Meet the Writer: Tara Isabel Zambrano

Meet the Writer is a feature for which I interview authors who identify as women. We talk less about a single book or work and more about where they’ve been and how their lives affect their writing. Today, please welcome Tara Isabel Zambrano. She works as a semiconductor chip designer. Her work has been published in Tin House Online, The Southampton Review, Slice, Triquarterly, Yemassee, Passages North and others. Her stories have been featured in Best Microfiction and Best Small Fictions, and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net. She lives in Texas with her husband and two grown-up kids.

Tara Isabel Zambrano

Grab the Lapels: What did you want to be when you grew up, and does this choice influence your writing today?

Tara Isabel Zambrano: Growing up, I wanted to be a doctor and serve people. However, as life happened, I shifted gears and became an Engineer, and since then had the opportunity to work with some of the best minds in Electrical Engineering. I started writing poetry in Hindi when I was eight or nine years old. Almost one poem every week, scribbled in a diary, never to be shared. After I came to America, I started writing in English, a second language for me, mostly day-to day diary entries. Then a family friend introduced me to blogging, showed me WordPress and I started a blog and added a post once every two weeks or so. I shared it with my friends and family and over time, gathered an audience. Some writers who identified with my experiences and encouraged me to write more. I also started reading voraciously, mostly fiction, which influenced and enhanced my writing, made it more approachable.

GTL: Why did you start writing?

TIZ: I can only identify it as an itch to express if you will. Like I mentioned before, it started with day-to-day personal experiences and grew into more outward reaching stories. Initially, my writing was limited to my eyes; gradually I started sharing it with others. Once I started receiving encouragement for my work, it fueled my passion. On Twitter, I came in touch with experienced and emerging writers; I read their work and it deeply impacted me as an artist. The Lit community I am a part of is a wonderful, encouraging miscellany of gifted writers and readers. It has developed me tremendously as a writer and a reader.

GTL: How have you developed creatively since then?

TIZ: I would like to believe that I have evolved creatively after reading other writers and working constantly and consistently on my prose. I have also developed because I have had great mentors, individuals who took interest in my stories and helped me to see the value and scope of improvement in my writing. It’s a continuous process, of putting your ego aside and letting that piece of art take its best possible shape and form, to never stand in its way. The results are rewarding and, in a way, surprising when you read your own story, sometime later, and are filled with wonder and contentment.

GTL: What happens when you’re not happy with your writing? 

TIZ: I am rarely happy with my writing. This doubt keeps me grounded, enables me to tirelessly edit my work, and let it simmer until it is of a consistency and impact I am satisfied with. It is a transformation of frustration, sweat, and tears into strength and happiness, only to realize oh, this could have been better. The work of a writer, like a dream, like a life, is never done. There’s always potential to make it poignant, wholesome. 

GTL: Did you learn anything from writing your book, Death, Desire, and Other Destinations?

TIZ: This collection has stories spanning a few years. I have evolved as a person from imagining these stories and bringing them to the page, correlating them as a collection that represents my perception of death and desire, and everything in between. I have learned to be patient in letting my stories sit, editing, and then repeating the whole process again. I have learned to accept rejection as a tool to improve my work.

GTL: Why do you think your book would be a good choice for a book club pick?

TIZ: It’s an eclectic collection of short-shorts and a few short stories that can be analyzed and examined at length, and that is what makes it a great choice for a book club pick. That’s what flash fiction is about: simmering with a depth waiting to be uncovered. This collection has a spectrum of stories that might appeal to a broad range of readers, with characters that are relatable and yet strange, and plots that engage intellect and surreal aspects of one’s thinking. Overall, it should be an enjoyable experience. 

21 comments

  1. You elicit some great answers as usual, I always enjoy your interviews. I must say I wish my resume said ‘designs semiconductors, writes books’.
    I think all of us who read believe we can write. But this interview shows, again, that what separates us (or me anyway) from real writers is that they are constantly writing and re-writing.

