A hearty welcome to Alejandro (Alex) Canton-Dutari!
Alex is not only a writer, but he also is the brains behind the Book Junkies Reviews site. We’re so pleased that you could join us today, Alex. Tell us about yourself.
I was born in Santiago, Republic of Panama. It is said that the whole thing was so fast that my mom was put on grandma’s bakery working table. My mom always said that she did make it to the hospital, and it became a family urban legend.
My younger years were spent in Missouri, where my dad was getting his Ed.D. We came back to Panama upon completion of his degree and I returned—this time to California—for college. Then on to Spain for graduate work.
My father, who was also a writer, always instilled in me what he called <literary license>, which meant that writing was a creative process that did not necessarily had to stick to rules—rules change over the years, anyway. I began writing from very young, but my first published story came out when I was in Spain. During all my active years as a clinical psychologist I wrote scientific papers concentrating on clinical sexology, and also published the first textbook on sex therapy in Spanish. Nevertheless, I wanted to write creatively and in 1981 I published “Machito”, a novella, which did very well in Panama and embarrassed my mother quite a bit.
My wife’s death coincided with my retirement from clinical work and as a professor at the University of Panama’s Medical School. I started to do what I always wanted to do: To write full-time. That was in 1996, and I have not stopped ever since.
Emita loved bonsais, and I continued tending to them and have made new ones, especially one for each new grandchild. There are five of each. Some of my book covers have one of the miniature trees.
Though I write fiction, my life has been so full of different experiences that it would be a shame to let them fade away. Therefore, all of my stories are a mix of fiction and non-fiction—Sue Palmer calls them Alex books. By the way, I may write in English or in Spanish and, except in one instance, I do the translations.
I have raised canaries since my dad got me my first pair when I was 13 yrs-old. Emita loved the hobby, which was shared by my three boys. Nowadays I have a yellow-crested Amazon parrot, a cockatiel and a yellow canary. Then there’s Betita, my Beta fish.
As my four boy grandkids never met their grandmother I wrote”Remember…in your dreams?” where I was able to produce a novel that will be on hand for anyone who wants to know Emita. Sara does remember grandma, still. She loves to read the stories over and over. So, I have five grandchildren—one girl and four boys. At the moment I have to consider myself 50% writer and 50% grandfather—I live with my son Vadim’s family, which includes Diego (who reminds me that I’m not retired because I write books) and Javier.
You may be wondering, how old is this guy? Well, I’m heading fast on to 70.
I’m racing you to that barn door, Alex! When and why did you begin writing?
My first story I wrote when I was in college in California. I was 16-yrs old—I think. The story was published years later in Spain when I was doing graduate work.
My father was a national and international prize winner writer. He allowed me to beta read his best book. I was perhaps ten years old and loved the idea of putting thoughts to words. I’ll never forget him writing over my mother’s black Singer sewing machine, which could be used as a desk when the top was put down.
Before I forget, I enjoy writing a formal review after I read a book. Just by chance I wandered into Book Junkies and, after a few months, Sue Palmer asked me to help out with Book Junkie Reviews. I administer that page, write reviews and also post in our Weebly Book Junkie Website.
What is your genre?
Most of my novellas and one novel deal with real life struggles. I like to point out social inequities, which makes me dwell in politics, love, and whatnot.
Someone told me that my genre is really contemporary fiction.
Are you an organized outliner or more of a seat of pants writer?
I am very organized, mentally. When the muse hits me I usually visualize a script and am able to follow it without having to use paper and pencil gimmicks—or computer ones. Most of “Sweat, Glamour and Light Sins” was written while I was pedaling on a still bike in the gym. Years ago I always carried a ball-point pen and a moleskin notepad. Now I carry a small Acer where I can add to my on-going story.
What other writer inspires you? Your work?
When I was younger I was inspired by Pearl S. Buck. She instilled in me a love for China—I’ve been there several times. Many years ago I came upon Jose Saramago. I can’t get over his uninhibited, bold and literary freedom—in every sense. His style pushes me to write in such a way that the reader has to get all neurons working. I love the challenge.
What is your favorite work by you? And why is it your fav?
Once I finish one, that’s the favorite. But there is a warm side in my heart for “Remember…in your dreams?” because I was able to bring Emita back to life and make her stay among all her descendents.
Where does your character inspiration come from?
All my characters come from people and situations I have known or experienced throughout my life.
What’s your best/worst experience as a writer?
I wrote “Her Peaceful Sleep,” a short story about Emita’s illness and demise. When I finished and had it published a friend spotted a few glitches and suggested I correct them. I had to say that this writing experience was so painful that I couldn’t go over it again. Someone told me that this story was a “stopper,” having to stop reading continually to wipe tears away. That’s what I went through while writing.
Share the best/worst writing advice you ever got. After all, we writers get a lot of it—good and bad—so why not share, heh?
Don’t get me wrong. As a clinical psychologist I never gave advice. Therefore, I do not pay attention to advice. Nevertheless, when a recommendation is given I consider it. The most useful was to get an editor for my last two books. I got the best.
The worse? As it came as an advice I probably wrote it off.
Good for you! What is your latest published work?
“It’s The Water!”
This is my first full-length novel and it has to do with gay awakening. It’s the type of work that people will either hate for its theme or love it for the same reason. The style is special and it puts the reader to work through love, travel, international politics, and other perks.
Do you have another work in progress? If yes, tell us about it.
Diego, my grandson—and biggest fan—wants me to write a novel about him. I told him that I think he still has some more years to produce worth-writing experiences. He told me that I had written about his baby brother when the baby was just a few days old. He was right. So, I’m trying to see what can be done.
What do you want your fans to know about you and your work?
The only fan I have is my grandson, Diego. He already writes short stories. In fact, the first one he told me while I wrote it. I hope he learns that through creative writing the perception of the past can be changed, the present can be better, the future—well, we cross our fingers so our plans come through.
Somehow I doubt that Diego is your only fan! Tell us something about yourself that your readers don’t already know.
I snore from here to my family’s asteroid and back!
We’ll have to pull more of that story out of you at another time. Where can readers find out more about you?