Ingrid Rojas Contreras was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. Her first novel, Fruit of the Drunken Tree, was the silver medal winner in First Fiction from the California Book Awards, and a New York Times editor’s choice. Her essays and short stories have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, The Believer, and ZYZZYVA, among others. She lives in California.
Her newest book is The Man Who Could Move Clouds: A Memoir, published by Doubleday. We’ll be celebrating this book with a special in-person event in Kerouac Alley (between City Lights Bookstore & Vesuvio Cafe) on Monday, July 18 at 6PM PT. Ingrid will be in conversation with special guest Esmé Weijun Wang.
Where are you writing to us from?
I am writing from my writing room in SoMa. There are photos that appear in my forthcoming memoir hanging on the wall, and all kinds of translucent crystals around me on my desk. My laptop fell out of my hands two days ago, and the top part of the screen broke, so on top of being surrounded by crystals, this text I am writing appears to me behind a curtain of lines that glitch with light. It’s all very punk.
What has been most important for you, personally/artistically/habitually, during the pandemic?
Personally and habitually, marking time has felt important. I gave myself a small finger tattoo, and got a kitten during the pandemic. Artistically, I would say spending time with beloved fellow writers and being humans together is something that I need to have in order to feel fully creative, so those get-togethers, whether they were online or in person, have felt vital.
Which writers, artists, and others influence your work in general, and this book, specifically?
I would say that my mother is the biggest influence of both my work in general and this book in particular. She’s told me stories since I was a little girl, and I always say that I learned all I know about writing from watching her tell stories. She has that power to keep a whole room, no matter how many people—five or twenty—entranced. I think of her as an artist and a writer, even though I am not sure she would call herself that. In spirit, I believe she is.
What books are you reading right now and would you recommend any to others?
I am reading Angie Cruz’s How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water, and revisiting Saeed Jones’s How We Fight for Our Lives. I finished a while ago, but I feel very fanatic about Fernanda Melchor’s Hurricane Season. If you haven’t read, drop everything. You must read it. It’s the smartest, most risk-taking book I’ve read in a while. I think I finished reading it and, for a while, I just kept uttering to no one in the room, “Wow. Holy shit.” Oh, the other book I am reading is Las voladoras by Mónica Ojeda. I don’t believe it’s been translated yet, but if any publisher is reading this, I volunteer! It’s incredible. Jawbone is Mónica’s only book that’s been translated to English so far, which I also recommend.
If you opened a bookstore, where would it be located, what would it be called, and what would your bestseller be?
The bookstore would be one I carry in the pockets of a trench coat, which I would open for the perusing interested, and it would be called Black Market Books, and the bestseller would be Clarice Lispector’s The Hour of the Star.