While many writers know their vocation from a very young age, others realize their calling later in life. In a way, Glynis Guevara falls into both of these categories. She has been writing since she was a teenager, but she didn’t start taking her talent seriously until about ten years ago. She’s been making up for lost time ever since. In just a few short years, Glynis has published two young adult novels and has a third on the way. We caught up with the 2007 Creative Writing graduate via email to learn about the inspiration behind her latest book, what it’s like to navigate the publishing industry as a new author, and her plans for the future.
Tell us about Black Beach. How did it come about?
The idea to write Black Beach came to me in 2013 after I read about an oil spill in south Trinidad. This environmental disaster remained with me for quite some time, and I often thought of the wildlife that had been affected by the disaster and the people who were suffering. I wondered what I would have done if I had to deal with a similar situation and over time, developed a strong desire to write a YA novel with an environmental disaster as one of its themes. As time passed, I began to develop other subplots and the book began to take shape. Black Beach also deals with mental health issues, the disappearance of a young girl and teen romance. I have a strong desire to write books featuring teen protagonists from the West Indies. There aren’t many books of this type being published in Canada. There is indeed a void to be filled.
Black Beach is your second published book. How has the experience publishing and promoting it been different than the experience with Under the Zaboca Tree? Has any facet been more difficult, or easier?
Finding a publisher was a major challenge. I met my current publisher, Inanna Publications, at Word on the Street. After I sent my debut novel, Under the Zaboca Tree, to them, I was told that they liked the book, but it still needed some work. The editor was gracious to email me pages of notes, which I used to improve the manuscript, and then I sought the advice of an editor before sending it back to the publisher. Under the Zaboca Tree was published in 2017.
At the time of the book’s publication, I was struggling with some health issues, which created a major challenge regarding its marketing. Also, I had very limited knowledge about publishing and I didn’t have any contacts in the business. This made the whole process so much more frustrating. My experience so far with my second novel, Black Beach, has been a little bit different, but there are still some big challenges. Inanna Publications agreed to publish Black Beach soon after I sent it to them. It was published in September 2018, less than two years after they received it. My health issues have improved, and I am almost 100% back to my old self. I hope to do more readings than last year, and I am trying to keep a presence on social media, but there is still a lot to learn about the publishing business.
What’s next for you? Are there any new projects or works in progress that you’d like to tell us about?
My third YA novel, Barrel Girl, will also be published by Inanna Publications, but a concrete date hasn’t yet been set for its release. My debut novel, Under the Zaboca Tree, tells the story of a young girl, affectionately called Baby Girl, who moves to Trinidad from Canada with her dad. I am currently writing a sequel to this book. The working title is Poui Season. It tells the story of Baby Girl’s return to Canada at sixteen years old. I hope to complete writing the first draft of Poui Season by mid-2019. I am also hopeful to secure a literary agent for my adult manuscript, Pain of My Imperfections. It’s an immigrant story written in a man’s voice.
How did you find the experience of working with your Humber writing mentor? What insight into your writing did you gain through the mentorship process?
After I lost my job at a Toronto hospital, I started to write to deal with the difficulties I was facing. I eventually wrote a very rough draft of a manuscript that I needed help with, so I decided to take a writing course and selected Humber College’s correspondence program. I was fortunate to be assigned Rabindranath Maharaj as my mentor. He was an ideal mentor not simply because he was also born in Trinidad, but more so because he was an extremely effective critic and editor, and he appeared to have tremendous passion for his work. By the end of the course, I had a much-improved manuscript, even though it still needed some polishing. I put that manuscript aside and wrote the first draft of Under the Zaboca Tree, which became my debut novel almost ten years later.
To learn more about Glynis and her work as a writer, follow her on Twitter @GlynisGuevara, on Instagram @glynisguevara, or on Facebook at Glynis Guevara Author. You can also connect with her via LinkedIn or via glynisguevara.com.
Glynis Guevara. Photo credit: John Burridge