If you caught my goof last week, that was episode 453, not 463. I’m ahead of myself.
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Sarah Wendell: Hello there, and welcome to episode number 454 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. If you were listening last week when I said it was episode 463, I was wrong. That was 453, this is 454, and I should really have nothing to do with numbers ever. But today we’re going to talk about food, Key West, more food, writing bilingual characters, family drama, baseball, and more about writing with Priscilla Oliveras and Amanda! Anchored Hearts, Priscilla Oliveras’s latest book, is out now, and there is a lot to talk about. And this book made Amanda full-on sob, and so we have a really good time talking about it, but do not worry: no spoilers.
I will have links to all of the books we talk about and, of course, all the places you can find Priscilla Oliveras on the internet at smartbitchestrashybooks.com/podcast.
Hello to our Patreon community! You are all wonderful. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate each and every pledge, because each and every pledge makes every transcript possible, and when there’s lots and lots of people talking in the podcast, the transcript is extremely important! So thank you for being part of our Patreon. Hello and welcome to Kate, who just joined our community, and if you would like to join, have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches!
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But now it is time for us to have way too much fun with Priscilla Oliveras. I will be back after the episode with a terrible joke because that’s – well, I mean, that’s why you’re listening, right? Of course, I figured. Let’s welcome Priscilla Oliveras.
Priscilla Oliveras: Hola, everyone! I am Priscilla Oliveras, and I wave like you can see me waving? But it, it’s just kind of – [laughs] – so I am Priscilla Oliveras. I am a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance with a Latinx flavor. So I write kind of, I like to think of them as heartwarming, sensual romances with everyday familia, family drama that celebrates the power of healthy love and relationships in our lives.
Sarah: And food porn.
Priscilla: And food porn. Yes –
Sarah: And food porn.
Priscilla: Yes, I will say with the Keys to Love series, I have really enjoyed being able to add – and in the first, in the Matched to Perfection series, there’s, there’s a little bit, and I do have a set of recipe cards, like one recipe that goes with each book, but in the Keys to Love series, like, in, in book one, in Island Affair, they go to eat at El Meson de Pepe, a place that my family and I always go whenever we go back to Key West, and so it’s fun, it was fun to take readers there to dinner? And in Anchored Hearts, Miranda’s obviously doesn’t exist, but I could take you to where the building would be in Key West. And so it was fun perusing the menu and, at, at Miranda’s and sharing, you know, dishes with readers.
Sarah: First of all, congratulations on the –
Priscilla: Oh, thank you!
Sarah: – on the release of Anchored Hearts. What is your, your sort of elevator pitch for this book? What will readers find in this book in addition –
Sarah: – to food porn, travel porn –
Sarah: – island setting, healthy dose of Spanish. I, I have to say, I speak Spanish, but it is, it is very much a second language for me.
Sarah: I don’t have the equal fluency? The way in which you incorporate Spanish writing into the book was –
Sarah: – waking up the Spanish part of my brain?
Priscilla: Oh yay!
Sarah: I enjoyed that so very much.
Priscilla: Oh nice! I, I try hard for, it’s – and, and I hope I, I hit that balance, and if, if there’s ever a reader that, if you’re, there’s something that you don’t know and you have to google, please DM me and let me know so I can try to do better next time, but most of the characters that I’ve written thus far that are Latinx are, you know, are fluent and, and speak the language. So, like me, here at home with my, my mom and dad, Mami, Papi, and I live together, so there’s a healthy dose of Spanglish, and –
Priscilla: – go, going on like while we’re cooking dinner, when we’re you know, at, at any given moment, and that would be true of the characters, so I have that in, in the writing; however, when I say something in Spanish I don’t translate it in my head –
Priscilla: – in English, so that shouldn’t happen on the page, but I don’t want a reader to feel like, ooh, I’ve got to go to Google to figure it out? So I try in, like, the next sentence or two, in context, to make it clear. Like, the easiest example I can think of is in Her Perfect Affair. It’s Rosa’s story in, in the Matched to Perfection series, and the oldest and youngest, so Yazmine and Lilí are arguing, and Yazmine tells Lilí, cállate la boca! Right? And I don’t want the reader to, like, you know, to jump over to Google, so Lilí’s next response is, don’t tell me to shut my mouth! I can say whatever I want! So I hope that now you get that she said shut your mouth or –
Priscilla: – something to that effect. So I – but the, you know, the story continues without like eh! Okay –
Priscilla: – let me teach you a little bit of Spanish now, kind of. So, so I hope that happens, you know, for most readers. Besides food and Spanglish and hot spots in, in Key West, in and around Key West in both books, I think. So for Anchored Hearts it’s second-chance romance. It’s two high school sweethearts who had thought that they would graduate from high school and kind of go see the world a little bit, and, and Anamaría thought go see the world and then come back home, like Key West is our home base, you know, and, and we can still doing it, but – we could still do our own things. Alejandro did not want to stay home and take over the familia restaurant; he wanted to go off and be a, a photographer, commercial photographer, and so he created a huge rift with his father. So when they graduated from high school, Anamaría stayed because there was, you know, her, something was going on with her family, Papi was sick, and so she stayed, thinking she would eventually go, but Alejandro shifted on her and said, look, I’m leaving, and I’m not coming back, and so they, you know, they, they wound up breaking up, and it’s now twelve years later. Alejandro has never been home because of the rift with his father, and he’s forced to come back because of an injury, and so that’s kind of where the book starts. You’ll have a lot of meddling mamis; both of their moms are best friends, and they are just convinced that their kids need to be together. So you’ll have a lot of meddling mamis to kind of add a little bit of levity, but at its heart, I, Anchored Hearts is a book about learning to kind of come into your own while at the same time, like, maybe honoring those who came before you and learning how to make room and support your, your loved ones, because Alejandro does have to learn that he really held it against Anamaría for not going at, you know, following him. But had she followed him – and I, and I don’t think I’m giving anything away, you know, because she says it fairly early on – had she followed him, she just would have been following him and his dreams. At eighteen, she didn’t know what she wanted. Unfortunately, she figured it out, but she’s done what a lot of people may do is, she’s settled, thinking that she’s going for her dreams, but she has been waiting, and she did not realize that until recently, like recently before the book opens, and so she is ready to just go, you know, go her own way and go for her dreams, and then Alejandro comes back and things kind of get a little muddled. But it’s about finding your way while still honoring, you know, like I said, those who came before and, and supporting those who are important in your life and making room for them.
