On True Crime and Expectations
with Katie Gutierrez, author of 'More Than You'll Ever Know: A Novel'
#NuevasPaginasconLupita is a space that is both an archive and resource aimed to "spotlight" Hispanic/Latinx/e authors with newly published books. The goal is to connect readers to new and/or old favorite Hispanic/Latinx/e authors and their books! So give this & every post a share to help us reach more readers!
How does it work?!
Here’s the deal, I came up with a set of casual/random/funny questions to ask each Hispanic/Latinx/e author, I interview. For now, the questions will all be the same but maybe in the future I’ll launch this into more specific questions to the author or maybe I’ll turn this series into a mini-podcast, or maybe……well, you get it! The possibilities are endless.
If you are new here don’t forget to check out all the other amazing interviews! We also have a great line-up of guest authors coming up so make sure you don’t miss an issue by subscribing now!
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Hey Heyyy Book Franz!
I know this is sliding into your inbox sort of late but I have good reasons! As I mentioned last week - my little family went on our first international vacation. The vacation itself had its ups and downs but overall I’m full of gratitude that we did have the privilege to travel and return (for the most part) safely. Traveling still brings a huge risk to those you see/visit and those you return to. COVID-19 is still a very real thing and as I am typing this the COVID testing restrictions for international US entry are being lifted making it, even more, riskier to travel.
So if you are traveling or considering travel - stay safe and do the best thing you can to protect yourself and more importantly those around you. I know for me personally, it was very scary to see so many unmasked travelers. It made me think about how quickly we’ve regarded a virus we still know so little about, as something normal like the common cold. It’s truly scary.
On a lighter note, for those that financially support this newsletter/ the bookish work I put out into the world (THANK YOU SO MUCH- I COULDN’T KEEP GOING WITHOUT YALL) -I’m working on a special piece about what it was like to visit the town my parents grew up in and left to migrate to the U.S.- we got to visit family there with my son for the first time ever. I’ll also be weaving in a book review/recommendation because if you know me, you know anything I’ve experienced - comes with a paired book recommendation (also the book I read while I was there was really really amazing and made me so weepy). So be on the lookout for that.
I know I’ve already kept you way too long from today’s special author interview and I am sorry about that but I did want to add that I am THRILLED to be sharing this interview with you today and celebrating the release of this book that was just selected as a Good Morning America Book Club Pick! It’s always exciting when a major media book club selects a Latinx-authored book because that means major visibility for Latinx-authored stories! Anyways, I’m going to stop rambling…..
Without further ado, our special guest author today is….Katie Gutierrez, author of More Than You’ll Ever Know
Could you tell me a bit about where this photo was taken? Is it special to your book in some way?
The photo was taken at my family’s ranch about ten minutes north of Laredo. Like Sergio and Marta in the novel, my parents bought the land when my brother, sister, and I were children, thinking they’d sell off part of it to use for our college education. As kids, my dad took us out there whenever my mom needed a break. The rules were that there were no rules: we could eat junk, get messy, be wild. We rode four-wheelers and our old horse, Poco Loco, and fed the catfish at the small manmade lake. My dad would cook out and we’d make bonfires. Once, I struck a used match against the rusted barbecue pit and was so startled when it lit that I dropped it on my shirt. I remember coming home with my shirt black with dirt from where my dad quickly put out the small flame. Grinning, I tried halfheartedly to hide it from my mom, feeling like I’d been through something dangerous and exciting.
My extended family went out there every Easter when it was usually a thousand degrees outside. We hunted for cascarónes and had water balloon fights to keep cool. Recently my dad spent months building a small house where only a cement slab and a trailer had been for decades. It has air conditioning and is filled with meaningful items: the velour desert scene that used to hang in my childhood home; a wooden beam carved with all the brands my dad has used over the years; sepia photos of him and my mom in the seventies. We take our own kids out there now, repeating the rituals we loved: the four-wheelers, the catfish, the cascarónes. When I imagined Sergio and Marta’s ranch in the novel and what it means to Lore, Fabian, and the cuates—the place it gives their family to be wild and be together—our ranch is what inspired it.
Tell me about your book without telling me about your book - share any literary inspirations behind your book! If there are none, the gap you wanted to fill in the literary canon with your book.
Ooh, love this question! I was inspired by Luis Alberto Urrea’s complex and big-hearted portrayal of a Mexican American family in The House of Broken Angels, and also Oscar Cásares’s treatment of the South Texas border in Where We Come From, as well as how Celeste Ng blends family and drama and suspense in Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere. I was also inspired by Michelle McNamara’s work and voice in I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, and Rachel Monroe and Alice Bolin’s analyses of our cultural obsession with true crime in Savage Appetites and Dead Girls, respectively. I also loved the explorations of who gets caught in crossfire of true crime obsession in Kathleen Barber’s Truth Be Told and Denise Mina’s Conviction.
What are two central themes in your book that you connect with the most and why?
First, the theme of women wanting too much. For Lore, that takes the form of wanting to know herself, which means allowing herself to experience everything; she wants to know and be known, to connect deeply with both herself and the men she loves. She wants to be fully alive. Cassie wants a meaningful and successful career as a true crime writer. She is deeply ambitious. She wants her name on important stories. She wants respect. But underneath all this, she really just wants to feel safe.
I’m always deeply compelled by stories of women wanting things and being rather cutthroat and unapologetic about going after them. We’re living in a time when our right to want something other than conventional marriage and motherhood is being stripped away from us. There are those who would tell us to tame themselves, to make our desires smaller and more socially acceptable, to be modest and thankful and always put others first. Lore and Cassie chafe against those expectations in different ways throughout the book. They make big, bold choices that are inherently selfish—but I’m inclined to think many of us could do with being a little more selfish.
If a book was home, where would your home be?
