Famed writer Isabel Allende visited The Big Peach, on the 16th of November, to take part at an event hosted by the Atlanta History Center in honor of her most recent novel, „In the Midst of Winter.” The author just embarked on a U.S. tour to celebrate her book, or, as she says about meeting her readers, „to get together with her friends.”
Allende was as entertaining as her books are, during the conversation conducted by journalist Gail O’Neill, whose interviewing skills highlighted the Chilean’s author flamboyant personality. More than 600 people gathered to spend time with the queen of magical realism, and throughout the second half of the event we had the chance to ask questions and listen to Allende’s inspiring and funny stories. We laughed hard, and we also let a few tears run down our faces, while listening to the writer talking about her new book, getting older, falling in love, family, immigration, writing and everything in between.
Isabel Allende & Gail O’Neill. Photo by Alejandra Mijares
Isabel Allende stayed with us for about an hour and a half, before saying “Goodbye” and leaving for New Orleans, at the next event she was going to attend. Recording wasn’t allowed, but I took notes and I’m sharing with you some of the most interesting things the writer said Thursday night.
Special thanks to Mrs. Chandra Ramirez, Isabel Allende’s assistant, and Mrs. Kate Whitman, Vice President of Public Programs at the Atlanta History Center, who invited me to participate at this impeccably organized event.
I was a lousy journalist, because I always wanted to invent stories. Yes, I invented things as a journalist, or maybe, let’s say, I enhanced the stories I was writing, to make them better. If you believe everything you read in the press is true, you’re wrong. A part of it is always enhanced.
Probably sometime in the Paleolithic, when they discovered a form of language, people started telling stories. That must have been one of the first things they did. I’ve always wanted to do the same. I love stories and I have a great memory for them. See, I’ve been living in the U.S. for so many years and I still cannot memorize my social security number. Sometimes I forget the names of my grandchildren – and I don’t even have so many, I only have three. But a story? A good story? That is something I never forget.
I make money writing stories, can you believe it?!
It’s very hard for a writer to create a boring character. Boring people don’t make good characters and they’re a pain to create.
My translators usually improve the books I write, so if you’ve got the chance to read this one in English, don’t read it in Spanish!
Starting a new book every year, on the 8th of January, is not a superstition, it’s just discipline. Otherwise I would never write anything. I’m a huge procrastinator!
Democracy is like health. You take it for granted and you don’t realize what you’ve had and how important it was, until you lose it.
Trauma is prevalent with immigrants. Immigrants are practically married to trauma.
The last time I was sexually harrassed? I don’t even remember! It must have been 15 years ago… I miss it! I miss the attention. (This was, of course, one of her many jokes. Speaking about the #metoo movement, Isabel said she is glad victims are finally addressing this issue.)
If you want to be a writer, you should write every day. It’s like in sports, you have to train and work those muscles in order to be able to play the game.
My agent told me everybody can write a good first book, because they usually put everything they know in it. But a true writer is only proven with a second book. So write about what you know, and then write some more.
I envy Sophia Loren. She is so beautiful, so gracious, she always looks great… I’m always on a diet, and she is just wonderful. Oh, God, it’s so depressing!
During the book tours, I hate the traveling. But the best part is the audience. I love it, I love being around the people who read my books. So I look at it this way: this is not a book tour. I’m just getting together with my friends.
What makes your eyes shine?
Love. Sex. Food! Chocolate and dogs.
What’s your favorite book of yours?
Oh, I don’t know. I don’t read my books. I know the ending.
What would you tell your 21 year-old self?
Calm down! Just chill!
How do you fall in love at 75?
I would say, the same way you fall in love at 17. Only there’s a sense of urgency about it, because you know you don’t have much time. How many years will I have with Roger before he gets prostate cancer or before dementia strikes us…?
Isabel Allende will be on tour until December 1st. Check out her Facebook page to see what city she’ll be in next! If you’re looking for a great read, you can find Allende’s novel “In the Midst of Winter” here.
***Semnat de Corina Stoica