People tend to think of mushrooms as the fleshy food items found in the produce aisle, each one growing in isolation and popping up suddenly after the rains. But a mushroom is only one fragment of a fungus colony. When a mushroom pops up, it’s because the mycelium, a network of long microscopic fibers, has been quietly working underground, excreting enzymes and decomposing organic compounds. A mushroom is like the fruit of a tree: the last step of a long process.
I tend to be asked where I get the ideas for my books. I can pinpoint certain specific moments that inspired Mexican Gothic. More than 20 years ago I visited the town of Real del Monte, in central Mexico. It was a British mining town in the 19th century and it had an English Cemetery, with an iron gate and tall trees shadowing over 700 graves. When I visited that cemetery, it was like stepping into an old horror movie, complete with mist and a chill in the air, and I saved the memory of that visit.
But that was not the only element that inspired the novel. My thesis work focused on eugenics in the early 20th century. I have a long-standing interest in horror literature and specifically in Gothic literature. The first horror writer I ever read was Poe. He was followed by Lovecraft and Quiroga. I was a huge movie buff as a teenager and I devoured the work of Val Lewton and Mexican filmmaker Carlos Enrique Taboada, and many other vintage films.
Years ago I chanced upon a photograph of one of my great-aunts when she was at a fancy dinner party. This single image of a beautiful 1950s woman lingered in my mind. I also remembered an old postcard from Guanajuato showing the famous mummies lined up against the wall and the morbid stories my great-grandmother told me, of everything from the woman who cooked her baby and made tamales with his flesh, to a man that was buried alive. They found his fingers reduced to bloody stumps when they exhumed his corpse.
In the end, Mexican Gothic was not born of a single idea but of a long accumulation of material that grew and knotted itself together, like the mushroom filaments underground.
This is my sixth novel, so you could say that my whole career has been a slow process and what you are seeing right now is merely the fruiting body, while the mycelium is all the literary work that has come before it.
But it’s not just the work, but the people who have been with me all this time that made Mexican Gothic possible. It’s all the editors who bought my short stories, the first publisher who gave me a chance at a novel, my agent who has continued to work with me through highs and lows, and the production teams that turned my manuscripts into actual books you can find at a store. It’s been reviewers who have followed my trajectory, librarians who recommended my work, bookstore employees who championed Mexican Gothic and readers who have shared their fan art, photos and affection for the novel.
It’s a delight to write, to be read and to know you enjoyed the book.
Celebrate Silvia Moreno-Garcia and the other winners of 2021 Pacific Northwest Book Awards with the virtual event on Zoom Feb 10, 2021 at 6:00 PM Pacific Time. REGISTER NOW.
Nwbooklovers posts original essays from this year’s award winners as featured posts in January and February. You can enjoy essays from past winners of the PNBA Book Award in our archive.