Interview with Jose R. Rodriguez

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
This is such a loaded question that I am not sure how to answer it. I grew up in Venezuela, atop a hill overlooking the town of Los Teques. The place had been a coffee plantation way back then. Our little house was at the end of a dead end street, surrounded by mango and coffee trees. To go to Catholic school I had to descend from the hill down into town, and then climb back at the end of the day. I was a skinny kid with legs like a professional soccer player, going up and down that hill everyday. Summers I went to Spain, Asturias. Another world, a small town at the foot of the Pyrenees, and I hiked up and down those mountains chasing after cattle and sheep. When people ask me where I'm from, I have a hard time answering that question. I'm from somewhere between Latin America and Spain, between hills and mountains, between tropical beaches along the Caribbean and rocky cliffs next to the North Atlantic. I grew up reading all Latin American writers and poets, the Spanish classics, from El Cid through the golden era of Cervantes, plus a heavy dose of the Greeks and Romans, and those epics were bloody books, sword fighting galore. Never read Shakespeare, or anybody who didn't write in Spanish, Greek or Latin. Hemingway was a dude with a beard who used to live in Cuba, that was my deepest knowledge of American and English literature. I'm still reading Latin American writers, but I had to teach myself about all gringo writers by reading as many of their books I could get, and some English writers too. Shakespeare still is a no go, his old English being hard to follow (try reading El Cid in its original Castillian, and you will get an idea how hard it can be if you only speak contemporary Spanish). So I have two sides to my writing, a Latin side, and an American side, all mixed like jambalaya.
When did you first start writing?
Years ago, after college. My first writing was a huge novel that I never published or showed to anybody. It is still in my files somewhere. Up to this day I'm not sure what to do with it. Then I started with short stories, and some got published in university literary magazines, and I won a literary prize in 1995, which was a surprise to me because I didn't know I had entered any contexts. I have kept writing despite truck loads of rejections, and stopped submitting my work and querying agents. I got tired of wasting my time and money. I figure that the little free time I have, I would rather write than try to fit into a literary world that pays no attention to me. So I write, and write, and spread my writing all over the Internet like it were manure. Who knows, something may grow out of it.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Latest book? I have published like four books, and I must have another four or five in my closet, aging like stinky cheese. I'm not quite sure about their chronological order, and it doesn't matter to me. The story behind my books is complex. I finish a book and I wonder what the story is. The damned thing wrote itself, took turns I didn't expect, and ended up where I had no idea it was going. I let the readers decide what the story is.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Relentless rejections and learning that to be anointed into the published world requires having connections. I have none. I'm not sure if I have any talent, but I'm sure I have no connections. I write alone. No book club for me, no writers groups, no workshops, no writers conferences, no MFA, no teachers, no friends who know a friend who knows somebody who knows an agent or publisher. I work as a professional engineer, my friends are BMX racers and mountain bikers. Never been to New York city, I have no contacts of any kind, and I don't have the time to get to know the right people because I'm too busy writing and living my life. Indie author seems a natural fit to me, working alone and expecting nothing, just being happy with readers liking my stuff.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Success? I have never made a penny because I give my stuff away for free, so my business model is truly bad. But I have had success with the good unsolicited reviews that I have gotten from strangers, and by the thousands and thousands of downloads I have gotten in Smashwords alone. My writing has spread through the web like a cancer. Now I can be found in Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and other places, and I didn't have to pay a publicist or anybody to get that kind of spread. Does it matter? I don't know, but my writing being out there is much more satisfying than being hidden in my closet. Let the readers judge it.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Writing makes me who I'm. I go to work everyday because I need a paycheck to live on, but I write because I have to, because I cannot function if I'm not writing or rewriting something. It is hard work that gives me no profit, just the satisfaction that I'm alive and creating something from nothing. Once I met an old man who made airplanes with spinning propellers out of Coke cans. He sold his creations for a little bit of cash. I asked him why he worked so hard with his Coke cans for just loose change. He just shrugged and said, because this is what I do. My writing is my Coke can airplane, inconsequential to many but important to me.
What do your fans mean to you?
Fans are my only contacts in the real world who, through their reviews and emails, have given me honest feedback on my work. I'm immensely grateful to these people who had taken their time to give me a pat on the shoulder. When things look bleak and one wonders if this writing crap is worth anything, when one considers picking up a hobby like collecting unicorns instead of wasting so much time writing, those reviews out of nowhere make the difference between giving up and keeping the course. Fans, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
What are you working on next?
