Q. Why Mexico?
A. One unbearably hot and boring summer, my mother and I took off on a lark and headed south of the border down Mexico way. There we were, I, armed with my high school Spanish and my mother with her Jackie Kennedy sunglasses, her air-conditioned luxury car and her useless French. We were a pair. My father’s company did a lot of business in Mexico, so his associates arranged things for us. They were absolutely shocked my father would allow his wife and daughter such independence. It was a bit like Daisy Miller goes to Mexico.
I had never been out of the country, and living in the ritziest part of Mexico City with not much to do but be glamorous all day was kind of a thrill. Oh yeah, and all the art, the music, the museums, the history and the handsome dark-eyed boyfriend didn’t hurt either. They had to drag me kicking and screaming out of there to finish my senior year in high school. I never forgot it. Part of me always longs for the tierra del sol.
Q. Do you know people like your characters?
A. Yup. Sure do. Mexico is a tremendously fascinating country, and I’ve lived in a few — France, Italy, Greece. In Mexico City, ancient beliefs exist side by side with the same super modern industries, financial institutions and universities you’d see in any world metropolis. To paraphrase Fitzgerald’s dictum “The rich are different from you and me”, I’d have to say the Mexican rich are very different from you and me — so many layers of history in these folks. So many.
Q. Does the character Lili’s house in Palace of the Blue Butterfly really exist?
A. Absolutely, in my imagination it does. If you stand in the center of Plaza Rio de Janeiro and you look toward the pink house with the Corona Azteca bas -relief above the door, close your eyes and you’ll see it. The funny thing is after I wrote the first draft of Palace of the Blue Butterfly, I walked my husband through the streets of Mexico City, telling him the tale. When we turned toward Avenida Obregon, there was a beat up, old, green Citroen just like Vivienne’s. My husband couldn’t believe it. Just one of those weird things that happens when you write. The imaginary life sometimes manifests itself right before your eyes.
Q. How did you know what Hellman’s life was like? Alejandro’s?
A. As I said, my father’s company did business in Mexico. One weekend, I was invited to one of his associate’s grand Hacienda to ride horses and generally live the life of a well-bred senorita. I was given a room with ornate Belle-Epoque furniture, and in the morning, I awoke to the maid bringing me fresh apricots in cream on sterling silver for breakfast in bed. Kind of ruins you for a while until you think about the inequality of it all. Something my characters are well aware of. Anyway, I still have that house and its grounds in my mind, but there were other people and places that I drew on, as well. Alejandro? Well, remember the dark-eyed boyfriend? He became a lawyer, actually, and quite politically connected. A very, very, sweet person.
Q. What about all the crime and the drug cartels? Aren’t you scared?
A. Uh no. Not. I get scared walking in South of Market in downtown San Francisco, if you want to know the truth. It helps that I speak Spanish, that I know the city, that I know where to get the taxis autorizados, and that I’m usually with a group of friends. I don’t flash the bling bling anywhere, but I wouldn’t do that it the States. Where I hang out might as well be the upper West Side of Manhattan only with better weather, palm trees, cool Art Deco architecture and great taquerias like El Califa.
Q. Okay, so where do you hang out?
A. First of all, I stay in the best little hotel in the world — Villa Condesa — on Avenida Colima. I walk everywhere, to all the trendy shops and cafes and restaurants. Very cool. Also, don’t miss the Casa Lamm!
Q. Palace of the Blue Butterfly is the first novel in the trilogy. Will these books have to be read in any order?
A. No. They’re all stand alone novels each with a flavor of a different part of Mexico.
Q. Why did you decide to self-publish?
A. First grade was my initial venture into the world of self-publishing. I spent recess writing a new reader for the class on that funny newsprint with the dotted lines and stapling the pages together. Had to be better than what we were reading, right? Seriously, I’ve been chronicling my decision to self publish in a blog I write called “All About Jane’s Ranch” for the past couple of years. I always thought I would traditionally publish, had an agent in New York, the whole song and dance. However in 2008, the financial world collapsed and with it any book deals. Meanwhile, I’d moved to a ranch in the middle of nowhere, physical and psychic light years away from the centers of publishing. I kind of had to cowgirl up and do everything myself. That is if it was gonna happen.
Q. So you don’t live in Mexico?
A. Have you been to California? It IS Mexico! Actually, truth be told, I go to Mexico often. My novels are a way of bringing my readers with me.