I love the fact that Leila Cobo gets emotional when she writes. Why not! Writers need to get involved with their story, because if they don’t care about it, who will? Leila has taken something personal in her life and thought about it and twisted it and turned it until it had a life of its own, and became a part of her new book.
Enjoy this interview.
Your new book, Tell Me Something True, has received great reviews. Tell us what motivated you to write this story.
The book came about after I became pregnant with my first child—my daughter. I was terrified, as I’m sure all new mothers are, that I could die and leave my daughter motherless (actually, my mother’s mother died when she was only 2, so it was a fear that struck close to home). And it terrified me that my daughter would grow up not knowing who I really was and how much I had loved her. I began writing a diary for her, and in that process, began to think: What if you grow up with this completely mistaken notion of who your mother was? That was the genesis of the story.
Do you feel your background as a journalist helped you when it came to penning this book?
It did in the sense that I believe writing is a craft, more than a talent. As such I am able to SIT DOWN AND WRITE. Having said that, the style and thought process is completely different. When I sit down to write fiction I just get into an entirely different mindset. Instead of being an observer, I become the characters in my book.
Share some of your writing goals. What’s next for you?
I am almost finished with my second novel, which is tentatively titled “The Finding.” I would love to continue a career writing fiction, my favorite genre. I also have a short story I just finished.
What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?
“Interesting,” I’d have to say Malcolm Gladwell’s The Outliners. I’ve found it a fascinating, thought provoking book. I love his thoughts on what makes someone successful and it really struck me that he didn’t pander to the notion that it’s just hard work. Nothing is ever that simple!
I do love Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but I am a big, big fan of American writers and American fiction. I love Carson McCullers, John O’Hara, John Cheever, Paul Bowles. As a young reader I was a big fan of Ayn Rand. And in contemporary fiction I love Ann Patchett and Margaret Atwood, who I think are beautiful writers.
Book you’re currently reading?
I confess I am trying to finish my own book so I have deliberately set aside my reading otherwise I will never finish! But I finally bought The Kite Runner and that’s next on my list.
Any type of writing ritual you have?
I like to write at night, when everyone else is asleep. I’ll take my little glass of Sauvignon Blanc and sit down on the couch and write and, I confess, I cry a lot!
Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how did you get past it? If not, why not?
I’ve never really had major Writers block, but yes, I believe there are days when it’s very hard to write. I’m a very emotional persona, but also a very clinical person. In other words, if I have a deadline, I fulfill it. So on that sense, I may not be like other writers who may spend a week without inspiration. If I need to get inspired, I do. I find that running or any vigorous exercise clears my head. I also think well when I’m in bed, before falling asleep.
In your opinion, what’s the measure of a successful writer?
First and foremost a good story, well told. But, as someone who covers the music industry, I believe some of the same things apply here: Namely, you need a publisher that supports you, that believes in you and promotes your book. Being the best writer in the world will get you nowhere if your audience doesn’t know your book is out there. You have to be a tireless promoter.
Advice for other writers?
1. Be very disciplined. This sounds obvious and ridiculous, but the only way to get the book done is by—getting it done! 2. Trust your editor. I’m lucky because I have truly a wonderful editor who made changes that helped the book. 3. And, be persistent. There are so many books in the market, you really have to fight for your place and space.
Where can we learn more about you?
You can visit my website, www.leilacobo.com
Anything else you’d like to add?
It’s been thrilling to write a book that talks in great measure of another country and find a receptive audience. I think that goes to show that although settings can change, the stories—love, loss, death—are the same for all people and all cultures. And it’s been so gratifying to find so many people out there that love books and love to read. This may sound ridiculous, but again, coming from the music industry, where selling an album has become a battle, it’s been wonderful to see books still have their place and their audience and that people still like to be swept away by a story and words on a page.