Valerie: In the book, I used movie stars and directors to reflect on what is happening in the life of one of my main characters, Diane Kurasik, who is a movie lover. Diane is nearing 40 and still single, so a film like Indiscreet, where Bergman plays an actress in her 40s who is cheerful and single without apologies, appeals to her. Bergman was also one of the few people who stood up to David O. Selznick, who sat her down with a stylist when she first came to Hollywood, and told her how they would tweeze her eyebrows, fix her teeth and put her on a diet. She told him, “If you don’t like the way I look, what am I doing here?” And that was the end of that. When Diane is feeling pressure to conform, she recalls this meeting and finds strength to resist.
Chica Lit: Do your family and friends read your work, looking for themselves in your characters? (Mine do and they never get it right!)
Valerie: My friends and family members often bring up bits that I’ve used where they see direct parallels, and it’s useless to argue that I’ve radically changed the details, the context and/or the outcome. At this point, family members have mentioned some episodes that I’ve created from scratch as if they actually happened. These books take on a life of their own.
Chica Lit: How much did your husband influence the character of Vladimir?
Valerie: There are two main male characters in the book, both Cuban, and I would say my husband influenced both of them, but neither one of them is completely him. I wanted to write about my husband’s world, which I think any Cuban in exile would recognize, without writing about him. Alexis read every draft. He made sure I got everything right, not just the Cubanidad. But you know that it’s fiction — some might say science fiction — because I’ve written about a Cuban man who doesn’t want to talk, an affliction from which my husband does not suffer, I assure you.