I'm not a linear writer. I work on manuscripts back and forth, bouncing among stuff I wrote so long ago that I don't remember what I wrote about, to writing new stuff from scratch. The worst part are the ideas swirling in my head, pushing to get out, and me being too busy to give them the time they need to show up on paper. The work is never done.
Who are your favorite authors?
It would be easier to name the ones I never was able to finish reading: Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, and genre writers with predictable stories made for T.V. Everybody else I like and each one of them have their unique style and have something to say. If I were to list who I like, I would have to write a list as long as a phone book.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
A need for a paycheck, and that I have to pee.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Answering interview questions, riding my bikes, working full time as a professional engineer. But even when I'm not putting pencil to paper, stories in my head won't leave me alone, so I'm always writing, even if it is just daydreaming stories that may never make it into paper.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Here is a blasphemy for you: I don't read ebooks. I read paper books only. They never run out of batteries and can be read under sunshine, and you can sit on them without breaking them. I just walk into my local bookstore (one of the few left) and pick a book at random, from somebody I don't know, and read it. After I'm done, I put a sticky note on it that says "Free book" and leave it on a table at the work cafeteria. I don't keep too many books because otherwise I would be living in a dusty house full of old paper.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Guaicaipuro's Gold, find it right here in Smashwords. Published by Chiricu literary magazine, University of Indiana.
What is your writing process?
Start with a plan and be prepared to finish somewhere very far away from that plan. I write on white pages from sketch books using a number 2 pencil and an eraser. I write anywhere, from benches in public parks to waiting rooms in hospitals. I don't have a special place, or wait for inspiration. Just put the pencil to paper and start writing. When I finish something, or I think I finished, I throw the manuscript on the pile already in the closet and forget about it. Years later I pick it up again and type it into the computer (first rewrite). It will linger in electronic form for awhile, go through a bunch of rewrites where stuff gets taken out (I rarely add), and when I get tired of looking at it and I believe that the grammatical bloopers are gone (they typos are always in there), then I dump it into Smashwords so an unsuspecting readership can download it. The process is repeated over and over, and parts of the process can run consecutively as I work on many manuscripts at once.
How do you approach cover design?
Some of the covers are my own doodles, or my own photographs, others I “borrow” from the net and heavily modify using MS Paint (yes, Paint, I refuse to blow hundreds of dollars on Photoshop software when free Paint gets the job done). If somebody ever complains about unauthorized use of their art or pics, I will offer to share all my profits with them.
Published 2013-09-02.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Man in Black
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 10,030. Language: American English. Published: January 30, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
A dying man has a few loose ends to tie before his demise. He puts on his black suit, holsters his revolver and embarks on a quest for revenge. He is the first to admit that his idea of justice is flawed, but in his mind, it has to be done. His actions may have consequences, or may not, on his fast approaching afterlife, but the man in black is not bothered by what may await for him.
Riding Alone
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 4,850. Language: American English. Published: February 1, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » General, Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
After an eventful day at the office that included fighting a man with a knife, what was supposed to be a relaxing mountain bike ride turns into an epic escape on the Colorado Trail. In this short story our lonely rider is running away from … something, chased by his own fears.
King of the Hill
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 2,780. Language: American English. Published: January 29, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Plays & Screenplays
A short story about BMX racing and the odd relationship of sorts between and old guy and a punk kid. Winner of Dirt Rag Magazine's 2010 Literature contest.
I Have Monkey Butt
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 2,500. Language: American English. Published: January 4, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Alternative history
In this short story a mountain biker struggles uphill. It is not just the steep climb, but his age, asthma, and monkey butt that he has to overcome to make it to the top. Along the way he briefly meets other riders who come and go seeking their own two-wheeled happiness. The reward for long climbs is sweet descents that make the pains and doubts of the uphill struggle all worth it.
Colfax
Series: Short stories, Book 20. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 7,150. Language: American English. Published: July 11, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Plays & Screenplays
In this short story, come along and take a ride on Colfax Avenue, the longest road in Denver. See the sights and meet those less fortunate than you. Life moves along because it has to, and we do too because we are alive.
Yellowcake
Series: Books, Book 5. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 69,320. Language: American English. Published: February 19, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Weird fiction, Fiction » Horror » Crime
A ten year old blessed with a great intellect is also damned with tumors and deformities that make him an outcast. He tries to fit in a society that doesn't accept his deformed looks. In school, he plays dumb to hide his high IQ and intellect; he doesn't want another reason for people to see him as a freak. His deception starts to fall apart and his world unravels in swirls of violence.
