EDITOR'S NOTE: Event rescheduled for Aug. 4 due to the Mountain Fire.
Relationships among family members, a frequent theme this year, will highlight the final session of the third year of the Idyllwild Authors Series. Series founder Eduardo Santiago will discuss his recent book, “Midnight Rumba,” this Sunday. “Midnight Rumba,” which is set in the 10 years leading to the Cuban revolution in 1959, explores the connections of three families.
“Initially I didn’t realize that the setting was a parallel between a Latin American revolution and what it’s like to grow up in a family,” he said. “There is always a revolt. If it doesn’t happen when you’re young, then when you’re older.”
Santiago’s initial draft of 840 pages took nine years to complete and a huge emotional investment. “I’d stop work and throw the manuscript across the room. Eventually, I’d get on my knees, pick it up and kiss it,” Santiago said, describing the volatile creative process. Consequently, the final product is “deeper and more mature, the themes are more complex and the characters more unique,” he said.
The effort helped him become a better writer, he believes, because he had to develop a greater level of courage. His characters demonstrate the ways grown children often disappoint their parents. Like many of us, Santiago experienced this personally and had the courage to use those feelings in this work.
While he and his father, now in his 80s and living in Florida, are on good and close terms, the book is dedicated to him. Santiago said many times while growing up he felt his father was simply bracing for enormous disappointment.
“It’s not the son who is an author, but the son who wants to be an author. That’s pretty scary,” he explained. “I had to deliver for him. I passed all his expectations because they were so low.
“Parents are the most important relationship,” he continued. “We can’t divorce our parents, but we can get remarried.”
To change and improve that relationship, Santiago visited a therapist for more than two decades. “I worked really hard to drop the judgment because I didn’t want to carry a big bag of bull----,” he confessed.
“Midnight Rumba” is not the only book in the 2013 series about family relationships and the difficulty of separating judgment from connections. This past week’s author Duff Brenna’s book was about his mother and growing up.
At first, Santiago said this was simply a coincidence. Santiago had not consciously planned this theme, but the previous authors, such as Cheryl Crane, who opened this year’s series, wrote about her mother and her boyfriend. Several other authors, including Michael Kearns and Steven Reigns, also focused on the turmoil and tension inherent in families.
“I think trying to find a theme that works is more than I can create. Generally, availability and willingness to come are the criteria,” he said. “And I like their books.”
Santiago is very pleased with the third year of the series. The turnout has been extraordinary, in his opinion. So bibliophiles can spend the winter preparing for another author series in 2014, he promised. “I want to get Anne Rice here,” he hopes.
Santiago will discuss “Midnight Rumba” at 3 p.m., Sunday, August 4, at Café Aroma. For those who miss this opportunity, he is offering a beginning writers workshop in August in Idyllwild.