TNA: We’re so pleased to welcome Erin Finnegan to The Novel Approach today, author of Luchador, which was just named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2016. Congratulations, Erin, and thank you for the interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.
Erin: Thanks for having me! It’s a relief (and kind of exciting) to finally be talking at length about Luchador, since I first started working on it three years ago! I’m really honored by the announcement from PW, and I’m still trying to form words, other than to say that I’m incredibly grateful.
Luchador is my second book. My debut, Sotto Voce, is also set in a world that I have a lot of love for—the independent winemakers of Sonoma County. I’m a winemaker myself, and I am a big fan of the somewhat smaller and mellower half of Northern California’s wine country.
Luchador is, no surprise, set in the world of lucha libre, or Mexican masked wrestling. But don’t be put off by the sweat, blood and Gatorade. Luchador is really a coming of age story of a young man who is looking to chart his own course in a world with set rules. There’s also Lycra.
TNA: Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than any others? Love? Action? Romance? Tragedy?
Erin: That’s a great question, and I have a perfectly wishy-washy answer for it. It depends, and changes from project-to-project. Luchador is a great example of this for me. I had no problem writing some fairly graphic sexual content in my first book, Sotto Voce. The book is a slow build, and there aren’t a lot of sex scenes, but when they happen, they’re fairly detailed.
When I sat down to write intimate scenes in Luchador, I was stymied at first. I would get to a certain point and hesitate. What was stopping me? An editor figured it out, and explained it in a way that made perfect sense, but I hadn’t considered it. Sex scenes, she said, are really a form of action sequences. But with the absolutely necessary action scenes in the lucha libre rings, trying to add lengthy sex scenes to the already action-heavy book could throw off the pacing.
She was absolutely right, and her critique helped me strike a balance between action in the ring and, well, action in the bedroom.
TNA: What do you think makes a good story?
Erin: So, so much. First, give me some good characters. Give them purpose, make them real. Give them believable names, good lord. Be original. How many times can I underline that last one? If everyone’s publishing mysterious, glittery billionaire vampires, write something else. Originality is everything to me. And prose, of course; writing that is not just competent, but thoughtful and rhythmic. I love a well-paced book where the author clearly understood that writing is about rhythm. My advice to aspiring writers, for what it’s worth? Read every word of what your write out loud. It will change your writing and rock your world.
TNA: Do you hear from readers much? What do they say?
Erin: I love hearing from readers! Sotto Voce, my first novel that was set in the world of the Northern California wine industry, was a lot of fun because readers starting sending me wine rec’s, and fan art (oh my god, I love that!), and notes about visiting some of the locations from the book. I still get questions asking about what wineries to visit in Napa and Sonoma, and I giving travel/foodie/wine tasting advice, which makes me happy to no end.
One of the early readers of Luchador sent me a note that said, “I want La Rosa fan art.”
Me too, early reader. I hope readers who may be new to lucha libre are curious about it, and ask questions about it, whether they are directed to me or someone else. Readers being inquisitive or inspired to learn more because of your book? It’s the highest compliment.
TNA: How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
Erin: Two! I do not work fast. Please don’t ask me the Sophie’s Choice question. They’re both my babies, and I love them equally and for entirely different reasons.
TNA: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Erin: I make wine! I have a little vineyard called Finnegan’s Hill where I grow, harvest, and ferment Syrah and Zinfandel. People seem to think that winemaking is a sort of “elegant” hobby. No, it’s agriculture, and science. There’s dust, and bugs, and the need to clean up after my two sheep dogs, who seem to think that the vineyard is the perfect place to poop. But about three years after I harvest my grapes, I have enough wine to have a hella good party.
About the Book
Each week, Gabriel Romero’s drive to Sunday mass takes him past “El Ángel,” the golden statue at the heart of Mexico City that haunts his memories and inspires his future. Spurred by the memory of his parents, Gabriel is drawn to the secretive world of lucha libre, where wrestling, performance art and big business collide.
Under the conflicting mentorships of one of lucha libre’s famed gay exótico wrestlers and an ambitious young luchador whose star is on the rise, Gabriel must choose between traditions which ground him but may limit his future, and the lure of sex and success that may compromise his independence. Surrounded by a makeshift family of wrestlers, Gabriel charts a course to balance ambition, sexuality and loyalty to find the future that may have been destined for him since childhood.
Once Gabriel had thought that he had a sophisticated knowledge of lucha libre. But the more he spent time with Miguel, the more he realized that his understanding of the sport and its significance in Mexican pop culture—even Mexican political movements—was on a novice level at best.
Lucha libre was no longer the simple entertainment of his childhood. Leaps, flips, and locks were trained, drilled, and earned. Masks were symbolic and served a purpose in defining characters and telling their stories. It was not just the show on television—“A circus,” Miguel would complain—but a serious mélange of art, sport, and metaphor that Gabriel was only beginning to understand.
The more he learned, the more he wanted to absorb. Campus gradually took a back seat to the gym, his new source of higher learning.
So he listened to Miguel and did as he was told—usually—to ensure that his education continued. If that meant standing by a piss-soaked pillar outside a crumbling civic arena to meet someone he couldn’t identify, he’d do it.
In many ways, the little venue reminded him of Arena Coliseo, the one-time boxing arena in north-central Mexico City now dedicated full-time to lucha libre. Arena Coliseo was close to fans’ hearts for its history in the sport—and its cheap beer—and had seen better days. Its beach ball-colored seats were crusted with grime and acrylic paint. The sound system squawked. Its lighting bore down on the ring with little concern for staging. It didn’t hold a candle to the relative glitz of Arena México, its cross-town rival that featured light shows, fog effects, booming music, and ring girls—all on display for the weekly lucha libre broadcasts.
“Excess,” Miguel would say, if the topic came up, though Gabriel took it with a grain of salt. La Rosa had wrestled on some of those broadcasts, after all, and with some of the flashiest costumes and biggest entourages of all the luchadores.
Miguel clearly preferred Arena Coliseo, despite its aging surrounds. He said it brought fans closer to the authentic purpose of lucha libre—the good-versus-evil narratives played out by the técnicos and rudos each week—rather than light shows and loud music. Gabriel suspected this was why Miguel still agreed to perform in these small, unsanctioned, questionable events outside of the city.
About the Author
Erin Finnegan is a former journalist and winemaker who lives in the foothills outside Los Angeles. A lifelong sports fan and occasional sports writer, she has had to dive out of the way of flying luchadores at matches in both the U.S. and Mexico. Her first novel, Sotto Voce, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and a Foreword Reviews Indiefab Silver Book of the Year Award.
Grand Prize $25 IP Gift Card + Multi-format eBook of Luchador // Five winners receive Luchador eBook
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