A Dozen in Denver
Series: Short stories, Book 19. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 2,480. Language: American English. Published: December 26, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
In this short story a private investigator is hired to find out who “killed” and old servant bot by smashing his head with a pipe. His snooping leads to the conclusion that another robot is the culprit, which is not possible as robots are non-violent machines. His suspicious are confirmed when he finds and confronts the culprit bot. The social order as he knows it becomes suspect.
Mister Danger is my Name
Series: Short stories, Book 18. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 5,370. Language: English. Published: October 6, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
An American expatriate living in a small town along the Caribbean, an escapee from alimony payments and pesky IRS tax men, becomes the unexpected driver of an ambulance carrying a dying kid through the dark jungle night. Besides a rough dirt road full of pot holes, river crossings, and no headlights, he has to deal with a spooky companion riding shotgun.
The Idiot
Series: Short stories, Book 17. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 3,620. Language: English. Published: October 4, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Plays & Screenplays
A Spanish civil war veteran lives with a piece of shrapnel embedded under his skull. His disconnected reality sees apples, cider, and flashes of old memories that to him, seem to belong to strangers. His one-armed friend is the only one that seems able to talk to him, or at least has the patient to talk to an old simpleton with a perennial smile embedded on his creased face.
Winter Wind
Series: Short stories, Book 16. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 2,620. Language: English. Published: September 7, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
In this short story, Jack thinks his failed marriage was due to not having a shop manual for women, something that can explain to him how the opposite sex works. He works on his Bug, in the cold, toiling away under dripping oil, a predictable world that he understands well. But soon enough, another woman comes looking for him. As a bonus, this story shows how to adjust the valves on a '70 Bug.
Hangers
Series: Short stories, Book 15. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 1,690. Language: English. Published: June 2, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Plays & Screenplays
On November 1868, Lee Musgrove, horse thief and hell raiser in general, was hanged from a wooden bridge in Denver. Almost a century and a half later, Joe Glatfelter, to the horror of early morning joggers and cyclists, hung by his broken neck under the same bridge, now reinforced concrete. One can say that both hangings were unrelated, but they both shared a common thread of lynch justice.
El Norteño
Series: Short stories, Book 14. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 1,870. Language: English. Published: May 27, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Plays & Screenplays
Short story about an illegal Mexican immigrant working as a short order cook in El Norte, the promised land north of the border, Texas. Being undocumented, poor, and not speaking English, he encounters unexpected disdain from the very people he aspires to be.
The Alien's Luggage
Series: Short stories, Book 13. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 1,710. Language: English. Published: May 26, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
A short story about unfulfilled expectations. Two cousins think they hit the jackpot when they run into a crashed UFO, only to find out that what they though was their ticket to fame and riches is just another of life's disappointments.
Simple Life
Series: Short stories, Book 12. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 5,350. Language: English. Published: May 25, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Plays & Screenplays
Unhappiness can be self inflicted when we fail to appreciate what we have or get sidetracked by worries that are not worth our time. In this short story, a young boy who is poor but doesn't know it, who is happy with his simple life, has that life tarnished by worries that, while look to him insurmountable, are small peanuts. Death and a missing love one reset the boy's priorities in life.
Shameful Things
Series: Short stories, Book 11. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 1,910. Language: English. Published: May 24, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Plays & Screenplays
A man leads a double life. Deceit and acceptance of that deceiving run side by side without conflict. Two parallel lives that coexist yet never collide, or at least that is what it looks like. How far can the deception go? The reader will have to figure out that puzzle.
Old Tales
Series: Short stories, Book 10. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 3,550. Language: English. Published: May 23, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Plays & Screenplays
Short story. Life memories are our treasure when old and pushed aside by a younger world. But an old man's treasure is just old tales to his son, something to be endured out of politeness and deference. The hurried world of the young is impatient with the little time left to the old.
Wrongway Dave
Series: Short stories, Book 9. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 2,960. Language: English. Published: May 13, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Plays & Screenplays
Dave is paralyzed by terror every time he jumps out of an airplane. Despite a string of bad jumps that make Frank, his instructor, ground him out of concern for his life, Dave finds ways to keep on trying to get that one turning point jump that will free him from his terror and botched performances. Skydiving is unforgiving of errors, and Dave makes plenty of those.
