Guilie Castillo Oriard is a Mexican export who transferred to Curaçao “for six months” – and, twelve years later, has yet to find a reason to leave. Her work has been published online and in print anthologies. When not writing, she’ll most likely be found on the beach with her seven dogs. The Miracle of Small Things is her first book.
Susan Tepper recently had a chance to interview Guilie about the book. Here’s a peek at their conversation.
Susan Tepper: “So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow…” wrote poet William Carlos Williams (“The Red Wheelbarrow”). A tiny poem that reads like a small miracle with large proportions. Guilie, you have written a novel titled The Miracle of Small Things that is propelled by many small things underlying larger, deeper motives. This is a book about love and intrigue, or intrigue and love (amongst other things). What brought your protagonist Luis Villalobos to life on the page?
Guili Castillo Oriard: I love that WCW poem… maybe because he’s so good at taking the quotidian and turning it into, yes, a miracle. Which is, of course, at the heart of Luis’s story. I’ve “met” Luis Villalobos, not just once but over and over, here in Curaçao where I live: the superstar lawyer/accountant that comes to the Caribbean attracted by the mystique of offshore finance, thinking it’s a gateway to greater (and less tropical) things. For most of them, the usual lure of the tropics—the weather, the laid-back life, the beaches—is a non-factor.
ST: Your character Luis seems to blend into his surroundings quite well, as if he’s always lived there. I don’t sense an unease about him, but a definite sophistication and the ability to handle whatever cards he’s dealt. Is this actually the case in your story?
GCO: Indeed, Luis is sophisticated and worldly; before coming to Curaçao, he lived in all the big international finance centers, and he’s built a successful career. The world of tax planning and wealth management is a tough one, and if he’s been successful at it, it’s precisely because he’s good at handling whatever comes his way. But Curaçao has a few tricks that’ll put Luis to the test.
ST: Can you give us a hint? (He’s big with the ladies, too, right?)
GCO: In Curaçao, Luis ends up doing things he’d never have done anywhere else. Things he’s never done before. Right off the bat, he gets seduced by his boss—this man who prides himself on never having had even a one-night stand with a colleague/secretary/office cleaning staff. He also adopts a huge, black street dog—he’s never had any sort of pet, not goldfish, not even a Tamagochi. He’ll have to choose between doing right by a client or by his employer—or breaking the law.
ST: So, in a sense, this island is merely a stopover point for his career, but he ends up totally enmeshed.
GCO: Right. The ones that make it through their Curaçao stint are the ones that stay within the bubble of the companies that brought them here. They work 12-hour days, they socialize strictly with co-workers, their lives revolve around the company. They stay focused on the prize: making the move back to “civilization”: Zurich, Geneva, Luxembourg, Hong Kong, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo.
ST: Fascinating. And, in its way, cutthroat.
GCO: Hidden and kind of underhanded, but yeah, pretty cutthroat.
ST: However, Luis gets a bit snagged as he moves along. Snagged by the island life, and by a sort of love triangle.
GCO: The dog is a key factor, but Luis won’t realize that until nearly the end of the story. The love/lust triangle is much more visible, and the consequences much more immediate: a somewhat reluctant power/lust relationship with his boss, and a budding love affair with a client… Recipe for disaster. But in between all this sexual drama, the island is beginning to twine its vines of charm, murmuring its siren song in his ear. And it all comes down to whether he’ll listen, first, and secondly, whether by jumping ship he will save his life or commit suicide.
ST: This is an intensely seductive story in so many ways. The charms of a tropical island, beautiful people doing deeds that swing below the radar. It’s all here. Your book would make a captivating film.
GCO: I created Luis Villalobos to be the kind of guy for whom this process would be especially difficult, but not impossible. Still, in some of the early drafts I was convinced the island would chew him up and spit him out. Far, far away.
ST: We’ll have to let the readers find out for themselves.