Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lucha Corpi: Virtual Latino Book Tour Stopping at Musings


Death at Solstice: A Gloria Damasco Mystery
Arte Publico.  2009. c.240p. ISBN 978-1-55885-547-2. pap. $15.95. M  
Detective Gloria Damasco has a "dark gift", an extrasensory prescience that underscores her investigations and compels her to solve numerous cases.

In Death at Solstice, Gloria is asked to help the owners of the Oro Blanco winery in California's Shenandoah Valley, the legendary Gold Country.   She can't help but wonder if the ever-more persistent visions--two pairs of dark eyes watching her, a phantom horse and rider, the sensation of being trapped underwater--might foreshadow this new case that involves the theft of a family heirloom, a pair of antique Diamond and emerald earrings rumored to have belonged to Mexico's Empress Carlota.

But Gloria learns that there's more to the case than stolen jewelry.  Mysterious accidents, threatening anonymous notes, the disappearance of a woman believed to be a saint and a ghost horse thought to have belonged to notorious bandit Joaquín Murrieta are some of the pieces Gloria struggles to fit together.  Soon a gruesome murder sends Gloria on a fateful journey to a Witches' Sabbath to find the final pieces of the puzzle before someone else is killed.

Corpi weaves the rich cultural history of California's Gold Country into this suspenseful and engrossing mystery, the latest adventure in the Gloria Damasco Mystery series.
About the Author:

For Lucha Corpi, art has always meant activism. As a woman, a Hispanic, an immigrant and a mother, she has always found herself breaking down barriers in both life and literature.

Corpi was born in 1945 in Jáltipan, Veracruz, Mexico, a small tropical village on the Gulf of Mexico into a community that fostered creativity, performances and an appreciation for music, poetry and storytelling.

In 1964, she married and moved with her husband to Berkeley, California, a city in the throes of the students’ Free Speech Movement, which ignited the most turbulent decade in the history of the University of California-Berkley campus. It also coincided with the inception of the Chicano Civil Rights Movement in the southwestern United States.

Following an emotionally devastating divorce in 1970, Corpi found herself alone and in pain, with no family except her young son and very few friends. She turned to writing simply to get hold of her feelings, to face her contradictions and keep chaos at bay.

Her initial writing forays led to the exploration of poetry in Spanish as an outlet for her creativity. In 1970, she received a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship for poems later included in Palabras de mediodia / Noon Words(Fuego de Aztlán Publications, 1980; bilingual edition Arte Público Press, 2001). Her first collection of poems appeared in Fireflight: ThreeLatin American Poets (Oyes, 1976), and a third poetry collection followed: Variaciones sobre una tempestad / Variations on a Storm(Third Woman Press, 1990).

During that same decade, Corpi resumed her university studies, which had been interrupted by her marriage and supporting her husband while he studied. The UC-Berkeley campus provided an excellent forum for her political activism. Among other pursuits, Corpi was one of five founding members of the Aztlán Cultural, an arts service organization that years later would merge with Centro Chicano de Escritores (Chicano Writers Center). She also joined the Comité Popular Educativo de la Raza, an organization of parents, students and teachers in Oakland that sought to establish bilingual child care centers and other programs in the city's unified school district.

After her first collection of poetry appeared, Corpi experienced a long and personally worrisome poetic silence. To ease the tension, she turned to prose, penning several award-winning short stories. In 1984, she wrote her first story in English and her first English-language novel, Delia's Song, was published by Arte Público Press in 1989.

In 1990, Corpi was twice honored: she was awarded a Creative Arts Fellowship in fiction by the City of Oakland, and she was named poet laureate at Indian University Northwest.

The publication of Eulogy for a Brown Angel: A Mystery Novel (Arte Público Press, 1992) was the culmination of a life-long dream. The novel won the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award and the Multicultural Publishers Exchange Best Book of Fiction. Corpi’s second mystery novel featuring Chicana detective Gloria Damasco is Cactus Blood (Arte Público Press, 1995), which was reissued in paperback in 2009. Black Widow’s Wardrobe (Arte Público Press, 1999) and Death at Solstice (Arte Público Press, 2009) are the two most recent editions to The Gloria Damasco Series. In between the publication of these works of fiction, she compiled and edited Máscaras (Third Woman Press, 1997), a collection of essays on writing by prominent Chicana and Latina authors.