Amanda: It’s inter-, interesting because Sarah and I have very different reading tastes in terms of tropes that we like?
Sarah: Extremely different. Oh yeah, we don’t agree on anything.
Amanda: – opposite. No, we don’t. And I don’t – I wouldn’t say I don’t enjoy it, but I don’t normally pick up second-chance romances, especially not, like, second chances where the, the two characters were, like, childhood sweethearts. That does not tick any of my boxes. [Laughs]
Priscilla: Ooh –
Amanda: I read this book in one sitting. I think I tweeted –
Amanda: – at you, Priscilla, about how, like, I am sobbing reading this book. [Laughs]
Priscilla: Ohhh –
Amanda: It was such a, like, ripped my heart out of my chest and –
Priscilla: Oh gosh!
Amanda: – you know, slowly piece it back together. Like, I just remember the first meeting –
Amanda: – or the, the reunion between –
Priscilla: That’s when I think you, yeah –
Priscilla: That was the tweet, yeah.
Amanda: Yeah! The reunion scene where, like, Alejandro is injured and Anamaría is –
Sarah: He’s bad injured too!
Priscilla: Yeah. Oh yeah.
Sarah: Like, he cannot get up off the couch! He’s –
Sarah: – stuck!
Amanda: And Anamaría has a, like a medical background; she’s, like, an EM-, EMT for local –
Priscilla: She’s a firefighter paramedic –
Amanda and Priscilla: Yeah.
Amanda: And also, like, starting a physical training, like, business. So –
Amanda: – you know, of course the family invites her over to, like, take a look at him, but –
Amanda: But there’s that scene where she’s, like, helping him out of his, like, wheelchair because, like, his, one of his legs is just like held together by pins at this point.
Priscilla: It’s in a traction – yeah.
Amanda: And, like, that scene where, like, this is the first time they’re seeing each other in over a decade. They’re in close quarters. Everything is, like, like, raw physically, raw emotionally, and oh my God, I’m just, I was, like, sobbing like – [laughs]
Amanda: I mean, it’s good!
Priscilla: Thank you for saying that! [Laughs] Thank you for saying that.
Amanda: But it’s, oh my gosh, it’s, it was brutal. It was, in a good way. [Laughs]
Priscilla: Oh good, ‘cause I will tell you, this was the, the book written and revised and all of that during the pandemic. It was hard for me to be writing, and I have some friends that were, like, über-productive, you know, that, that were just – but I had a really hard time shutting out the outside world like I normally can? The F-word is more in this book than it’s been in any of my other books –
Priscilla: – and I said, oh my gosh, is that, like, my pandemic stress coming out in some way?
Amanda: Of course.
Priscilla: The different layers, like the research I did about the Peter Pan, you know, Operation Peter Pan, Pedro Pan, I guess the same sense of responsibility that I felt in, in Island Affair with Sarah’s OSFED, her eating disorder? You know, all the research I did – so the same thing with the Operation Peter Pan: I just wanted to be respectful. It was import-, it was an important part of the, the Miranda familia? Anyway, so that, just that sense of responsibility I put on myself and, and knowing that the emotional struggles of last year, I just am, am hopeful that, that it comes through in, in the writing, so thank you for, for saying that, you know.
Amanda: [Laughs] So switching to something a little bit lighter is, like, this book –
Amanda: – and the previous book are set in Key West.
Amanda: I am a Floridian – no longer, but I was. [Laughs]
Priscilla: Oh! Where in Florida?
Amanda: So I was born in Fort Lauderdale –
Amanda: – and then my family moved to north Florida, but I lived in Florida for twenty-four years before I left.
Priscilla: Ooh! Okay.
Amanda: So I’ve been to Key West many times; I’m very familiar. Is that where you live now, Priscilla?
Priscilla: No, I’m actually in Gainesville, home of the Florida Gators; go Gators.
Amanda: Oh, that’s right! We talked about that!
Amanda: My brother went to –
Priscilla: Yeah. [Laughs]
Amanda: Okay, yeah.
Amanda: And I told you I was Florida State, and you’re like U of F.
Amanda: Sorry to hear that. [Laughs]
Priscilla: Yes. I’m so sorry for you.
