Interview with Jamie Figueroa About Her New Novel “Brother, Sister, Mother, Explorer”

Miriam’s Well: This is your first novel! Congratulations! That is a big accomplishment. I want to ask you a few questions about your process:

JF: Thank you so much for your interest and support!

MW: What was the germ of inspiration that started your thinking about the book? Inspiration in totality might be too large a question. But did you start with any kind of “what if” or problem to be solved, or a sense of a world you wanted to enter?

JF: The book started as an imagined memory. A dream of sorts that floated into my awareness. The first scene was a whole, active presentation that caught and kept my attention. The language went along with it—vivid, poetic, electric at times. Who are these people and what is going on? Were the questions I kept asking as they led me through and into their lives. It was helpful that my MFA mentor in my last semester (2015) strongly recommended we have the beginning of our next work started when we graduated. As I wrote initial pages, I wasn’t sure if it was a short story or novella. Turns out it wanted to be even longer.

MW: The setting seems both mythical and real—or a mythic version of a real place—like the county Thomas Hardy made up for his novels that had real things like Stonehenge in them. Am I reading this correctly? How did you create this?

JF: Ciudad de Tres Hermanas is a fictional twin of Santa Fe. A place where I could also include some influence of San Juan (Puerto Rico). Both are layered, complex places full of colonial (living) history where the locals can be displaced by the tourists, on whom they also depend. The narrator is also the voice of this place, a plural voice, of the rocks and roots. Irreverent at times as well as nurturing at times. They—this voice—directly addresses the reader.

MW: It is beautifully written—a pleasure to read. Was that breaking stones in the hot sun or was the process more smooth and lyrical?

JF: Both! I found myself carried along quite a bit. When it became difficult, I knew I’d stopped listening and needed to center myself and become as receptive as possible, again. When I felt with my intuition and instincts, listened with my inner ear, watched with my inner eye, the images came and the sentences came as well. AND, there was a lot of revising with each draft and attending to every word.

MW: Much of the emotional action seems to take place “in relationship”—in the spaces between people. Is there a part YOU are located in the novel?

JF: It IS very much a relational novel… The characters, of course, are in relationship with each other. They are in relationship with the place, AND, the place is also in relationship with them as the house is in relationship with them. It is a novel that makes space for all perspectives, human and nonhuman. In this way it continues to undo privileged perspectives and foreground what has been overlooked.

MW: Anything you’d like to add?

JF: Great questions, Miriam. Thank you! Excited to read at Collected Works on Tuesday, March 2nd at 6 pm. ( https://www.collectedworksbookstore.com/events-1/jamie-figueroa-brother-sister-mother-explorer )

MW: I am looking forward to the event! Readers, please join Jamie Figueroa.