Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Q&A With Billboard's Leila Cobo

A Fulbright scholar from Cali, Colombia, Leila Cobo is Executive Editor for Latin Content and Programming for Billboard. Under her tenure, Billboard has expanded its coverage of Latin Music and for the first time in its more than 100-year history, the magazine has a complete weekly section dedicated solely to Latin music. Ms. Cobo is also in charge of coordinating the yearly Billboard Latin Music Conference, the largest gathering of the Latin music industry in the U.S. (and probably the world). 

Tell Me Something True (Grand Central Publishing) is Leila Cobo's first novel.  It is the recipient of the Society of Latino and Hispanic Writers of San Antonio Top Ten Hispanic Books of 2009, as well as a top five debut novel from the SLHW and a 2010 Top Ten New Latino Authors to Watch (and Read).

I am honored to welcome my fellow Caleña, Fullbright Scholar and author Leila Cobo to Musings.  Leila was generous enough to share some insights into her writing process for her debut novel Tell Me Something True with Musings.  I hope you enjoy this eye-opening Q&A (and I thought all we needed was a huge platform?! Read on...)

During our conversation, you mentioned the importance of setting a deadline for Tell Me Something True, what sort of things did you take into consideration to make sure your deadline was realistic?  

My job. I work full-time, so it wasn’t realistic for me to say a month or two. I believe I needed nine months.

Was your deadline based on one goal, or was it made up of smaller goals for each step of the way?  

Initially, my potential agent asked me for five chapters, so I sat down and wrote that. I had very naively thought I could sell the book on spec; apparently, that doesn’t happen unless you’re a huge personality. Once I turned THAT in and he liked it, I tried the spec thing again, to no avail! He said I had to finish the entire book. And that’s when I requested six months, I believe. And at that point, I just sat down and wrote. I had somebody who liked my story, who was willing to rep me, and I didn’t want to give up the chance. 
Did you have to adjust as you went along, or were you strict with your deadlines?  

With this first book, I was actually strict. With my second, I wasn’t. I pushed the deadline back and back and back.

Did you ever get stuck, or encounter any sort of writers block, when the story just refused to flow? If so, how did you get around this, in terms of reaching your deadline goal? 

Yes, I did get stuck at times. And in those cases, I just let it go. If need be, I take a few days off. There are days in which the writing is easy, it really does flow. And then, the contrast between the “good” days and the “bad” days is too great. I don’t really know what it is. There are days in which the story just comes to me and it generates and regenerates as it goes, and these wonderful things just appear. But there are others where you really have to think and plan and even so, it gets tortuous.

What kind of goals did you set-were they word count goals? A specific number of hours a day or week? 

I set page goals more than word count goals. But more than that, I did try to write every night. And most certainly during weekends. Weekends were my most productive time. Now that I don’t have a book pending, I’m amazed at how much free time I have during the weekend!

Many, if not most, writers find themselves juggling their schedules to find spare time for their writing. You are committed to so many different projects in your career-How do you fit writing into your busy schedule?  

Except for the weekends, I write at night. Even though I’m a multi-tasking master (seriously!) I can’t write anything of substance with distractions. I can’t even listen to music. So, during the week, I write at night, when everybody else is asleep. I like to pout myself  glass of wine (preferably cold Sauvignon blanc)  and get in the mood :)


Stay tuned for Leila Cobo's inspiring thoughts on rejection which will be coming soon to Musings.  You don't want to miss this, so make sure you subscribe to Musing's RSS feed or sign up to receive alerts for new posts via email!

Tell Me Something True
by Leila Cobo
Grand Central Publishing
ISBN: 978-0446519366

Buy Now

Cobo’s sweet debut novel is the story of two women—a mother and daughter—and the love affairs that irrevocably changed their lives. Gabriella, 21, is a piano prodigy raised by her wealthy grandmother in Colombia and her movie producer father in Los Angeles. Her mother, Helena, was a renowned photographer who died when Gabriella was four. When she attends a party in the Hollywood Hills, Gabriella meets Angel, the man of her dreams. There’s one catch: he’s a mobster.  As Gabriella tries to reconcile her conflicted feelings toward Angel, she discovers her mother’s diary.  Soon she is drawn into Helena’s secret life, one that involved a passionate love affair. Betrayed and confused, Gabriela tries to find her mother’s lover. But when her own romance begins to spiral out of control, Gabriella must come to terms with the fact that she’s very much her mother’s daughter.  Cobo’s well-drawn characters help bolster the story when Gabriella’s tragic romance occasionally slides into melodrama. The smooth prose and authentic Colombian settings provide a unique spin to familiar territory.

Keep writing and remember, inhale love exhale fear....


  1. Wow!! I have been following her programs in V-me and I love her style and simple professionalism! No doubt I am getting her book. I think she is really approachable and the way she presents the artists is really fun and professional. Love her! Viva Cali Chipichape y Yumbo!!

  2. Tell Me Something True is in the mail for me! I also can't wait to read it. Maybe we can start a Musings book club (!)

    Who's in?!

    Wow, Viva Cali, Chipichape y Yumbo! What a fantastic tagline!! I may have to borrow it occasionally... :)

    Thanks for sharing your comment!

  3. Felicitaciones, desde Santiago de Cali, un abrazo para ti y Artur

  4. I will order the book! In my opinion, her responses to the interview reflect her sensitivity, warmth and professionalism. Congratulations for the great interview!


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