For the latest of our author/ translator interview series, we're delighted to welcome H. Pueyo, writer and translator of 'Saligia', in our March 2019 issue. We asked her to tell us more about the story, and her experiences of writing and translating.
Can you tell us more about yourself and your writing – what first got you into speculative fiction?
Writing is an old passion of mine; it never occurred to me to do anything else in my life since I was a very small child, so it’s hard to separate myself from it. That being said, I’m very new to speculative fiction! I was introduced to it by my husband because he is a huge enthusiast, and only after learning more about the genre I realized many stories I read and wrote qualified as speculative. I still write literary fiction, but the shift to SFF happened naturally, as I love the magic and the sense of wonder – I just don’t know almost any classics, or the history behind the scene.
You've said that 'Saligia' is quite a personal story – can you tell us about some of the inspirations behind it? (And behind its title?)
Yes, well, Saligia is an acronym for the seven sins, a subject I’m not a great fan of, but that I was challenged to write about. In the end, it turned into a story greatly inspired by my own family, especially my maternal grandmother’s side. Two years ago, she was diagnosed with dementia, and during the time I was her caretaker, she shared many stories of her childhood that explained a lot of intergenerational trauma present in our lives.
Cesária, the central character, is the only obvious reference, as she is very much my great-grandmother: a woman who was often unkind and who despised my grandmother for her appearance, but who went through extremely challenging events since a young age. Other aspects are more subtle: the time period is different, they were not as wealthy as the Barandiráns, and the theme of violence is more connected to me than to them. It’s not meant to be a literal retelling of what they went through, just like the (fictional) legend mentioned in the story has nothing to do with Brazilian myths, and it works more as a Magic Realism take on trauma than on werewolves, for example. On a less personal note, I was also inspired by the narratives of overly dramatic period telenovelas.
You translated this story yourself – is the process of translating your own work difficult? Do you think it has affected your writing?
I find translating my own work considerably easier than translating somebody else’s! There are times where the wording needs to be changed to pass the same feeling, and I can do it without worrying when it’s mine. And it did affect my own writing immensely – not only I learned English by translating some manuscripts word by word (which in turn led me to publish stories), but I also noticed that the difference between storytelling across languages could improve my own craft. English, for example, tends to be more more succinct and action-driven, while Portuguese can be wordy to the point of verbosity. In contrast, Romance languages have a descriptive richness that can give more fluidity to an otherwise dry sentence.
You're currently living in Southern Brazil - can you tell us about the Brazilian SF/F scene? Is there a flourishing SF or horror fandom in Brazil?
Like I said before, I’m new to SFF in general, but there is definitely a growing speculative scene in Brazil right now. We have a few magazines like Trasgo, Mafagafo Revista and A Taverna; new publishing houses focused on Science Fiction like Plutão Livros; and many, many independent authors and avid readers.
What other South American SF/F or horror authors would you recommend? Who would you like to see translated into English?
Right now, I’m in love with Argentine author Mariana Enríquez, whose horror short story collection Las Cosas Que Perdimos en el Fuego was translated to both Portuguese and English (by José Geraldo Couto and Megan McDowell, respectively). I read it in January, and can’t stop thinking about it.
In Brazil, I would love to see a translation of Mitografias, a series of anthologies organized by Leonardo Tremeschin, Andriolli Costa and Lucas Rafael Ferraz. The first volume was one of the books I enjoyed the most in 2018.
And finally, can you tell us what you're working on at the moment?
I’m working on a monstrous Urban Fantasy novella that’s basically a long therapy session for me, both in terms of the current political scenario of my country, and my own problems (although I guess “Saligia” was a lot like that, too).
Hopefully, I will finish working on it soon, and get to start a novel this year.
Thank you so much for your time!