I’m interviewing Gordon Chaplin today, author of literary fiction Paraiso. Welcome!
- Paraiso is told from the point of view of two characters, Peter and Wendy. What were the challenges of writing from each perspective? Was it difficult to write from the female perspective?
Having Peter narrate in the first person, while Wendy’s sections are in the third person, but from her point of view, made the transitions easier. The female perspective seemed to come very easily, though. I never had to ask myself if a woman would actually say and do these things. Maybe this is because women have always been a big part of my life…my mother, my sister, my three life partners, and my three daughters. The family dog is also female.
- What was your inspiration for Peter and Wendy’s complicated relationship and the dysfunctional family they came from?
I stand firm on the old saw: “Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.” That said, a writer always draws on what he or she knows best.
- Who is the inspiration for the character Felipe Reyes?
Felipe Reyes is one of those characters I took almost verbatim from real life, and is in fact the inspiration of the book. He is a Don Quixote figure who tilts at windmills and tries to do good deeds to make him worthy of his lady, Dulcinea. But they never work out. Imagine, I thought, if he chose as his Dulcinea one of those gringas of a certain age who come to Mexico in search of amorous adventure. That was how the book began, and it developed from there.
About the Book
Peter and Wendy—their mother chose the names—felt as close as twins, despite their difference in age. As teens, they fled their wealthy Philadelphia home in the family station wagon and headed for Mexico, only to be discovered sleeping in the car on the banks of the Mississippi, in Huck Finn country. Now, many years later, estranged by an apparent betrayal as profound as their family’s dysfunction, the two live separate lives, Peter as an editor in New York, Wendy as an edgy sports photographer with a taste for risk. With a new book out and an invitation to Los Cabos, she drives the Mercedes inherited from their father to Baja California, finally completing the trip begun twenty years earlier.
But when the engine fails near a small town named Paraíso—Paradise—she lingers, exploring its underside in an affair with a dangerous man and, all too suddenly, becoming witness to a vicious crime. Meanwhile, in New York, Peter can’t help but think of Wendy. When, from his apartment in lower Manhattan, he watches the Twin Towers fall on a beautiful September day, he knows it’s time to leave his comfortable life, go find Wendy, and make peace with his long-lost sister. A noirish tale reminiscent of David Lynch and the Coen brothers, Paraíso traces the journey from a mother’s dark secret to a place where love, and even perfect love, is possible.
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