In an age where commercial fiction produces the writing of crowd pleasing, predictable stories, few authors ink novels that defy the norm, and touch their readers in unimaginable ways. Many of these courageous authors may dwell in relative obscurity, but I have no doubt their stories go on to be discussed in English classes, and inspire a new generation of authors.
The Priest is one of those novels. It's beautifully dark, incredibly thought-provoking, memorable, and truly original. It gave me a whole new appreciation for the freedom I enjoy as a person, as a human being, and as a man.
I have no words to describe Monica as a person simply because English, Spanish, and Italian combined do not have enough superlatives. I dare you to disagree with me as she takes us behind the pages of The Priest.
Where did "Ginecea" come from?
MLP: I love playing with words and their meanings. Ginecea is a word I adopted from the Greek language. It's a noun that can be used an adjective encompassing all things women-related. Like Pangea was this super continent comprising the entire world, Ginecea is the social equivalent where women have the supremacy over men. Imagine that Rome never fell and was governed by women. Unstoppable. But absolute power has a way to corrupt even the best among us...
And history is full of evidence to prove that. How did you decide for The Priest to be the first novel in The Ginecean Chronicles?
MLP: In reality, Pax in The Land of Women is the first novel I wrote in the Genicean series. While I was in the middle of Pax, two characters, Mauricio and Rosie, came alive. The intensity of Mauricio's love for Rosie was such that it deserved to be narrated. The first three books in the series were born almost at the same time. Although between The Priest and Pax in the Land of Women there is a fifty years gap in the narration, their stories are intimately connected to Prince of War, which chronologically starts where Pax ends. In a way, they were all written together in the span of two years. I went back and forth multiple times between manuscripts to fix incongruences in the story lines. So, what started as a subplot in Pax, became the core of The Ginecean Chronicles. Affection as pure as Mauricio's and Rosie's is the ultimate example that love conquers all. Amor Vincit Omnia.
Speaking of Mauricio, one of the most memorable characters ever. I tend to throw this term a lot, but that's the whole goal of creating a character. We want the reader to care about them, to love them, to hate them, to remember them. Characters come from people we know and touched our lives, or they can be a conglomeration of traits we deem heroic. Where does Mauricio fit that scale?
MLP: Mauricio is the sum of several men in my life whom I respect and love. He is a human being who is forced to accept an unfair destiny. It takes courage to live a life devoid of hope and still make it worthwhile. He is a silent hero whose strength is revealed in the small acts of defiance he allows himself.
I remember one in particular that left me shaking with emotion. I'd love to give away that one line, but I won't deprive a reader of feeling what I felt when I read it. The concept of a society where men are slaves is quite a unique setting for a story. What was the first thought or event that inspired Ginecea?
MLP: A few years ago, during a flight back home, I was listening to a podcast about the possibility of creating life without the male's contribution. The idea of a Roman Empire a la Amazon immediately formed in my mind. I've always enjoyed what-if tales and my favorite classes back in college were Sociology and Anthropology. I started wondering what would happen from an evolutionary point of view to a society that mirrors ours; similar bur reversed. An alternate Earth where women have absolute power and love between opposite genders is considered the most heinous sin. I remember that while thinking about the plot and the possible characters, my laptop's battery ran out; I jotted down a few notes on a piece of paper, hoping to be home already so I could start typing. I still have that piece of paper somewhere.
I keep old notebooks full of notes, so I have an idea what that piece of paper means to you. One of the central ideas, the one truth that could destroy Ginecean society... is it a commentary on an aspect of our actual society?
MLP: Yes, it is. It appalls me that humanity has progressed so much in technology, but it is less tolerant now than it was two thousand years ago. We reached the stars and uncovered the wonders of the microcosm, but prejudice still dictates our behavior. It's hard to believe that in 2013 people are judged because of religious affiliation, political view, skin color, and sexual orientation. Yet, you can take a look at the heartbreaking videos on the It Gets Better website, a place where bullied kids can talk freely about their stories, and discover the ugly truth of our society. We are all the same, but separated by ephemeral social rules.
I've had my own experiences with the uglier side of society, and I can only hope our children overcome the flaws earlier generations, including our own, created.
Monica, What's behind the pages of The Priest?
MLP: There is a desire to tell the same old story of oppression and prejudice, but from the other side of the mirror.
The Priest isn't the first novel I wrote. It's the first novel I felt confident enough to publish. An event that happened in my recent past convinced me life must be lived at its fullest. No one should look back and have regrets. I had been writing for some time, and although I liked the finished products, I wasn't sure they were the mark I wanted to leave in case I only had one shot at publishing. Then I started working on the Ginecean series and I knew those stories could be my legacy.
Jack Canfield once wrote "Everything you want is on the other side of fear." In my opinion, Monica La Porta navigated across those black waters, taking risks few authors ever would, to make us part of her what-if world, and prompting us, not only to contemplate how far we've really gotten as a race, but also how powerful love really is.
I always find a way of immersing myself into what I read. There were a few times The Priest sent me running outside just to feel the sun's warmth, and to take a deep breath to embrace my freedom. Few novels have hit me that way.
Javier A. Robayo
To learn more about Monica La Porta, visit her Amazon author page