Spotlight: Sandra Rodriguez Barron

Hobart Festival of Women Writers welcomes Sandra Rodriguez Barron

Sandra Rodriguez Barron won first prize for debut fiction at the 2007 International Latino Book Awards and was a Borders Original Voices selection for The Heiress of WaterStay with Me, her second novel, was a finalist for the 2011 Connecticut Book Award. Sandra Rodriguez Barron has received support from The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, The Greater Harford Arts Council, the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, and the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism. Barron was born in Puerto Rico, grew up in El Salvador, and currently lives in Connecticut.
The Heiress of Water                                         Stay With Me
Barron, who earned her own MFA in Creative Writing from Florida International University, now teaches in the Western Connecticut State University MFA Program. 
as she discusses her novel, The Heiress of Water
praise for Stay With Me
Stay With Me accomplishes all we might ask of a novel….It reminds readers what great pleasures and surprises are to be found inside such rare, fine, and atmospheric novels when we’re lucky enough to find them.”  —Laura Kasischke, author of In a Perfect World

Sandra Rodriguez Barron speaks to Stephanie Nikolopoulos

S.R.Barron       Stephanie Nikolopoulos

SN: Your novels The Heiress of Water and Stay with Me both deal with people adrift in bodies of water. In The Heiress of Water, a mother is lost in an accident at sea, while in Stay with Me, five toddlers are left stranded on a boat in the ocean. Though these stories are more about relationships after the aftermath of these occurrences, why did you choose water as crucial to the inciting incidents in your novels?
SRB: The sea represents the edge of what is known about the world and what remains shrouded in mystery.  It’s a perfect departure point, symbolically, for a journey. Because the sea is so soulful, communicative, and moody, we respond to it in ways similar to how we respond to people. We can swept by this grandiose sense of calm, or the churning waves can stir up our fear and anxiety. The effect can be creatively stimulating.
The sea is as powerful an influence as any character in my novels. In The Heiress of Water, the mother is a marine biologist who believes that the ocean has a spiritual intelligence. It’s hard for me to write about the ocean and not end up in a metaphor about the human subconscious, because the freakiest and most amazing creations of nature’s imagination dwell in the dark waters, way down deep.
Another unifying principle in the plot lines you asked me about is the idea of missing mothers. Themes of motherhood and birth and abandonment are symbolically connected by the steady presence of the sea.
SN: Though they are not genre books, your literary novels do contain mysteries. How do you build suspense in your works? Are you as the author in suspense as you develop your plot or do you start your writing already knowing how it will end?
SRB: The first-draft for me is intuitive rather than an intellectual process. I’m a non-linear thinker, so letting the imagination wander around without a map comes naturally. Though I’ll generally have a vague outline in mind, I’ll feel my way through rather than take a pre-planned course. If stories come from the subconscious, it makes sense not to destroy the magic by over-planning. There’s a prominent role awaiting the intellect in the later stages, so I try not to let it intrude too early. As for mystery and suspense, I believe that it’s rooted in the character first. I begin with a person who inspires questions and I let the mystery flow out of the answer to those questions. For Stay with Me, I had an opening scene of five toddlers abandoned on a luxury fishing vessel. What kind of parent or guardian would allow that, and why? In The Heiress of Water, there was the mystery surrounding a disappearance of a brilliant biologist who was also a negligent mother. People are complicated, the human soul is a labyrinth of intentions and desires. My job is to let the characters chase their desires until they get very lost physically and emotionally, and to help them find their way home. Usually, “home” is a destination near the sea again, back to the edge of the next mystery in their life. 
For Hobart Festival of Women Writers 2017, Sandra Rodriguez Barron will present the workshop The Guided Dream: Descriptive Techniques for Fiction and Creative Non-Fiction. Participants will explore how to write sensory detail through subtlety and craft so as not to interrupt the action of the story. 
Here Sandra Rodriguez Barron talks about writing and her “Bucketful of Ideas.”
For more information on author and teacher Sandra Rodriguez Barron, visit
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