INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR CHUY RAMIREZ
Today I’m interviewing Chuy Ramirez. His book, Strawberry Fields, a book of short stories Fiction (history/mystery) and was released on February 2010.
Please tell my readers a little bit about your book.
A successful, middle-aged attorney, Mexican American, whose practice is tax work (drudgery) gets a nostalgic urge to revisit an area of Michigan that he visited as an adolescent migrant farm worker. The setting is approximately the year 2000. His initial recollections are of an innocent and jovial time. He recalls the strawberry fields fondly, not for their back-breaking labor conditions. As he begins his physical journey, his memory becomes more focused. His search for the unresolved source and resolution of a conflict with his father begins to take center stage in his nostalgic remembrance. Then, a violent scene of a young blonde woman keeps recurring in his nighttime and day time dreams. At some point, the protagonist realizes that a murder must have taken place and that he was at least a witness or perhaps a participant. He wonders whether the memory of that event is at least one of the things drawing him back to Michigan.
When he arrives in Michigan, his nostalgia is converted to a painful reality of what life in the strawberry fields was really like. The daily life of the strawberry picker is illustrated in much original detail through numerous vignettes and stories that can also be read and enjoyed independently of the novel. The stories include light-hearted, comical, and tongue-in-cheek reflections by the author, who was himself a migrant farm worker during the middle 1960s.
In the longest three chapters at the end of the novel, the protagonist resolves each of the conflicts: (1) father-son, (2) the lingering memory of a murder, and (3) his own relationship to the people of the strawberry fields.
Describe the genre of this particular title, and is the only genre you write in?
Strawberry Fields is a novel told in stories & vignettes. I am attorney so most of what I write is legal essays and articles. I published a legal article on immigration reform in 1983. I am currently finishing two longer stories and working on a second novel.
When did you start writing toward publication?
With fiction, about 10 years ago. As a college student I wrote for the newspaper. And in law school, more than 30 years ago, I wrote and published a legal article on immigration.
Did you have several manuscripts finished before you sold? If so, did you send them out yourself?
No. Unlike writers who have sold their manuscripts, my book is closer in concept to the self-published writer. We looked around for small publishers and saw the printing quality, very limited units on first edition, and virtually no distribution. We decided to create a publishing company and use my manuscript as the guinea pig.
Why have you become a published author?
At this point, I have the unfair advantage of owning the publisher. Whether a larger, successful publisher will be interested in my work remains to be seen.
What is your writing routine like?
Prefer small quiet areas such as my law office on weekends, or picking a room at home or during traveling longer distance away from home. My writing is very slow. Many, many drafts and rewrites. My best work comes off of a computer once I have a third or fourth draft. I return to the beginning often and redraft.
What sort of promo do you do? Do you have help?
-A lot of internet messages, e-mail, blogs, twitter, networking sites, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Facebook, newspaper releases, libraries, museums, writer’s groups, book festivals, other Hispanic organizations, book stores, reading clubs.
Having achieved your goal to be a published author, what is the most rewarding thing?
A good review by a sincere, published author is for me the most rewarding. They know the difficulty of writing and know when you are at your best.
Are you a member of any writing organizations and, if so, have they helped
No. But I need to join up. I can use the independent review of my work.
Will you share some encouraging words for authors still struggling for that first contract?
Read, read, read. Save your manuscripts regardless of how crappy you feel. There are usually gems you will find later in your work. Often times, a short story published here and there will give you some credibility.
What’s next for you?
Keep reading and reading. Continue to learn to write.
■-Strawberry Fields is a reflective reminiscence of Chicano life, providing a glimpse into Mexican-American—and Mexican—migrants interacting at home, in the fields, and along the roads that link them-- Dr. John Hart, Boston University of Theology
■-The author’s language in these final scenes and throughout the most critical scenes is poignantly vivid and sometimes heart-rending. Ramirez is deft with his descriptiveness-- Dr. Thelma T. Reyna, author of The Heaven Weeps For Us
A little bit about the author
Chuy Ramirez is an attorney who practices law in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas and is a partner in the firm Ramirez & Guerrero, LLP. He grew up in the Rio Grande Valley and is no stranger to the strawberry fields, to which he traveled over the years with his family and thousands of families from South Texas. Ramirez attended Pan American University at Edinburg, Texas and is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. At the law school, he served as Articles Editor for the International Law Journal and published a note entitled, “Altering the Policy of Neglect of Undocumented Immigration from South of the Border, Vol. 18 in 1983. Strawberry Fields is his first fictional work. Ramirez lives in Texas with his wife of 39 years Aida, who is a retired public school teacher. He has two children and five grandchildren. For more information on Chuy, please visit his site: http://www.strawberryfieldsramirez.blogspot.com/.
Looking back up at the mirror, the reflection returned a nervous smile at her. She undid her blouse slowly, revealing the left side of her chest. The German nurse had translated for Doctor James. “Manda, the doctor says that they have to remove the breast.”
“All of it?”
“Yes. They’re hoping it hasn’t spread to other parts of the body.”
“Chinita! (Darn!)” Manda buttoned her lips tightly. That had been the extent of her complaint.
“How much does it cost?”
“Well, it’s expensive. You’re going to have to go to the city hospital. Dr. James will only assist. They will have to get a surgeon.”
“Do you think it will be more than $250? That’s all the savings I have.”
“Oh, Manda.” the German nurse hugged her, and they both wept.
Inside the Farmers’ bathroom, tears came. Manda swallowed. “Please, Lord, tell me it’s all been a bad dream.”
But it wasn’t a dream—only the ugly surgical scar remained on her flat chest. After placing the false sponge breast in the bra, she snipped the bra on. And then Manda wept openly and loudly, and then she screamed until her eyes puffed. Outside the bathroom, Pepito had not stirred. Inside, he could hear Manda’s cries and offered his own low wailing in support. Drained of her strength, she sat on the commode and got her breath back. It would be months before Benancio would even notice that Manda had lost a breast.
How can my readers buy your book?
Readers can go to the publisher’s home page at http://www.firsttexaspublishers.com/.
Check out my book trailer at: http://www.strawberryfieldsramirez.blogspot.com/.
You can find more information about Chuy Ramirez and my book, Strawberry Fields, A Book of Short Stories by:
visiting my FB, http://www.facebook.com/texaspublishing.
visiting my blog, http://www.strawberryfieldsramirez.blogspot.com/. or
e-mail author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
**I want to thank Chuy for stopping by and letting me interview him. Good luck to him in his future endeavors!