My Second Novel – The Heart Has Its Reasons
By María Dueñas
A few years ago when I was a full-time university professor immersed in academia, we spent a summer in Berkeley, California. We home-swapped with a wonderful family; they lived in our house on the Spanish Mediterranean bay, and we stayed in their house in San Francisco. That vacation – without knowing it at the time – changed my life.
We basically explored the area almost every day. This is how I ended up falling in love with the old missions founded by Spanish Franciscan missionaries; those 21 missions are now called El Camino Real (Spanish for “The Royal Road”). After all of the memories and emotions these places sparked in me, I was determined to write a novel. I had never had the ambition to become a writer, but… I had just turned 40, my children were grown, and I had gotten tenure at the university… Finally, after so many years of living rushed and with millions of other responsibilities I had some time for me. And I decided to move forward with the adventure.
I returned to Spain with the skeleton of the history of California in my head. But then, unexpectedly, another very different inspiration came to me. So I modified my objective and that is how in a year and a half, in between classes at the university, I wrote El Tiempo Entre Costuras – The Time in Between. It is set in Spain and north Morocco during the late 30s and early 40s; I narrated the life of a young Spaniard seamstress who became a contributor to the British intelligence service during World War II. When it was published in June 2009, the initial printing was 3500 copies. The amount was reasonable: I was an unknown writer; Spain started to fall into a depression, and trendy novels, at that time, revolved around bloody Nordic assassins. Surprisingly around the world, however, that miraculous phenomenon of word-of-mouth began to work. Work… and work….
Two years later, I sold more than two million copies, it was translated to 26 languages, a TV series was underway, and I left teaching to become a full-time writer.
Everyone thought then that the second part of that novel was underway. It made sense: after such success perhaps it would be easy to replicate. Readers fell in love with Sira, the protagonist; the ending of the story was relatively open ended; the million-dollar sales would have been immediate… Surprisingly and disappointing for many, I said no. There will be no second part. Not then, and probably never.
Yet, the story about the old Franciscans who traversed on foot and on the backs of mules along the Californian coast kept dancing in my mind. And because of them, I ended up writing my second novel, Misión Olvido, which is now published in the United States as The Heart Has Its Reasons.
In several overlapping stories, I reflect the many intense connections between the two countries—Spain and the U.S.: the epic story of the old friars who created those missions in the name of God and their king; the Spanish professors who lived in exile in the U.S. after our tragic civil war; the north Americans who arrived in 1950s Spain to build military bases; the students who in those years crossed the Atlantic to learn Spanish and ended up falling in love with the country and its people; the Spanish professor who currently teaches our language at U.S. universities…But above all, this is the story of a woman who has to mend the pieces of her broken life after the stability she has always known is shattered. It is a moving story of second chances, reconciliation and reconstruction, and I hope you enjoy it.
María Dueñas holds a Ph.D. in English Philology and is currently a professor at the University of Murcia (Spain). She has also taught at American universities, is the author of several academic articles, and has participated in various educational, cultural, and editorial projects. Dueñas is the author of the novels The Time In Between and The Heart Has Its Reasons. Rights to The Time In Between has been sold to over 31 countries, sold more than two million copies worldwide, and inspired the Spanish television series dubbed by the media as the “Spanish Downton Abbey.”
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