Last Updated on July 18, 2023
Silvia Moreno-Garcia, author of books including Mexican Gothic, The Daughter of Doctor Moreau and Untamed Shore, is one of the most interesting and versatile authors working today. No two books of hers are alike, hopping genre and styles while consistently writing stories of highest quality. Her books are often set in or heavily influenced by her native Mexico, which is the case with her latest book, occult thriller Silver Nitrate, releasing in July. We’ve been able to catch up with Silvia Moreno-Garcia about Silver Nitrate, writing, creativity and classic horror films.
[SMG] It’s a novel of supernatural suspense set in 1993 about two friends who stumble onto a mysterious film that might be cursed.
[GdM] Every one of your books is utterly different from the last. What is the draw to you as an author to keep reinventing yourself?
[SMG] I get bored. I have a short attention span. I also like to experiment and try different writing modes. I hate staying still.
[GdM] I have noticed that a theme in all of your books is that they feature female main characters who are overlooked and angry in some way. Is there a particular reason why you’re attracted to writing this sort of protagonist?
[SMG] I wouldn’t say this applies to all my main characters. I’ve written nine novels and two novellas and there are a range of experiences reflected in the pages of my books. For Montserrat, I wanted to reflect some of the feelings of my mother, who worked in radio back in the day and had to develop a tough shell to survive the sexist landscape of the times.
[GdM] As an immigrant constantly switching back and forth between two languages myself, I have been wondering about your writing process. All of your books are incredibly rooted in Mexico, in a Spanish-speaking culture – which you’re writing and publishing about in English. How do you process language during your writing?
[SMG] I don’t want to write books that are filled with italics, where every other sentence a character yells “Dios mio!” I want it to be a seamless experience where the Mexico you enter is not an exotic Other locale but an everyday place with its special quirks and history.
[GdM] Do your stories ever surprise you during the writing and editing process?
[SMG] Novels need a more robust skeleton before I begin writing them, so often the big surprises come in short stories. There are obviously details that change as you move along, which is part of the organic process of writing. There is an element of flexibility and rigidity that needs to be present. You don’t want to choke the element of discovery, but if you have no idea where you are headed it can be harder to find your footing.
[GdM] Thinking about Silver Nitrate in particular, what was a detail that really stood out to you during your research and what do you wish you could have included but weren’t able to?
[SMG] It has a lot of info packed about occultism and film, but I could have included more of either element. One thing I didn’t include was the existence of the Landig Group. This was an occultist group formed in 1950 that gathered in Vienna. Its founder was a former SS member who revived the mythology of Thule and who spouted bizarre racist ideas (Nazis under the ice!). I wanted to include some of this, but I thought perhaps the parallels with my fictional occultist were a bit too blunt and obvious. It was this type of person who served as the prototype for my villain.
[GdM] Let’s talk classic horror films. Which one has the best Silver Nitrate vibes, and who would you cast as Montserrat – if the film was made in 1993?
[SMG] I wouldn’t be able to cast anyone. Montserrat is described as a dark-skinned Mexican woman and the colorism present at the time would have prevented actresses from embodying the role. When an illustrator asked me what she should look like, I said Yalitza Aparicio. But realistically women like Yalitza hardly get leading roles even nowadays.
As for classic horror films, I like slow, quiet horror films, but some of the elements of Silver Nitrate are a homage to the violent imagery of Dario Argento and the Hammer Films of the 1960s.
[GdM] Can you tell us anything about what genre you’ll be tackling next?
[SMG] It’s a historical novel titled The Seventh Veil of Salome about the making of a sword-and-sandals 1950s film.
[GdM] What books or other media have been filling your creative well recently?
[SMG] I took an online course on opera and I’ve become more interested in this type of theater. It plays a role in my next novel.