Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Daniel A. Olivas: 5 Books for the Writing of the The Book of Want

It's guest-blogger Wednesday here at Madam Mayo, with Los Angeles-based novelist Daniel Olivas, who has just published a first novel-- though not his first book :The Book of Want (University of Arizona Press). It has been garnering some glowing praise, e.g., from Los Angeles Magazine: "Olivas’s brand of magical realism has a sense of humor about itself, and he succeeds in harnessing the genre’s unique ability to expose what’s beneath the surface"; from Dark Sky Magazine: "Carefully crafted and provocative, The Book of Want is nothing less than a celebration of human desire in all its forms."

I am also honored to have Daniel Olivas again as a guest-blogger because, as a blogger for La Bloga, he was one of my earliest inspirations for Madam Mayo (though it took me a while to appreciate the wisdom of blogging on Mondays, as Daniel does). I plunged into blogging in March of 2006-- ancient history now-- when the form was still so gelatinous and translucent... ayyy, let me put that in plain English: I had no idea what I was doing. Sometimes I think I still don't, that we bloggers are inventing the form as we go. Certainly, to an extent, that is true of any literary genre, including the novel, though we look to those who have tread some ground before us.

On that note, over to you, Daniel!

5 Books I Relied Upon in Writing My New Novel, The Book of Want
By Daniel Olivas

My sixth book of fiction, The Book of Want, is also my first novel (after publishing three short-story collections, a novella and a children’s picture book). As with my previous books, the City of Los Angeles plays a feature role in the novel. This is not surprising because I was born in Los Angeles and have lived here ever since, except for four years when I was a Stanford undergraduate. Because of that, I can reach back to my own history, as well as that of my parents, to paint a portrait of the city that is not a cardboard cutout.

This doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t do research. I think it’s only fair to the reader that I attempt to be as accurate as possible if I mention a particular church or school or park or street and not simply rely on memory which, as we all know, can fade.

So, when I set my novel in various Los Angeles communities, I went back to maps, websites and reference books to double check for accuracy. My novel also dips a bit into the historical relationship between the United States and Mexico during World War II, so I certainly had to hit the books for those portions of my narrative.

Here are but five of the many books that I relied upon in writing my novel:

1. Los Angeles A to Z
(University of California Press) by Leonard Pitt and Dale Pitt

2. Wilshire Boulevard: Grand Concourse of Los Angeles
(Angel City Press) by Kevin Roderick and J. Eric Lynxwiler

3. The Los Angeles Plaza: Sacred and Contested Space
(University of Texas Press) by William David Estrada

4. Modern Latin America
Oxford University Press) by Thomas Skidmore, Peter Smith and James Green

5. Everything You Need to Know About Latino History
(Plume/Penguin) by Himilce Novas

--Daniel A. Olivas

---> For the complete archive of Madam Mayo guest-blogs, click here.
Last up: Diane Saarinen on 5 Sassy and Well-Branded Book Blogs.
Next Up: Richard Newman.