Gabriela Garcia: On Writing the Character's Arc

Debut author Gabriela Garcia discusses how she established goals for her novel Of Women and Salt, how she let her characters dictate their stories, and what it's like to write a cast of dynamic women.
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Gabriela Garcia is the author of the novel Of Women and Salt, forthcoming from Flatiron (US), Picador (UK), and in seven other languages. Her fiction and poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, Tin House, Zyzzyva, Iowa Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Cincinnati Review, Black Warrior Review, and elsewhere. She received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award, a Steinbeck Fellowship, and residencies and fellowships from Breadloaf, Sarabande Books, Lighthouse Works, the Keller Estate, and the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. She has an MFA in fiction from Purdue University, where she also taught creative writing.

Gabriela Garcia

Gabriela Garcia

The daughter of immigrants from Cuba and Mexico, Gabriela was raised in Miami and currently lives in the Bay Area. In her past life, she worked in music, magazines, technology, and feminist and immigrant rights organizing.

In this post, Garcia discusses how she established goals for her novel Of Women and Salt, how she let her characters dictate their stories, what it's like to write a cast of dynamic women, and more!

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Name: Gabriela Garcia
Literary agent: Marya Spence and PJ Mark
Title: Of Women and Salt
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Release date: March 30, 2021
Genre: Literary Fiction
Elevator pitch for the book: Of Women and Salt traverses multiple countries and decades to tell the stories of six women whose lives come together in unexpected ways.

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

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What prompted you to write this book?

I wanted to write a book that centered women’s voices while experimenting with voice and structure and style. And I wanted to find a way to explore all of the different threads that I was thinking about—addiction, migration, Miami, Cuba, state violence and intimate violence and how they work together, matriarchal lineages, stories, and who are centered and who get to tell them.

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How long did it take to go from idea to publication? 

About five years, although I had started writing some snippets that I would end up incorporating into the novel before that. I started writing an earlier version of the novel during my three-year MFA program and revised it for a couple of years after that before publication.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title? 

The biggest surprise has been how many times you have to read your own book! Between rounds of revision and proofreading passes, I’ve read my novel so, so many times.

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Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book? 

The whole novel took a different trajectory than I’d expected when I first began to write. I had envisioned a different ending and a different path to that ending, but by the time I got there, I had a completely different sense of my characters and what they would do.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

I hope they’ll see these women in all of their depth. All of the characters are flawed, strong at times and weak at others, and often working against the stories that have been imposed on them about themselves, such as the trope of the “sacrificing” or “suffering” immigrant mother. I hope they’ll see these characters in their full humanity.

Gabriela Garcia: On Writing the Character's Arc

If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

To keep writing even when it feels futile or impossible or the world looms large. And to find or create community. To seek opportunities to mentor new writers and bring others up with you once find some success. My community and my mentors are what have sustained my writing life before and beyond publishing. 

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