Malena Salazar Maciá’s short story “The Kiss of the Water” appears in Issue 12 of Mithila Review available at Gumroad, Amazon (Kindle) & Apple iBooks stores. The following interview was translated by Toshiya Kamei.
When did you start writing fiction?
As a child, I began writing short fantasy pieces in Spanish class. The teacher and my classmates eagerly waited for me to read my work aloud, because I wrote short stories rather than compositions. Also, I was an insatiable reader. My late grandfather made sure that I always had something to read. When he couldn’t buy me anything new (the Special Period in the early 1990s was a dreary time for Cuba), I read the same books over and over again. Later, I was mesmerized by the Harry Potter series and started writing fanfiction. Many friends began to comment that my writing was not too shabby. As an adolescent, I made a leap and began to create my own universe and characters.
Tell us about your story “The Kiss of the Water.”
“The Kiss of the Water” tells the story of Lima, a woman in search of water in the desert. It has to be purified water, but this is controlled by the Daonais, or masters who manage large corporations. Desperate, Lima is willing to do anything to get what she needs.
Is this story part of a fictional universe? What was the inspiration?
The story takes place in the same universe as my debut novel, Nade. It’s a harsh world, which is dominated by conglomerates that monopolize everything from knowledge to everyday necessities such as water and medical care.
On TV, I saw what was happening at the U.S.-Mexico border, namely the atrocities committed against migrants, who were stripped of any dignity and denied access to basic needs. The Trump administration separated families and locked up children in detention centers that were essentially concentration camps. I felt a lot of pain. Also, from talking to my translator, I learned that humanitarian volunteers left supplies such as water jugs in the Arizona desert for border crossers, but U.S. Border Patrol agents purposely destroyed them.
It sounded so terrible that I wanted to show these events through fiction and Lima’s story was born.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing“The Kiss of the Water”?
Compress such a large theme and turn it into a short story. I’m more adept at writing longer pieces and novels, so I’m trying to get into the habit of writing short fiction. I know we’re supposed to show rather than tell, but it’s hard to strike the right balance. There’s no magic formula for this. We must discover it on our own and achieve it through trial and error. Perseverance is key.
What are you working on these days?
I’m writing some stories for anthologies and magazines. Also, I’m working on a novella, tentatively entitled La sangre del progreso. It’s a steampunk story about artificial planets and the dangers presented by an authoritarian ruler. How will I link all this? I have to keep writing to find out!
What are you reading these days?
The First Men in the Moon (Amazon) by H.G. Wells and poems by Regino Eladio Boti y Barreiro.
Any upcoming publications?
Two epic fantasy novels Los Cantares de Sinim and Aliento de Dragón for Havana’s International Book Fair in 2020. And a children’s book called El misterio del cemí, an adventure novel of urban fantasy and Cuban mythology.