- What’s your name? Where can we find you? Blog? Twitter? Facebook?
My name is Omar Beretta. I wrote Shaman Express together with Bénédicte Rousseau. You can find us here:
Bénédicte Rousseau www.benedicterousseau.com
Omar Beretta www.yacarevolador.com
- Tell us a little about your life outside of the world of writing.
I am an LGBTIQ+ activist and a shamanic practitioner. I travel, I dance cumbia music, and I write about the interesting people I meet while I dance and travel. With Bénédicte, instead of writing about her, we wrote a novel together.
- How long have you been writing? What genres have you written? They don’t have to be published.
I have been writing (and reading) since childhood. Genres: mostly auto-fiction, drama; and some attempts at journalism, especially related to urban subcultures.
Bénédicte and I started writing Shaman Express together in 2015. It took us about a year and a half to consider that the book was finished. It was the first time for both of us to write a novel with a co-author.
- What has been the greatest influence to your writing? Other authors, life experiences, etc…
When I was seven years old I finished reading Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer. I realized that, by comparison to the novel, life with my family was boring, so I put a few things in a cardboard box and left my home, with the hope to live a life of adventures that would be worth writing about. My father followed me in his car and after a couple of hours brought me back home. So I admit that Mark Twain has been, and still is, a great influence. Jack Kerouac, Chuck Palahniuk, Henri Michaux, Alan Hollinghurst, Daniel Kalder and Colm Tóibín have shaped the way in which I think and write. Horacio Quiroga and Alejandro López have the talent to turn ordinary incidents into epic narrative. Cecilia Pavón is the mother of modern writing in Spanish. The poetry of Mariano Blatt has shattered the literary canon and inaugurated a spring of experimental, joyful new writing.
But apart from them, I am mostly inspired by ordinary people with fantastic stories that I meet at parties or traveling who open to me.
I am writing a new novel about a pansexual anti-hero that fights against the literary canon.
I have just finished writing an article about Shamanism in the Peruvian Amazon that I posted on my website today.
At the same time, I am working on an article about Trans Diversity in Perú. To do so, I spent one month in Lima interviewing trans women, trans men and non-binary persons. While doing so, I joined them at educational programs at NGOs, feminist rallies, underground all-women rap sessions, self-defense training at parkes, at parties, and at their workplace.
- How do you typically begin your projects? Do you create outlines and character profiles or jump in head first with the initial idea? And do you focus on just one at a time?
The outline generally comes in my dreams, and then I jump in head first. The more chaotic the atmosphere, the easiest it is for me to write.
The main idea for Shaman Express came during a shamanic workshop in Italy, where I met Bénédicte. Because we are both shamanic practitioners, we took several shamanic journeys to ask for guidance to write this novel. We built the two main characters at the same time.
- What aspect of your writing do you consider your strength? Your weakness?
I am very imaginative, it is easy for me to create new characters, new situations, and I relate well with what is not ‘normal’. I could not write a book about a happy family because not even in my wildest dreams could I imagine a happy family, but I am comfortable writing about a recovering addict and a depressed divorcee that travel in remote parts of the world, coming in and out of ordinary and shamanic reality. Maybe some people like what I write because it presents a different angle.
My weakness is that I get easily distracted by new projects. For example, instead of dedicating all my efforts to write the piece abut Trans Diversity in Peru, I am spending most of time researching books, movies and articles by authors that went on tour with bands because I was recently invited to go on tour with a band in the south of Spain.
- After publishing, the next trouble facing writers is marketing. What do you typically do when marketing your novel? Do you have tips you’d like to share?
I try to make the most of social media, especially Instagram and Twitter. I believe that the image that I want to convey as an author must be visually attractive, so I produce short videos with vibrant music and striking locations where my message is minimal but the visual/musical experience is powerful. You can see the videos on my website.
For Shaman Express, we have produced book trailers that provide only key sentences of our novel, placed in contrast with beautiful images and attractive music. We believe that they convey the essence of our message, without having to lecture about it. You can also see the trailers on my website.
- What advice would you give a writer who is starting out?
Keep writing. Write every day. Read a lot. Find your favorite authors, follow them, read everything they write, and grow with them. Do not be afraid to abandon them and go find new ones. For example, Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddha of Suburbia blew my mind when I read it in 1990. I read everything that Kureishi wrote afterwards, but at some point his work stopped producing the same effect. By that time I discovered Daniel Kalder, whose fantastic “Lost Cosmonaut” made me realize that one does not need to be Theroux or Chatwin to tackle the travel genre. Kalder is much younger than I am, so I had no time to loose: I put pen to paper and I wrote most of the chapter of Shaman Express that takes place in Siberia.
Also importantly, attend creative writing workshops: they are a safe place where knowledgeable people can tell you, in a pedagogical manner, “this is not good, go read this novel or stories, and when you have finished reading, write your piece again” for as many times as necessary, until you are ready to show it to the world and not fail. Read what your contemporary authors are publishing: either to admire them or to question their canon. Share a lot, meet other writers from your town that have similar interests. Go out and do crazy things, interesting things, change your perspective, and then change it again, and then write about it.