Rocket Science: Andrea Yaryura Clark
Andrea is the author of the recently published On a Night of a Thousand Stars, a moving, emotional narrative of love and resilience about a young couple confronting the start of Argentina’s Dirty War in the 1970s, and a daughter searching for truth twenty years later.
This is such an achievement. It’s got to feel so good to have On a Night of a Thousand Stars published and getting a reaction.
It feels good. And it’s nice to also have it behind me. I felt like I was climbing some mountain, you know? And on the day of the launch it felt like, “Okay, after years of going uphill, I can now climb back down.” I don’t know if other authors feel the same, but it feels good to finally have it available in bookstores.
It’s such a deeply personal work, and the subject matter can be raw at times. What did you do to “come up for air” as you were writing it?
It was only after my editor pointed it out, that I realized I was subconsciously avoiding writing the more violent parts. When I eventually tackled those scenes, what helped and has always helped me, is music.
I find solace in listening to music, specifically music from the era I was writing about. Argentinian artists quietly started a resistance during the dictatorship. There was censorship in the country. Artists were being persecuted, but some were able to stay, and through veiled lyrics they were able to express what was happening to the country and to them personally.
Do you remember the moment in your life when you decided to commit to writing it?
When I moved from Buenos Aires to New York with my future husband, it was with an unfinished documentary about the sons and daughters of the desaparecidos. I thought I would be able to return to Argentina to finish the project but life took over. I got married, had kids. Yet, these stories continued to swirl inside my head.
Around 9 years ago, I was out for a walk in Central Park with a friend, an artist, who knew about the different ways I had broached the subject of the desaparecidos’ sons and daughters. I was still needed at home, but I felt I could carve out some time, both physically and mentally. On that walk, I voiced out loud, for the first time, how I was going to attempt to write a novel. Had I known what writing one actually entailed, I may not have tried!
What’s the best time of day for you to write?
The morning, for sure. Once I walk my dog Toby around the park near our home in Brooklyn, and have had my mate, an Argentine tea, I go upstairs to my desk. My goal is to be at my desk for about two hours and I often work in increments of 30-40 minutes. I should say that this is how I hope to start my day… it doesn’t always work out that way!
I’m working on a second book and am in the research phase. It’s another work of historical fiction. My notes are all handwritten, but my writing can be illegible, even for me. So as soon as I’m able to, I type them into a word document.
Do you have any time to read other books?
I always make time. I can’t imagine not reading! I like to read more than one book at a time. I’m reading “Giovanni’s Room” by James Baldwin. And I just finished a book by John Avlon. He’s a journalist and a political analyst at CNN. It’s called “Lincoln – the Fight for Peace.” It was a wonderful read.
Did you have any input in the cover design?
Albert Tang, the creative director at Grand Central Publishing, Hachette, designed the amazing cover. I was asked to send paintings, photos, anything inspiring or evocative.
My publisher would then share with me a few possible covers. We decided quickly to go with Albert’s brilliant creative take on a photo of Avenida de Mayo, an avenue that plays an important role in the novel and in Buenos Aires. He interspersed the Argentine sun, the Pampas grasses. It’s so beautiful.
When you went back to Argentina in the ‘90s, you worked for Tower Music and MuchMusic. A lot of artists come through on promotional tours, were any particularly memorable?
Oh yes! I was particularly honored to spend time with the singer Mercedes Sosa, considered one of the representative voices of Latin American music, who had to flee to Paris for a few years during the dictatorship.
I also enjoyed meeting Gustavo Cerati, a solo artist and founding member of Soda Stereo, Pedro Aznar, of Seru Giran, Daniel Melingo, Fabiana Cantilo. Just about everyone from the music community.
As for International artists, I had the pleasure of meeting artists like David Byrne, Blur, Julio Iglesias, Alanis Morissette. Iggy Pop… I didn’t realize people were going to go so crazy over Iggy Pop. We were eventually able to extricate ourselves from the mob and get into a waiting car. I was wearing clogs, and momentarily lost one of them when the car door shut. I should have worn sneakers!
We need to go on a trip, where should we go?
Argentina! I haven’t been back in three years. It was hard, during the pandemic, not being able to go back to visit family. I also needed to verify details in the novel. Luckily, my cousins and friends in Argentina were able to help me by being my “eyes.”
What’s your favorite building in New York City?
Grand Central Station. I was just there the other day. I live in Brooklyn but when I’m in Manhattan, depending on where I am, I will specifically walk to 42nd street to take the subway back, just so I can walk underneath that incredible dome with the constellations. It’s breathtaking.
As you were writing the book, did people try to give you the same advice over and over again? Like a literary cliché oft-heard by authors?
After getting a rejection letter, I was sometimes reminded how often J.K. Rowling was rejected before landing a publisher.
When I first met my future agent Johanna Castillo, she was still an editor at Simon and Schuster, but she was about to go back to agenting. She was Isabel Allende’s editor (now agent) and I remember thinking that if Johanna, a Latin American herself, didn’t see the potential in a story that takes place in a South American country, then it might be time for me to move on from this creative endeavor.
Needless to say, I’m incredibly grateful that she took a chance on me!
If you could start a podcast tomorrow, what would it be about?
I like the idea of talking to people who have made a total shift in their lives. I didn’t think I would ever work on a novel until I had this idea and went about writing it. And now I’m working on a second one!
So I’d like to talk to others who’ve done something similar and examine all the ways one can make change happen. For example, I would want to know what steps the person took once they set their mind to doing the thing they always wanted to do. I hope people don’t feel discouraged or think that it’s too late to pursue their dream.
On a Night of a Thousand Stars is now available at bookstores everywhere, and you can follow news and announcements from Andrea at andreayclark.com.