‘Try a Little Tenderness’: An Interview With Ryane Nicole Granados

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“Sometimes during the summer when the nights seemed hotter than the days and we slept in tanks and underwear with windows open and thin sheets for covers, Sauda would sit on her porch strumming the strings of her guitar and singing poetry into the damp night.” — Sauda, Specter Magazine

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Sometimes you get lucky. You discover a new place, someplace you’ve never been yet it feels so familiar you feel right at home. Like you belong. That’s what Ryane Nicole Granados’ stories, part of her novella in progress, do: They invite you into the heart of a neighborhood, a place of innocence and loss, joy and pain, hope and tenderness; a place where you care for and root for the characters. You are invested in their lives, care about the outcomes. You want them to succeed because if they can, as she says, “unearth the splendor of second chances,” then maybe there is hope for you too.

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What is your earliest memory? If you had to give it a color, what would it be?

My earliest memory is sitting on my kitchen floor eating cereal out of the box. I imagine I was around 4 or 5. I remember the linoleum felt cold against my leg, but the nape of my neck was warm from the sun coming through the kitchen window. I remember feeling proud of myself because I got my own cereal and I also remember a tinge of adrenaline at what I perceived to be a rebellious act. The entire scene is cloaked in yellow. The sense of happiness paired with slight caution is personified by my yellow nightgown, the LA sun, and Cheerios.

What are your five favorite words that you associate with childhood? With Los Angeles? With summer?

Childhood: Buoyant, Magical, Crystalize, Pac-Man, Hope

Los Angeles: Magnetic, Enchanted, Sundry, Muse, Home

Summer: Reverie, Radiant, Coastline, Plunge, Wanderlust

What were you obsessed with when you were 7? 17? Now?

At 7, I was obsessed with convertibles. I remember carpooling from my neighborhood to a private school in a more affluent community. The morning and afternoon drive times spent on LA’s 405 freeway gave me ample opportunity to sightsee. Quite often I would see someone in a convertible. They always looked free! Needless to say, my first car was a Volkswagen convertible Cabriolet.

At 17, I was obsessed with everything: college acceptances, evolving friendships, dissolving friendships, young love, my broke-down Cabriolet, family changes, Tupac Shakur, what ifs, why not’s, whatever.

Now, I’m obsessed with family, modern day marital bliss, which is sometimes as simple as sharing an inside joke from across a busy room, leaving a legacy for my kids, learning from my past, being authentic, art, activism, injustice, God’s love.

What did your childhood smell like? Create a writing prompt based on those scents.

My childhood smelled like vanilla, Royal Crown hair grease, tacos, chlorine, strawberry Kool-Aid, and more vanilla. My mother was infatuated with the scent of vanilla. From body oils to lotions to carpet fragrance powders, my childhood smelled like the ingredients of a cake. Eventually, it overwhelmed my senses and now I don’t even allow vanilla air fresheners in my home.

Writing Prompt: Pretend you are a vacuum. In addition to sucking up the vanilla-scented carpet fragrance sprinkled on the ground, what things would you suck up from the world never to be seen again? Remember, every action has a reaction. Choose wisely. For every thing you suck up, what would you replace it with?

Imagine you are programming a robot to write the perfect Ryane Granados story. What would your instructions be?

Command One: Don’t look back unless you are looking to see how far you have come.

Command Two: Laugh so hard your body shakes off any toxic codes that can corrupt your system and destroy your valuable data.

Command Three: Go outside and absorb all sorts of new data. People-watch, play, talk, but always listen more.

Command Four: Find the take your writing seriously sensor and turn it on high! The controller should begin to get hot, but don’t enact the cooling system. Strike while hot!

Command Five: Now, Write!

Can you talk about what your characters mean to you and how you bring them to life so beautifully?

I set out to craft characters that reflect humanity with veracity and vigor. As a result, I endeavor to showcase characters that are flawed, yet redemptive, sincere, yet sarcastic, and vulnerable, yet strong. I also find my characters to be curative. They get to make the world a better place; they get to believe in magic; they get to win; or their kids get to win; or their kid’s kids get to win, which means they win. When I breathe into my characters, I feel like I’m resuscitating life into forgotten civilizations. My characters often unearth the splendor of second chances. Therefore, any beauty seen in them is my ongoing attempt to resurrect deadened dreams and start again.

