INTERVIEWER: Where are you from? How--if at all--has your sense of place colored your writing?
ART: I was born and raised in San Jose, California. I still live here and will never move away.
When I was a young guy in my twenties, I moved to Long Beach, California, for two years. Every day that I was away from my town (city), I longed for it. I missed the streets, the smell, the sights, my family, and friends. Because I still live here, I can ride my bike or car out to the places I include in my stories. Sometimes I sit on my bike and close my eyes, see what I saw when I was a youngster, and make it come alive again.
INTERVIEWER: When and why did you begin writing? When did you first consider yourself a writer?
ART: In 1985 after having many difficult experiences in life, as you'll see after reading East Side Dreams, I started a business, Number "1" Disposal in San Jose. Even though my business became very successful, I didn't know how to spell and didn't know anything about grammar. I learned how to read in my adult life. I always had to have my employees write letters to other businesses for me. At times the letters would be returned to me to read before mailing them. I would review them and sometimes tell the girls to change things. Sometimes the letters would be returned two or three times before they were finalized. One morning I sent a letter back four times for rewriting. I felt as if I wanted to explode! It was then that I said to myself, "That's it! I'm going to learn how to write my own letters!"
That same day I went out and bought a program to learn how to type. I sat in front of my computer every morning and took my lessons faithfully.
Once I learned, after a few weeks, I asked my wife, "What am I going to practice on?" She suggested that since I liked telling childhood stories I should write them.
Starting with short stories of my childhood, I always kept a spelling list next to me. Every day I learned how to spell new words. After writing 30 pages, I printed them, feeling very proud of myself. I let my wife look at my work. She read only one page, put it down, and said nothing. "Well, what do you think?" I asked. She looked at me, not wishing to hurt my feelings. "Well?" I asked again. She looked at me and said, "Well, you really can't write like this." She went on to tell me there were many errors with my spelling and that the whole page was a run-on sentence. I asked, "What in the heck is a run-on sentence?"
The next day I went to the library and checked out books on writing and grammar. I studied hard and educated myself, even taking a grammar class with high school kids. I found, however, that with all the studying I was doing on my own I was already beyond the students. East Side Dreams is the product of what I learned.
I knew I was a writer when I let others read my manuscript as I was writing it. They all told me it was up there with the best. I really couldn't believe it until one of the editors wanted to stop by to visit me. On meeting me, he told me I was an artist. It is difficult to think of myself in that light. I just enjoy writing.
INTERVIEWER: Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way? What books have most influenced your life?
ART: My wife is educated, and she has always encouraged me to educate myself. I dedicated East Side Dreams to her for all of her help. I'll say it again, "Thank you, Flora, for all your help and encouragement. You never made me feel inferior. You have been a big influence in my writing."
When I read "Rain of Gold" by Victor E. Villasenor, it inspired me to write my family story. He made the old days come to life. I really enjoyed his book. I then worked and collected all of the old family stories, even going back to Mexico. I wrote my family story in my second book, The Monkey Box.
INTERVIEWER: What music, if any, most inspires you to write? What do you like to listen to while writing?
ART: It depends on what I'm writing. I need music that will move me. When I wrote East Side Dreams, I listened to oldies, thinking of my childhood and teenage days. For The Monkey Box I played mostly Mexican music because the love story takes place in Mexico and ends here in San Jose. For my third book that is in progress and is like East Side Dreams, I listened to oldies again. I am currently writing my fourth book; for this one I enjoy listening to music from the seventies.
INTERVIEWER: What are you reading now? What CD is currently in your stereo?
ART: Right now I'm reading Smoke Screen by Vernon Avila. He is a good writer. I met him at the Latino Book & Family Festival.
And what am I listening to right now? Oldies, of course!
INTERVIEWER: What are you working on?
ART: In the years that I have been in business with trucks and dumpsters, I have been approached by people who made me offers they thought I couldn't refuse. I was told that I could charge $100 more per dump for a dumpster. They would obtain a contract with a big company that owed them favors. All I had to do was kick back $25 per dump to them in cash. I didn't accept the offer because I knew once you married the mob there is no way out.
The other deal I was offered was even better than that one. I turned that down as well.
The book I'm currently writing tells a story as if I had accepted the deals. Once I did, things were not as good as I thought. Instead of money, they wanted my life.
I'm enjoying writing it.
When I'm writing, my characters come alive and are real to me. I don't know when I will finish this book; it might be awhile.
INTERVIEWER: Use this space to write about whatever you wish.
ART: East Side Dreams is a book that all will enjoy. Everything in this book is factual. I did not include any profanity because I want young people to be able to read it, which they are. I tell people when I go to book signings that East Side Dreams will be a book they will really enjoy and never forget. I have not had anyone express negative reactions nor have I received any negative reviews. I know you will enjoy it also. Remember as you read about the rotten kid in East Side Dreams (me), he is all right now!
You will also enjoy The Monkey Box. My family story will become part of you when you read it.
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