Monday, August 2, 2010

"The Girls from the Revolutionary Cantina" by M. Padilla

Last week, I received a complimentary copy of "The Girls from the Revolutionary Cantina" by M. Padilla.

I read this book in three days! Why? Because I couldn't put it down!

I was instantly hooked from page one and could not stop 'til I reached the end. "The girls from the revolutionary cantina" is a must read!

The main character, Julia, is the introverted, ambitious, hardworking Latina most of us can relate to. The story is filled with humor and engaging wit. It's all about how the best of relationships can be tested when love and work get in the mix. Filled with characters you love to love and love to hate.

Today, I welcome the author of this book with a brief Q&A.

1. First of all, what inspired you to tell this story?

Some of my fondest memories as a kid growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area come from when my Spanish-speaking relatives from Los Angeles and Mexico would come to visit. The women in particular were incredibly funny. They brought a kind of energy to our household that was so different from what I was used to. I was a sponge for their stories and jokes, and I loved the way they relentlessly teased each other. Their voices were a big inspiration for THE GIRLS FROM THE REVOLUTIONARY CANTINA.

Another inspiration comes from my fascination with friendships and the forces that cause them to begin, evolve, and sometimes die. As people change and come to want and need different things, this can place unexpected pressures on even the very best of friendships. The conflicting needs and desires that arise interest me much more than friendships where everyone gets along, and where everything is wonderful, warm and fuzzy. It’s also a much richer source of comedy. I don’t think CANTINA would be nearly as funny if there weren’t that kind of conflict.

2. Where did the title come from?

I had originally planned to call the novel ARRIVING. That theme kept appearing in the book – arriving in one’s career, arriving financially, and arriving at a new understanding of one’s self. However, my publisher wanted something catchier. I have to say, I feel THE GIRLS FROM THE REVOLUTIONARY CANTINA was a smart choice. It captures the spirit of the book and the outlaw quality of some of the characters’ behavior in a way that my original title didn’t. People say it makes them want to open the book.

3. Most men often wonder what goes inside a woman's head. More often than not, they really can't even make an educated guess. How were you able to write women so realistically, being a man?

I’m glad you found my depiction of the women realistic. I don’t know that I have any great insights into women, but as I said, since an early age I’ve been fascinated by the way women, especially the Chicana women in my family, talk. So I drew upon my memories of them to bring the CANTINA women to life. It also helped that as a kid I got to hear the way they talked when men weren’t around.

Getting into the mind of my main character, Julia, was relatively easy, because she and I share very similar concerns about financial and emotional security. We’re also similarly uptight about certain things and get easily stressed out. So creating her character wasn’t a stretch.

4. Interesting how some men are worth losing a friendship over and some are not. That's why Julia, at first, stepped off of Ilario when Ime was interested in him. But then Concepcion lost her friend, Remedios, when she slept with her boyfriend. What are your thoughts on this?

Some women might say that no man is worth losing a friendship over, but I suppose it depends on the nature of the friendship. In the case of Remedios and Concepcion, the man didn’t matter much to either woman. Remedios cared little for him, and to Concepcion he was just a one-night stand. But because Remedios was hiding a secret, and because she is such a prideful character, she felt ending her friendship with Concepcion was her only option. That is the irony – their friendship didn’t need to end.

5. The Cantina seems to be the key element in the story. Is there any other significance besides the fact that it is the main hangout for the girls?

This is a group of women who have taken varying career and economic trajectories. The the Cantina is a place from their past that allows them to come together naturally. The Cantina also represents something different to each woman. For Julia, it represents security. It’s a place of safety and familiarity, even if the other people there may be a little nuts. For Ime, the Cantina is a reminder of how far she’s come in life. She may disparage it, but returning there allows her to say to herself, “OK, here’s proof that I’m successful. I started here, but now look at me.”

Also, I like the way the Cantina, with its pictures of Mexican revolutionaries on the wall, harkens back to a history and heritage that these girls are relatively disconnected from. I like the irony in that. These are women who live very much in the here and now. Ime at one point states that she doesn’t know a thing about Mexican history, and she’s not particularly embarrassed by that fact. I suspect she’s a little proud of it in a defiant kind of way. In this regard, the Cantina highlights in what I hope is a non-judgmental way the growing distance between their past and their present.

6. In writing this novel, did you ever consider writing it from a multi-character point of view? Did you ever consider telling this story from Ime, Concepcion, Marta, and Nina?

I did! But ultimately I chose to stick with one character because I thought that would be easier to follow. While there are many multi-narrative novels that I like, I lean more toward stories that follow a single character from start to finish. I tend to stay more invested when I’m reading. I also wanted the story to be a page-turner – readers can judge for themselves if I’ve succeeded – and that’s easier to accomplish when different narratives aren’t interrupting each other. If I were to write a sequel, however, I would consider taking a multi-narrative approach, if only for the sake of mixing things up.

7. Julia seems to be the "good girl" in the group. She questions her friendship with Ime and Concepcion, especially. Why were they friends? Does she need them, or do they need her?

Again I think it comes down to a question of security, or the illusion of security, for Julia. Just like in romantic relationships, we’re often drawn to the familiar, even if what is familiar isn’t all that good for us. Ime, Concepcion and Julia all grew up together, so it’s what Julia knows. And there’s also the issue of loyalty holding them together. Ime and Julia have been through tough times. They’re willing to put up with more from each other than newer friends might.

Concepcion and Ime have come to rely on Julia for her good sense, her practicality and her readiness to help in a pinch. Unfortunately they also take advantage of those traits. It takes a while for Julia to see that there may be other friends out there that might be better for her.

8. By the end, Julia comes to some hard realizations. What do you think readers can learn from her?

One of the biggest changes she undergoes is learning to stand on her own two feet. Yes, everyone needs support from friends, family and partners to get through life. But learning that she can survive even without those allows her to find an inner strength she didn’t know she had. And that inner strength turns out to be the true security she was looking for all along.

9. Any sequel to this story in the making?

Right now I’m immersed in working on a novel about a Mexican American family trying to get ahead against the backdrop of the final years of the Vietnam War. Since the publication of CANTINA, however, I’ve begun to think about a sequel, and the ideas are percolating. I’d love to write a novel that focuses on new triumvirate of friends that I envision emerging from the ashes of CANTINA: Julia, Remedios and Lydia. They would be the “new” girls from the Revolutionary Cantina.

Well, I really enjoyed this book, and I hope to read more by this author.

He will be joining me along with many other Latino authors at the Latino Book Festival at CSULA October 9-10 2010. More info can be found on

To learn more about this author, you can go to

I will give away free books today!

For those who post comments and/or questions regarding this interview will be eligible to win a free book by another Latino writer.

Author, OSCAR HIJUELOS, the son of Cuban immigrants, is a recipient of the Rome Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. His seven novels have been translated into twenty-five languages.

He will be giving away 3 copies of either "The Mambo Kings play songs of love" or "Beautiful Maria of my soul" (winners choose the book.)

Here's a link to the first chapter of "Beautiful Maria of my soul."

This drawing will end on August 16 2010. 3 winners will be chosen!

Just be sure to leave an email address so that I may contact you.
Good luck!

1 comment:

  1. Sandra,
    In reading your interview with Mike Padillo, I was thought about the same question as you, why women when you are a man? LOL, funny thing though as I was reading the interview I really thought it would make a great story if the women were men! And it told the same story. I haven't read a story like this with men as the lead characters. I think it would make an interesting read. Thanks for the ear, and thanks for your blog & updates, I really enjoy it.
    Clare Franco -