Amanda: It’s okay. [Laughs] Everything’s worked out.
Amanda: Key West, you create such a sense of place –
Amanda: – and it really does, like, come alive in your books, as someone who has been there. Did you enjoy writing about it? Was it kind of like, you know, armchair travel a little bit, like trying to revisit Key West in your writing? What was that like?
Priscilla: I lived in Key West. My dad was in the military, in the Navy, and so we moved to Key West summer before my seventh-grade year, so junior high, high school was all in Key West, and then when I left for college and got married, the early years of my marriage, if I was going home, you know, like “home,” and to visit my parents, it was to Key West. And so I’ve always wanted to set a book or a series, like the very first romance I wrote was set in Key West, and it sucked for a whole bunch of reasons; it will never see the light of day –
Priscilla: – but so I knew I wanted to do that, mostly just, like, the idea of, like, taking readers home with me to the island, and so the Keys to Love series was born to, born from that. Mean, like, it just started out – typically I, like with the Matched to Perfection series, it was that Yazmine came to me. With the Keys to Love series it was, I wanted to set something in Key West, I was trying to think about tropes, and, and frankly, my, like, my sister and I grew up and our families were close with another family that has five brothers, and four of them are firefighter paramedics, and we’re still in touch, so I, so that trope immediately kind of came to mind, ‘cause I was like, oh my gosh, the Sellers boys – I know that I could, like, pick their brains or – and sure enough, two of them helped me. I went down to Key West for a weekend to research – not just to go vacation and, and meet up with friends – and, and I got to spend a day doing ride-alongs and hanging out at two fire stations.
Priscilla: And Anamaría kind of – I knew I didn’t want all brothers? I think maybe just being a mom of girls, I wanted to have a sister in the mix. Starting out, it was just wanting to take readers home, and then the difference in the two books – Island Affair is kind of like an homage, like a welcome to, for visitors –
Priscilla: – right? So if you’ve visited Key West, I hope that throughout the book the things, some of the things that they do kind of help, like, resurface some of your memories. If you’ve never been, then I hope that you feel like you’re at South Beach in Key West with your toes in the sand with, with Luis and Sara. But Anchored Hearts, having grown up similar to Anamaría and Alejandro, who, granted, are years younger than me, and, and having been able to go back to the island, I know, like, how the island has changed. Anchored Hearts is more like – I don’t know; I don’t want to say like a love letter, ‘cause that sounds so sappy? But it, it allowed me to write –
Amanda: [Laughs] It’s okay! It’s okay to be sappy!
Priscilla: But, like, when Anamaría talks about the kids hanging out at Higgs Beach or at Astro City Park, that was us! You know, and we would hang out there till ten, and the cops would come around and say, hey, it’s closed; you know, kick you out, and, and you’d drive around, and then you’d come back and hang out some more –
Priscilla: – until they would come by and it’d be like, hey, you’ve got to get out of here! You know?
Amanda: I think you can really tell that you, you have an affinity and a love for Key West?
Priscilla: Last year when Island Affair was releasing, we, we were, we had scheduled, like, a book signing at Books & Books, and I was going to go live from the southernmost point, from the beach where Luis and, and Sara go. If I can later, then, you know, later this summer, safely, I want to go, and I figure, well, I’ll just go to places in both books, you know –
Priscilla: – and either do an IG Live or a Facebook Live or just record it and then, and post it to kind of take readers, you know, with, with me, like, in person.
Sarah: One thing that really spoke to me about the books, the difference between the two of them, like you said, that Island Affair is like vacationing there. Anchored Hearts sort of gave me a sense of what it’s like to live in a place where most people come for vacation.
Sarah: I love that part. The other thing that really spoke to me was the line where Anamaría says, I wasn’t sure I wanted to turn what helps me refill my well into a job-job? Now, as, as someone who has done that –
Sarah: – twice, I really related to, to Anamaría’s hesitation and also to Alejandro’s and Anamaría’s ability to make their creative outlet into a job, but in very different ways. Is that something that you’ve experienced with your writing as well?
Priscilla: Oh gosh. I think there are, there are a lot of writers who, like me, would love to write full-time.
Priscilla: Right? It’s, it’s a lot of pressure, and I think things have changed with the advent of self-publishing, right?
Priscilla: So now there are more authors, percentage-wise, who maybe aren’t, who are, you know, are making a living with their writing, but as, as a single person, I have a lot of, you know, I have other things I – healthcare and, and, you know, whatev-, you know, all, all those kinds of things?
Amanda: The, the less sexy parts of, like – [laughs] –
Sarah: Right, yeah.
Priscilla: The adulting part that’s –
Priscilla: – not so fun of life? So that’s why I, like, I teach. You know, I’m adjunct faculty at, at my alma mater for my MFA at Seton Hill University, and I have an online romance writing class for Ed2Go. The thing is, the good thing about being a writer is, as long as I have my laptop I can, I can write anywhere, right? I can work anywhere, ‘cause there’s always a book that needs to be written or that needs to be revised or that needs to be copyedited, or there’s promo that needs to be done, right, so business stuff that needs to be done. However, the bad thing is, all I need is my laptop and I can be writing.
