IN A FLASH INTERVIEW with Natalia Sylvester, the author talks to us about her new novel, Everyone Knows You Go Home, how she has come to see herself as a writer on social media platforms, and what kind of magical creature she would be.
Marilyse Figueroa: Your new novel, Everyone Knows You Go Home, has to be one of my favorite titles for a book. I admire how it’s informal and simultaneously specially picked for the subject matter of your book. The title also seems to be very different from your first novel, Chasing the Sun. Could you talk about how you found your novel’s title and any other titles that the book might have been called, and why?
Natalia Sylvester: First of all, thank you; I’m so happy it resonated with you. It is a very different title from my first book, but funny enough, now that I think about it, I found both titles in very similar ways. Both were a) not the original titles that the book sold as, b) came about as a result of my editor suggesting I consider a different, more fitting title and, c) taken from lines in the books.
In the case of Everyone Knows You Go Home, though, I went through many different titles, even from draft to draft. For a long time, the file name was simply Bravo. Then, when I started querying agents (because I ended up switching agents between my first book and this one) I experimented—sometimes I titled it Bravo, Like the River and other times simply Bravo and other times Everyone Carries Their Own Water, which is also a line in the book. It sold as the latter, and it was actually my editor who suggested using Everyone Knows You Go Home instead. When she did, it made so much more sense to me. I think in the first few titles, I’d been exploring the idea of fluidity and sustenance and movement between borders and spaces, all of which are part of the book. But overarching that was always the idea of home: how we know it and long for it and search for it, and how we can both lose and find parts of ourselves in the process.
MF: I follow your posts on your social media accounts, and I really relate to your posts about your workouts, fashion inspiration, and of course, your cute puppies. I love to see writers actually post about their lives, not only their writing lives. And I’ve also been following how well your book is being received on Twitter and other online literary journals. For example, I recently saw a tweet featuring your book from the extremely influential literary and cultural icon, Roxanne Gay, and I was so excited for the enthusiasm your new book is receiving. Can you talk about what you find most important in having a social media presence and how social media has impacted your writing career?
NS: That means a lot that you find it relatable. It wasn’t always easy for me to share parts of my life on social media, especially on Instagram (which is now where I’m most active) because so much of what I’ve internalized over my life is this idea that one must not be vain, or self-focused, and even though I love seeing others celebrate and embrace all these different parts of themselves, it’s never been something that comes naturally to me, and definitely not free of self-doubt. So personally, to me, each time I do post something to do with fashion or working out or a selfie simply because I like how my makeup looks that day, it feels like a tiny act of rebellion. It’s me shedding that part of myself that for years was told, don’t look in a mirror, don’t spend time on “frivolous” things if you want to be taken seriously.
So I try to share honest glances at the things that bring me joy. Lately, much of that is book-related, which I have to fight the urge to apologize for because how could anyone NOT totally flip when Roxane Gay reviews their book?!?! I’ll also post things I’m working through, or things that I feel can’t go unsaid. And especially on Instagram, because it’s so image-based, I try to post about my life in a way that doesn’t impose or thrust false expectations upon others’ sense of happiness. I know how complicated our relationships with our bodies, with our self-image, can be, and social media can be helpful but also at times harmful to that. Which is why it’s important to me to come at it from a place of celebration and not judgement. I think if it’s helped my writing career in any way, it’s always stemmed from just connecting with someone on a very human level, and us wanting to support one another.
MF: And now for the serious questions: Who would be your dream person (alive or dead) you would have you follow you on any social media platform and why?
NS: Currently, Gina Rodriguez, because I love her light and energy and I’m going to take this opportunity to just send those “follow me & let’s be friends forever” vibes out into the universe.
MF: If you had to choose, what novelty t-shirt would you wear everyday and why?
NS: I made a Celia & Selena & Gloria & Shakira shirt that I almost do wear every day! They are each powerful, beautiful Latinas and legendary reinas in their own right…need I say more?
MF: If you had to choose between being a talking book but you had no legs or arms OR being a walking, talking camera but could take no pictures, which one would you be?
NS: I’d be a walking, talking camera and roam the earth telling stories in hopes that others would write them or pass them down.
Born in Lima, Peru, NATALIA SYLVESTER came to the US at the age of four. As a child she spent time in south Florida, central Florida, and the Rio Grande Valley in Texas before her family set roots once again in Miami. In 2006, Natalia received a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Miami. A former magazine editor, Natalia now works as a freelance writer in Texas and is a faculty member of the low-res MFA program at Regis University. Her articles have appeared in Latina Magazine, Writer’s Digest, The Austin American-Statesman, and NBCLatino.com. CHASING THE SUN was named the Best Debut Book of 2014 by Latinidad, and was chosen as a Book of the Month by the National Latino Book Club. Her second novel, EVERYONE KNOWS YOU GO HOME, is out now from Little A Books.
Follow her @nataliasylv on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Marilyse V. Figueroa is a Texas State University MFA Creative Writing Candidate. She frequents Instagram as @unapologetic_scorpio.