Interview:

ANDRÉS N ORDORICA: Ni de aquí, ni de allá 

Andrés N. Ordorica is a writer and educator based in Edinburgh, Scotland. He has performed his work for audiences in the US, Ireland and the UK. His plays have been performed in the US and UK. His creative writing addresses themes of immigration, sexuality, mental health and experiences of people of colour, specifically Latinx and Latinx-American people. He has published articles on mental health, sexuality and UK politics.

 

Andrés spent his formative years leading a nomadic life across the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Memories of this unique upbringing are dotted about throughout his stories and poetry.

 

He is the winner of the 2016 Bloomsbury Short Story Slam and was shortlisted as a ‘highly commended writer’ in 2017 for Spread The Word’s City of Stories competition. 

What is your background as a writer? Tell us a bit about yourself?

 

When I was eleven, I attempted to write my first memoir. My father gifted me a second-hand Compaq computer and we had returned to the US after nine years in Europe and the Middle East. I feared that I was going to forget this chapter of my life (I was very precocious) so set out to capture my memories into words. I was a voracious reader but it would take a few more years before I delved into writing again. In high school, I had a monthly column in my school’s paper and began writing one-acts for my theatre troupe. This early exposure to writing really formed the foundation for my love of words, language and narrative.

 

I trained as a playwright during my undergraduate and postgraduate and then left the theatre world behind for short stories, prose and poetry. Every step of my writer’s journey has been considered and invaluable. I hold no regrets. It may have taken me a while to find the genre that is right for me, but every earlier influence still plays an active part in my current writing.


What are the main differences between writing for the stage and writing for the page?

 

Writing for stage has the benefit of a real community who can help bring the work to life. As a playwright, you have the eventual benefit of an audience, the stage, lighting designers, stage managers, scenographers who all have a job to take your words and build a world. Even the act of workshopping a play allows for people to come into a room and speak your words aloud giving you opportunity to listen and focus on redrafting.

 

Writing for page is a lot more of an individual pursuit. But, I relish the fact that I can be experimental with my stories: voice, style, narrative structure, word count. There is a real freedom in writing for the page. But ultimately the effort remains with me as the writer – if my words don’t effectively build the world or the characters then there is nothing to help prop up my writing. I am grateful for my writer’s group that helps make the journey and task of writing less lonely.


You said in a tweet that you were really grateful to Confluence for your first prose publication (the privilege was all ours!). How is the short story collection going?

 

I was very grateful. My prose poem ‘Hove’ was written in a day and then I sat with it for about two years, so for it to be published was a dream come true and a real confidence booster for me. As for the short story collection, I have written 43,000 words across sixteen stories which are divided into two parts within the collection. I have edited about three quarters of it, so I am almost in reach of a full second draft. Currently, I plan to end the collection with a longer piece (which was just recently completed). The longer story is creeping close to novella length so I’ll need to keep a close eye on it. I know it will be quite the editing job but I think it is the perfect way to end this collection on the right note. Then is the next step of sending it out to publishers and agents. I want to make sure I find the right home for these stories and willing to take my time.


Do you think that travel is an important experience for a writer?

 

My upbringing was a very nomadic one, spent across three different continents and five different countries. In the five years that I have been married, I have again lived in three separate countries. Since I write a lot from life, my writing is very much tied to the places that I have been to and seen. Travel has influenced so much of my view of the world. It has allowed me to tap into new worlds and settings that I might not have written about had I not witnessed those places in the flesh. I am travelling to Mexico City earlier next year and I hope that this trip to my family’s homeland will help me improve the atmosphere of a few of my stories from the collection. I understand my privilege in being able to travel, but I would say to other writers that getting out wherever you live and taking in the world is of equal value. This helps build authenticity in writing. You begin to understand how people really speak or how a tree sways in the wind.

Describe to us what the concept of 'liminality' means to you.

