In Conversation with Author Diana Lopez - The Bend Magazine

In Conversation with Author Diana López on Her New Series and More

Corpus Christi-based author Diana López discusses her new three-part series, how South Texas culture seeps into her writings and more.

Corpus Christi Author Diana Lopez talks about her upcoming series, how culture has influenced her writing and more.

Photography by Shoocha Photography

Diana López first put pen to paper when she was in middle school, in the form of a journal entry. “I quickly realized I could write whatever I wanted [in the journal] since it was just for me,” she said. López took little details from her day, asked a “what if” question and let her imagination run wild. These writings, which she refers to as “little fictional scenes,” surely helped set her trajectory to becoming a celebrated author. López wrote her first novel, Sofia’s Saints, while obtaining her MFA in creative writing at Texas State University. In 2017, she published Coco: A Story About Music, Shoes and Family, the novel adaptation of the Pixar animated film, Coco. Today, she’s busy promoting her new book, writing and publishing various short stories and serving as the president of the Texas Institute of Letters.

KC: Your new book, Los Monstruos: Felice and the Wailing Woman, is releasing this month. The story reframes lore with a positive feminist representation of the myth of La Llorona. Why was this an important perspective for you to share?

DL: I remember reading about Medea, how she killed her children to punish their father, and I thought, “Wait a minute. That’s the story of La Llorona.” But there’s another layer to La Llorona, and that’s the colonial story — because in most versions, she’s a poor woman who dares to have a relationship with a man above her station. Everyone blames her for trying to be better than she was. No one blames the man, and of course, he is the author of the story. I became hyper-aware of women being portrayed as witches or evil stepmothers or helpless damsels-in-distress. These portrayals ran contrary to the strong women in my life. So I flipped the script by writing La Llorona as a loving mother, as someone misunderstood, as a victim of her community’s attitude more than of her runaway lover. For me and I hope for the young people who read my book, this version rings true.

KC: It’s the first book of a new series — what does the rest of the Los Monstruos series have in store for readers?

DL: In Felice and the Wailing Woman, we meet two other children of Monstruos, Rooster and Ava. The next two books tell their stories. The second book plays with the legend of the girl who sneaks out at night to go to a dance hall. She meets a handsome stranger and starts dancing with him. She is enthralled, but then she notices his feet. They’re chicken feet! That’s when she realizes she’s dancing with the devil, and at that moment, she disappears. In my version, both boys and girls disappear after dancing with the devil, and our character, Rooster, goes looking for them. The third book will be about Ava, daughter of La Lechuza, the owl-witch.

Corpus Christi Author Diana Lopez talks about her upcoming series, how culture has influenced her writing and more.
Photography by Shoocha Photography

KC: What specifically about your own culture and personal life experiences do you hope to translate to others through your published works?

DL: My culture and my personal life experiences are very much tied to this landscape of South Texas, and specifically Corpus Christi. I grew up here. It shaped my perspective. I had a wonderful childhood but also moments of feeling confused or indignant when I encountered people who judged me before they knew me, before giving me a chance to show what I can do. After many years away, I came back; I came home. I hope that when people read my books, they feel Corpus Christi in a very tactile way — the smells, the sounds, the voices, even the humidity — but I also want them to meet our city as if it, too, is a person you can befriend.

Rapid Fire Questions

What book could you read over and over again?

I’m going to cheat, and instead of a book, give you a poem: “The Art of Disappearing” by Naomi Shihab Nye.

If you could collaborate with any author or illustrator, who would it be?

I would love to write a picture book illustrated by San Antonio artist Adriana Garcia.

When do you feel most inspired to write: morning, noon or night?


Favorite local restaurants you always recommend?

I love Atomic Omelet or Snoopy’s, but also let me give a shout-out to La Ribera on Morgan and Brownlee.

KC: Can you talk a little bit about your writing process? Do you have any rituals, particulars or personal procedures of writing you’d care to share?

DL: For my daily process, I like to start by reading in the genre that I’m writing. I prefer to be near a window. I don’t want a TV or music in the background. I work best when I’m alone. There are times when I’m in the zone, when I feel like a magical being is guiding my imagination, but those moments are rare. Most of the good stuff comes through hard work. It’s all about putting in the hours. Some people don’t like when I take away the romanticism that is often attached to the writer’s life, but like anything else, it’s a skill. It takes practice, discipline and time, but if you enjoy the process, you don’t mind. It’s work, but it’s also fun.

KC: What do you look to for inspiration when you’re starting a new piece or experiencing writer’s block?

DL: Every person I meet is interesting in some way. Even when I meet someone who just sits around and does nothing — that’s interesting to me. Each one of us is a story, and most of us are several stories. I’m also inspired by the products of people’s imagination and labor, their books or paintings or cookies. For me, writer’s block doesn’t occur because I’m struggling to find an idea for a story; it happens when I encounter something that’s preventing me from sitting down to write. It could be a craft or a plot issue, but it could also be life challenges that make it difficult to get into the mindset for writing. My strategies for dealing with writer’s block are cleaning the house or going for a long walk. Something about movement centers me and gets me back to work.

Corpus Christi Author Diana Lopez talks about her upcoming series, how culture has influenced her writing and more.
Photography by Shoocha Photography

KC: You’re currently the president of the Texas Institute of Letters (TIL), which will hold its annual awards banquet in Corpus Christi this month for the first time since the Institute was established in 1936. What does it mean for this event to take place here in our community?

DL: This will be the first time the TIL banquet is held in Corpus Christi. We will be presenting the winners of 12 different literary awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, which goes to Beverly Lowry this year. Having the banquet here is special because the TIL has been working hard to celebrate the diversity of Texas literature. This means recognizing more women and people of color, but it also means recognizing that every corner of Texas has its writers. We are working on a few community events. I would love to invite everyone to the Mexican American Studies Center at Del Mar College on April 27 at 5:30 p.m. for a reading by authors Sergio Troncoso and Guadalupe Garcia McCall, and to the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History at 10 a.m. on April 29 for a reading by Texas authors of children’s books.

KC: Any upcoming projects you can share with us?

DL: My next Los Monstruos book, Rooster and the Dancing Diablo, will be released next year, and I’m currently working on the third book, Ava and the Owl-Witch. Between novels, I write short stories, and several have been published in journals or anthologies. I’m very close to finishing a collection that is tentatively titled Dutiful Daughters and a Few Bad Boys.

Looking for more Person of Interest? Check out In Conversation with No-Gi Jiujitsu World Champion Tommy Montoya or In Conversation with Claudia Melton.