Priscilla: It’s great. So –
Priscilla: – it’s like a Catch-22: you could always be working –
Priscilla: – and yes, there are, like, the, the business side, like the, the money side of the business is, is not my cup of, you know, that, that’s not what I enjoy? I’m not, like, a numbers and data person. I love playing with my characters, and I, and I enjoy promo and, you know, you know, things like this or, gosh, when we have face-to-face events or Zoom events, you know, I enjoy talking about not just my books but any books, and Romancelandia stuff in, in general, so yes, I could do it all the time, but it is draining, so I think what, to that point about, you don’t want it to turn into a job-job is to take those moments to refill your well.
Priscilla: But, you know, if it’s stepping back and picking up a book that I love, that inspires me as a reader and, and a writer, you know, to, to make sure that I’m, I’m remembering the joy and what brought me to wanting to do this in the first place? And it’s also stepping back to enjoy the little, the little accomplishments. Like one day – so this was pre-pandemic – so I was on the phone, driving back from, like, running all these errands, and I was talking with my youngest, and I was just going over, like, when I got home, my long to-do list of writer’s stuff that I needed to do. It was like, do this for this book and do this for that book and, and I pulled into the driveway, and I was like, well, I’ve got to get going, you know, ‘cause I’ve got a lot to do, and, and she said, Mom, can we just stop and take a moment to think, like, for how long you, you wanted to be doing these things. Like, you’re doing what you wanted to do and that’s pretty awesome! This coming from my youngest, it made me stop and think about, yeah, I, I need to. Instead of rushing on to the next thing so that the job, you know, the job that I love becomes a job, before that happens, make sure that I’m taking the time to enjoy what brought me to it in the, in the first place. So it’s just trying to remember to do that.
Sarah: Yeah. I get it: I’ve had to develop other hobbies that are very far –
Sarah: – from romance writing, podcasts, and even reading, I find. You know, sometimes I can’t turn off the analytical –
Sarah: – part of my brain. Like –
Sarah: – is this working? How is this working? What’s the structure of this? Why is it working on me?
Sarah: How is it – yeah, I can’t turn that off easily, so it –
Sarah: – it can be a challenge to separate out the, the parts that refill the well –
Sarah: – from the parts that are draining when they’re all part of the same whole.
Priscilla: Yes. Yeah. Well, and I will say, pandemic times.
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Priscilla: Right, I’ve, I’ve realized that things that I’ve – I read an article and it was talking about those secondary kind of layer or level, whatever you want to call it, of relationships that we –
Priscilla: – haven’t had?
Sarah: I saw that!
Priscilla: Right? You know, so, like, the Starbucks barista – I don’t go and write in Starbucks very often – or not just Starbucks, sorry, but in public very often, ‘cause I have a tendency, like just yesterday, I told my mom, I was typing, he smacked her, his shoulder, and I, like, smacked myself like my character would, or I’ll wave or something, and so I don’t really want to be working in public places and, and doing that.
Priscilla: But that was the example in the article, you know, right. So it was like, the Starbucks barista that you don’t really know, but, like, she know, you know, you go regularly enough that she’s like, how’s your kids? Or, so for me it was like my Zumba community that I would go –
Priscilla: – four times a week, all ages of people. Some, I didn’t know their names and they didn’t know my name, but, like, we would know things about each other, and we would greet each other, and so those little things that I miss because those were ways that I stepped out of my cave or out of the classroom. You know, out of the author or instructor mode and –
Priscilla: – just enjoyed life. Or just enjoyed doing something that filled me up, you know –
Priscilla: – with people, you know. So it was finding those things or those ways to refill the well over the past year.
Sarah: Yeah, for sure.
Amanda: There was like a tweet I saw that – you know, I’m also a bit of a homebody and I don’t mind, like, not going outside –
Amanda: – but it’s like, it was a tweet like, I didn’t go a lot of places, but I did go some places. [Laughs]
Priscilla: Yes! Yes.
Amanda: And –
Amanda: – I got my second shot this week, but, like, I –
Priscilla: Oh yay!
Amanda: – I hadn’t had an eyebrow wax in over a year –
Amanda: – and all I wanted to do is, like, lie on that table with the aesthetician and just have stupid small talk for ten minutes –
Amanda: – about, like, what are your summer plans? While she, like, rips hair out of my face.
Amanda: Like, that’s all I wanted –
Amanda: – and I got to do that, like, last week, and it was, like, the thing that I’m most happy that I was able to do! [Laughs]
Amanda: I haven’t had dinner with my friends, but oh my God, that eyebrow wax, like –
Amanda: – changed my life.
Priscilla: I, I had my first, like, dinner with, with friends this past weekend, ‘cause it was someone’s birthday. Before then, it was Zoom or, I had a big milestone birthday in December, so, like, four friends came over and we ate out back. I got my second shot, like, I will be, this Friday, like, fully vaccinated, so –
Priscilla: – I, I have an airplane ticket to go see my, my middle daughter and her family for Mother’s Day weekend, and I can’t wait, because it’s the longest I’ve ever been in her life, and, and my youngest too, who I’m trying to get out at some point, and I do have to fly, ‘cause it’s, it’s up north, but we’ve already talked about, okay, precautions and my face shield and, and all that, but I just can’t wait to, to hug her! You know, those, like, hugs are so important!
Amanda: What a coincidence that you’re leaving Florida for Mother’s Day and I’m going to Florida – [laughs] – for Mother’s Day!