Fans can also turn to Corpi’s first mystery novel in a new series, Crimson Moon: A Brown Angel Mystery (Arte Público Press, 2004). Weaving the student movements at Berkeley, a serial rapist within the government’s ranks, a militant Chicano brown power group in Denver, and even the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico, Corpi has once again penned an intriguing thriller that revisits one of the most disturbing chapters for the American psyche: the civil rights struggles and student revolts during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

In addition to poetry and mystery novels, Lucha Corpi also writes for children. In 1997, she published her first bilingual picture book, Where Fireflies Dance / Ahí, donde bailan las luciérnagas (Children’s Book Press), and The Triple Banana Split Boy / El niño goloso (Arte Público Press) was published in 2009.

Corpi holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from UC-Berkley and an M.A. in World and Comparative Literature from San Francisco State University. A tenured teacher in the Oakland Public Schools Neighborhood Centers Program for 30 years, she retired in 2005.

I had the wonderful privilege of interviewing Lucha Corpi for BronzeWord Latino Book Tours.  Although at the time of this post, I have yet to finish editing our interview, it will be available soon for your listening pleasure at 

I interviewed Lucha Corpi nearing the end of her two week Virtual Book Tour, where she was an active participant daily at hosts' blogs.  Although she had spent the last eight days answering questions and providing material for the tour, Lucha Corpi offered deep and insightful answers to my questions.  Her soft and gentle voice, as well as her thorough commentary delivered with an elegant demeanor, made this interview a true pleasure to experience. 

The following is an abbreviated transcription of our interview:

nb: Death at Solstice has an amazing setting of California's Shenandoah Valley, the legendary Gold Country.  In your previous novels, the setting has also played an important role.  How do you create your stories?  Are you attracted by a setting and then mold a story around the setting, is it historical events that grab you, or does an idea start with the main character's personal journey? 

LC: Well, in a way it's a combination.  My novels tend to have a historical background so obviously that is something that attracts my attention immediately, when I think of something that could be highlighted and become integral part of the plot, but it's also Gloria Damasco's personal quest. In some ways she tells me where she wants to go for Death at Solstice, I actually visited the Gold Country a long time ago.  The first time I went I was really captured by the whole era because it seemed to be such a turning point in the history of California of Mexican-Americans in California because of the war of the U.S and Mexico, in 1848, (after)which the U.S. annexed the whole North-Western part of Mexico after Mexico lost the war, and became the South West of the United States. By that time, 1848, gold had been discovered in California and a lot of people just flocked to San Francisco, in particular, because it was the Golden Gate, the entrance to the gold country and so I think that's when California became the multicultural, multi-ethnic state that it is. 

And so that captured my attention and I read a little bit about it, visited, but I never thought that it would  be the actual setting for one of my novels until about two or three years ago, when I went back and I saw how it had changed since the time i had visited about eighteen years ago and then it just stuck with me but I had no idea that Gloria had something to do with it, and that she wanted to explore that in her next adventure, so in some ways it's interesting.  I waited for her to tell me.  That's basically what I do.  I go to many places and research and then she tells me where she wants to go.  And so it happened that she wanted to explore the Gold Country. I didn't know what exactly was going to happen there or how it was going to happen.    

nb: How do you describe your personal writing process?

LC: I think that I start my research for this novel almost a year before I begin writing because it involved a lot of history.  I had to research all these things thoroughly before I sit down to write so that I feel comfortable writing them.  In a way, I over-research. That means that when I sit down to write it I will feel comfortable writing about facts, about things that are part of history.  Then, when I actually start the process, I write every day.  Except when I travel. When I travel I don't even take my lap-top.

nb:  As writers, we know we aren't always in full control of our stories or characters, and many times, things just happen that we weren't planning on.  What was the most surprising thing that any of your characters did in this book, Death at Solstice?

LC: Well, I had no idea there was going to be a mountain lion in the midst!  Although from the very beginning, Gloria told me, but I thought it was just because Gloria has these visions, extrasensory perceptions.  She calls them her "dark gift" because they come to her in dreams, these visions can be about smells and sounds and all kinds of things that bombard her dreams and so I kind of have some kind of idea of what some elements might be down the line, but she just told me she heard an animal growl, and I thought, well it could be a dog...then little by little the whole thing of the mountain lion comes into being into the novel.  So, I was surprised about that.  And I was surprised at the way it came about, that chapter in the novel, but it was very organic and I liked that.  It was a surprise, but it was wonderful to work with it.

