Photograph by Brittainy Lauback
I’m lucky to have known Gabrille Lucille Fuentes for several years now– we both live in Athens, GA and attend the same PhD program, and we co-curate a reading series together at our local indie bookstore. The first time I got to hear Gabrielle read her work aloud I was spellbound– not only was her prose riveting, but her ability to embody the work as she read it made for a thrilling listening experience. I knew she was a serious workhorse when it came to writing– working on several novels at once, and more diligently than most writers I know– and brilliant to boot, so it would only be a matter of time before her work began to enter world as books. Fuentes’ first novel, The Sleeping World, is out tomorrow (9/13) from Simon & Schuster/Touchstone, and it is ferocious, a book hot with searching and loss, tension thrumming constantly at the periphery. Per the jacket copy:
“Casasrojas, Spain, 1977. Military rule is over. Bootleg punk music oozes out of illegal basement bars and fascists fight anarchists for political control. Students perform protest art in the city center, rioting against the old government, the undecided new order, against the university, against themselves. At the center is Mosca, an intelligent, disillusioned university student, whose younger brother is among ‘the disappeared,’ kidnapped by fascist police, missing for two years, and presumed dead. Spurred by the turmoil around them, Mosca and her friends carry their rebellion too far and a violent act sends them spiraling out of their provincial hometown. But the further they go, the more Mosca believes her brother is alive and the more she is willing to do anything to find him.”
You can feel this novel in your bones– when the characters are sore and tired, sweatily roaming through Spain and France, your body meets the book in feeling. I was excited to ask Fuentes some questions about her writing process, the seeds of the book, and much more.
Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes is a writer and teacher. Her first novel, The Sleeping World, will be published by Touchstone (Simon & Schuster) in 2016. She has received fellowships from Yaddo and Blue Mountain Arts Center and was a Bernard O’Keefe Scholar in Fiction at Bread Loaf. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in One Story, Slice, Pank, The Collagist, Tweed’s, NANO Fiction, Western Humanities Review, The Yoke, SpringGun, and elsewhere.
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Gina Abelkop: What and when were the first seeds of this novel planted? Where were you living? Did it begin with a plot, character, or an emotional impluse?
Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes: Song lyrics often start stories for me. I’ll become obsessed with a song—especially one with a scrap of narrative and want to enter into the world of the song through my writing. Or the song will provide entry into a world I’ve carried but didn’t yet have access to. The Sleeping World began as a short story I wrote while listening to The National’s song “Runaway.” I was living in Boulder, Colorado and had just started my MFA. Boulder is a surreal town—it’s surrounded by gorgeous mountains but the town itself like a play-land created by Patagonia and Disney. Very new, very expensive, very white. The initial story came quickly, transported by a few of the lyrics. I wanted to communicate a tension between forgetting and memory, and when I went back to the story, I found that I was writing my own, despite the distance between me and the narrative. My brother had recently passed away and writing was a way for me to grieve, to speak to the dead and carry him with me in the living world.