Interview with Jaime Alfonso Sandoval
By Jade Arroyo
Jaime Alfonso Sandoval (San Luis Potosí, 1972) is a contemporary Mexican television screenwriter who has specialized in children’s and youth literature. He has won several awards and recognitions for his work, both in Mexico and abroad.
Although he studied cinematography and felt attached to this world, because he always considered it as the best possibility of expression, the difficulties to fund adventure projects made him decide to write his stories as novels. Nevertheless, before coming to the novel, he did some creative work in cinema and theater. His first book, El club de la Salamandra, is a tribute to the novel of adventure and to Jules Verne, with exotic and mysterious elements. It received the Granular award in 1997. He again obtained this award in 2002 for his novel Republica Mutante, a satirical novel that portrays a Latin American family and their dream of a better life by emigrating to the United States. Murmullos bajo la camas is a collection of twelve stories of terror and mystery, and in La ciudad de las esfinges, the author puts monsters, games, and readers’ imaginations to work in children’s and young people’s literature.
In addition to writing, Sandoval gives lectures for children and makes school visits that promote reading and literature. Last Thursday, March 23, he visited the Naciones Unidas School in San Miguel de Allende. Atención talked with him about his work, cultural challenges, and reading for the younger generations. To read Sandoval’s work or to get his books, visit www.jaimealfonsosandoval.com
Jade Arroyo: What is the difference between a child reader and an adult reader?
Jaime Alfonso Sandoval: The child is always more honest. Adults always want to be politically correct, accommodating. But if a book bores him, a child [will] tell you. It is a very demanding public.
JA: You are a prolific author. Why?
JAS: Fortunately, I’ve had 20 books over 20 years. Readers that exist in Mexico are in schools. It’s the children who demand stories; it’s part of the feedback that drives you to produce more.
JA: Why do kids connect with your stories?
JAS: When you play a song with which they identify, there are universal themes. There are themes I have learned from my own childhood, such as rivalry with your siblings, relationship with parents, night terrors … There are themes that connect with childhood. I always try to put myself in the position of when I was a child.
JA: Is there a responsibility for the creation of a new generation of readers?
JAS: Mexico has one of the lowest rates in reading; unfortunately, we have never excelled in education. However, I am an optimist; I see that we have much to do. Most of my books are for children and young people. What better [way] than to form the habit in childhood and youth? There you will build a new generation of readers. They will become reading parents and mothers who will see reading as a joy. I will do my bit of work. I see [that] you read much more now than in past generations, and access is also easier.
JA: Did you choose to be a writer for a juvenile audience?
JAS: It was not conscious. I almost fell into this. I wrote what came out of me and was catalogued by others as literature for children and young people. I connected very well with this audience. From there on, I threw stories out to see if they liked them or not. I discovered the importance and responsibility of writing for them
JA: What’s the importance of imagination?
JAS: It’s total. Imagination is good for everything. If you are a doctor, architect, engineer, you will find solutions. It applies to all fields of knowledge. If you restrict your imagination, you will deprive your intelligence and ability to create.
JA: What drive takes you to write
JAS: It is something you are born with. My family is one of just doctors. Nobody told me I had to be a writer. I had a great imagination, but my family never stopped me. I was fortunate to be allowed to flow and study and develop this talent through language tools.
JA: What is the journey of the book?
It is a journey totally unknown. It’s like throwing a message overboard in a bottle. From the time you lock yourself in to write it, then the journey of the edition, then the adaptations, etc., then the contact with the readers (the true journey). You throw the book, but you do not know if you are going to find readers. But above all, you have to be passionate. Give a message because you are passionate and move forward. You have something to say, and you do not care if success comes or not. It’s not the money, but the passion to create a story and tell it.
JA: What is the importance of reading?
JAS: Reading things gives you other areas, ability to concentrate, ability to be empathetic, develop sensitivity, draw the human potential of a person. Knowledge is carried by the word. If you do not like reading, you have not found the book for yourself. Look, it’s never [too] late.
JA: Creation of new audiences
JAS: I need the bridges. A child finds books through parents, schools, reading promoters. I would say that we have to support those bridges, those people who take the books to the readers. Without such contacts with readers, no contact is made. I’m trying to leave bits of interest in other books. Humor is what helps me to connect with children, to have fun, to see that it is not a task or an obligation, but that reading is a joy. That is a great constant of my books.