And then the other thing was the whole thing with Joaquín Murrieta and El Zorro, which to me, yes, it was completely possible because Joaquín Murrieta was considered a hero by Mexican-Americans and a bandit by Anglo-Americans and his legend was over the whole country.  But the way it happened in the novel was a surprise. 

In my first novel (Eulogy for a Brown Angel) it was the death of Gloria's best friend. I even had nightmares the night before I had to write that part.  I was in mourning.  I felt grief, and I didn't know exactly why I was feeling that.  The next morning I got up and wrote the chapter where her best friend dies, and I was just torn apart.  I cried for days.

So there are always surprises!

nb:  When you finish a book and are now sharing this particular novel, where are you in terms of the next novel?

LC: I really don't know.  You know, I become obsessed with something, for some reason, I never question why, I just go with my obsession but there's a line that keeps coming back to me, and keeps recurring when I least expect it, when I'm doing the dishes, driving some place, especially when I'm quiet and my attention is not taken by so many different tasks at once, I have a line that keeps coming back and it says "There won't be a happy ending".

nb: Uh-Oh!

LC: And I somehow know that that line belongs in a novel but I don't know yet what else.  And I'm trying to keep track of my obsessions these days because I know they're all related and when I will start the research depends on when it's clear to me what I have to research. So that will be the beginning of the novel. But I just don't know when or where it's going to happen, or how it's going to happen.  

Thanks for stopping by Musings today and visiting with Lucha Corpi!

To win a signed copy of Death at Solstice leave a comment and you will be entered the amount of times indicated below!

+1 Comment with a valid email address
+2 for asking the author a question in the comments
+2 for linking to this contest (tell me where)
+1 for being/becoming a follower

BONUS GIVEAWAY! The person that comments the most blogs on each blog in this tour will receive a collection of all four books in the Gloria Damasco series at the end of the tour.

Musings is the last stop of Lucha Corpi's Death at Solstice Latino Book Tour.  Her book tour has been fascinating though, with a little bit of everything.  Make sure you go back and check out all these fabulous blogs which include interviews, essays by Corpi, reviews and more wonderful insight to this fascinating author and "killer" series!

Nov 30 Richard Unloaded
Dec 1 Mayra Calvani Latino Book Examiner
Dec 2 Terri Behind Brown Eyes
Dec 3 Lara Rios Julia Amante
Dec 4 Anna The Sol Within 
Dec 7 Misa Chasing Heroes 
Dec 8 Monie Reading With Monie
Dec 9 Carol Book-luver Carol
Dec 10 Tasha Heidenkind's Hideaway
Dec 11 Nilki

To find out more about BronzeWord Latino Book Tours visit

As always, thanks for stopping by.  I love to hear your comments!

Inhale love, exhale fear...




  1. Wow I am going to rush over to the website to hear Lucha's interview. How exciting! I'm glad that the Latino Book Tours have align themselves with Nilki Benitez Communications to offer audio interviews to the authors. That will be something to look forward to. Thank you Lucha, and thank you Nilki for all your hard work. Sarah

  2. Hi, I was scrolling through the internet when I came upon this book tour. How excellent. I didn't know you existed. This was a great interview. Do you do a lot of these? Really amazing. Bertha

  3. Before I went to work, I had to make a comment. I've been following this book tour and being this is the last day I figured I should make a comment. It's been a pleasure getting to know the new-to-me author, Lucha Corpi. I've been impressed with your thoughtful responses. Thank you to the host for providing this wonderful connection.
    Thank you, Leanora

  4. Hi Everyone! Thank you so much for visiting this morning! Lucha is in Pacific Standard Time, I believe, so please check back later when she will be stopping by to answer your questions and comments.

    I'm honored to be working with Latino Book Tours in the mission to promote Latino authors. There are so many opportunities to get involved.

    Thank you for your support!

  5. Good morning, Nilki. It's such a pleasure to be here with you this morning, and find such encouraging posts from Sarah, Bertha and Leanora as well. Thank you all.
    Throughout my forty years as a writer, I've done many interviews. I always get nervous doing oral interviews because I have to think fast. I'm always afraid that I'm not going to have enough time to gather my thoughts together and might end up not making sense. As you can see I'm more a writer than a talker.
    But with Nilki there was an instant connection and she made me feel quite at ease. It was like having a conversaiton with an old friend, though we never met before. Gracias, Nilki. I will be available to answer questions or comment at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. (PST) California time.

