#YourNextBeachRead is a way to introduce you to a new author and their works in the hopes that you’ll find the next book you want to take with you to the beach, the pool, or the comforts of air conditioning.
Today’s featured author is Amarilys Rassler, author of Cuban-American, Dancing On The Hyphen.
What’s your name and where are you from?
My name is Amarilys Gacio Rassler. I was born in Havana, Cuba, and I escaped the island as a Pedro Pan child. Pedro Pan was the code name for the clandestine operation designed by the United States to help over 14,000 children flee Communist Cuba. Pedro Pan means Peter Pan. It is believed the name was chosen because Peter Pan was also without his parents. This exodus happened from 1960 to 1962.
How long have you been writing? How did you start?
I started writing about twelve years ago. I went on a Caribbean cruise that passed by Cuba, the homeland I left as a child. When I saw the island, the little girl within me surfaced. I grieved for the life I left in Cuba with my family. I discovered a pain buried and unprocessed. It was an overwhelming experience and writing about it was hard, emotionally, but it helped tremendously as a healing experience.
Who are some of your influences?
I write nonfiction, fiction and poetry. The first writer to influence me from childhood is the Cuban poet, Jose Martí. His words still live in the song, Guantanamera. In the United States, as a teenager, I fell in love with Robert Frost’s poetry. Because of my interest in the spirit world, I enjoy C.S. Lewis’s writings, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Screwtape Letters. I read many genres but gravitate to speculative fiction and love to write that. In that genre I admire Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker. There is also an English author, Mary Stewart, who writes romance with suspense. I spent many hours as a teenager turning pages of her books very fast. I have always wanted to write about exotic places as she does. Her setting in each of her books is like another character.
What is your book about?
My book, Cuban-American, Dancing On The Hyphen, is an adventure into the heart of an immigrant, a potpourri of prose and poetry depicting the story of my coming to the United States. It is seasoned with Cuban history and culture, intertwined with drama and humor. It has been used at Oregon Stare University for cultural studies about Cuba.
Where did you get the idea?
The idea to write the book came from my mother who saw me struggling with emotions about the land we left behind. She read some of my poetry about it and encouraged me to continue and try to compile it all into a book.
How long did it take you to finish it?
It took about a year to finish the book. The poetry came like magic. I would wake up in the middle of the night with lines in my head and I could not sleep until I finished writing the poem. The same with the prose, ideas came pulsating with many emotions, straight from my heart.
Is this your first book, or have you written more than one?
Cuban-American, Dancing On The Hyphen is my first book. I wrote another one, The Chairs, which is very different, an inspirational Christmas story. It is a speculative fiction tale about angels coming to Dunedin, Florida.
We all like to write about people we know, even if we never name them. Who are some people who inspired characters or situations?
Definitely my big, funny, dramatic Cuban family! I have been loved and molded by them, my life enriched by my family. Without a doubt they inspire me to write characters and situations. Their fortitude in overcoming trials in Cuba and adjusting to a new land and an unknown language in the United States has always been an inspiration.
What’s your favorite scene in the book?
My favorite scene in Cuban-American, Dancing On The Hyphen, is in the one fictional story in the book, From Worms to Butterflies. This story was inspired by the experience of a friend leaving Cuba as a little girl. I love the hope shared by the child at the end of the story. Even though she is sad leaving her father behind, she raises her mother’s spirits by her last lines.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever got?
Do all you can to let your readers feel what your characters feel.
What’s the worst?
Keep writing it all and don’t edit until it is finished. That does not work for me.
Where can we buy your book?
You can buy my book, Cuban-American, Dancing On The Hyphen at Amazon.com and also through my website, guavanewton.com.
Amarilys Gacio Rassler is the author of the book, Cuban-American, Dancing On The Hyphen, used by Oregon State University for cultural studies. Amarilys is an award-winning author of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. One of her Cuban-American stories, The Rafters, winner of a Royal Literary Palm award for flash fiction, has been dramatized by an improvisation theater. Her story, Seis Dedos, Six Toes, was awarded first prize in the short story category for the Royal Literary Palm award in 2018. She has been published in The Florida Writer, Tampa Writers Alliance, Wordsmith, Fiction 365, the anthology, 21 Days of Grace, three Florida Writers, Collections, and in USF’s literary magazine, Saw Palm Florida Literature and Art. She served two years as president of Tampa Writers Alliance and two years as vice president for the Tampa’s Word Weavers chapter. She has taught different topics on writing to chapters of the Florida Writers Association, at Tampa Writers Alliance and at W.I.N.D., Writers In Need Of Direction. She is currently finishing her memoir, Beyond The Veil, Encountering Demons, a book about surviving her traumatic experience in the spirit realm.