that project ever making it to the screen. It is under option with someone who doesn't get it, and there is a very good chance that she could own the rights forever, just to spite me. In the interest of my mental health, I simply have to let it go.
Q. Learning to Submit -- the title alone seems to take women's rights back 150 years -- tell us about it what inspired it.
The book will tell of my personal journey toward making peace with being a woman, and learning to trust and respect a man enough to let him take control in our relationship. I don't think every woman should do as I've done. I do know, however, that I am much happier in a traditional role than I ever was as the alpha in my relationships. It is just my personal journey toward peace and happiness in life and love. The book was inspired by my relationship with a conservative rural man I call The Cowboy, and all the wisdom he has shared with me.
Q. How has your cowboy influenced your work?
A. My work is a reflection of who I am as a person. The Cowboy has influenced every level of my life, and I feel blessed for that. He's an incredible human being. Because of him, I have my popular parenting column on Mamiverse.com, and my new memoir. That is the only answer I need to offer to anyone who would say that the traditional role for a woman is to fade away; nothing could be further from the truth. A real man will help a woman to shine, and will have her back. To me, "submit" is merely a synonym for TRUST. So many of us raised in the 1970s have a kneejerk mistrust of men, an animosity toward them, and our relationships are antagonistic. The Cowboy is the first man I've known, other than my father, who is worthy of my complete trust.
Q. What do you mean by "submit"?
A. To submit is to yield to another, allow another person to have some power. In my own case, I am a very strong woman who has never trusted anyone enough to do this. To me, submitting to another person takes trust. I do not mean that a woman must submit at all times to a man. I mean that for any relationship to work, there must be times when you allow the other person to be in charge, to make decisions, to be wrong without you having to force them to be right. You cannot have two alphas in a relationship at all times and have it work. I was domineering in my other relationships, combative. That was because I didn't trust anyone. In The Cowboy I've found a man who is my equal in every way, and reliable, and strong. Submitting to him does not mean I let him boss me around. It means that he has my best interests at heart, and when he makes decisions for us they are compassionate and good.
I want to repeat that I don't think "women should be doing it." This is a personal memoir about MY life and what works for me, nothing more than that.
Q. You're very prolific, what's your writing routine like?
A. I am a single mom, so I write while my son is at school or, like now, at 4 a.m. because I have lots of errands to run today. I see writing as a job and I approach it with that sort of purpose. I write, on average, five or six hours a day.