Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

are they ready for her? Curva Peligrosa by Lily Iona MacKenzie

When Curva Peligrosa arrives in Weed, Alberta, after a twenty-year trek on the Old North Trail from southern Mexico, she stops its residents in their tracks. With a parrot on each shoulder, a glittering gold tooth, and a wicked trigger finger, she is unlike anything they have ever seen before.


Published: August 2017

When Curva Peligrosa arrives in Weed, Alberta, after a twenty-year trek on the Old North Trail from southern Mexico, she stops its residents in their tracks. With a parrot on each shoulder, a glittering gold tooth, and a wicked trigger finger, she is unlike anything they have ever seen before. 

Curva is ready to settle down, but are the inhabitants of Weed ready for her? 

Possessed of an insatiable appetite for life and love, Curva’s infectious energy galvanizes the townspeople, turning their staid world upside down with her exotic elixirs and unbridled ways. Toss in an unscrupulous americano developer and a one-eyed Blackfoot chief, stir them all together in the tumult of a tempestuous tornado, and the town of Weed will never be the same again. 
A lyrical account of one woman’s journey and the unexpected effects it has on the people around her, Curva Peligrosa pulses with the magic at the heart and soul of life.


1. How and at what moment did you choose the title?
The title originally was Curva Peligrosa since Curva is such a huge character in the book. But after having an editor read and comment on the manuscript, I wondered if Bone Songs wouldn’t be a better title since various bones also have a large presence in the narrative. But when my publisher, Regal House, was trying to find a cover design that would work for Bone Songs, none appealed to us. That’s when I realized we had to return to the original. So Curva Peligrosa it is, and I love the novel’s cover! 

2. From what I could see, all of your books are somehow connected with Mexico. Why? 
It’s true that Fling! and Curva Peligrosa have a strong Mexican presence. Fling!’s story is somewhat based on my maternal grandmother, who was born in Scotland’s Isle of Skye and ended up in Western Canada in the early 1920s. From there, she took off with her lover to Mexico City and never returned. Writing the novel was my quest to resurrect this woman. In the process, I invented a world for her in Mexico, a country I’ve visited now several times. For me, Mexico has multiple cultural levels that appeal to me, from the pre-Columbian Olmecs to the Toltecs and Aztecs that form Mexico’s cultural foundation, to the Spanish and Mestizos. The 20th Century Mexican revolution challenged European rule and gave, at least, official recognition of indigenous people. But none of this captures what for me is Mexico’s spirit, something I find hard to articulate except in the magical realist narratives I seem to create that features Mexican characters and locales. There is something about Mexico’s location south of the border that symbolizes for me the unconscious and all of its marvelous qualities. It also seems to be more of a matriarchal culture, and that appeals to me and has helped to shape Curva Peligrosa. 

3. You had so far quite a life! Did your life experiences form you as a writer? 
How could these life experiences NOT shape my writing self? From the time I could walk and talk, I’ve been curious and adventurous. So this inquisitiveness naturally has carried over into my writing life in multiple ways. Since I write in several genres—poetry, fiction, non-fiction (essays, travel pieces, book reviews, articles)—I’m able to express various parts of myself that have been developed by the rich experiences I’ve had while surviving a less promising beginning. Who would have thought that a high-school dropout and single mother at seventeen would go on to not only be a university teacher but also to publish novels and poetry! I hope my evolution will inspires others to transcend difficult origins. 

4. What is next? 
I’ve started teaching creative writing to older adults at the University of San Francisco’s Fromm Institute of Lifelong Learning, an experience that is very enriching. And, of course, I write daily, no matter what, and I continue to produce poetry as well as long and short fiction. In terms of publications, Freefall: A Divine Comedy, a novel that is part of a trilogy, will be released by Pen-L Publishing in 2018. The other two will follow in subsequent years.


They didn’t think much about it when the wind picked up without warning late one summer afternoon and a dark cloud hurtled towards them over the prairies. Alberta residents are used to nature’s unpredictability: snowstorms in summer; spring thaws during severe cold snaps; hail or thunderstorms appearing out of nowhere on a perfect summer day. At times, hot dry winds roar through like Satan’s breath, churning up the soil and sucking it into the air, turning the sky dark as ink. Months later, some people are still digging out from under the spewed dirt.

But this wasn’t just a windstorm. A tornado aimed directly at the town of Weed, it whipped itself into a frenzy. To the Weedites, it sounded like a freight train bearing down on them, giving off a high-pitched shriek the closer it got, like a stuck whistle. The noise drowned out everything else. Right before the tornado hit, a wall of silence descended, as if the cyclone and every living thing in the area had been struck dumb.

And then a completely intact purple outhouse dropped into the center of town, a crescent-shaped moon carved into its door. It landed right next to the Odd Fellows Hall and behind the schoolhouse. Most people thought the privy had been spared because its owner—Curva Peligrosa, a mystery since her arrival two years earlier—had been using it at the time.

Meanwhile, the tornado’s racket resumed, and Curva sat inside the outhouse, peering through a slit in the door at the village dismantling around her. The funnel sucked up whole buildings and expelled them, turning most of Weed upside down and inside out. Unhinged from houses, doors and roofs flew past, along with walls freed from their foundations. The loosening of so many buildings’ restraints released something inside Curva. Never had she been so aroused. It was more exhilarating than riding the horse she’d bartered for recently, a wild gelding. The horse excited her, especially when she imagined herself riding its huge organ. In the midst of the noise and clatter, just as the tornado reached its climax, Curva had hers.

A heavy rain followed, some of it seeping into Curva’s sanctuary and dampening the walls as well as her nightdress. So much rain pelted the town it created a flood that overran the main street. Protected from the worst of the storm, Curva drowsed and dreamt that she fell through the hole in the seat, landing on the ground with a soft thud next to a pile of bones, each about ten inches long, worn smooth from the elements. She grabbed one and—still aroused—used it, waking to the melting feeling of another orgasm and the sound of rain pelting the roof.

About the author:
A Canadian by birth, a high school dropout, and a mother at 17, in my early years, I supported myself as a stock girl in the Hudson’s Bay Company, as a long-distance operator for the former Alberta Government Telephones, and as a secretary (Bechtel Corp sponsored me into the States). I also was a cocktail waitress at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, briefly broke into the male-dominated world of the docks as a longshoreman (I was the first woman to work on the SF docks and almost got my legs broken), founded and managed a homeless shelter in Marin County, co-created The Story Shoppe, a weekly radio program for children that aired on KTIM in Marin County, CA, and eventually earned two Master’s degrees (one in creative writing and one in the humanities). I have published reviews, interviews, short fiction, poetry, travel pieces, essays, and memoir in over 150 American and Canadian venues. My novel Fling! was published in 2015. Curva Peligrosa, another novel, will be published in September 2017. Freefall: A Divine Comedy will be released in 2018. My poetry collection All This was published in 2011. I have taught at the University of San Francisco for over 30 years, and I blog:


Lily Iona MacKenzie said...

Thanks for this interview!

CCAM said...

It was our pleasure to interview you.
Peligrosa's story seems very interesting, I cannot wait to read it.