Thursday, January 5, 2012

Isabel Allende Interview

From time to time I will be posting interviews that appear in the online magazine Lost in Fiction. The following Isabel Allende interview by Lucy Hannau is the first of these interviews.

Isabel Allende
Interview by Lucy Hannau, Lost in Fiction Editor

19 books, translated into 35 languages. More than 57 million copies sold. 12 international honorary doctorates, 50 awards in more than 15 countries and 2 international movies, Isabel Allende's next book, Maya's Note Book, is available at Amazon.

Isabel Allende Llona (born in Lima, Peru on 2 August 1942) is a Chilean writer with American citizenship. Allende, whose works sometimes contain aspects of the "magic realist" tradition, is famous for novels such as The House of the Spirits (La casa de los espiritus, 1982) and City of the Beasts (La ciudad de las bestias, 2002), which have been commercially successful. Allende has been called "the world's most widely read Spanish-language author". In 2004, Allende was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 2010, she received Chile's National Literature Prize.

Allende's novels are often based upon her personal experience and pay homage to the lives of women, while weaving together elements of myth and realism. She has lectured and toured many American colleges to teach literature. Fluent in English as a second language, Allende was granted American citizenship in 2003, having lived in California with her American husband since 1989. In 1996, she founded the Isabel Allende Foundation, in honour of her daughter Paula, who passed away when she was only 28. The foundation's goal is to empower women and girls worldwide.

Which of your characters do you feel more connected to? Why?

I heard once that the author is in every character and that every character represents an aspect of the author. I don't identify with one character in particular but in most of my books the main female protagonist is a strong-willed, independent and rebellious woman who struggles to beat the odds against her. She is also sentimental and passionate. I feel very connected to those protagonists.

What does "writing" mean to you?

Life. Telling stories is the only thing I want to do. Writing is like breathing. Literature has given me a voice, has given sense to my life and it has connected me with millions of readers worldwide.

Getting published is always hard, how did you find Carmen Balcells?

My first novel, The House of the Spirits, was rejected by several publishing houses. One day the receptionist in one of those publishing houses told me that there was no hope of being published without a good agent and she mentioned Carmen Balcells. Later, Tomas Eloy Martinez, an Argentinian writer, gave me the address of Carmen Balcells in Spain and recommended her as the best agent for Latin American literature.

In one of your interviews you said you have a cinematographic vision when you write. New technologies are changing our lives today, almost everybody is on Facebook or tweets daily and then there is the e-book revolution: how do you relate to them both as an author and as a person? What do you think about e-books?

I don't have Facebook and I don't tweet because I have no time: I am too busy writing. Usually I have a pile of books on my night table waiting their turn to be read. I like to touch and smell books, but I prefer e-books when I travel because I can carry as many as I want in my iPad. I think that in the near future books will be rare items for collectors and libraries and we will be reading everything on a screen.

It's been many years you have been living in California where your "tribe" lives too. How do you keep your written Spanish so "polished," without even a minimal English interference in the vocabulary or in the syntax?

Oh! I wish that was true! My Spanish has deteriorated gravely. Willie, my American husband, thinks he speaks Spanish but his syntax sounds like Polish and when he doesn't know a word, he makes it up. After 25 years in his company I am writing the way he speaks. A young man in Spain, Jorge Manzanilla, corrects my manuscripts to eliminate Willie's pernicious influence.

Lucy Hannau is an editor at Lost in Fiction, where this interview first appeared. Lost in Fiction is an online magazine as well as a community of professional freelancers who offer services that include editing, editorial PR, multilingual translations, website creation and online promotion through social media.


  1. Sadly I haven't read any of her books but I have heard a lot about her and the magic realism streak in her writing. I would have liked to know why she moved to the US and how this has influenced her writing apart from Willie's influence. Thanks for posting the interview here Barbara.


  2. Hi Rolando, Thanks for visiting my blog. I'm not certain but I think Isabel Allende publishes all her novels in Spanish editions as well as in English. I'm very interested in magical realism.

  3. I had the pleasure of being in the audience of an interview of Isabel Allende. She was delightful. Her book ISLAND BENEATH THE SEA had just been released. It is a triumphant story clearly told by a passionate author. Allende's work is always a great read. HOUSE OF SPIRITS remains one of her finest, and it is a pure work of magical realism.