Blog and Twitter buddy Kayla Graham of Bengal Reads sent Eva Márquez to us and highly recommended book 1 of her series, Sweetest Taboo. Discombobulated is the word that would neatly describe my experience reading it so much so that I didn't rate the book in Goodreads. Now here's Eva to talk about book 2, Tainted Love.
Braine: Tell us something about TAINTED LOVE that we won't find in the book blurbs?
Eva Márquez: One thing that will be highly appreciated by readers, and will add to the complexity of the ‘Sweetest Taboo’ series, is the fact that TAINTED LOVE takes us not only through the thoughts and experiences of Isabel, the teen who was caught in an illicit love affair with her high school swim coach, but also reveal the thoughts and history of this controversial swim coach who readers either love or hate.
Braine: Well you know what I feel about Tom. What book/s influenced you and your writing the most?
Eva Márquez: There are dozens of authors I admire, but two that have captivated me with their work are Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Julia Alvarez. Ms. Adichie is Nigerian-born and now living in London and I think I had an instant connection with her work because I lived/worked in Nigeria for two years and was able to really get to know the southern Nigerian culture and context because of my work in the communities. Her first book, Purple Hibiscus, resonated with me because of my experiences in Nigeria and her second book, Half of a Yellow Sun, was so expertly written and wove four amazing human and social stories that I fell absolutely in love with her prose and skill for telling complex stories. Ms. Adichie writes about what she knows well, Nigeria and Nigerian culture, history and society and because she does so, her books include incredibly sincere stories.
Julia Alvarez is a Dominican-American who writes primarily adult fiction, although she has also written young YA fiction as well, which are characterized by fantasy-type series. My favorite all-time book from Ms. Alvarez is In the Time of the Butterflies, which is a uniquely narrated book written in the perspective of four sisters growing up in the Dominican Republic under the dictator ship of President Trujillo. It’s superbly narrated and the story just tells itself effortlessly, it seems. Another book I very much enjoyed was How the García Girls lost their Accent, which is a story about Dominican immigrants to New York and their journey into mainstream American life. What these two authors have in common is that they are strong, confident and experienced women writing fiction about their natal lands, writing about their contexts and weaving extraordinary stories of strength and love in times of adversity.
Braine: Those books sounds powerful. So TAINTED LOVE is finished and hitting the shelves next week, do you have a favorite line?
Eva Márquez: From TAINTED LOVE preface.
“I will always say that Isabel was never a schoolgirl, she was never an age, and she was never anyone I intentionally pursued. She just appeared in my life at that particular moment in time, in that particular place (my workplace, of all places) and while the relationship that developed between us was strong, it only became stronger as time went on.”
Braine: What is TAINTED LOVE in one word?
Eva Márquez: Revealing.
Braine: I'm still reeling from the revelations. SWEETEST TABOO started as Mature YA and quickly moved to New Adult. Was your own New Adult phase similar to that of your characters?
Eva Márquez: I grew up as an immigrant in a lower-to-middle class Southern California suburb. So I tapped into that experience in SWEETEST TABOO, which chronicles the love affair between a young Hispanic schoolgirl and her much older, married teacher. I drew from my experiences growing up to develop several plot ideas. Romantic experiences are universal. Provocative, illicit and risqué contexts do not take away from the experience of love, and that’s what this debut book sets out to communicate.
Braine: I agree about the universal concept of love however Isabel and Tom's relationship is... gah! Where did it come from?
Eva Márquez: I was also intrigued by the news of one of my former teachers being convicted of [sexual] misconduct with a minor. Since I can remember, I have always been fascinated by similar stories making the news, but like many people, wondered about how these relationships originate and how they flourish under the radar. In SWEETEST TABOO, I got to unravel one of these clandestine relationships, one exciting page at a time.
Braine: Clandestine is a very apt adjective. When I read SWEETEST TABOO I have to do a double take on the prologue because I thought it was a true story. Have you ever been in a relationship with a man who is relatively younger/older than you are?
Eva Márquez: Absolutely. My fiancé is a decade and a half older than me, and has provided a great deal of input into the Sweetest Taboo Series, with insightful and realistic contributions to the older male characters in TAINTED LOVE.
