with Eva Marquez
How did you make the decision to become a writer?
I began formal writing when I was thirteen years old, encouraged by my dedicated and driven middle school English teacher. At a young age, I read the book ‘Flowers in the Attic’ by V.C. Andrews and it intrigued me to the point of inspiration. It was not long before I began typing stories up on my DOS-operated computer. Even in my early teens, I focused on writing about female characters that found themselves in difficult situations and schemed to find a way out. My short stories shed light on my fascination with conflict and what lies beneath the surface, and people’s struggle in finding a resolution. At sixteen I wrote my first full-length novel, which was truly the beginning of my writing career.
Throughout the different stages of formative education, I have been blessed by working with intriguing teachers, professors and mentors who helped to shape my global perspectives. I have also had the unique opportunity to travel the world, studying and volunteering in challenging corners of the globe, which has nurtured and contributed to my love of writing and storytelling. Although writing skills are important, life experiences and my exposure to many different cultures has allowed me to cultivate my literary work throughout the years. Writers are not born, nor do they spring up overnight.
Who is your favorite author? Favorite book?
There are dozens of authors I admire, but two that have captivated me with their work are Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Julia Alvarez. Ms. Adichie is Nigerian-born and now living in London and I think I had an instant connection with her work because I lived/worked in Nigeria for two years and was able to really get to know the southern Nigerian culture and context because of my work in the communities. Her first book, Purple Hibiscus, resonated with me because of my experiences in Nigeria and her second book, Half of a Yellow Sun, was so expertly written and wove four amazing human and social stories that I fell absolutely in love with her prose and skill for telling complex stories. Ms. Adichie writes about what she knows well, Nigeria and Nigerian culture, history and society and because she does so, her books include incredibly sincere stories. Julia Alvarez is a Dominican-American who writes primarily adult fiction, although she has also written young YA fiction as well, which are characterized by fantasy-type series. My favorite all-time book from Ms. Alvarez is In the Time of the Butterflies, which is a uniquely narrated book written in the perspective of four sisters growing up in the Dominican Republic under the dictator ship of President Trujillo. It’s superbly narrated and the story just tells itself effortlessly, it seems. Another book I very much enjoyed was How the García Girls lost their Accent, which is a story about Dominican immigrants to New York and their journey into mainstream American life. What these two authors have in common is that they are strong, confident and experienced women writing fiction about their natal lands, writing about their contexts and weaving extraordinary stories of strength and love in times of adversity.
Where do you get the inspiration for your stories?
I grew up as an immigrant in a lower-to-middle class Southern California suburb. So I tapped into that experience in ‘Sweetest Taboo’, which chronicles the love affair between a young Hispanic schoolgirl and her much older, married teacher. I drew from my experiences growing up to develop several plot ideas. Romantic experiences are universal. Provocative, illicit and risqué contexts do not take away from the experience of love, and that’s what this debut book sets out to communicate.
I was also intrigued by the news of one of my former teachers being convicted of [sexual] misconduct with a minor. Since I can remember, I have always been fascinated by similar stories making the news, but like many people, wondered about how these relationships originate and how they flourish under the radar. In Sweetest Taboo, I got to unravel one of these clandestine relationships, one exciting page at a time.
While writing Sweetest Taboo, I had the opportunity to explore a subject with much social and psychological significance. To delve deep into romantic encounters among unlikely partners and develop an honest but page-turning story has been rewarding. I am fascinated by the complexities of society, and the often-difficult choices presented to individuals, particularly women. Sweetest Taboo exposes the inner dialogue and emotional strategies pursued by those making difficult decisions, and it exposes the mechanisms of manipulation that become useful to characters in getting what they want, regardless of the outcome. What excites me most as a writer, and storyteller, is unearthing the drama that we rarely see, the drama that lurks beneath the surface.
Do your characters come first or the does the plot come first?
My inspiration for ‘Sweetest Taboo’ came in spurts, but those spurts were carefully jotted down in a notebook as chapter titles and brief descriptions of what I wanted to include in each chapter. Plots, characters and timelines were all carefully plotted which made the writing process flow. Because of the comprehensive outline, I was able to develop each chapter at one sitting. However, as I wrote I also became somewhat of a panster, weaving new plots, characters and climaxes into each chapter. In essence, my writing process can be described as highly organized and plotted, with room for creative ‘interventions’ when the inspiration hits.
Have you ever fallen in lust… I mean love with one of your characters?
I have to be completely honest and say, not really. The reason is because I ‘design’ my characters so I know their strengths, weaknesses, trials and tribulations. For me, ‘lusting’ after a character happens most when I read other writer’s work rather than when I write and read my own work. For example, I can’t help but lust after Travis Maddox in Beautiful Disaster because that character was written in a way that captivates the female reader, in one way or another. However, had I been the creator of that character, I likely would be very aware of his flaws, issues, misgivings, etc. and would feel so close to him as a creator (perhaps like a parent?) that I don’t think I would lust after him.
When it comes to your sultry sex scenes – where do your ideas come from?
