Today I’m posting the second half of my interview with Cinda MacKinnon, the author of A PLACE IN THE WORLD. During the first part of the interview we talked about the wonders of Colombia, the setting of her book and then we switched gears to talk more about her.
JT: When you finally settled in the U.S., what rocked your world?
CCM: I don’t know if it really rocked my world but I rediscovered libraries! In Bogota every time one of my friends would get a new book in English, we’d all pass it around like it was the greatest thing in the world. It didn’t matter if it was pulp fiction – it was a book!
CCM: I”m embarrassed to admit I also discovered cable television. We had a TV in Colombia but only watched it once a week, when the I Love Lucy show was on.
My husband was appalled! But in the U.S. people talk about all the shows they watched growing up like Leave it to Beaver, which I’d never seen so, of course, I had no point of reference. That whole part of the American culture was alien to me.
JT: And did you also go bonkers over McDonalds’ burgers?
CCM (chuckling) Did I ever tell you about the McDonalds’ connection?
JT: No what’s that?
CCM: Well, one of the reasons the rain forests are disappearing is to feed America’s love affair with hamburgers. Costa Rica lost, I forgot the percentage but I can look it up for you, a lot more of their rain forests than Colombia and the reason was cattle ranching.
JT: So to save the rain forests we should eat fewer hamburgers?
CCM (chuckling): Costa Rica is trying to promote eco-tourism which should help (although it encourages more trampling on sensitive plants so…) And then there’s reforestation, however, what regrows is not always the same as what had been there before – the plants, well, they’re just not the same. It’s kind of a double-edged sword but better than nothing.( Click here to learn more about what is being done to save the rain forests)
JT: Your novel is set in the late 1900s. Is there any particular reason you chose that time period?
CCM: It was the peak of bad news for Colombia – you had the drug cartels, the guerrillas, the coffee fincas being taken over for cocaine…I should clarify, most cocaine is not grown in Colombia just processed there.
JT: You told me you considered killing off your protagonist (Alicia). Why?
CCM: During the ’70s and ’80s it wasn’t uncommon for people to simply disappear in Colombia. I knew people who were driven off their land and some even lost their lives. It just seemed a likely thing.
JT: You recently returned from a trip to Columbia, how was it different from the Colombia of your teen years? Did you still fear for your life?
CCM: The embassy is, of course, telling people not to travel to certain areas (embassy personnel are not even allowed to travel by bus!) however, my friend travelled all over without having any problems at all.
There are certain foods you may want to avoid. In Bogota or inland areas avoid fish – except trout. I ordered bass and it came head and tail intact, fried to a dried-out crisp. Stick with trout, chicken or beef- they are big on beef. Fish is good in coastal areas of course. My favorite dish is ajaico
chicken stew with potatoes, corn, capers, herbs and avocado. Also be sure to try arepas, corn cakes, and
empanandas, sort of meat fritters, while in Colombia – and I love the platano, plantain, and yuca. By the way, the water is safe in Bogota – but not rural areas.
JT: Last but not least, how was your experience publishing your first novel? Any words to the wise to debut novelists?
CCM: That’s a huge topic – I could write a book!
And now blog followers, as promised, one last picture of Gaston, the most wonderful dog in the world.