Claudia H. Long grew up in Mexico City, graduated from Harvard University and practices law in Northern California. She wrote her senior thesis on The Feminism of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, and remains a lifelong fan of the poet and her work. Josefina's Sin (Atria, August 9, 2011) tells the story of a sheltered land-owner's wife in late 17th-century Mexico, who leaves everything she knows and loves to study with Sor Juana. But she doesn't only learn about poetry, she discovers the many shades and meanings of love, desire and the terrors of the Inquisition, while she navigates the treacherous waters of the Mexican vice-royal court.
On your nightstand now:
Nothing stays long on my nightstand! I read four or five books a month. I have just finished Bossypants, Tina Fey's autobiography; The Bellini Card, the third of Jason Goodwin's awesome mysteries with Yashim the eunuch; Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro's strange and disturbing novel about a society that raises clones to act as organ donors; and to make up for that, one of the installments in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich.
Favorite book when you were a child:
I grew up in Mexico City, attended the Lycée Francais, and my parents spoke English to us, so my reading was mighty eclectic. Just the list of my most beloved books will give you an idea of what a strange kid I was! El Rey Cuervo (The Crow King) was a moralizing, nasty little story about a girl who turned down a prince because he was ugly, and was married off to a poor man as punishment. Of course, he was really the Crow King in disguise. Then I ranged from Patrick Dennis's Auntie Mame to Le club des cinq mysteries in French to terrifying Helen McInnes adult spy thrillers (who reads that at age 10?). Trixie Belden mysteries--until I read The Story of the FBI when I was 12. From then on, my only desire was to catch counterfeiters. I am still fascinated by forged checks. At last, I hit puberty and read The Diary of a Mad Housewife. It was all over. I read that book perhaps 30 times. I was obsessed with it. As I said, I was a very strange kid. It was El Rey Cuervo all over again!
Your top five authors:
Gabriel Garcia Marquez (I read One Hundred Years of Solitude every year for 10 years--I'm starting to see a very troubling pattern here!); Arturo Pérez-Reverte (especially The Seville Communion and the Alatriste novels); Julio Cortazar; David Liss (The Coffee Trader; A Conspiracy of Paper); John Barth's Tidewater Tales--and definitely add in Elizabeth Peters and all of her Egypt mysteries.
Book you've faked reading:
The last 100 pages of Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Seriously, I just couldn't follow it. But everyone was talking about it, so I had to pretend.
Book you're an evangelist for:
One Hundred Years of Solitude, of course! Everyone should read this book. It is a great work of art. It is the culmination of everything I ever wanted a book to be. Shall I stop evangelizing now?
Book you've bought for the cover:
Too many! I have been lured into buying all kinds of books that look magical, only to be pedestrian inside. But that's okay. I totally respect a good cover. I self-published a book called Weave Her Thread with Bones in 2000. It was a pretty good mystery, if I do say so myself, but because it was self-published, I was able to get my husband to design the cover. The cover is fabulous, and no doubt it sold as well as it did because of the cover!
Book that changed your life:
The Power of One by Bryce Courtney. The book taught me about the incredible power a single person has to change a tiny corner of history just by doing the right thing. Maybe I have to put that book into the "books I am an evangelist for" category, too!
Favorite line from a book:
"[T]odo la vida es sueño, y los sueños sueños son." All life is a dream, and dreams are dreams. From La vida es sueño by Pedro Calderón de la Barca.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Obviously I don't mind reading books over and over again--maybe I have such a bad memory that it is like reading them for the first time!