Priscilla: Oh really? [Laughs] I’ll be up in Philly for Mother’s Day, and then, then my oldest in New York, so, in the city, so I’m taking the train over afterwards, and actually I’ll, my, I should be in the city when Summer in the City releases.
Amanda and Sarah: Ooh!
Priscilla: So I’m going to try to –
Amanda: Take some good photos. [Laughs]
Priscilla: – similar, similar to what I want to do in, with Key West later on, if I can, I’m going to, like, take some pictures from the places that are in that novella –
Priscilla: – with Mateo and Vanessa, yeah. But mostly, I’m just excited to see my girls. [Laughs]
Sarah: That actually brings me very nicely to my next question, which is about familia.
Sarah: There’s a lot of exploration of family and boundaries or lack thereof of boundaries –
Sarah: – and the, and –
Priscilla: Those mamis!
Sarah: Yeah – and the, and the conflict that is really nuanced and tricky between the unconditional welcome of family and then the unwavering expectation –
Sarah: – of family and that those things often go together. And Anamaría and Alejandro’s families construct a lot of the motivation for each of them, even, I don’t think, without realizing how much motivation they are –
Sarah: – really creating, either with them or against them.
Sarah: What were, what were some of the scenes that helped you establish that conflict for readers? Because it’s, it’s a completely different experience when you’re in a family that is so intergenerally, intergenera-, th- – I’m going to say this; I’m going to do it!
Sarah: Intergenerationally connected like that?
Priscilla: Yes. And I think it’s a, it’s a lot of families. Yes, it, it is, you know, widely seen in Latinx, you know, familias, but in, in a lot of other – you know, like, I have a close friend, and she’s Irish, and we joke about, like, why our families are – we might be having, we might have different languages going in and different foods on our, like, regular tables, but, but the dynamics are, are similar –
Priscilla: – so I’m hoping that that’s something universal enough that, that people can identify with at least on some level? But in, in particular here, yes, the, the mamis meddle, and it’s a, it’s too add, I hope, like, a little levity, because of, you know, like, Alejandro’s relationship with his dad is really, you know, is really str-, filled with strife, and in part it’s because they’re both so hardheaded? The idea of how familia sticks together just really quickly, I think, you, I hope you see it in the first scene that Enrique is there with Alejandro and they’re walking to the art gallery, and, and Enrique says, you know what, like, it doesn’t matter how close we are; when push comes to shove, I, I’ve got Anamaría’s back. You, you know –
Priscilla: – right, and, and, and familia’s going to come first with me. It’s the same thing like in book one, in Island Affair: Luis and Enrique are at odds, and even though they’re not talking to each other, Luis at some point mentions, you know, like, his brother needs something, and, and they’re going to be there for each other, even if they’re going to be pissed off that they’re helping each other, they’re going to be helping each other there, because that’s what familia does.
But I also see, I hope, in the scene with Anamaría and her dad, when she’s over there for dinner and Ale calls that he needs help, right, because Cici’s gone into labor, and, and Anamaría’s papi walks her down to, to her car, and he, and he mentions about how, you stayed, you know, all those years ago, you know, was because of me. Like, don’t hold, don’t be, don’t be holding yourself back because of me, because of us. So I feel like in Anamaría you see the pressure and expectations that a, that a lot of us put on ourselves, that we project on others. Right? And she’s kind of living in those, and she’s needing to learn how to swim through them –
Priscilla: – to be who she really can be. And Alejandro, his father is, like, weighing him down with all these expectations, and he’s trying to figure out how he can honor the legacy that is rightfully important to his dad, but that Ale wants to honor in his own way. I don’t want to give it away, but if you read any of my books then you know that at least Alejandro and Anamaría figure things out. I, my intention was to just show the different layers and the different ways that familia can help or hinder, or how we hinder ourselves –
Priscilla: – in those relationships as well.
Amanda: We spoke earlier already about food, because how could you not.
Amanda: Also, speaking of Cuban food –
Amanda: – I need to just talk about Gainesville Cuban food?
Amanda: Have you eaten at Emiliano’s in Gainesville?
Priscilla: Emiliano’s? Yes, but you know what –
Priscilla: Emiliano’s closed! It did!
Priscilla: Yes, it did, so.
Amanda: No, Emiliano’s was a staple when I lived in Gainesville –
Amanda: – and that’s where my brother went for his, like, UF graduation dinner –
Priscilla: Oh, yum. It was good food.
Amanda: Is Flaco’s still –
Amanda: – in business?
Priscilla: Well, do you know, I, I will say, you know what? I have not heard that it’s closed, but it’s downtown, and I have not been –
Priscilla: – downtown, so –
Amanda: Can’t take two –
Priscilla: Yeah, pre-pandemic? I will find out, and I can message you, but yes.
Priscilla: I have eaten at Flaco’s after salsa night with girlfriends –
Amanda: Oh my gosh.
Priscilla: – which I totally miss. Yeah. It’s, I mean, dancing in your living room is fun –
Amanda: Yeah. Oh yeah.
Priscilla: – but it’s just not quite the same as –
Priscilla: – you know, in a room full of girlfriends and, you know, other friends and hot and sweaty and –
Priscilla: – and all that kind of fun stuff.
Amanda: So for Cuban food, do you have some your favorite foods in Anchored Hearts? And I know you’re doing preorder bonuses for Love’s Sweet Arrow.