  6. Hey Everyone, how ya doing? Everyone having a great day!!!! Another spectacular book tour by the greatest blog host anyone could know to work with. I can't thank you guys more. I hope every one has a great day today. Lucha and Nilki, you guys ROCK!!!
    Jo Ann Hernandez
    BronzeWord Latino Book Tours

  7. Good morning Lucha! I look forward to our visit here today.

    Thank you, Lucha, for your kind words. After our interview, I was in a sort of bliss, thinking of what a wonderful opportunity it was for me to talk with you about our writing styles and processes. It truly was a gift to be able to interview you and share your words with my readers. Thank you, chula.

    By the way, readers, if you get a notice saying your request could not be processed when you try to comment, just hit the Post Comment tab again and it immediately works--don't know why we have this glitch! also let me know if you had this problem. TY!

    Thank you, Jo Ann, for everything you are doing through BronzeWord in promoting and encouraging Latino authors and readers. I'm thrilled to be a part of this project!

  8. You, BronzeWord and Latino Book Tours rock, too!!! Thank you for providing such a valuable service to Latino authors.
    Abrazos muy fuertes y aplausos for Jo Ann and Nilki. Gracias. Lucha

  9. Lucha, during our interview you touched upon that sort of "otherness" that overcomes us when we are writing what our MC is telling us.

    When I'm in sync, the writing just flows. It's almost like a dictation.

    But sometimes my characters withdraw, and I find it nearly impossible to coax them out of hiding.

    Does Gloria ever need some "alone time" from you?

    If so, how do you get her to come back out and start speaking to you again?

  10. Wow Nilki, I've used the word "dictation" too. I felt 'The Throwaway Piece' was spoken by Jewel to me. All I had to do was type. Now I am struggling with finding a strong enough character to 'speak' to me again.

    Lucha, I read that you don't do outline. I never have before either. Except this one time, I had to have an outline for a competition. I found it useful. As a teacher, didn't you tell your students to write outlines? Was that fair? ha ha ha

    As a teacher, have you found that each student/writer has to find their own style and way of writing? Outline. No outline. A combination of the two. I've heard a mystery writers say, he had to know the ending of his book before he could write the story. Doesn't that sound backwards? Supposedlly you're to ask "What if?" when writing a mystery, however if you know the ending before you begin writing the ending, then what do you ask yourself? How come? Why dun it? ha ha ha

    Jo Ann Hernandez
    BronzeWord Latino Book Tours

  11. Dear Lucha: Thanks again – and thank you for withstanding my questions while on the tour. I am just really curious about your work.

    I do have a question about the mystery series. (Unless I am mistaken, there are now two?) Is there a substantive difference (e.g., in plot, theory, etc.) between the Gloria Damasco and the Brown Angel mystery series?

    Again, thank you. I have really enjoyed the opportunity to chat with you. Also, thank you Nilki!

    Sincerely, Joseph Morales

  12. Joseph, great question, I too have been wondering how the two series are related, I do however think that there are four Gloria Damaso books, and the Brown Angel mystery series has just begun with one book, Crimson Moon.

    Please check back for Lucha Corpi's answer to your questions. Lucha will be back at 3pm PST (6pm EST) to answer questions and then again at 6pm PST (9pm EST) for an hour of Q&A!

  13. Thanks for an insightful interview, Nilki. I really enjoyed reading about the process Lucha uses to develop her stories. I look forward to reading more of her wonderful work.

  14. Raul you forgot to leave your email addy to win a book. Yeah Lucha, since I met you in San Francisco in 1993, I have admired you. Now after reading all your interviews and Q&As these two weeks my admiration has grown to respectful awe of your intelligence and your insight into culture. You give true meaning to that cliche "Still waters run deep." I am going to have to hitch my pants up and work harder to deserve your most fun friendship. You are an inspiration to aspire to be more and learn more. Thank you for what you have brought to my life and to the honor I have of saying I am her friend. Thank you for everything you are. Thank you for you.
    besitos, Jo Ann