 

To me liminality is a process, it is a mindset, it is a verb, it is an identity. It is the spaces in between. It is simultaneously active and passive. It is fulfilled and hungry for more. It is accepted and it is othered. It is the before and the after and the middle.

 

As a queer immigrant living in Scotland, that in between stage is a mental state I am often operating within. There are times when I feel totally present in my life with people who get me, and there are times when I feel like a voyeur watching life at the side-line not able to engage or empathise with the majority’s experiences. My aim as a writer, is to capture those moments in words that can bring comfort or clarity to people of various backgrounds and identities. Many of us, no matter where we come from, have moments in life when we are living in a liminal state. It can be hard to articulate what this feels like but that is my mission.

In a world of increasing “cancel culture”, how can writers construct characters outside their own cultural experience effectively? 

 

First and foremost, a writer needs to have a deep care and respect for the experience they are attempting to write about (even if it not their own). This does not mean the character in question has to be sympathetic or likeable, but I do think the character has to be multifaceted and their quality, even if ugly, has to be based in truth. If you are constructing a character different to your own lived experience then talk to people from that background or group. Make sure to understand what are stereotypes or racist tropes, and identify what are actual cultural practices, truths or customs. If in doubt, befriend someone who can be a ‘sensitivity reader’ and give you relevant feedback. I write every so often in Doric and about Aberdeen, but always have my husband read through these stories to ensure I am authentically portraying the north east of Scotland. It’s called doing your homework – a writer should have enthusiasm for this research and engagement.

What are you reading right now?

Currently, I am reading Ely Percy’s Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz, published by Knight Errant Press. I love Percy’s depiction of Glasgow at the turn of the 21st century. I also am deeply moved by its centering on the queer femme experience (which is eye opening to me). I recently finished Gonzalo C Garcia’s We Are The End which has motivated me to visit Chile and also better prepare for the end of the world! Both books are representative of my recent efforts to read more queer and Latinx writers. In general, I am actively trying to discover more writers from under represented backgrounds.

Do you see your writing as a political act?

Because I write mostly about identity, sexuality and mental health my writing is at least implicitly political – it is a reaction to the world around me. At the end of the day, I write what I care about and what is important to me. It just so happens that people’s rights to a safe, equitable existence is of great importance to me. Thus, writing is a form of activism for me. The writers who inspire me are often political in style or subject matter such as Jackie Kay, Nicole Krauss, Colm Tóibín, Roddy Doyle and Richard Blanco to name a few. I would find it difficult to be a writer in the 21st century and not be political on some level.

What would a Beyoncé presidency be like?

Beyoncé as president would be thoughtful, inspiring and tenacious in her pursuit of building a better and safer society for all citizens. As her career can attest to, she has been a business woman in all senses of the term since she first entered the cultural sphere. She has never allowed anyone to own her narrative. I think this allows us to see an authentic and real person who we can trust and empathise with. I would envisage a presidency that protects the rights of all citizens, creates opportunities for those from marginalised backgrounds, ensures equity for women and brings joy back to the White House. Also, I would expect Kelly and Michelle to serve as Vice President and Foreign Secretary respectively. I am, however, unsure if LaTavia or LeToya would be given cabinet positions. Blu Ivy then would follow in her mother’s footsteps and one day be president (history will revere this lineage more than it does the Bush family). 

What are you going to do next?

The goal is to finalise the collection by the year’s end and ready it for publishers and agents soon thereafter. After that I would really like to try my hand at editing or co-editing an anthology here in Scotland. I have a few ideas around themes and plan to explore funding opportunities. I also want to engage more with my writing community here in Scotland and the wider UK and help build spaces to nurture emerging voices from under represented background. Lastly, my writer’s group have a pamphlet being published later this year.You can keep up to date on all things ‘next’ on my website including more about the pamphlet.

You can follow Andrés on social media:  

Twitter: @AndresNOrdorica

Website: andresordorica.com

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