Issue 050 Author Interview: Tisha Marie Reichle-Aguilera and “Seven Strands”

And so we’ve reached our final Issue 050 author interview. We hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know the authors in this milestone issue as much as we have. The honor of wrapping things up goes to Tisha Marie Reichle-Aguilera and her thoughts on her story “Seven Strands.”

LSQ: I love how this story starts off with us thinking one way about Norma before it turns onto a different path. When writing this, how did you envision the twist?

Tisha: Often, the women in my community were expected to be supportive of their men and their elders, without question. Something I’ve resisted most of my adult life (okay even when I was younger, a little bit). And one of the ways I’ve resisted is through not conforming to the religious expectations I was raised with, so I thought I’d see how that could play out in a character. I wanted Norma to be the kind of person who took control of a situation. It becomes clear that her rhetoric has influenced Cristian and his mother already. This is the first opportunity she’s had with Magdalena who proves to be a challenge. There’s always that one person, right, who has their own way of resisting already and might not be so easily influenced. That person demands a twist!

LSQ: We all know a Tia Magdelena who has, as Cristian’s mom describes it, “duh-ra-muh”. Was her character inspired by a real life person?

Tisha: Most of my characters are composites of several people, so it is natural for some people, not just mis Tias, to see themselves reflected in the duh-ra-ma. My mom was worried that my Nina, her younger sister, would think Magdalena was her because that’s who would be at my mom’s bedside if she was sick, but Mom always worries that people think she’s the mom in all my stories and I have to remind her that I write fiction. (There is one time I published nonfiction that she insisted was fiction because she didn’t like what I revealed about her giving her grandkids candy in church.) My Nina knew Magdalena was NOT her.

LSQ: You have interesting themes of taking care of others (in more than one way) and taking care of ourselves. How did this become a part of your story?

Tisha: I’m the oldest of four kids and one of the oldest girls in a whole bunch of cousins, so I’ve taken on that care role in my own family. I was also a high school teacher for 20 years so providing emotional and sometimes physical care (I always had cleansing wipes, bandages, and antibacterial ointment in my desk drawer) was part of my daily routine. It is only recently that I learned to take care of myself, to prioritize my physical and mental health so that I can be present for others. Through my fiction, I hope I reveal alternative ways to be in relationship with those who need care. And in this case, those whose caring methods might need a little adjusting.

LSQ: You have two characters essentially trying to influence events with their own kind of magic. Do you enjoy writing about physical magic? Other magic?

Tisha: I’m sure there are people who would balk at the idea of their religious practice being “magic,” but I don’t see it as that different from what are often referred to as the “dark arts” or the spells of brujas. Both require faith and ritual. Both can have outcomes that are not what we want. I don’t know what the statistics are for number of prayers granted, but I imagine they are about the same as the number of spells that work. This is only the second story I’ve written with magical elements. (The other one is unpublished right now.) I find it quite challenging to make magic believable without being cliche. I wanted Norma to be a person who contradicts the religious traditions I grew up with by using her own spiritual truths, to offer a different way of seeing how we can influence others’ behaviors.