  15. WOW! Jo Ann, Nilki, Raul, Joseph, all of you are absolutely great for my ego! Thank you. Gracias!!
    I'll start with the question of characters sometimes needing "alone time." And they do. Sometimes I have to take time away from them to do other important things. If, for some reason, Gloria and I have been away from each other for some time, and while I wait for our reunion, I usually revise the last two/three chapters. Sometimes, I feel that the story is not going in the right direction, that something is missing. sometimes, I'm a bit tentative when I begin a new chapter. I ask myself whether I'm the one who's having trouble or my MC is. For the most part these pauses resolve themselves. I don't rush the narrative. I do sit down in front of the computer at my regular time and do nothing other than stare at walls and let my mind drift. I find myself so bored that sometimes that helps to get me out of whatever rut I'm in. The thing is not to be afraid of these pauses. They're not blocks. The elements missing at the time are drifting, not away but toward a common shore, where they will find each other. So much detail goes into a novel, even short fiction. sometimes, the details slow the process. When Gloria and I are working in harmony, we are the dynamic duo for sure.

  16. It's true I don't work with outlines. I do have a sketchy idea of what the work needs. And I don't ask my students to work with outlines either. I've written one synopsis in my life and it was for a collaborative project among several writers. It was necessary to offer some guidance to the writers involved so they would be on surer footing. But how their characters developed the material was up to character and writer. The project never came to be. But that's a different story. If a strong character is not speaking to you but weak ones are, pick one of the weak. there must be a reason why that character is insistent, give her/him a chance to develop. You might be surprised. One of the minor characters in Black Widow's Wardrobe decided to take over 4 chapters in the novel when I had thought she was going to need only one. What can I say? She made me an offer I couldn't refuse.

  17. Hi Joseph. And you're right, Nilki. The two series are the Gloria Damasco and the Brown Angel series. Crimson Moon is the first of the Brown Angel series. I now have three detectives: Justin Escobar, Gloria Damasco and Dora Saldana. They're equal partners in their agency Brown Angel Security and Investigations. Justin and Gloria worked together in Cactus Blood. Dora and Justin worked together in Crimson Moon. But in answer to your question, Joseph, the two series are different in some respects. Crimson Moon is written in narrative voice, which is quite intimidating to me. Gloria's series is told in her voice, first person narrative. It is an intimate voice that allows us readers to closely identify/become one with the character, and internalize, perceive, think, move, feel as she does, but which is very limiting in scope because you can not know what others are thinking, feeling, doing except through the MC's interpretation. When you have more than one main character, the omniscient, omnipresent narrator has to take over to do justice to all the characters' stories and for them to reveal themselves fully.
    And, Joseph, don't apologize for your questions. I love them. And yes, I am also very happy that you've kept me company throughout the tour. (It's)You've made a difference. Gracias, again.

  18. Raul, thank you so much for your interest in my work. I truly appreciate it. I believe I read your name in one of the blogspots. But I had some questions to reply to and didn't get back to you. I'm going to look you up again. Happy Holidays!

  19. Lucha, all really great points. I wonder if you ever gain new insights into your writing from discussing your writing. During this latest of your book tours, did you learn anything, or have any revelations, or did any convictions become strengthened throughout this process?

    I wonder if sharing a completed work is part of the entire learning process of that particular piece. Kind of like an epilogue of it's own?

    Thank you so much for this discussion, it's been really valuable for my process as a writer!

  20. Thanks for stopping by Raul! Don't worry, I know where to find you if I have to chase you down to give you a gift ;)

  21. And so, we come to the end of the tour. It's been fun; it's been work; it's been an incredible experience! Gracias, Jo Ann. Couldn't have happened without you. I cherish your friendship, querida. And everyone I know will hear about the great work you do for Latino authors. Nilki, gracias so much for your graciousness and beautiful spirit. And I will miss your questions, estimado amigo Joseph. Wouldn't have been this delightful without you. So buenas noches for now.

  22. Buenas noches, Lucha! And thank you from mi corazon. Now get some well-deserved rest! I look forward to your upcoming poetry and a growing friendship.


  23. I am now really intrigued and want to know more about Lucha Corpi, a new writer for me and whose writings sound very interesting. I am so glad I found this blog. I have never really follow a full day of developments in a blog- This was a wonderful open door to walk through and meet Lucha. Thank you for the oportunity. I am going to look for Lucha's books. Good luck to you all. R.I.

  24. Great interview. Thank you for taking the time and thanks Lucha for sharing all along this book tour.

  25. Hi :)
    Thank you for sharing here. I enjoyed learning more about Lucha and her writing.
    Happy Holidays,


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