Juan, a Cuban construction worker who has settled in Albuquerque, returns to Havana for the first time since fleeing Cuba by raft twenty years ago. He is traveling with his American wife, Sharon, and hopes to reconnect with Victor, his best friend from college—and, unbeknownst to Sharon, he also hopes to discover what has become of two ex-girlfriends, Elsa and Rosita.
Juan is surprised to learn that Victor has become Victoria and runs a popular drag show at the local hot spot Café Arabia. Elsa has married a wealthy foreigner, and Rosita, still single, works at the Havana cemetery. When one of these women turns up dead, it will cost Padrino, a Santería priest and former detective on the Havana police force, more than he expects to untangle the group’s lies and hunt down the killer.
– When and where do you prefer to write?
I generally write in my office. Also on planes and airports, when I travel alone. When I am at home, my favourite time is at night, when the house is quiet and everybody has gone to bed. (By “everybody” I mean husband and dogs.) But I also write during the day, particularly in the weekends.
– Do you have a certain ritual?
I am not sure if this can be called “a ritual,” but sometimes, when I am working on details of the plot, I sit on a rocking chair and write in the iPad, or use a piece of paper to capture free-flowing ideas. I find the rocking motion not only soothing but inspiring as well.
– Is there a drink of some food that keeps you company while you write?
Oh, yes. I love to drink Cuban coffee when I am writing… before six p.m. Café cubano is too strong to have it at night. In the evenings, I prefer tea. There is a delightful teahouse in Albuquerque called The St. James Tearoom and they sell high-quality loose-leaf teas. Right now, I am having a cup of Lavender Creme Earl Grey that is simply delicious.
– What is your favourite book?
In Spanish, La Regenta, by Leopoldo Alas (Clarin). In English, The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler.
– Do you consider writing a different genre in the future?
Yes, I like to experiment with different genres. In fact, I am a latecomer to mysteries. I am now working on a YA fantasy, Radioactive Girl, which I hope to finish before 2020 ends. I have also written theatre plays in Spanish, La hija de La Llorona (La Llorona’s Daughter) and Hasta que el mortgage nos separe (Until Mortgage do us Part).
– Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?
Not totally, but a few of my characters are composites of friends and acquaintances. Sometimes they can even recognize themselves in the stories. Sometimes I wish they couldn’t! Marlene Martínez, the National Revolutionary Police lieutenant that appears in Queen of Bones and Death Comes in through the Kitchen is loosely based on a good friend —she got a kick out of it! There is also something of myself in many characters.
– Do you take a notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?
I used to. Now, I send myself notes through Messenger. Viva la technology! At least I don’t lose the notes anymore or throw them away in frustration because I can’t understand what I wrote. My handwriting is pretty horrible.
– Which genre do you not like at all?
I am open to reading anything that is interesting in terms of plot or setting. That being said, I am not a huge fan of erotica or westerns.
– If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
With my mother! I am sure we could cook up something crazy and funny together. It would have to be in Spanish, though.
– If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you chose and why?
My hubby and I went to Egypt last summer because I’m planning a mystery set in Cairo (part of it at least). Maybe I can deduct travel expenses from my taxes since it was “work related.” I would happily go back. Research is very important! 😊
Thank you, Teresa Dovalpage and Rachel’s Random Resources
About the author
Teresa Dovalpage was born in Havana and now lives in Hobbs, where she is a Spanish and ESL professor at New Mexico Junior College. She has published ten novels and three collections of short stories.
Her first culinary mystery Death Comes in through the Kitchen (Soho Crime, 2018) is set in Havana and features Padrino, a santero-detective. It is loaded with authentic Cuban recipes like arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) and caldosa (a yummy stew). Her second mystery, Queen of Bones, was also published by Soho Crime in November 2019 and includes elements of Santería and, again, food—clearly, the author loves to eat! Both novels are rich in details about life in the island, the kind only an insider can provide.
They are the first two books of Soho Crime’s Havana Mystery series. Upcoming are Death of a Telenovela Star (June 2020) and Death under the Perseids.
She also wrote A Girl like Che Guevara (Soho Press, 2004) and Habanera, a Portrait of a Cuban Family (Floricanto Press, 2010).
In her native Spanish she has authored six novels, among them Muerte de un murciano en La Habana (Death of a Murcian in Havana, Anagrama, 2006, a runner-up for the Herralde Award in Spain) and El difunto Fidel (The Late Fidel, Renacimiento, 2011, which won the Rincon de la Victoria Award in Spain in 2009).
Once in a while she delves into theater. Her plays La Hija de La Llorona and Hasta que el mortgage nos separe (published in Teatro Latino, 2019) has been staged by Aguijón Theater in Chicago.
by Delio Regueral