Silvia Moreno-Garcia ignored the experts and trusted her instincts. Now she’s a bestseller

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Once someone told me that if I want to make it as a writer I need a short name. Sylvia Moreno-Garcia doesn’t roll off the tongue. You can’t write it easily. Barista doesn’t understand my first name correctly and it is only six letters. Do you file me under the letter M or under G?

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This irregularity of identity is also reflected in my output, with each of my creations in a different location. I’ve written a sword-and-sorcery novel, but there’s also a gritty up-and-coming noir in northern Mexico. I am best known for a horror book. Do you put me under fiction or historical or under crime?

As you can see, I give people a headache.


I am often asked why I write in every genre. To be honest, I get bored very quickly and changing the category helps me to focus again. On a deeper level, I love the challenge of chameleoning myself as a different kind of writer.


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There is also a fact that some of the writers I have admired the most have displayed agility and fluidity. Walter Tevis wrote the chess drama “The Queen’s Gambit”, but also the science fiction novels “The Man Who Fell to Earth” and “The Hustler”, about a pool player who aspires to break into the major leagues. Joyce Carol Oates’ prodigious output, which spans the gamut from family drama to horror, also captured my imagination. Growing up, I was delighted when I found an author who escaped classification, whether it was British author Tanith Lee or Mexican novelist Sergio Galindo.

You can also chalk up this desire to chain categories to two things at once. I spent my early childhood growing up in Baja California, in the Mexico-United States border area. My parents filled our house with eclectic books. They were in many ways hoarders, ardent readers who didn’t care which shelf something sat on. I learned to read in Spanish and English because they had books in both languages, and I was more likely to collide with award-winning Mexican authors, French poets, or early 20th-century American pulp fiction in the chaotic pile of books in our messy corner. .

In any case, I’ve become a person who wants to be a lot of things, maybe everything, at once.

When I was starting out as a writer, such assumptions seemed silly. I was told that the best way is to write a series and stick to one genre. In speculative fiction, I’ve heard of almost every deal involving a trilogy of some sort. Agents and editors simply weren’t interested in a single novel. How I wanted to write fantasy, but horror, noir, drama and even a western, my breathless interpretations were baffled.

"Mexican Gothic" by Silvia Moreno-García

At the same time, I felt that I could do whatever I wanted. Eventually, I was rejected saying that my books were not salable because they were set in Mexico and that even my name would be too long to be printed on the spine. In comparison, the act of going through categories seemed a minor sin to me.

When I finally had a sleeper hit with “Mexican Gothic,” you might have thought I’d change my tune and write a sequel to that novel. Just go, so to speak. But I was working on a noir set against the backdrop of Mexico’s Dirty War and wouldn’t let it go. It wasn’t exactly what people in publishing might have thought of a business idea, yet I went ahead with it.

“Velvet Was the Night” was well received by critics, garnered a few award nominations and even made President Obama’s recommended reading list this summer. I probably alienated a whole bunch of fans with this release. Readers who knew me only for “Mexican Gothic” were astonished, as they expected a horror book. Instead I told them politics, death squads, a dummy secretary holding his neighbor’s cat and a hired goon with a love of rock music, all caught in the turbulent heat of 1971.

A woman smoking and wearing sunglasses on the cover of Silvia Moreno-Garcia

My most recent novel,”Doctor Moreau’s daughter“set in the Yucatan in the 19th century and inspired by H.G. Wells, can be described as a historical drama with an injection of science fiction. Once again, it deviates sharply from the horrors of “Mexican Gothic”. .

So should I have written something different? A sequel or even a prequel to “Mexican Gothic”? This would have been a logical choice, it would have increased the chances of success. I would probably hate the result.

There are many bumps in the road when you try to switch gears as often as I do. Take the time My friend got my “The Beautiful Ones” imagining of the mods sitting in a scary part of a bookstore. It’s a romance with a splash of magic, more like an old merchant ivory costume drama than Stephen King’s “Carrie.” I’m sorry whoever took it home thinking of the blood and guts. And then there was the angry reader who approached me demanding a refund because my vampire-and-narcos novel “Certain Dark Things” was not a romance, but a gritty urban fantasy.

What has become clear to me over time is that I am developing a body of work in the same way that a painter might develop an oeuvre. It’s like trying different materials, brush strokes and colors. Even though my books are hard to market and even though I may confuse some readers, there are readers who enjoy the element of surprise, never quite sure what they can get.

I am determined to continue my genre-shifting. After all, I could change my name when I was starting out. I could be Sylvia Browne and set my work in New York City and write a trilogy. but I did not. I decided that I wanted to melt and grow in myself, not to be a stranger. So hello, I’m Sylvia Moreno-Garcia and I write books. what kind of books? This is a good question.

Book Club: If You Go

what: LA Times Book Club reading Silvia Moreno-Garcia novel “Daughter of Doctor Morrow,” due in September, and she will be in conversation with the Times editor Steve Padilla,

When: 6 p.m. PT Feather September 27

Where: This virtual event will be livestreamed on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Receive tickets and signed books eventbright,

information: Sign up for the Book Club newsletter for the latest news and events.


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