A Holly Trifecta
Series: Short stories, Book 8. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 6,250. Language: English. Published: April 25, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Religious
Three short stories specifically written for publication in religious magazines. Two out the three got published in 1994 and 1995. Years later, after re-reading this early work, I have to admit that these stories are tearjerkers. I didn't set out to write lachrymose stories, but sometimes stories write themselves. I have bundled these stories in this trilogy, for those of you who like spirituality
Guaicaipuro's Gold
Series: Short stories, Book 7. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 3,230. Language: English. Published: January 31, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Plays & Screenplays
Short story. A band of boys search for a forgotten gold mine, their imagination stronger than common sense and their desire for adventure and discovery an excuse to ignore reality. Underneath this seemly boyish adventure, the undercurrents of history, race and conquista with its horrors are explored through the eyes of one of the boys.
Going Away
Series: Short stories, Book 6. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 5,400. Language: English. Published: January 28, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Plays & Screenplays
Short story. A young man sees no future in his small town and seeks an unorthodox way of getting out, leaving behind those who he thought he hated but realizing that those left behind are also victims of their common sad circumstances.
Mud Man
Series: Short stories, Book 5. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 3,650. Language: English. Published: January 8, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary, Fiction » Literature » Plays & Screenplays
Short story. A young wannabe mason in Florida tries to find his place in the world but things not always work out as one wishes for. When things don't go one's way, just enjoy the present as is.
Dry Winter
Series: Short stories, Book 4. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 20,260. Language: English. Published: August 21, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
In this short story a family man ends up in the Colorado high plains to take care of business after the dead of his alcoholic father who he has not seen in almost twenty years. The father he knew and had the displeasure of growing up with is not the man buried in the wind swept cemetery. Something has happened in the years since and a journey of discovery starts.
What's Wrong
Series: Short stories, Book 3. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 4,170. Language: English. Published: April 8, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Plays & Screenplays
In this short story a young man is the accidental witness to a rape, unknown to perpetrators and victim. The young man flees and needs to figure out where he stands but his moral compass has to be re-calibrated. The resetting of his true north happens on an unexpected way.
An American Tale
Series: Books, Book 4. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 84,800. Language: English. Published: December 27, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
People come across each other, more by necessity or happenstance than by desire, and the odd relationships they forge become obsessive, inappropriate, and murderous. A blue collar menagerie becomes entangled in webs of deceit, extortion, crime and unfulfilled desires. What seems to be unrelated stories tie into a common and unexpected finale where art imitates imperfect life.
Pedro Orozco
Series: Short stories, Book 2. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 4,660. Language: English. Published: October 27, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
In this short story Pedro Orozco, a man with a violent past, is hired to hunt down a cattle killing jaguar. He stalks his prey with his single-shot shotgun. Jaguar and man meet their common destiny under a full moon.
Tramps
Series: Short stories, Book 1. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 6,810. Language: English. Published: July 5, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
A short story about the odd friendship between a street child and a mentally disable young boy. The tramp knows rather well that stomachs growl when there is no food but he discovers that there things in life that sometimes trump the basic needs of life.
Melanie
Series: Books, Book 3. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 64,390. Language: English. Published: March 24, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Plays & Screenplays
A middle aged and lonely Melanie wakes up with no recollection of her past. Her lack of personal memories forces her to impersonate the old Melanie, a person who she now dislikes and cannot understand. The new Melanie proceeds to fool the world into thinking that nothing has changed while trying to recover her memories but also trying to reinvent herself as a new and improved person.
Addiction
Series: Books, Book 2. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 52,210. Language: English. Published: December 19, 2009. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Plays & Screenplays
An Internet porn obsession drives a common family man into divorce, the horrors of incest, and a life he had not planned for. Exiled from his former world he escapes into oblivion until years later the daughter he had abused tracks him down. The young woman has her own addictions and troubles. Father, daughter and a revolver meet and destinies change.
Snapshots of Modern Love
Series: Books, Book 1. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 62,160. Language: English. Published: October 14, 2009. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Plays & Screenplays
This is an imperfect love story between an imperfect man and woman that starts in the early eighties and goes nowhere because happy endings are not how real life works. Mistakes and misfortunes keep them apart until by chance they meet again twenty years later. Despite their emotional baggage, scars, and her reluctance and his doubts, they get together, wondering if they deserve a second chance.