Did you know that here at Iambik, we’ve made audiobooks of all FOUR of Rick Collignon’s Guadalupe novels? Just the thought of that much Rick Collignon on a cool spring day makes my tongue all salty with longing for a tequila in Taos. But until I should be that lucky, I asked Charles Bice, who narrated three of the novels, if that experience left him with any questions for Rick. And, because I might have treated myself vicariously to a whiskey or two (though not in Taos), I added a couple of questions myself.
Charles Bice: Hi, Rick. It was such a pleasure to read your wonderful collection of stories and an added honor to get to narrate a few of them. You really created a world unto itself that was hard to leave behind. So, have you listened to the Guadalupe audiobooks at all? When you wrote the stories did you ‘hear’ the words and the voices in your mind’s ear? How is what you might have heard or expected different from the new audiobook releases?
Rick Collignon: No, I haven’t heard the audiobooks, but I’m looking forward to it. I haven’t heard anyone else read from any of them other than myself so the cadence and sound of them is either my voice or in my head.
I think the voice in all four books came fairly easy to me, or it did once I had the characters. The moment I had Obie Poole in Madewell Brown or Ramona in The Journal of Antonio Montoya, the way they spoke and what they thought fell right into place. The struggles I had were more about who they were. I have a really hard time outlining a book and seem to approach it in a roundabout way, such as, ‘okay, I’m going to write a book about Negro League baseball and then I’m going to have a ballplayer mysteriously die in Guadalupe, NM. And then I’ll have his granddaughter tell half the story from somewhere else and some other guy tell the other half of the story and then they’ll fall in love…or something.’ And then I end up writing and throwing away until some spark hits. In Madewell it was finally seeing Rachael as a young girl in relationship to Obie Poole that kicked the book in gear. In The Journal of Antonio Montoya it was having Loretta sit up in the coffin and speak. None of those were planned. It’s sort of like being lost in the woods for a year and suddenly finding a path. But once I see it everything seems to fall into place.
CB: Is there a real village somewhere that served as the inspiration for Guadalupe? From where did you derive the templates for the characters?
RC: I’ve lived in New Mexico for thirty-five years, a lot of that in a small village just south of the Colorado border. I used that village geographically for the setting and stole from everywhere for the characters, from myself to old midwest farmers to my father to old relationships to my kids to moments of sadness to whatever. I imagine the people in the books are composites of things until they all meld together into one identity. Right now when I think of them, they are themselves and no one else.
CB: Your stories are leavened with magical realism, giving them a Latin American flavor above and beyond the obvious cultural backdrop. How did you derive this style? In general, who are your literary role models?
RC: If anybody influenced me, it was Gabriel Marquez. Especially One Hundred Years of Solitude. I wasn’t even writing at the time I read it, but the experience was that anything can happen at any time and realizing that freedom of expression opened up an enormous door for me.
CB: While each book can be read entirely independently, they are also highly interwoven in terms of characters and events. Even Madewell Brown, which was released after the initial ‘trilogy,’ is seamlessly melded in among its predecessors.
That said, the last book in the collection, Madewell Brown, represents somewhat of a departure relative to the first three. In it we are introduced to places, characters and events from far beyond Guadalupe. How did you come to create the Madewell Brown story line? How much of the series was planned or outlined ahead of writing?
RC: I always thought I wanted to write three books about the village of Guadalupe, but what got me after I burned it down was that I didn’t want to leave. Which created some dilemmas since I’d freaking destroyed the place. Anyway it was great to hang out with Obie Poole along the river… what that means, I don’t know.
Miette Elm: You came up with a musical playlist for the Largehearted Boy site where you say you “don’t have time to sit and listen to” music. That said, do any other sounds particularly stand out to you, or bring you great comfort? What sounds strike your particular chords?
RC: That was tough to write. My brain doesn’t seem to function in a linear way and when asked to write about what influenced me musically was enough to make my brain stop in place. I think for me it’s more like sounds, like the sound of a kid crying or one note a singer will hit or the hollow sound of the wind. Stuff like that.
ME: What literature excites you the most right now? Any specific authors you’re recommending to friends these days?
RC: For the last few years I’ve been reading Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, EX Ferrars and PG Wodehouse. I’ve disappeared into village life in England where someone’s either getting murdered or doing something stupid. And since each writer has written about a hundred books, I think I’m going to be stuck there for awhile longer.
Rick Collignon’s four novels in the Guadalupe series, as narrated by Linette Geisel and Charles Bice, can be purchased for $6.99 individually, or you can pick up the entire series for $19.99. The novels are published in print by Unbridled Books. May they leave you dreaming of hangover-free tequila and hot white sands. Thanks for your time, Rick!