Last month I was lucky enough to listen to the audiobook version of Tigers, Not Daughters. The setting is what caught my attention since I had lived in San Antonio during high school and part of college. What really drew me in and kept me though was the relationships between the sisters and the different ways they dealt with their loss. Grief is certainly a complicated thing under any circumstances. The interactions between these particular sisters and their father are compelling and quite messy. Please join us in a conversation with author Samantha Mabry.
C: Thanks for your time Samantha. How do you usually pitch Tigers, Not Daughters?
S: A year after her death, Ana Torres comes back to haunt her three remaining grief-struck sisters.
C: What is the connection between Shakespeare’s King Lear and your story?
S: A few years ago at a performance of Shakespeare in the Park I was struck by the line about how Regan and Goneril were “tigers, not daughters” because of their cruel treatment of their father. I thought that was such an interesting phrase and wanted to write a story in which it could have a more nuanced meaning. I think I originally set out to do a straight King Lear re-telling, but the story quickly took on a life of its own.
C: Why is this novel set in San Antonio? Was research necessary or is this a place you’ve spent a lot of time?
S: Another source of inspiration (aside from Lear) was my mom’s relationships with her sisters. She comes from a large(ish) Mexican-American family and grew up in a town on the US-Mexican border. While her life there wasn’t nearly as dramatic as the lives of the Torres sisters, I wanted to explore sibling relationships that were frosty, at best, and sometimes even downright hostile. I wanted the setting for Tigers to be in a place that was full of multi-generational Mexican-American families and long-standing Mexican-American culture. San Antonio, I thought, would be perfect. I’ve been there a few times, and hope that I was faithful to it and its people in my storytelling.
C: Which daughter was the most difficult to write?
S: Probably Iridian. It was difficult to write a character that is not really a do-er. She’s very in her own head and self-confined to her house, so I had to find ways to get her into the action that seemed authentic –I needed her to be motivated to do things, rather than just be pushed around (or just stay in bed). The other two sisters were much easier to figure out because they are both more action-oriented.
C: How many books have you planned for this series? Will the others also shift perspective?
S: This is a stand-alone! As of now, I have no future plans for the Torres sisters, though it’s nice to think that readers feel as if their story could go on.
C: I guess I was just hoping for more. 😉
C: Congratulations on having a third book out in the world. Has the writing or publishing process changed for you over time? Have there been surprises or challenges?
S: I’ve become more confident and am better at taking risks when it comes to my storytelling. I guess what I mean is that I’ve come to gradually learn that there is an audience for my gritty and sometimes unpleasant stories about sometimes unpleasant young people. Back when I first starting writing, I think that maybe I was trying to fit a mold, but I don’t do that anymore.
C: Have you always lived in Texas? And, if a friend was taking a trip to Texas, where would you tell them they should go?
S: Oof, tough question, given that Texas is so gigantic. I live in Dallas (in the North Central part), but my favorite region of Texas is a eight-hour drive west from my home, in what’s called the Trans-Pecos corridor. It’s the high-altitude desert there, and surrounded by mountains. It’s scrubby and quiet and isolated and beautiful. I used to spend summers out there, and the area was the inspiration for my second novel, All the Wind in the World.
C: I will definitely have to add that to my TBR! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer questions for us. We appreciate it!