Amanda: Was it hard to choose which recipes to include in the preorder bonus?
Priscilla: In the preorder bonus – so if you, for anybody who preorders – I almost said Island Affair – but anybody who preorders Anchored Hearts – you can get Island Affair also from Love’s Sweet Arrow – but if you, if you preorder Anchored Hearts from Love’s Sweet Arrow, you will get a signed bookplate – and I sending them extra so that if you, anybody orders one of my other books they can, they can include a signed bookplate for that as well – but specifically for Anchored Hearts, you’ll get a signed bookplate and two recipe cards that are straight from Miranda’s, and one is Ropa Vieja and the other one is Picadillo, and I chose those two because they’re Anamaría and Alejandro’s favorite meals.
Sarah: We are about to get into some outstanding family stories from Priscilla, but before we get to that part I have two things to tell you about.
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And now back to my conversation with Amanda and Priscilla Oliveras. We’re going to talk about baseball and some incredible family stories. Let’s do this.
Sarah: Speaking of Love’s Sweet Arrow, first –
Sarah: – feliz temporada de beísbol.
Priscilla: Ai, si! Encanta!
Priscilla: I love it!
Sarah: With yo soy de Pittsburgh –
Priscilla: Ai! Dios mio –
Sarah: Y soy – I have to be a Pirates fan. That’s the –
Priscilla: Oh my gosh, you guys almost swept us over the weekend; it was terrible!
Sarah: I know! I don’t know how that happened; we’re not, we don’t usually play you guys and win?
Priscilla: I don’t either! I don’t either.
Sarah: Yeah, it was very strange. But my husband went to Northwestern, and –
Sarah: – deliberately set up his schedule so that he would have afternoons free during baseball season –
Sarah: – during that quarter and would sit in the bleachers like every damn day that he could.
Priscilla: Oh my God, I’m jealous!
Sarah: So he is, we are both Pirates and Cubs fans. How did you come to be a Cubs fan?
Priscilla: People ask me that all the time because I’ve never lived in Chicago, even though the Matched to Perfection series is set there?
Priscilla: Chicago’s one, is one of my favorite cities, but I had never even visited Chicago until my youngest was born. But I became a Cubs fan because my mom’s older brother, so my tío, played baseball growing up, and so by the time I came into the picture he was playing and then moved into managing winter ball and ball for, in the, in the MLB league, so in the farm teams and then eventually moved up, and when I was younger and my sister and I would spend all summer, like school would, would get out on Friday, and by Sunday we were in Puerto Rico spending the summer with my abuela until school was going to start again. And during winter ball in Puerto Rico –
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Priscilla: – there were young, there were young ball players that played for the Cubs and the Braves, but they played winter ball in Puerto Rico and lived with my abuela. So summer, while I was there, she was watching the Cubs on WGN and the Braves on, on TBS to follow those young boys. You know to see how, you know – and because then they would be coming back. So I grew up cheering for the Cubs and the Braves, and then in high school I remember watching a Cubs game with my abuela and her talking about wanting to go to Wrigley, and I said, some day you and I are going to go. I’m going to, I’m going to, I’m going to take you there. And then flash forward to a few years later and I married and my youngest was born? We, my uncle was hired to be the bench coach for the Cubs under Jim Riggleman, and so for three years he was with the Cubs. So that first season –
Sarah: That’s it!
Priscilla: My, my abuela and I spent – and my youngest, ‘cause I was nursing – spent a week in Chicago with my uncle. We got to meet Harry Caray, and it was, it’s, like, one of the best memories with, you know, with my abuela. That first game, she was just like a giggly school girl. She was just so excited to be there, and then the Sunday that we were there, we got up, we went to Mass and we were at the church, and she told me, whenever you visit a church for the first time, you pray for three things. And so we prayed; we went, you know, we went to the game; we came home; and that night I’m lying in bed with, beside her, and I feel her, like, start, like, she’s, like shaking, and I, I got, I got nervous, like is something wrong? She was laughing, and I, and I said, what happened? Like, que pasa? That day at the game, Jim Riggleman got in a fight with the umpire and he got thrown out of the game, and so my uncle became the manager of record for that game, and one of the three things that she had prayed for that morning was to see my, to live to see my uncle manage a game in the big leagues.
Sarah: Oh my gosh!
Priscilla: And it happened at that game.
Priscilla: So at that point we, you know, I became really diehard Cubs fans, and when we lived in, I lived in the St. Louis area, the metro St. Louis area for about eight years. If the Cubs were home for Mother’s Day, that’s what I wanted to do Mother’s Day weekend. We would drive up to Chicago and, and see the Cubs. And I have a Cubs tattoo; that’s how – in Holiday Home Run, Ben is a former Chicago Cubs pitcher. And Mateo in Lights Out, I wrote that during the pandemic, but it was like a breath of fresh air amongst the angst of Anchored Hearts. It’s, Mateo is a rising Broadway star, but in – a la Lin-Manuel – but his big musical that’s opening, it’s opening night of his musical, and it’s a musical about Roberto Clemente, and –
Priscilla: – who, who, if you don’t know is a – well, you know, as a pitcher of Pirates, right? But he’s a –
Sarah: Oh! It’s, it’s –
Priscilla: – he’s an MLB Hall of Famer –
Priscilla: – from Puerto Rico, and in Lights Out it’s Mateo’s grandfather who played and was mentored by Clemente, and in my real life it’s my uncle who played and was mentored by Clemente, and so the stories that Mateo shares and, and he talks about a picture that his, his abuelo was in, that’s, like, you know, family memories and, and stories that my uncle would share with me, so writing Lights Out was, it was a way, like, I got to combine my love of Broadway and my love of baseball and my love of familia into that little, little novella. I, I loved it. I, I want someone to write now, like, the, the Roberto Clemente musical, ‘cause I want to –
Sarah: Oh my gosh!