When I think of home, I still think of my childhood home, which my parents haven’t lived in for nearly half my life. Similarly, my instinct is to answer with the first books I truly fell in love with: A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle; Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte; and One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Marquez. These are the three I’ve revisited most over the years, and though my relationships to them have changed (Mr. Rochester isn’t nearly so appealing anymore! Bertha should be the protagonist!), I still feel the sense of awe and comfort I felt reading them the first time, late into the night or in bed on a Sunday morning.
If your book was a famous musician who would it be?
This was tough! But I’m leaning toward Adele: a woman with an unapologetically powerful voice, which she uses to share her stories, her heartbreak, her love.
What comfort food could a reader pair with your book?
A big bowl of picadillo, rice, and beans with homemade flour tortillas.
In what ways has access (or little to no access) to Hispanic/Latinx/e literature defined you as a writer?
This question has taken me years to unpack, and there will always be more work left to do. My seventh-grade class read The House on Mango Street, and that was the first and last book by a Latinx author I read until I was in college, which feels embarrassing, sad, and bizarre to admit, considering I come from Laredo, Texas, which was 99% Mexican when I was growing up. I don’t think I knew Latinx literature existed. I didn’t even critically think about that lack for so long. That’s how ingrained the white literary canon was in me.
My literary world didn’t really begin to expand until I was in my MFA program and began reading authors like Toni Morrison, Louise Erdrich, Jhumpa Lahiri. I fell in love with them and the beautifully particular ways they were able to represent their worlds. I’d always thought the goal was to tell a story that could be considered “universal,” and I didn’t know how to be universal while also being specific about the places and people I knew—South Texas isn’t Anytown, USA, but neither is New York, and I don’t know why I thought it was for so long. But after reading books by women of color, I felt the possibilities in my own writing open up. What could I say and how could I say it if I was no longer tethered to some inane idea of universality (which, of course, is code for “white”)?
In the years since then I’ve read as many books by Latinx authors as I can: Luis Alberto Urrea, Julia Alvarez, Natalia Sylvester, Gabino Iglesias, Melissa Rivero, Erika Sánchez, Cristina Henriíquez, Reyna Grande, Valeria Luiselli, Oscar Cásares, Stephanie Jimenez, Angie Cruz, Nelly Rosario, Kali Fajardo-Anstine, Gabriela Garcia, Carmen Maria Machado, Lilliam Rivera, Jaquira Díaz, Elizabeth Acevedo, Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Elizabeth Gonzalez James, Cleyvis Natera, Christine Kandic Torres, and I’m sure I’ll be mortified when I realize who I’m forgetting. But I consider these writers my teachers in many ways. In their specificity of voice, their unique rendering of their communities, and stories, I’ve felt empowered to discover mine.
Where can readers keep up with your work?
A huge thank you to Katie Gutierrez for taking the time to chat with me about her book! Please please make sure you purchase a copy (or request your local library carry a copy) of their book #SupportLatinxLit!
Author Bio from her website:
Katie Gutierrez is the author of the debut novel MORE THAN YOU'LL EVER KNOW, which will be published by William Morrow in the U.S. and Penguin Michael Joseph in the U.K. on June 7, 2022. She is a National Magazine Award finalist whose writing has appeared in TIME, Harper's Bazaar, the Washington Post, Longreads, and more. She has an MFA from Texas State University and lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband and their two kids.
Synopsis for More Than You’ll Ever Know Bookshop website:
An evocative drama about a woman caught leading a double life after one husband murders the other, and the true-crime writer who becomes obsessed with telling her story--this masterful work of literary suspense marks the debut of an extraordinary new writer
The dance becomes an affair, which becomes a marriage, which becomes a murder...
In 1985, Lore Rivera marries Andres Russo in Mexico City, even though she is already married to Fabian Rivera in Laredo, Texas, and they share twin sons. Through her career as an international banker, Lore splits her time between two countries and two families--until the truth is revealed and one husband is arrested for murdering the other.
In 2017, while trawling the internet for the latest, most sensational news reports, struggling true-crime writer Cassie Bowman encounters an article detailing that tragic final act. Cassie is immediately enticed by what is not explored: Why would a woman--a mother--risk everything for a secret double marriage? Cassie sees an opportunity--she'll track Lore down and capture the full picture, the choices, the deceptions that led to disaster. But the more time she spends with Lore, the more Cassie questions the facts surrounding the murder itself. Soon, her determination to uncover the truth could threaten to derail Lore's now quiet life--and expose the many secrets both women are hiding.
Told through alternating timelines, More Than You'll Ever Know is both a gripping mystery and a wrenching family drama. Presenting a window into the hearts of two very different women, it explores the many conflicting demands of marriage and motherhood, and the impossibility of ever truly knowing someone--especially those we love.
The best way you can support Latinx/e authors and Latinx/e literature is by doing the following:
REQUEST that your local library carry a copy
PURCHASE a copy of a friend, family member, or your nemesis (hey! I’m sure they read too).
SHOUT about the book on any social media platform or to your friends and family!
SHARE this interview widely! Word of mouth does wonders for connecting readers to books.
REVIEW their books on any website that sells books!
The other day one of my cousins asked in our family group chat….” Hey! What kind of music does Lupita listen to?” and without even missing a beat my brother replied “AUDIOBOOKS”!
The moment audiobooks stepped into my life, they became my music. I listen to them on walks, while doing laundry and chores — basically any moment I have to myself. So if that is you too (or if you simply want to fit in more reading during your daily life) check out Libro.FM! If you use the code LupitaReads you’ll receive two audiobook credits for 14.99 USD with your first month of membership. These credits can be used on your choice of more than 250,00 audiobooks on Libro. FM.
And if you need some audiobook recommendations - I made a list just for you!