Discover the longlist: Fernanda Melchor, ‘Dickens has never been my thing’

Longlisted for the 2022 International Booker Prize, Fernanda Melchor is the author of Paradais.

A writer and journalist, Melchor is one of Mexico’s most exciting new writers. Here, she discusses how the fragility of Mexican society inspired her novel, and how she wrote the first draft in just six weeks.

What first inspired you to write Paradais? 

When I was finishing writing Hurricane Season, I found out that the residents of a real town in Veracruz called La Matosa (from which I took the name to create the fictional setting of my novel) were evicted from their lands so that a luxury gated community with a golf course could be built in their place. In Hurricane Season I had written, among other things, about misogynistic violence in marginalised areas, and this time around I wanted to explore the fact that violence is not something that’s exclusively tied to misery or poverty, but something that could also be born in the heart of ‘paradise’, this luxury compound for privileged people.

What’s your earliest reading memory? 

My grandmother and I reading together a book of poems about baby animals. I still can remember the verses because I kept the book for all these years, and I used to read it with my daughter, when she herself was learning to read.

Fernanda Melchor

I wanted to explore the fact that violence is not something that’s exclusively tied to misery or poverty

What authors have made the biggest impact on your work?

There are so many, but if I could only name three, I would say Manuel Puig, Agota Kristof and Sergio Pitol.

Tell us an interesting fact about the book.

I wrote Paradais’ first draft in only six weeks, working at night while I was also writing a TV series during the day.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?

‘To write is human, to edit is divine.’

What book haven’t you finished?

Oliver Twist: I tried it twice and had to let it pass. Dickens has never been my thing.