Today I want to welcome Felipe Oliva Arrigada, a journalist and writer all the way from Chile. He cares deeply about issues of social justice and loves superheroes and comics.
Read my Q&A with the author and if you’re a Spanish-speaker, check out his awesome book Dragon Army!
Q&A with Felipe Oliva Arriagada
RDB: Describe the premise of your book for the English-only speakers.
Well, to keep it short, the book is about an all female team of vigilantes –or superheroes, whichever people prefer- fighting human trafficking in a semi ficticious Chilean city. Is an action book, that draws heavily from comic books and geek genres in general, and deals with several social issues as sexism –street harassment, rape, etc-, racial discrimination, poverty, social inequality and human trafficking of course. It was really cool to explore that side of the action, because I feel most ‘superhero stories’ don’t focus on dealing with real life issues and since with such power comes great responsibility, I feel these are problems we can’t and shouldn’t avoid.
RDB: Your novel focuses on several social justice issues. Is this something you care about personally?
Yeah, it is. I’m a journalist and I write for a feminist digital magazine called ‘antes de eva’, something I really enjoy. I wanted to write a book about superhéroes because it is a genre I love but I wanted it to be special, to be about something I truly cared about, so human trafficking seemed the best choice, because it truly is a terrifying situation that I feel doesn’t get enough attention, maybe because its victims are mostly poor women of colour. I wanted the cast to be diverse, to reflect society, not just upper White class, to showcase the sexual identities of people, to give Young people heroes to look up to, to portray women as people and not sidekicks or ornaments or eye Candy, and to talk about feminism, so I had a lot of goals and I think I achieved most of them, and had a lot of fun doing it. I honestly don’t understand people that think being respectful of other people’s identities, of other ethnicities or genders is a restriction on artistic liberties, or that being ‘PC’ as they call it is bad for art. On the contrary, it allows you to explore entirely new worlds, new stories, but specially it allows you to learn and grow and find so many people to admire and look up to because it broadens your ideas of beauty, art, success, freedom, etc; When you realize that the restrictions and limitations placed upon you by your antiquated worldview aren’t real, that all those stereotypes and prejudice are nothing but fantasy, is like having a veil lifted. Sure, is hard to suddenly realize and take in all the pain and injustice in the world, but you can also see all the greatness in it, and work to diminish the firsts and enhance the latter. Is the least you can do if you have the privilege of not facing that pain yourself.
I feel like I’m more of a writer and theorist than an activist, because as many people do, I try to create awareness and bring these problems to light in a way that exposes their influence in our daily lives, how they effect our behaviour and choices, thus discussing how we can deal with them, unlearn the problematic aspects of our own upbringing and deconstruct our reality and that of the world around us, so we can re-learn and re-build a better, fairer, safer society for everyone.
RDB: Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
I’d say they are all inspired in a lot of people. I stole most names from friends, along with some physical characteristics, so it was really entertaining writing them. They have something from me, something from people and fictional characters I admire, something from my friends, and something else. I don’t think anything we create this day and age is purely from our imagination, we all get inspired by something else, we all grow up reading and watching thousands of stories and all of them contribute to our world in one way or another, for good or bad, and some completely change us. I just tried to do my best to shape and create something new, optimistic and diverse while honouring those stories and the people that inspired me.
RDB: What character in your book are you least likely to get along with?
Honestly, this is a very difficult question. I tried to make all characters at least a bit relatable, even the antagonists –whom I can’t even bring myself to call villains- because I wanted them all to have honest, noble beliefs, to fight for something they thought right. The three heroines are people I would totally love, and my main antagonist might be rough but she isn’t really that bad, though her henchwomen might be a bit cruel. And the supporting crew is very lovely. So I’d have to say the twins, the ‘evil’ henchwomen that work alongside the main antagonist whose name I can’t mention because is sort of a surprise, but she’s not the ‘real’ villain of the story. They aren’t very nice and are too competitive, that would make them kind of annoying probably.
RDB: If your novel were made into a movie, whom would you pick to play the lead roles?
