Lara Reznik - Multi-cultural Love Story Laced With Humor, Drama, and Suspense
Writing books since she was six years old, author Lara Reznik is a native New Yorker who escaped to New Mexico in the 1970s in a Karmann Ghia that she jump-started cross-country. She studied under esteemed authors Tony Hillerman and Rudolfo Anaya at the University of New Mexico and later attended the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop. Reznik retired from Information Technology management after the success of her first novel, The Girl From Long Guyland, published in 2012. In 2015, Reznik published her second book, The M&M Boys followed by Bagels & Salsa in 2018. Reznik currently lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two miniature Aussies. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about her book, Bagels & Salsa.
Please give us a short introduction to what Bagels & Salsa is about.
Bagels & Salsa is about two cultures colliding when a Jewish woman from New York falls in love with a Latino doctor from rural New Mexico. Set in the summer of 1977 as the Son of Sam terrorizes New York City, Laila Levin meets the dashing Dr. Eduardo Quintana while presenting post-doctorate research on the epidemic problem of high U.S. teenage pregnancies. What begins as a playful flirtation propels into a more serious relationship. Their mutual passion is so intense, that after a brief courtship, Eduardo invites her to accompany him to his family ranch near Española, New Mexico where he plans to open a general medical practice. The rural town has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in North America: the perfect place for Laila’s research.
In the midst of the pandemonium that results, a shocking family secret is revealed and Laila and Eduardo’s love for each other is severely tested. Can their relationship survive the fierce clash of cultures, Eduardo’s mother’s blatant rejection of Laila, competition from his drop-dead gorgeous high school sweetheart, the murderous intentions of a Son of Sam copycat who has stalked Laila from New York City, and their own uncertainties about the upheavals that their union will cause in their lives?
What inspired you to write this book? Was there anything that made you want to tackle this?
Based loosely on my own experience as a Jewish woman from New York marrying into a Hispanic ranching family from rural New Mexico, Bagels & Salsa explores the journey of two families at odds with their cultural differences but bonded by the compelling love of their children. It may best be described as a multicultural novel with a strong dose of romance, suspense and humor.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I play a mean game of pickleball.
Which of your characters was the most challenging to write for?
Honestly, I always have the hardest time writing my protagonist, in this case Laila Levin. It’s critical she’s compelling enough for readers to want to follow her journey. Also, it’s difficult to be objective since the heroine often reveals a part of my personal side which also leaves me feeling a bit exposed.
In which way is this both a prequel and a sequel to The Girl From Long Guyland?
I received numerous requests from reviewers of my bestselling novel, The Girl From Long Guyland, to learn more about Laila’s husband Eduardo who was a minor character in that book. Many of the readers wanted to know how the two got together. The Girl From Long Guyland has alternating chapters of events that take place in 1970, juxtaposed with a current day story. Bagels & Salsa set in 1977 is a prequel to Guyland's current day story, and a sequel to the events that take place in 1970. The two novels are standalone and can be read in any order.
What did you have the most fun with when writing this book?
My other two novels, The Girl From Long Guyland, and The M&M Boys are fairly serious. With Bagels & Salsa I had the most fun creating the humorous details of Jewish and Hispanic family life and utilizing a smattering of Yiddish and Spanish dialogue. With that said, I gained compassion for comedians because there’s no way to know if people will find your jokes funny.
When starting on a new book, what is the first thing you do?
This is a great question which is often debated at writers’ groups. Every author approaches beginning their novel a little differently. For me, I get an idea for a novel and write a “premise” which is the foundational idea that expresses the plot in simple terms. A good premise communicates your story's essence in a one-sentence or two-sentence statement.
i.e. My premise for Bagels & Salsa is: “A Jewish sociologist from Manhattan takes a romantic gamble and follows a handsome Latino doctor to rural New Mexico where their love is tested by his surly mama, a gorgeous ex-girlfriend, a Son of Sam copycat, and cultural differences.”
After, I write the premise, I jot down how, where, and when the story will commence and then sketch out the ending. Next, I write a chapter or two that often flows out of my fingers like magic. When I was a less experienced writer, I would continue writing the whole novel. After going down numerous rabbit trails and eliminating much of my original story in later revisions, I started writing chapter-by-chapter outlines followed by detailed sketches of each character. I utilize a great writers’ program called Scrivener which is an invaluable tool.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
My creative writing professor, the late Dr. Rudolfo Anaya (My Blessed Ultima), always said, “A Writer Writes.” I took his advice seriously. So whether I’m inspired or not, I devote a minimum of three hours four days a week to writing. My average day starts out with a couple hours of pickleball, tennis or weight training followed by a shower. Then I sit down at my computer, waste some time doing email and social media, then get to it. The exercise invigorates me and helps invoke the creative juices. I’d be lying if I said I don’t have days where it’s impossible to write something new. On those days, I will edit the chapters I’ve already written or spend time marketing my published novels. Admittedly, there are times when I suffer from writers block which can last for weeks. That generally happens when I don’t like how the novel is progressing. Eventually, I hear Dr. Anaya’s voice inside my head, “A writer writes,” and I place my derriere back in the chair.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a psychological thriller:
The In-laws--The Ex-laws—and--The Outlaws
Maya Morris, a Post Doc Linguistics student, has meticulously planned her dream wedding on a houseboat in Austin, Texas. Both she and her fiancé, Liam Whitmore, must find a way to keep the peace between their divorced parents and their new significant others, 2nd and 3rd marriage stepparents, eight sets of grandparents and various aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. The menagerie of relatives include a mix of rednecks, old hippies, old Philadelphia money, lesbians, evangelists and orthodox Jews. Things get complicated when someone is murdered.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I love hearing from my readers. Two of my other novels to check out are: The Girl From Long Guyland and The M&M Boys.