For a moment he forgets everything except for a truth that hasn’t happened yet. Marabela’s rescue will be their rescue. Her survival will be theirs to share. Nothing will matter except for that. ~ from Chasing the Sun
In her debut novel, Chasing the Sun, Natalia Sylvester weaves a story of trust and illusion, of tradition and transition, of a complicated marriage in unsettled times. As the story of husband and wife–Andres and Marabela–unfolds, we find a marriage held together by fragile ties and a history of family conflict.
Marabela has left Andres and their children once before, but this time her disappearance plays against the backdrop of political unrest in Lima, Peru. This time, Andres learns, she has been kidnapped.
As he struggles to collect the ransom he needs to bring his wife home, to insulate his children from the truth, to uncover the point at which their marriage began to fall apart, he turns to his past, and he ventures into a room that “reveals pieces of [Marabela] he recognizes and pieces of her he didn’t know were there.”
I’m thrilled to introduce Natalia Sylvester and excited to offer a giveaway. Drop your name in the comments for a chance to win a copy of Chasing the Sun.
Welcome Natalia Sylvester!
CC: In this interview on NBCNews.com, you say the novel is partially based on your grandfather’s kidnapping that happened when you were young but wasn’t discussed openly until years later. And, in this post on Books a la Mode, you say “fiction is a powerful way to explore truths we don’t otherwise have access to” (I love that perspective). How has this novel revealed truth for you?
NS: On a personal side, it’s helped me understand my family in ways I’d never considered. As a writer, it’s helped me realize how important it is for us to be fearless; writers are so often plagued by doubt and insecurity, and in writing Chasing the Sun and speaking to my family I got so many glimpses of what bravery truly means. And in a more general sense, I know the person I was when I began writing this book, or even certain drafts of this book, is not the same person I was when I finished it.
CC: I’ve read bits and pieces about your journey in writing this book. One in particular stands out: how revisions of early drafts felt more like a complete rewrite of the story as you switched points of view, opening scenes, and first lines. When did you know that you finally had the story on its true path?
NS: There was a moment in probably the second or third to last draft when I was writing a scene in which Lorena, Andres’s mother, has recommended he contact a security consultant to help guide him through ransom negotiations. Andres asks her how she knows Guillermo, and Lorena responds that she knows him through Elena.
I had no idea who this character was—even typing her name was a surprise. But I had a sense that she was important, and that she was a part of Andres and Marabela’s past, and a source of much heartache, so I kept writing to discover not just her, but the story that ties these three characters together. And there was something so exciting about having the writing completely surprise me like that, and yet, completely make sense as it clicked together. It felt like I was finally seeing what the story was meant to become.
CC: Recently on your blog, you wrote about something as simple as a birthday wish and the gift of using that wish for the benefit of another. What would you wish for the next person who holds a copy of your book in hand?
NS: Wow, what a wonderful question! I’d wish that they never find themselves in such similar struggles as my characters—not just a kidnapping, but heartbreak and regret and the pain of not fully being able to protect our loved ones—but that perhaps it helps someone realize we are all fighting our own silent struggles, and that’s why kindness is so important.
CC: What are you reading these days?
NS: I just finished reading The Amado Women by Desiree Zamorano, and I’m now reading Remember Me Like This by Bret Anthony Johnston. Both are beautiful, but very different depictions of the complexities of family bonds, and how they’re tested through hardship. I never tire of reading about relationships; I feel like every story is essentially about connection.
CC: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in bringing this book to publication?
NS: In a word: perspective. Writing and publishing a book is something I’ve wanted for so long, and to have that come true is more rewarding than I could ever express. But when you put it in perspective, it is one book, and writing is one aspect of my life, and achieving one dream—no matter how huge—is not the only thing that makes my life complete.
Before I got my book deal, I think I had the sense that this is the one thing I want more than anything in the world. When in reality, we all have so many sources of happiness, so many dreams we’re living out each day without even realizing it because we’re so blinded by what we’ve yet to accomplish.
Born in Lima, Peru, NATALIA SYLVESTER came to the U.S. at age four and grew up in South Florida, where she received a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Miami. A former magazine editor, she now works as a freelance writer in Austin, Texas. Her articles have appeared in Latina Magazine, Writer’s Digest, The Writer, and NBCLatino.com. CHASING THE SUN, partially inspired by family events, is her first novel.
Visit her website at www.nataliasylvester.com or follow her on Twitter at @NataliaSylv. BUT FIRST, drop your name in the comments for a chance to win a copy of Chasing the Sun (deadline to enter is high noon on Tuesday, November 4th).