I’d lie if I said i hadn’t thought of this. Is fun to fantasize. I’d like it to have Chilean or at least a few latin actresses and actors. I’d love a big Hollywood blockbuster with a really diverse cast that is pretty much all unknown –for the rest of the world – latin women. But dreaming of an international all star cast, Barbara could be played by like Karla Souza or Gina Rodriguez, for Paola I imagine someone like Jessica Williams, I really love her and it would be fun to see her in a role like this. Javiera is harder to pick cause she’s only 17 in the book so it would have to be some less known Young actress, hopefully half native american (mapuche) like her. Chloe Bennter would be an amazing Sarah, as for the rest, well, I could go on but I guess that’s enough daydreaming for now.
What genre do you consider your book? Have you considered writing in another genre?
I’d say is between YA novel, action and comic book. I like to define it as a novelized comic book because it has all the elements from the genre, the absurd action, the world domination plan, stuff like that, but also has a very steep development of characters and story and motivations, and it delves in sexuality, racism, discrimination, social inequality, and other elements found in YA and adult novels. I plan to continue this story, to write 2 more books to wrap it up, but I do like to explore other genres. I wrote a book prior to this one, a sort of urban fantasy, coming of age story and semi autobiography that mixes events of my childhood with a lot of imagination and Edgan Allan Poe’s ‘extraordinary tales’. I’d say is a fun and light book. I also like science fiction, I’d love to write a sci fi novel one day, is a fascinating genre, and I like genre that let me imagine as much as a I can.
RDB: Who are some Chilean authors we should be reading? Can you recommend some for Spanish speakers and, if possible, some that have been translated into English?
Well, Isabel Allende is the best known of all, and she can be easily found anywhere in many languages, she’s explored many genres and has been very succesful in all of them, which is great because Chile doesn’t have a history of too many famous women writers. Most people only know Gabriela Mistral and then a bunch of male poets. There is a children’s fantasy author called Jose Luis Flores, very nice writer, he’s kind of new but he strives for diversity too. One of the most popular characters in chilean history is Papelucho, is a series of children’s books I loved when I was like 8, that’s good fun for kids anywhere, if they can find them though. Current popular authors we have Jorge Baradit, a sci fi/horror author with some cool ideas. Fran Solar, she’s interesting and fun, deals more in mystery and horror, and I’d love to recommend young unknowns, but sadly I don’t know many. I collaborated on a Project named ‘fantasia austral’ that promotes fantasy and horror and it was pretty fun, they’ve published a few anthologies, those are fun books to look up.
RDB: Are there any plans to have your book translated into English? Any current/future projects we should know about?
I’d love to translate it, but it is a very long, costly process, so I haven’t been able to do it yet. I wanna continue DA, turn it into a trilogy, and well, I’d love to write as much as I can, collaborate as much as a I can to create and promote more diverse literature.
Dragon Army by Felipe Oliva Arriagada
This book is for the Spanish speakers out there!
If you enjoy reading action books or comic books, then do check out Felipe’s Dragon Army. It’s about a trio of female vigilantes/superheroes who fight injustice and kick some serious ass!
Un trío femenino de vigilantes lucha contra una organización criminal internacional que lucra con el tráfico de personas en la ciudad de Nueva Valdivia, Chile.
Es el año 2016, y un misterioso y muy bien entrenado trío de vigilantes compuesto por 3 mujeres recorre al caer la noche las calles de Nueva Valdivia, enfrentando criminales, abusadores, violadores y violentas pandillas. Dragon Army es un mito que poco a poco sale a la luz, al encontrarse de pronto en guerra con una organización criminal internacional, una mafia que lucra traficando personas, principalmente mujeres y niñas, provenientes de todo el mundo.
Mucha, mucha acción, una gran variedad de interesantes y diversos personajes, una historia que da unas cuantas vueltas, un estilo veloz y divertido, y mucha crítica social. Dragon Army es una novela especial, casi como un comic llevado a las letras, que busca entretener, pero también sorprender y explorar algunos clichés y lugares comunes del género de acción, comics, superhéroes y de la narrativa mediática en general.
Una novela que también se adentra en temas sociales, y que busca crear conciencia sobre temas como violencia de género, racismo, sexismo, inequidad social y discriminación.
_About the author_
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