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  2. Ooh, this is exciting, I recently received an eARC of this collection and am looking forward to reading it! It’s lovely to learn a bit more about the author in the meantime. Her remarks about rarely being satisfied with her work and the writing/editing being a virtually endless process really resonate with me, and I’m very intrigued about the strange and surreal elements in her stories! Thanks for hosting this interview, Melanie. I enjoyed Zambrano’s responses and look forward to reading her work! (Also, isn’t that cover gorgeous??)

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    • I love the details on the cover of the people laying by the river. I didn’t even notice them at first! Did you get a reviewer copy from Lori @ The Next Best Book Club? She and I worked together to organize this interview and used to do more reviewing and blog tour work in the past. I’ve fallen out of it — it’s a LOAD of work and everything feels somewhat unreliable because you’re counting on other people to do what they said they would do, and sometimes they DO NOT.

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      • Yes, it was Lori who contacted me and offered the eARC. She mentioned a few books coming out this fall, and while they all sounded interesting I’m sticking with just this one because I’m not used to doing much reviewing on a schedule, and fall is my busiest work season outside of blogging besides. She didn’t mention blog tours or a specific format/schedule for featuring the books when she offered the eARCs so I’m assuming it’s a good faith offering in exchange for a fair review, which is a commitment I can handle. I’m sure proper blog tours and interviews are more work! I do enjoy reading author interviews but tbh I don’t pay any attention to blog tours at all. They feel kind of insincere.

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      • I think insincere was the wrong word. Just one-sided, perhaps. I don’t have anything against blog tours as a marketing device or the bloggers who have fun participating in them, I just find them really unhelpful when I’m deciding whether or not I want to read a book. I don’t feel like I get a full enough picture amid the cascade of hype.

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        • I get where you might think they are insincere. I’ve seen many blog tours where it’s just a “cover reveal.” The focus on the aesthetics of books (and this is part of why I never got into Bookstagram) isn’t where my interests are. I do like the book photos if there is a link to the review attached, but a lot of folks just do the photos. Many blog tours can feel like the lean that direction.

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          • Yes, blog tours for cover reveals or even for sharing the blurb of the blog feel kind of pointless, and even when reviews are involved only very positive reviews are included in the tour. Of course it makes sense from a marketing standpoint to simply put the book on as many readers’ radars as possible, but that sort of curated positivity just makes me feel like the other side of the coin is being hidden, and that’s not an encouraging way (for me at least) to convince me to check out a book. I do enjoy Bookstagram, but I agree that it’s mainly about aesthetics there. I prefer following the readers who max out the word count with reviews to go along with the pictures, but I definitely interact with that medium differently than blogging, and don’t take as many recommendations from it, even if it is pretty to scroll through!

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  3. I have an endless fascination with the writing process, so reading these interviews really feels like going behind the scenes of an author’s work! It’s interesting that the author never feels satisfied or happy with her work—this seems to be something that crops up a lot too in other interviews with writers. I especially love the cover here; it makes me wonder if the stories are fantastical or fairytale-like.

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  4. As always, lovely questions that have elicited beautiful responses, Melanie. I appreciate these posts because it’s not often we can understand where a writer is coming from.

    Tara Isabel Zambrano: Thank you for sharing your perspective of writing! It takes quite a bit of resilience to have rejections fuel your improvements. I admire this.

    The cover of your collection is beautiful! Did you get to work with a designer for this? I’d love to know more about the inspirations here.

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    • Hi Jackie, thank you so much for the generous compliments! The cover art is by Sarah Shields, a very talented artist. She has done the cover art for two other books by the same publisher: https://okaydonkeymag.bigcartel.com/ She has drawn inspiration from the flash stories in my book, some of which are as the title suggests, about a vein of Desire. Also, the moon is a recurring theme in a good number of my stories, hence it’s presence. Hope this helps! 🙂 Thanks again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I always love to hear it when a cover artist is familiar with the content of the book they are making a cover for. Sometimes… I’m just so boggled by what artists make up! It’s clear they only read the liner notes…

        This is a beautiful cover. Shields did a magnificent job!

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