Interview with Olivia Castillo, author of Song of the Boricua

26 Jul 2018

What can you tell us about your new release, Song of the Boricua?

The book is set in Puerto Rico following three generations of women. There’s Elena—resilient and ambitious, but trapped by duty to her children. Maria—passionate and headstrong, but married to a man she does not love. Josephina—optimistic and romantic, but in love with an alcoholic. Isabella—clairvoyant and spiritual, but denies her heritage and roots.

The truth is, we women have dreams, but the distractions of life and having to deal with what is directly in front of us, gets in the way. What we want in life, we often don’t get. We have to come to acceptance with what we do get. This is what this book is really about, how to find acceptance and peace when you’re taken off track and distracted by very real problems.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

My honors English teacher, Mr. Walsh, was incredible. He would jump on tables, act out stories, and make the stories come to life. He would make you feel the emotions of the characters and what it would be like to be them. We would read classic novels like, The Great Gatsby or The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The way Mr. Walsh talked about the books and his love for literature made me want to write better and write more. I wanted to be able to bring the characters to life as he did.  He was a very good teacher.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë because she never stopped believing in herself, even when the world told her she was bad. Siddhartha, by Herman Hess because of his journey to find himself and the meaning of his existence.  Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy because we all can relate to the desire of having a great love and doing crazy things to get it.  Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell because it was about loving and obsessing over the wrong person. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald because it had flawed, but likeable characters. The common factor in all of these books was the humanness found in them. It really resonated with me.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

I would loved to have interviewed the late Maya Angelou. I found her to be inspirational because she lived a full life. She was a rebel, belonging to the infamous Black Panthers. She was involved in terrible relationships. She never finished her education and was a sex worker. She basically did everything and got involved in self destructive things that could’ve taken her down, but they didn’t. Just like her poem found at the beginning of my book, “And Still I Rise,” she rose and didn’t let anything stop her. She put 100% into everything she did. She had the amazing ability to use words in such a way that captured the human spirit. She had pure artistry.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

My favorite thing about writing is the ability to use words to transport you through time and space. You can go anywhere or be anything. With writing, you can be a man, woman, plant, or child. You can be completely empathetic or completely unfeeling. There’s a freedom that cannot be found anywhere else.

What is a typical day like for you?

A typical day for me is waking up in sunny California and painting or writing. I am fortunate to have the ability to travel and to get inspiration from the places I go, the people I meet. For me, it’s all about being in the moment and enjoying life. It’s important to be present.

What scene in Song of the Boricua was your favorite to write?

My favorite scene to write about was actually the ending of Song Of the Boricua. Being able to tie everything together in a way that was beautiful and complete was incredible because the story came full circle. Unlike in life, I had the answer to every character’s dilemma.  It was solved.  Because in real life we don’t always get to see the whole picture, I think it’s important that we all come to acceptance of our situations and circumstances. It’s in self acceptance that we can answer our problems. Our situations are exactly as they’re supposed to be. We can’t change what life deals us, but we can change how we feel about it.

Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?

At this stage in my life, my motto is Nike’s “ Do it.” I feel that if you have a dream, instead of just thinking about it and wishing you could have that dream, just do it and have no regrets.

Olivia Castillo is the author of the new book Song of the Boricua

Connect with Olivia:
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