Author to show the state’s quirks

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By Kirsten Laskey

A singing dog, an awful dog, thugs in the U.S. Customs service and a grandamother busted out of jail are just a few quirky characters that Martha Eagan snares and ropes into her literary work.

Her most recent book, “La Ranfla and Other New Mexico Stories,”  is described as light-hearted and  reflects the nuttiness in life.

“La Ranfla” is also the subject of  Eagan’s talk at 7 p.m. Thursday in Mesa Public Library’s upstairs gallery. The discussion is part of the library’s Authors Speak series.

“La Ranfla” is one of  several fiction works that Eagan has written. Other novels are “Clearing Customs,” (2004) and “Coyota” (2007).

She also ventured into the nonfiction arena.

Eagan has focused on Latin American artwork in her books, “Milagros: Offerings from the “Americas” (1991) and “Relicarios: Devotional Miniatures from the Americas” (1994).

She explained she started writing fiction six years ago, “from the other side of my head.”

It wasn’t exactly new territory for Eagan. She said she has always written fiction but had not worked to get anything published.  

Then, an experience Eagan had  at her import business, Pachamama in Santa Fe, persauded her to change her mind.

She explained she had a terrible experience with the U.S. Customs and decided the best way to deal with their poor treatment was to write about it. As a result, “Clearing Customs” was written, which Eagan said she hopes is funny, entertaining, yet sthows the occasional stupidty of  the U.S. Customs.

She founded her own publishing company, Papalote Press, and published the book herself.

Eagan was off to a great start as a novelist. “Clearing Customs” won Book of the Year in 2005 by the Online Review of Books and Letters.

Her second book, a mystery, won a third place Ippy Award in the Western Mountain Region for fiction.

 Eagon’s award-winning streak continued with “La Ranfla” winning her a second bronze Ippy Award as well as an award for best cover from Southwest Book Reviews.

Eagon may write fiction but inspiration for her work comes from real-life occurrences.

“Some of them are based on stories I heard,” she said. “The one I’ll probably read (Thursday) is called ‘Granny’ and I was in Southern New Mexico a few years ago and I heard two teachers talking about a couple of their fourth-graders who had busted their granny out of jail in Mexico. And that’s all I heard and I built a story around it and it’s pretty funny.”

This is how Eagon gathers material for a lot of her work. “Something will inspire me,” she said. “Somebody will tell just a tidbit and I will think about and just kind of weave a story around this nugget. People really enjoy these stories.”

Eagan said she is eager to converse with her Los Alamos readers.

“What I thought might be interesting, especially to Los Alamos (would be) talking about the differences between writing nonfiction … and writing fiction.

“I also thought people would be interested in what is going on in the publishing world, which is in a huge state of flux.”

There are several factors contributing to a change in the publishing world, Eagan said.

“I think the reasons for the change in the publishing are economic but there is also a change in techonolgoy and probably in culture in a very large way,” Eagon said. “There are some things that are unfortunate about the changes and there are other things I think are fabulous. I am sure Los Alamos is very tuned into the techonological advances. I hope to have a discussion in technology.”

And just what are some of the differences between fiction and nonfiction writing?

“A major thing is in nonfiction … you really have to deal with actual facts. Whereas in fiction writing you make up the facts,” Eagon said.

She added she is quite happy to incorporate both worlds in her writing.

“I love to do both.”

Eagon said she is currently working on  piece about Latin American miniatures while  a new novel is almost completed.

Even though she bounces between projects, Eagon said she never gets confused on what she is working on.

“For me it’s like changing a TV channel,” she said.