Priscilla: – I want to be in the audience! [Laughs]
Sarah: Speak that into being! That would be amazing!
Priscilla: Yes, yes, yeah.
Amanda: You know, if Lin-Manuel Miranda is listening to the podcast.
Priscilla: Yes! I, I want –
Amanda: If you’re out there – [laughs] –
Priscilla: I want to try to get him a copy of my book, so, but I’m kind of seeing how I might be able to get that. But, but besides that, just writing the musical was – writing the musical! – writing the novella was, was a nice, you know, like, I got, I got to get lost in, in worlds that are important to me, and hopefully then that shows on the page. I don’t know. [Laughs]
But that’s the long answer to your how-did-you-become-a-Cubs –
Sarah: Porque familia! That’s why!
Priscilla: Yes, yes. And I will tell you, when we lived in St. Louis, my then-husband tried to say, you’re, you know, we’re in St. Louis; you should become a Cardinals fan!
Sarah: That’s not how that works!
Priscilla: Yeah! And, and –
Sarah: That’s a, that’s a hard no! Uh-uh! [Laughs]
Priscilla: Yes, yeah! And I, we would go to their games, and I would wear Cubs, you know, Cubs gear –
Priscilla: – even if they weren’t playing the Cubs, and one time he was like, can’t you just get a, a, get a Cardinals shirt? You know –
Priscilla: – even when they’re not playing Card- – so you know what, I found a red shirt that had the Cubs’ logo on it, and I wore –
Amanda: Like, this is as close as it’s going to get.
Priscilla: I was like, my abuela will roll over, if not rise up with a chancla in her hand ready to smack me –
Priscilla: – if, if I even, so no.
Amanda: Earlier you mentioned, you know, you, you’re adjunct at Set-, Seton Hill –
Amanda: – and you have an MFA in Popular Fiction and you’re teaching. What do you like about teaching writing? And I’m, I’m sure we’re both curious about what, like, your assignments and curriculum entail.
Priscilla: Well, I’m adjunct here at a local college, and that’s business writing –
Amanda: Oh yeah.
Priscilla: – so it’s not, so – very, totally useful in real life, but not creative writing.
But for Seton Hill, and I’m adjunct faculty there. It’s their Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction, so it’s all genre fiction. You can choose, there’s horror, there’s sci-fi, there’s fantasy, there’s women’s fiction, YA, romance, and, and that’s –
Amanda: I would take all of those! That sounds –
Priscilla: I know, yeah. It’s a, it’s an amazing program. I love, I loved it as a student. I kept saying, I could keep coming back to residency if I didn’t have to pay tuition –
Priscilla: – and now I get to go back to residency, you know, as a mentor, as adjunct faculty, and, and I love it. So there’s no, like, text really, other than every, every semester, my, the students that I mentor, like, you have a mentor meeting at the beginning of the semester and you sign a contract for, like, how many pages you’re going to write monthly, all that kind of stuff? And there’s always, one of the components is a how-to book. So that can change, that, that changes; I don’t have, like, a set, like, you’re going to read this, because obviously it’s about what does the student think they need to – or, or together, what do we think they need to work on with their thesis manuscript or, you know, that kind of thing, so it changes.
But, like, with my online class for Ed2Go, that’s a continuing education course that starts, it’s like the third Wednesday of, of every month a new course starts, and they’re like run for eight-week sessions? The recommended resources that I have there are things like always Deb Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. Even though, you know, I teach it, I still go back to that book and, and use those tools with all of my, you know, with every book that I start. We talk about Jack Bickham’s, it’s not Scene and Sequel – that’s always what I call it, so I hate that I cannot remember the name now [Scene & Structure]. In the Ed2Go class we cover a wide variety of, of topics from, like, creating your characters to GMC to, to plotting to the basic craft, other craft, but it goes pretty quickly. We, we can’t really dive deep, and so I try to provide resources that, you’re interested in learning more about GMC than what we’ve discussed? You know, here’s a great book. Scene and Sequel is, can be such a difficult concept.
And with all of it, I just tell anybody, look, the idea of any tool should be to help you in your process. If it’s not helping you, then bag it, or tweak it so that it does, but just ‘cause something works for me doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. Our processes are all different, so that’s really important to understand; it’s okay if you’re like, yeah, that doesn’t, doesn’t do it for me. Then, then don’t, don’t try to use it.
Amanda: So you mentioned you have a novella coming out. What is –
Amanda: – what is on the docket for you after, after that?
