April 21, 2002
For author, one book becomes three
Trilogy author will sign new book Wednesday in Shepherdstown
By Ramses Coly
Shepherdstown, W.Va.-What makes writer Carlos Rubio different? Probably the fact that his 16-year-old daughter can act as a clairvoyant, guessing the final sentence of his book.
Rubio is a part-time Spanish professor at Shepherd College. He was born in Cuba in 1944 and came to the United States in 1961. In 1989 one of his novels, Quadrivium, won the Nuevo Leon Internatinal Prize for novels.
Rubio’s latest work, The Neophyte, published by Highbridge Press in March, is the first of a trilogy that takes a satirical view of life. The first novel is about a 13-year-old boy’s coming of age amidst a religious community.
Rubio will sign copies of his book at 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 24, at the Shepherd College Center. We recently sat down and talked about The Neophyte.
Q: Tell us about yourself, Professor Rubio.
A: I was born in Cuba. I came to the United States in 1961 when I was still in high school. I finished high school in Delaware and then I went on to do my undergraduate work at Concord College. I worked on my master’s degree at West Virginia University. I did some graduate work at the University of Maryland, College Park. And I was teaching in Frederick, (Md) until last year before I came to Shepherd. I actually worked at Shepherd as a teacher in the ‘80s until 1985. And of course, now I am back.
Q: What made you start a trilogy?
A:I actually wrote the second book first (Bullwhip). But I didn’t know it was going to be a trilogy. I thought it would be a novel just as any other novel.
Q: So what happened?
A: So, a friend of mine read Bullwhip. She was so taken by the novel, she kept insisting, saying “I want more. I need to know more about this character.” And I told her, “I have nothing more, I have said everything I could say.” So I went on and wrote another novel in Spanish (Dead Time). After that, it appeared to me that I could make Bullwhip into a trilogy and I could present the early years of the character in the first book, The Neophyte.
Q: Tell us about your early writing experiences.
A: I started writing when I was in undergraduate school. I had my first short story published in the student newspaper when I was a sophomore. It was about a man being executed in Cuba. After finishing my master’s degree, I could concentrate more time on writing. I did short stories. That was back in the mid-70s. I wrote a novel called Saga in Spanish. Since that time, I’ve been writing novels. Of course, I’ve been working on this trilogy of satirical novels, of which The Neophyte happens to be the first one. The second novel, Bullwhip, is already finished. I hope it will come out in 2003. I’m still writing the third one, California Fever.
Q: Where do your ideas for characters and plots come from?
A: I don’t think I get them from a single source. It’s some pieces of conversations that I hear, things that I see, things that I read…
Q: Do you do any research before writing?
A: It’s not so much research, it’s just experiences, things in my head. I may have to do research later but… it’s not something that I can research, it just happens.
Q: How do you write? Is it hard for you to write?
A: Well, you always have to write the first draft, of course. Then I go back for correction. I make changes, make additions, delete and so on. Then I print out the second draft that I send to a friend who is another writer. He edits that for me. You need for that (task) someone who is distant from your work, who is impartial. He would return the draft to me with suggestions, corrections or notes on the margin. And based on that I come up with the final draft.
Q: And do you go by chapter or do you write the entire book?
A: I go by chapter. But when I’m writing I don’t think of a chapter. I think of a certain scene. I work on a particular scene that is part of a chapter.
Q: Where do you write?
A: I have a small library in my house surrounded by books and and some music with dictionaries and the computer. I do try to do something every day, whether write or edit, do something related to writing every day.
Q: How do you get inspired?
A: Well, I’ve often said that when I’m writing I’m there only physically. You transport yourself into a different place, world, a different universe, and that’s where you are, that’s where you get your characters, your dialogue and your description and so on.
Q: When do you write?
A: I like to work in the morning because I’m fresh. That’s also the right time when I’m alone in the house. So I can work undisturbed. I can write anytime, but I find it best in the morning.
Q: Has the method you use in working changed since you first began writing?
A: It became easier. These days, we have computers with word processors. When I started, I was using my hands and then I went to the typewriter where you had to go back if you made a mistake. We have better tools today. Computers are wonderful. They make you more prolific and they make your work a little bit easier.
Q: What do you do when you don’t write or teach?
A: I have a passion for automobiles. I have my own shop. I listen to music, jazz is one of my passions as well. I ride my bicylcle. I go to the gymnasium. And of course I like to spend time with my daughter. She is very, very important to me. In fact, when I was finishing the novel (Orisha) I wrote before California Fever, I had talked about the novel with her, she’s just 15. But that night, when I was about to finish the novel, she knew waht the last sentence would be. Before I actually put it down, I stopped working and went to get her in her room and she came down to my library and watched me finish that novel.
Q: Professor Rubio, what tips do you have for young talent?
A: I would tell them to seek help. When I say help, I don’t mean that someone can write for you, but seek the opinion of people who write novels.
Ramses Coly is a communications major at Shepherd College and an intern at the Herald-Mail.