Braine: Any advice for girls in a relationship similar to Isabel’s or who are fascinated with the idea of a May-December love affair?
Eva Márquez: My advice is this: only throw caution to the wind and follow your heart if it’s legal to do so. Love comes in many colors, sizes and formats…be open to them, but also employ reason and consequences to all love affairs. I, myself, have always been attracted to/gravitated to older men. I have found that older men have provided me the intellectual and emotional maturity that younger man could not. As individuals who long intimacy, closeness and emotional connections, it’s up to you to follow your heart (and your head) and do what feels right for you (and not necessarily what appears correct in society’s view).
Braine: I'm an ageist so I'll take your advice to heart. Hopefully it works for me LOL. What is it about TAINTED LOVE that readers will find compelling aside from the "illicit and clandestine" affair that Isabel and Tom share?
Eva Márquez: Because TAINTED LOVE deals with controversial topics, crosses and intersects genres and does not fit into a neat little box, I ask my readers to be prepared for the journey. My novels are not for everyone, and those who are disturbed and bothered by stories that push the envelope or challenge societal norms would likely not find my literary work appealing. So in essence, this is a bit of a warning to potential readers and/or followers. I do not intend on writing for all audiences, as that is almost impossible to do. What I can and have committed myself to doing is writing about what I know, writing about my own contexts, environments and experiences and pushing those to the limits to create controversial stories that inspire people to perhaps think out of the box, which is very much what Ms. Adichie and Ms. Alvarez have done with their literary work. To my future readers and followers I also say, thank you! For every reader and follower I have, I am that much more enthused to write and develop characters that challenge our existing comfort levels and perceptions. I would also ask any future readers or followers to contact me if they have any questions about anything I have written, or about my future work. Many of my ideas for character development and plots come from discussions I have with friends, colleagues or people I’ve met casually at a lounge, bar or book store!
Braine: Can you share a little trivia with us about the "real" Isabel and Tom?
Eva Márquez: Having been 16 and loved every minute of it, I can relate to her crush on Mr. Stevens (let’s be honest, what girl did not have a crush on one of her handsome teachers while in High School?). I remember one of my crushes fondly…ah….Mr. Ferris! What girl in my class did not have a crush on this handsome substitute teacher? He was young, tall, muscular in all the right places, blue eyes, brown hair, sparkling smile, dimple where it belonged, boyish good looks, and flirtatious (or at least we liked to read into his playfulness). I can’t imagine any one of us would have turned him down should he have tried to kiss us, so in a scheming ‘bad girl’ kind of way, I would have LOVED to have been in Isabel’s shoes to see what it would feel like to be revered by that crush we all had at one point in time. Also, I would have liked to see how I would have reacted to the situation. I know for a fact that I would have NOT rebuffed Mr. Ferris…I mean, I dreamt about the man! But, would I have chased him as Isabel did? Would I have followed my heart as intensely as Isabel did? Would I have risked it all, just to get close to him? I’d like to think I perhaps wouldn’t, but who’s to know?
Braine: I think a lot of us could relate to that. I too had crushes on some of my former teachers and professors. What are you writing next?
Eva Márquez: The last book of the ‘Sweetest Taboo Series’. It will not disappoint!
Eva Márquez: ‘What Alice Forgot’ by Liane Moriarty
Braine: Aside from your books, what other New Adult novel or series do you recommend?
Eva Márquez: I absolutely LOVE the classic ‘Flowers in the Attic’ series by V.C. Andrews (am I dating myself???). As far as relatively newer Adult novels, I quite enjoyed Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, as well as her other two books Sharp Objects and Dark Places.
Braine: I love how twisted Gillian Flynn is! Thanks for dropping by Eva!
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Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, daughter of European immigrants, Eva Márquez has spent most of her life outside of her home country. At the age of five, Eva accompanied her parents to the United States, where the family settled permanently. After graduating from university, she went on to complete graduate studies in International Relations in Spain. Eva received her Master of International Studies degree from the University of Sydney and went on to work in the global health field in Sub Saharan Africa and South East Asia. Eva currently resides in Southern Africa.
Fan Girls & Boys Welcome
Eva is giving away five digital sets of
Sweetest Taboo and Tainted Love
Contest ends March 5