What was your experience with having "Bless Me Ultima" for the screen?
The Bless Me, Ultima movie was a great experience for me. Carl Franklin and company did fantastic work in taking a novel with many side plots and presenting a unified story. The movie realistically portrays New Mexico scenery, customs and characters. I felt the characters in the movie reflected those I had written in the novel. What a thrill, seeing my characters come alive on the big screen. I attended the premiere in Santa Fe. The audience cheered and clapped at the end, some cried.
Carl visited me at our home. He was very good about asking my advice on things. I made a few suggestions on his screenplay. He's a great guy to work with. Sarah di Leo, one of the producers, stayed in contact with me throughout the filming. Not every important theme in the novel could be presented in the film. Carl was wise in stressing the role of family, Antonio's emerging spiritual conflict, Ultima's guidance, and the brothers' return from World War II.
As you know, the big money in Hollywood has not taken an interest in producing Chicana/Chicano stories. People have said maybe Bless Me, Ultima will be a break through and wake up Hollywood. The Mexican American community has loads of stories that lend themselves to film. In the meantime, we rely on independent film makers and their instinct for producing good stories.
The Old Man's Love Story is a beautiful poetic book about the loss of a loved one. This had to be a difficult book to write. How much did Patricia's spirit help you get to the finish line of completing this book and do you still talk to her?
Yes, The Old Man's Love Story was difficult to write because of the gut-wrenching emotions of loss I was going through after Patricia died. But it was also a liberating book. Writing it was my catharsis. Am I done with my sense of loss? Of course not. One never is, but I am more accepting of her leaving now. At the time I felt compelled to make some sort of contact with her spirit. I needed to know she was safe in that vast world of spirits. She was my soul mate, so the book became a record of my communications with her. Her presence was very strong that first year, guiding me, always telling me that I was trying too hard to find her. We learn excessive grief is not good. I still talk to Patricia all day long, ask her advice on things, tell her what I am doing during the day, say silly things, and always ask her blessing. Soul to soul, we are all connected, and we must be connected to a universal soul, the Great Mystery.