Some of the best books I have read, and those I have enjoyed the most, are fiction BUT they delve into controversial topics (i.e. arranged marriages, under-age ‘selling’ of girls, sex work, homosexuality, child abuse, etc.). Perhaps I am most intrigued by controversial topics because of the controversy around them and the strong opinions that we see in the news, on television and on social media outlets. For instance, this whole ‘Chick Fil-A’ issue and homosexuality is very intriguing because people have strong opinions about it. What I enjoy the most, is understanding more about the social act that is considered ‘controversial’ and understanding it as a cultural or human condition or learning why that ‘act’ exists in our society, or how it unfolds. That is exactly what I tried to do with ‘Sweetest Taboo’. I wanted to delve deeply into a controversial topic we have seen on the news quite a bit and that hit close to home in my high school (years after I graduated) and unearth just how these relationships can develop, how they can blossom into something beautiful in the face of such opposition and scrutiny. In ‘Sweetest Taboo’, I made every attempt to present the perspective of a young teen completely ‘in crush’ with her coach and develop that relationship as I sincerely believed it had the potential to unfold.
Have you ever been turned on by something you’ve written?
Again, I hate to sound clinical about my writing but when I create and write, I write with much passion and inspiration for the stories unfolding and not with an actual ‘experience’ of the story. What does that mean? Well, I write with a concept in mind and it’s more of an intellectual and creative process than a process of discovery. My intellectual process is a bit divorced from my physical feelings, but not my emotional ones. I’m very emotional close to my story, but not physically close so I’ve never experienced being turned on by my own writing. But, I have enjoyed intimate scene I have created and written and although the intention is not first and foremost for the reader to be turned on, there is an implicit intention for the reader to enjoy the intimate scene and to be able to live/experience it.
If you had the opportunity for a one nightstand with one of your characters who would it be and why?
My debut novel, Sweetest Taboo, only has several male characters of interest and if I had to pick one to have a one night stand with, I would definitely choose Tom Stevens. Sounds a bit twisted perhaps, since many readers may perceive him as the ‘bad guy’ who engaged in an illicit physical relationship with an under-aged student. But hear me out! His physical characteristics are those I find quite appealing, as well as his age and maturity. I also feel a connection with Tom Stevens because he’s the underdog in the story and in one way or another, I want him to come out on top and be perceived for the good and caring human being he really is. Tom Stevens really went out on a limb to be with Isabel. He’s a man driven by the heart, a passionate man, and a man that went after what he wanted in spite of society’s scrutiny. For those reasons, I find Tom Stevens rather intriguing and I would likely fall under his spell if I were to meet him.
Tell us about your current novel.
Isabel Cruz was fifteen years old when she met Tom Stevens. She was 15 when they – and sometimes reckless – fascination. When he finally approached her after swim practice and told her that he shared her feelings, it was the start of a forbidden and dangerous relationship. Readers can join Isabel as she makes her way through this dark love story, hiding from teachers, lying to her parents, and defying the authorities to make a life with the man she loves. Watch as she discovers the wonders of love and romance, and the terrible betrayal of jealous friends. And cry with her when she learns the hard truth about life and the people in her world. Sweetest Taboo is inspired by the true and tragic stories of students who fall in love with their teachers, and live with the hard truths of forbidden romances. In a world full of after-school specials on sexual predators, this touching book seeks a different path, casting both student and teacher in a gentle light, and showing that true love may lie at the base of even the most illicit romance
Is it a standalone story or part of a series? If it’s a series what can we expect in the next chapter?
Although I did not intend on ‘Sweetest Taboo’ being part of a series or trilogy, I decided that my next literary project would embark upon the story before the story, so to speak. Readers really want to know what Isabel was thinking when she became intimate with her school coach, they want to know how she could have gotten herself into such a mess, a mess that involved the authorities and potential prison time for Mr. Stevens, the man she loved most. So what I am doing is writing the prequel to ‘Sweetest Taboo’ that explores Isabel’s childhood and early adolescence as an immigrant in a Los Angeles suburb. Readers can expect complex and somewhat disturbing revelations, some violence, and definitely some tears. Then of course, there will be a sequel to ‘Sweetest Taboo’, where readers will learn about Isabel and Tom’s journey and what their relationship had in store for them. The stories I weave will always include trials and tribulations, but they will also include redemption and hope.
Isabel Cruz was fifteen years old when she met Tom Stevens. She was 15 when they started dating, and 16 when she lost her virginity to him. By the time she turned 18 and went to college, everything had fallen apart. This hadn’t been an ordinary love, though. Not a love between two dear friends, or even high school sweethearts. This had been the most taboo sort of love there was: a relationship between a student and her teacher. Isabel started her high school career as a normal student, but set her sights on Tom Stevens as soon as she met him, and pursued him with an intense – and sometimes reckless – fascination. When he finally approached her after swim practice and told her that he shared her feelings, it was the start of a forbidden and dangerous relationship.
Join Isabel as she makes her way through this dark love story, hiding from teachers, lying to her parents, and defying the authorities to make a life with the man she loves. Watch as she discovers the wonders of love and romance, and the terrible betrayal of jealous friends. And cry with her when she learns the hard truth about life and the people in her world. Sweetest Taboo is inspired by the true and tragic stories of students who fall in love with their teachers, and live with the hard truths of forbidden romances. In a world full of after-school specials on sexual predators, this touching book seeks a different path, casting both student and teacher in a gentle light, and showing that true love may lie at the base of even the most illicit romance.
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, daughter of European immigrants, Eva Márquez has spent most of her life outside of her home country. At the age of five, Eva accompanied her parents to the United States, where the family settled permanently. After graduating from university, she went on to complete graduate studies in International Relations in Spain. Eva received her Master of International Studies degree from the University of Sydney and went on to work in the global health field in Sub Saharan Africa and South East Asia. Eva currently resides in Southern Africa.
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