Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Hi, Fiona. My name is Orlando Ortega-Medina. According to my PT, my metabolic age is 42.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born in Los Angeles. But I hold three nationalities – U.K., Canada, and the USA – and I’ve lived in all three countries. Currently, I live in London.
Fiona: A little about your self (i.e., your education, family life, etc.).
I majored in English Literature at UCLA, with a concentration in Creative Writing. My writing professors included the late Carolyn See, Daniel Menaker, and Gerald Jay Goldberg. After university, I read law at Southwestern University School of Law and was subsequently admitted to the California State Bar. These days, I manage a US corporate immigration practice based in South Kensington. My husband and I have been together for 26 years. We married in Montreal 12 years ago when it finally became legal for us to do so.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
My book Jerusalem Ablaze: Stories of Love and Other Obsessions was recently longlisted for the fabulous Polari First Book Prize. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for the shortlist, which will be announced on 31 July 2017.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing since I was a child. I can’t recallwhy I began writing. I’ve always been a creative person. Writing is just one of those creative things I love doing.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I won my first literary award in 1987, the National Society of Arts and Letters Award for Short Stories.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first published book Jerusalem Ablaze: Stories of Love and Other Obsession is a collection of short stories inspired by my struggles in coming to terms with my sexual and religious identity and by my fascination with the darker side of human relations. I set the stories in places that have been formative of who I am today.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Jerusalem Ablaze is the title of one of the stories in the collection. It’s an allegorical title that refers to a sexual encounter that takes place between a priest and a prostitute in Jerusalem’s Old City. The publisher came up with the tagline Stories of Love and Other Obsessions.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I strive for elegance and readability. I’m obsessive about choosing the right phrase, the perfect word. This means that I spend countless hours reviewing each line of text, on paper and out loud, to make sure the manuscript is as close to perfect as possible.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
It’s entirely fictional. None of it is directly based on my own experiences or on someone else’s life. That said, all of it springs from inside of me. It’s expressionistic.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
No, I don’t.
Fiona: Who designed the cover?
I’m proud to say that La Boca Studio designed the award-winning cover of Jerusalem Ablaze.
Fiona: Is there a message in your collection that you want readers to grasp?
One might find a message in the collection if one were to stand on one’s head and read the whole thing in reverse. Seriously, though, I’m not Aesop; there’s no moral or lesson. My aim is to tell a good story that will remain with the reader for a lifetime.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
One up and coming writer that I recommend people keep their eyes on is Abi Curtis, a British writer whosebrilliantly-written dystopian novel Water & Glass is coming out later this year. I genuinely believe she’s going to be the next Margaret Atwood. Besides Abi, my favourite living author is Salman Rushdie. In my view, his prose is unparalleled.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
The late Carolyn See, my beloved writing professor, was one of the architects of my writing career. I’ll always remember her sage advice when I was struggling with the decision of whether to go to law school or enroll in an MFA course. She said, “Become a lawyer first; write later.” Anyone on a similar journey should read Carolyn’s book Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
It’s definitely a career for some people.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Nothing that I can think of. I’m happy with it as it is.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned how critical it is to work with an editor. I also learned the value of surrendering creative control to a publisher and its marketing team.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
One of the most cinematic stories in the collection is the title story “Jerusalem Ablaze”, which is about a sexual encounter between a young priest and a prostitute. I’d cast Zayn Malik as the priest and Salma Hayek as the prostitute. That would be perfect. Are you listening Zayn and Salma?
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
One can’t very well call oneself a writer unless one actually writes. So: Write – Everyday – No excuses.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I’ll be taking you to those places in your heart and mind where you may have previously feared to journey. But, don’t worry, I won’t let go of your hand.Be ready to have your world shaken.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Sunburnt Faces by Shimon Adaf.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I’m afraid that I don’t. I was an early reader.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
That’s a tough one. I don’t easily laugh or cry.But every so often, something will hit me, and I’ll laugh until I cry. Does that count for both?
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
I’d love to sit down with Salman Rushdie and have a nice, long conversation with him about writing and about the very interesting life he has lead. I’m sure I’d learn a lot from him.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Is traveling a hobby? If so, that’s my hobby. If not, then put down dining out as my hobby.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
When it comes to TV, I enjoy binging on what Netflix or Amazon has on offer, such as House of Cards, The Borgias, The Man in the High Castle, and Z: The Beginning of Everything. As for films, I’m an art film and foreign film junkie – the edgier the better.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
My favourite cuisines are Yemeni, Syrian, and Persian – in that order. My favourite colour is the electric blue of twilight. As a musician and songwriter, it’s difficult for me to say which is my favourite type of music. I love it all. I enjoy the theatricality of rock concerts. David Bowie, Queen, and Lady Gaga come to mind.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Fiona: What do you want written on your headstone?
“The show must go on.”
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events, and special offers?
My author website is: OrlandoOrtegaMedina.co.uk
Mt twitter page is: @OOrtegaMedina
My Facebook Author Page is: https://www.facebook.com/orlandoortegamedina/
My Goodreads Page is: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15336919.Orlando_Ortega_Medina
And least, but not Beethoven, my Amazon Author Page is: https://www.amazon.com/Orlando-Ortega-Medina/e/B01LY08GEB
Cloud Lodge Books, the publisher of Jerusalem Ablaze, also lists product updates and special offers on its website: http://www.cloudlodgebooks.com