Priscilla: So after Summer in the City releases on May 25th, and then I am currently in the middle of revisions for book one of a new series that is set to release next year. I think it’s May-ish? And that is, it’s two books about a group of foster sisters that are in a mariachi band, and both of the books are, like, loose retellings of musicals based on Shakespeare. So, like, book one is, the title right now, and I don’t think it’s going to change, is Westside Love Story. So it’s a –
Priscilla: – there’s a battle of the mariachi bands involved there. The two sides are on different sides of the gentrification line.
Sarah: I love it!
Priscilla: You know, angle, and so it’s Mariana and Angelo; they’re the, they’re the leads in Westside Love Story. And then book two, I, I, I don’t know if I can say anything about it yet, but I do have a, it’s another loose retelling of another musical.
Sarah: Is the other musical Kiss Me, Kate?
Priscilla: Yes. So it’s Kiss Me, Catalina, ‘cause it’s Catalina’s story.
Sarah: Oh my gosh! I love it! I love it so much!
Priscilla: Yes. [Laughs] That would be Taming of the Shrew, and it’s really set in the mariachi world. I will tell you that the patriarchy is, like, killing me in, in that, in that one, right? And so my goal is to, Catalina’s very strong, and not just to, it’s not a, like, stick it to the patriarchy, but it’s about, you know, leveling the playing field, and, and they both have things that they, they need to learn. But in Westside Love Story you’ll meet the Petruchio, who is Agricio, who plays a bigger secondary character role in Westside Love Story. You’ll get to meet him that way.
Sarah: Ooh, I love it.
Priscilla: If I’m doing it right! So I’m hopeful. [Laughs] I’m trying.
Sarah: Well, we always ask this question –
Sarah: What books do you want to tell people about in addition to your own?
Priscilla: Yes, yes. Okay, so I have some books that are not out yet, but you want to put them on your radar. The first one is Xio Axelrod’s The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes? Like, it’s set in the musical, it’s like a, an all-girl band, and Xio is enmeshed in the, in the musical, in the world of Grammy and, Grammy writing music and, and all that, so she’s like the perfect person to be taking us into this world. So I would say, by all means, check out The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes.
I have Emily Henry’s People We Meet on Vacation. I got an ARC of, of that, and she just does like banter and the slow-burn romance and the, it’s just so, so good. So that’s coming out like, I think like May 11th or sometime around there.
And then I got an early copy, Sonali Dev and I share, you know, like, help each other, like critique and brainstorm kind of stuff. So her Incense and Sensibility which come – it’s book three in her Jane Austen retellings. That’s coming out like June, July? And it’s fabulous. It’s, you know, she does great, like, heart and emotion. Like, both of these characters are such good people, and you want them to be happy, but there are, like, forces bigger than them at play, and how can they – how can they?
So those are three that I would say, please be on the lookout, and if you’re, like, ready for a book right now and, and you’ve already read Anch-, um, Island Affair – sorry.
Priscilla: Feel like, I feel like Kensington wants me to say that. So here are three that you should go out and look for, and one is Libby Hubscher’s Meet Me in Paradise. So it’s another beach-y book, but this one, it’s about two sisters who are totally different personalities, and for reasons that you’ll learn why and how they are the way they are? It’s about stepping outside your comfort zone to experience life to the fullest.
And then two other ones that are a little bit different: Mia Sosa’s – Audible only, so it’s a great read; put it on and go for a walk in your neighborhood or on your treadmill or, you know – it’s Sun of a Beach. So it’s an audio, it’s an Audible only right now, so if you have an Audible account, then you can get it for, you know, as part of that. It’s rompy rom-com. Mia does, like, sexy rom-coms, like, fantastically, and, and the, the male narrator’s voice – let’s just say I’m not reading it while I’m, like, in bed because I feel a little bit like I shouldn’t be?
Priscilla: So, and then the last one is more women’s fiction-y. It’s, like, it’s by Jamie Beck; it’s For All She Knows. This one, it’s like real-life kind of situation drama about two friends who have totally different parenting styles and how that really comes into play; like, decisions that they both make that wind up kind of like unraveling threads in their lives: their friendship; one of their marriage; like, another’s job is threatened; like, their family lives are just – it’s, it’s really gut-wrenching, but it’s beautiful. And it’s just a beautifully written book about, like, the power of forgiveness.
Mia’s is big, beach-y, sexy, rom-com-y; Libby’s is all the feels romance; and then Jamie’s is not so much romance, but really, really heart-, heartfelt, real-life drama.
Sarah: And that brings us to the end of this week’s episode. Thank you to Priscilla Oliveras for hanging out with Amanda and me. If you are thinking, wait, I want to know what that one book was that she mentioned, do not worry; they are all linked in the show notes for this episode at smartbitchestrashybooks.com/podcast!
And if you have questions or suggestions or ideas or you’d like to tell me what you thought of this episode, I would love to hear from you! You can email me at [email protected]
I always end with a terrible joke. This week is no different. This joke comes from Reddit, where the good jokes live. The really, really good ones.
Why shouldn’t you put more than 239 beans in a soup?
Why? Why shouldn’t you put more than 239 beans in a soup?
Because adding just one more would make it too forty.
Too forty! Too farty! [Laughs] I love a sneaky flatulence joke! This is from user oak05 and their seven-year-old daughter, so thank you for that! Too farty. Also, can you imagine the amount of fiber in a bean soup with 239 beans? My gosh!
On behalf of everyone here, we wish you the very best of reading. Have a wonderful weekend, and we will see you back here next week.
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This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.