Please describe your writing routines and revision process.

My writing process most resembles one of those cartoon bombs from the 19th century. I have a slow burning match cord filled with ideas that I tuck away during various times of the day. On my work commute, while waiting at my son’s drum practice, or even in my dreams, the fuse continues to burn. Eventually, it reaches the gunpowder and it explodes. It’s at that time that I write feverishly. Sometimes I write in the early morning and other times I write over a summer break from teaching. I have also found I get a lot of writing done while pregnant. The explosive bursts seem to happen more frequently during this time, but I wouldn’t advise the continual conception of children as a viable writing strategy. Because of the frenetic nature of my writing process, I find that I use revision as a reintroduction to the work. This periodic distance provides new perspective. However, my current writing goals consist of embracing the moment, returning to the art of free writing, and using revision to tighten my work, rather than using it to meet back up with my work. I no longer want to be the skilled bombardier simply responding to a battle call.

What is your biggest fear and how do you fight against it?

My biggest fear is loss. This loss can come in many ways including watching my children lose their innocence, watching a loved one lose hope, or someone I love not being in my life anymore. I also value loyalty and bold visionaries. When I think of loss I think of quitters. I don’t fear being a quitter, but I do fear being surrounded by them. A quitter’s disposition is so weighty it can be contagious. The fear of loss and the potential consumption by a community of apathetic quitters has to be combatted by faith. Faith is the opposite of fear and faith is the ability to believe in something even when you can’t see it. It is one of the driving forces behind miracles. I am nothing without my ability to believe.

If you were a piece of jewelry, what would you be? Describe your jewelry-self in detail.

I’d be a set of stackable bangles, some gold, others infused with hues of turquoise, coppers, and pearl. On some days, I’d wear them all together. I’d take tiny pleasure in the interlocked party on my wrist punctuated by the melodies played every time I move my arm. On other days, I’d strip down to one endless gold circle clasping around me like a perfect hug. My bangles reflect the two sides of my personality. I often oscillate between two extremes — sometimes I’m the life of the party and other times I want a slice of pizza, an eighties movie, an old couch, and an endless hug.

Where do you find hope day-to-day? How do you share hope with others?

My hope stems from the knowledge that there is a God greater than myself and greater than my fears. In that knowledge I find comfort, but I also find a shared sense of responsibility. Consequently, I strive to tell people of the various times in my life where good overcame evil and carried me into a new and improved season. Sometimes I tell these stories through my writing and other times I share them in a hospital lobby while waiting for my son to have surgery. I tell these stories as a gift of hope to others and as an echo of hope for myself and my children. On a day-to-day basis I also find hope in the seemingly happenstance: the right song at the right time, my favorite flavor returning at the frozen yogurt place, my child learning to swim in the deep end, and a homeless man running into me a year later, but this time instead of me buying him a pizza, I see he is working at the pizza place. Hope is assuredly one of the governing aspects of our destiny.

If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life and had to make this impossible decision right now, what would you choose?

“Try a Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding. Every time I listen to it, I repeat the song at least three times. It’s a useful instruction manual to my heart: “Oh, she may be weary / Young girls they do get weary / Wearing that same old shaggy dress / But when she gets weary / Try a little tenderness…”

If you were a stuffed animal, what would you be?

Of course, if I were a stuffed animal, I would be a magical unicorn. If you can believe in unicorns, you can believe in anything!

Photo by AOK Library & Gallery, UMBC

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About Author

Georgia Bellas is an editor and artist living in Somerville, Mass. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in Lockjaw Magazine, Synaesthesia, Sundog Lit, Cartridge Lit, Bird’s Thumb, WhiskeyPaper, The Collapsar, and [PANK], among other journals. She is one of the poetry winners for Sundress Publications' 2014 Best of the Net anthology. You can follow her teddy bear, host of the Internet radio show “Mr. Bear’s Violet Hour Saloon,” on Twitter @MrBearStumpy. If you ever meet her, she will probably tell you about her bicycle’s movie star status.

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