When she’s not working as a Communications Coordinator for the Faculty of Science at UBC, you can find Silvia Moreno-Garcia writing, whether its writing book reviews for NPR or her column with The Washington Post or working on material of her own. The UBC alumnus’ fourth novel, Gods of Jade and Shadow, was published by Penguin Random House in August 2019 and was named one the best books of 2019 by NPR, The New York Public LibraryBookRiot and Tordotcom. In this dark, one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore, the Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey.

We spoke with Silvia about her new book, how she approaches her research and her love of interlibrary loans!

Tell us about Gods of Jade and Shadow and how it came about.

Gods of Jade and Shadow is a fantasy novel that takes place in Mexico in the 1920s. A young woman releases a Maya god of death from his prison and must help him retake his throne. It’s a quest story that took a long time to gestate and it’s my fourth novel.

Can you shed some light on your writing process? Do you do your research first, then write?

Generally, yes, because I’m doing a lot of historical research – at least that’s been the case with the last couple of books I’ve worked on. So I’ll have to page through books and papers for a few months before I can feel confident enough to start writing. But things always change. There’s a skeletal frame and I may fill some holes while I’m doing the work. Research might not end until the first draft is done and run in parallel if I need it.  

How did you do research for the book? Did UBC Library’s resources inform your work in any way?

I use UBC Library’s InterLibrary Loan service quite a bit. Often the Mexican books I need are not here but they can be obtained by getting them from universities in California that have extensive Mexican and Latin American collections. I also use the online databases frequently to look at journal articles, anything from codices to Mayan glyphs. The hardest thing to find are newspaper articles from certain time periods, pre-internet. It’s relatively easy to get newspaper stories from the 20s and 30s – you can look at the archives of the New York Times, for example – but for Mexican newspapers it can be nearly impossible. The 60s-70s is like a black hole.

I also like finding weird books at random. You never quite know what might be on the shelves of a library, especially when it comes to really old books.

What are you reading right now?

That changes like the tide because I review books for NPR and have a column with The Washington Post. So the thing I’m reading for review right now is Labyrinth by Burhan Sönmez, translated by Umit Hussein, which is about a musician who loses his memory and which the publisher calls “Borgesian.” For my own pleasure I’m reading James Crumley’s The Last Good Kiss, a 1970s  hard-boiled noir about a private investigator trying to find a missing man and going from seedy location to seedy location in his quest.

Follow Silvia’s writing on her website.


UPDATE: This event has been postponed until further notice.

Vancouver and Southern Gulf Island author Julie Emerson will be reading from her novel A Hundred Days: a Botanical Garden at the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre on Wednesday, August 21 at noon in the Lillooet Room (Room 301). A Hundred Days is a story about Rosemary, who lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest. Every day she chooses a different flower or herb in history, and mythology, from Day 1: Peony to Day 100: Pearly Everlasting. As she records her observations and her experiences on the island, the novel reveals the intriguing fascination and appreciation of island life and a wonderful reference for any gardener. This event is part of the art exhibition The Proverbial Calligrapher by the Westcoast Calligraphy Society during the month of August. Published in 2012 by The New Albion Press, in a gorgeous paperback edition with 100 pen and ink illustrations. This novel is an appreciation of island life and a wonderful reference for any gardener.

Published in 2012 by The New Albion Press, in a gorgeous paperback edition with 100 pen and ink illustrations. This novel is an appreciation of island life and a wonderful reference for any gardener.  More information about the author Julie Emerson - http://www.julieemerson.com/index.htm  For further information, or to order copies of A Hundred Days, email julie@julieemerson.com

Please register for this event in advance to ensure seating for this event.

Shyam Selvadurai, the Canada Council Writer-in-Residence at Green College for 2012 was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He came to Canada with his family at the age of nineteen, and has a BFA from York University in Toronto. Funny Boy, his first novel, was published to immediate acclaim in 1994, was a national bestseller, and won the Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Lambda Literary Award, and was named a Notable Book by the American Library Association. Cinnamon Gardens, his second novel, was shortlisted for the prestigious Trillium Award and has been published in the US, UK, India, and Europe. Selvadurai is also the author of an acclaimed novel for young adults, Swimming in the Monsoon Sea, which was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award. Shyam will be reading from two of his novels and discussing his work as a diasporic writer. This reading is part of the ongoing Green College Principal’s lecture series, “Thinking at the Edge of Reason: Interdisciplinarity in Action.”

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