Interview with Margaret Elysia Garcia

Congratulations on all of the various print and online publications you’ve enjoyed in the past 12 months. It seems like every week or two, another great publication had accepted one of your stories. How did this fantastic momentum come about?

Ha! Thanks for that vote of confidence. At the beginning of 2011 I really started feeling my age and my ineptitude at being my own secretary. Writers who want to publish have to be their own writers, publicists, and secretaries. The publicist/secretary has always been a hard thing for me to do. I just vowed that 2011 would be the year I played secretary at least twice a week. I sent 21 stories out this past year. Nineteen of them found homes somewhere. I’m happy and grateful for that. It also has given me the confidence boost of going for it and producing the short story collection that most of these stories are from as a self-publishing venture. In truth, though, I started renting an office last January. I knew if I didn’t publish or make a concerted effort, I would feel like a poser to myself.
You have a background in music/musicology. Can you tell us about it, and how it has married up with your creativity and process as a writer?

No one has ever asked me that before. I love music. I often write with certain music on. If I am trying to create a certain mood or pace I often pick something that will go with what I’m trying to do. Usually instrumentals or something on the 4AD record label—or something French. Ha! As long as I can’t readily understand the words it works. I frequently listen to Schubert, Mahler, and accordion music while writing.
I find that what sets your work apart is its perceptiveness and passion. “Thursdays in Bliss” makes me wish that you would publish a book-length work of no-holds-barred erotica.

That’s funny. I think most of the time I read erotica I think “Really? That’s it?”  I’m too much of a romantic, I suppose. I like erotica to be over the top and I like it quirky. And I often have no patience for porn. Friends will send me links to something they think is hot and I’ll think “Ew. The eyeshadow on that girl is all wrong.”  I totally miss the point. I just think if you are writing about sex, then really write about it. Would love to do a book-length erotica project actually.

It could be middle age/pre-menopause speaking, but everything and nothing is a turn-on at this point. I like taking a simple attraction or a simple grain of truth: you and me—and transforming that into all the possibilities that real life can take you but often doesn’t. That is the sexy part! The wild abandon of being able to see the hot-looking waiter and see him with his clothes off and then go back to eating your lunch. That’s where fiction comes in handy.
You come from Whittier, California, and you’ve published numerous stories and poems set in and around Los Angeles, but for years now you have lived in a small town in the Sierras. How has this colored and shaped your writing work?

I think I set so many things in Los Angeles because I’m never quite through with how I feel about being from there. I love Nathanael West’s Day of the Locusts. Or Joan Didion’s LA essays in Slouching Towards Bethlehem. I wanted to add my corner of Los Angeles too because I think it’s underrepresented (even though LA is completely overrepresented as a whole in film and lit). I love the theme of inventing one’s self in a new landscape which West and Didion both write about. I like the high expectations with little or no delivery that LA gives us. I’m a little sick that way. It takes me a long time to truly digest a place I’ve lived in. I don’t think I’ll write about the mountains in earnest for another five years—I still have Japan and Europe to work through.
So in addition to writing, publishing, teaching and traveling, you are also a DJ, and even have your own weekly radio show. Tell us—is this a past life bubbling up? And is your penchant for DJing ever like a devil on your shoulder, telling you things?

The nature of past lives IS for them to bubble up to the surface. I was raised to listen to music and not to think of it as background. Music becomes part of the story—at least the rhythm of it and the mood. For “Thursdays in Bliss” I was listening to music that reminded me of the male character in the piece and I let that over the topness of what I was listening to fold into the situation in the story. Bob Dylan’s “If You See Her, Say Hello…” set the mood for the story as did Jane Siberry’s “The Vigil.” Neither of which are erotic but both speak to the desperation of wanting something to be real.

I think the commonality really is all of these things I’m into are sensual—including the raising of children, which I also do. It all folds into each other if done right (my way!).

Margaret Elysia Garcia

Margaret Elysia Garcia writes essays, fiction, memoir, and poetry. Her recent work can be seen in Brain, Child magazine, The Weekenders Magazine, Huizache Journal, Catamaran Review, and other literary places. She lives in the remote northeastern corner of the Sierra Nevadas, where she teaches unsuspecting college students and hosts an alternative women’s radio show and a book club show on Plumas Community Radio at She’ll be directing her first spoken word show for Listen to Your Mother this spring. You can follow her adventures and links to publications on her blog, Tales of a Sierra Madre.

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