Interview with Erica Mason from Gringa in a Strange Land by Linda Dahl
A: Thank you for agreeing to this interview, Erica Mason. Before I begin, do you have
EM: Yes I do. Why do you seem so familiar? Have we met before?
A: Yes, I suppose you could say we have. I created you. You are the main character of
my latest book, Gringa in a Strange Land.
EM: Really? I’m the star of the book? A tarnished star, wouldn’t you say?
A: We can get into that later. First, I think the audience wants to know more about you.
EM: I’m glad you’re giving me the chance to tell them the truth!
A: What do you see as the truth about yourself, Erica?
EM: Well, I’m a creature of the 60’s and 70’s, a nice middleclass girl who planned to go to college and not have sex until I was married, and probably be an art teacher.
A: But that’s not how you’re depicted in the book…
EM: Don’t interrupt, please. I started out that way, you see, what we used to call nice and “straight.” But somehow, everything shifted. The times changed, and I did too. I mean, in high school we girls wore Peter Pan collars and skirts – they didn’t allow us to wear pants to school, can you believe it! We drank beer on the weekends and mooned around. Almost nobody “went all the way.” If you did, you were lumped with the girls with dyed black or white hair in a beehive who planned to be manicurists. It all sounds quaint now, I know, but that was the reality in the middle of the Midwest in the mid-60’s! Then suddenly, there was all this bizarre stuff going on – the coolest artistic seniors were smoking marijuana, which we had been taught led to heroin addiction and a fate worse than death. There was the Vietnam War, San Francisco, and boom: I was smack in the middle of it. In college, as a first semester freshman, I pledged a sorority, then the next semester I quit that scene and was listening to acid rock and far-out jazz and living in jeans and tie-dyed t-shirts. And then the drugs, of course.
A: Ok, and then you decided to go live in the Yucatan Peninsula? And the drug scene?
EM: I’m a bit vague on that, lol. Anyway, you get into all of that in the book. A little bit too much for my liking. I’m afraid people will think that’s all there was to me. And there was a lot more.
AA:: Welll, I did write about the art, too. I think I did show your appetite for creativity and work, your desire to connect and love. Only, addiction colors everything around it, darkens it. And some people still see addiction as a moral failing, not an illness.
EM: Right. And I take full responsibiliIty for my bad choices – including the men I got involved with – and the ones I didn’t! I felt like I was struggling against these unseen forces. And then reacting to them, not thinking through what I was doing. But I didn’t want to be like that! I loved Mexico, too, the people, the land, the food, the language – the Mayan culture that stretched back thousands of years. And painting. There was more to me than just the drugs.
A: People will need to make up their own minds about you. I don’t like books that tell me what to think about people and situations, do you? And I like characters who are a little offbeat. It’s how you came across. An artist as a young woman. Readers will form their own opinions about you; we can’t control that.
EM:, it wasn’t easy back then, in the 60’s and early 70’s, being young, coming of age in that atmosphere.
A: I agree. Well, is there anything I haven’t mention that you’d like to say finally about yourself?
EM: Yes, despite all the personal struggles, etc., I adored my stay in Mexico. It was hard but beautiful. It gave me a completely new perspective on life. I don’t regretted my mistakes then. They served to get me to where I am today.