Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Guilie Castillo Oriard's The Miracle of small Things blog tour. Let's learn about Curaçao...

A Novel in 13 Stories

Mexican tax lawyer Luis Villalobos is lured to the tiny island of Curaçao anticipating a fast track to the cusp of an already stellar career. But the paradise we expect is so rarely the paradise we find.

Map of CuracaoI've invited Guilie to my blog today, to share with us something of her life in Curaçao, a jewel in the Caribbean. Since I found Guilie's blog through WEP, I've read her posts about her everyday life in this exotic locale. I've been reading her book and it's a quirky collection of tales, unique. So, being the traveller that I am, I asked her, as part of her blog tour, and since her 'miracle' book is set in Curaçao, to share how she was inspired by her setting.

Denise, thank you so much for having me over today. It’s such an honor to be part of your community, and to get the opportunity to introduce you to Curaçao. This island, both the setting for The Miracle of Small Things my home for the last decade, is a place very few people have heard of, let alone visited. I had no clue even where it was, when I volunteered for a six-month transfer back in 2003. And, boy, did it take me by storm.
This island has the potential to change people. It changed me, twice. First it lured me into postponing the flight back to Mexico, and then into staying. A decade later, it engineered the epiphany that drove me to leave a great job and write full-time.
But change is something we resist, isn't it?

It takes time to train your eye to see past the large, past the spectacular, to the tiny bursts of color, the ethereal fragility. To the miracle of it all, teeming, just below the surface.
(fragment of Interlude #3, from The Miracle of Small Things)

Curaçao is not for everybody. I’ve lived here long enough to see people arrive, fresh and hopeful, and it’s always a coin toss: will they last?

Curacao’s is a prickly kind of beauty.
Rough around the edges, camouflaged in the humdrum, the unremarkable, even the unappealing. It’s a rare beauty, sudden and abrupt; the beauty of a cactus flowering in the wild, blooms of impossible grace hidden in thorns and the tromp l’oeil of shadow in the blazing sun.
It’s the kind of beauty that, like the cactus flower, lives in total ignorance of ostentation.
The kind that the traveler seeking glamour or sycophantic perfection will never be able to see.
(Interlude #1, The Miracle of Small Things)
The Caribbean is the world’s original melting pot of culture, and Curaçao is a prime (and unique) example. It’s an island rich in history, and in historical exchange: from the European discovery of the Americas to the ongoing conflict with Venezuela; from slave trade to modern global finance; from the war between the Netherlands and Spain to World War II. Curaçao, tiny as it is—171 sq. miles, population 150K—is home to fifty nationalities. Diversity is the rule here, not the exception. Tolerance is a way of life.
But it’s a special island, choosy in whom it reveals its charms to.

Curaçao is contrast. Clear blue ocean; stark land of cacti and rock. Water and fruit are expensive; gas and cigarettes cheap. Ten political parties; two bookstores. The tragedy of slavery; the joy of Carnaval. Jew and Muslim having a soda at the snék. The black-and-white couples and their beautiful children of corkscrew curls and eyes of jade. Europe’s open mind, Latin America’s open heart—both wrapped in Caribbean laid-back.
Dutch houses in Caribbean colors (and refinery smokestacks in the background). Dutch vocabulary at Latin volume with Caribbean cadence. Merengue and tumba and André Hazes. On New Year’s Eve, people hug and say cheers at 7:00m—midnight in Holland—and a Caribbean steel band plays.
To speak two languages is a handicap; to speak only one is a freak show. It’s cosmopolitan and provincial, sophisticated and naïve. It’s a diorama of the world.
And, for a certain kind of person, it’s paradise.
(Interlude #13, The Miracle of Small Things)

On behalf of the gang at Truth Serum Press, responsible for getting this book in top shape and then sending it out into the world, and an armload of gratitude to you, Denise, for being part of the Miracle Tour. I hope you and your audience enjoy these Curaçao soundbites (wordbites?), and I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this place I’ve adopted—and which has adopted me.

Thank you so much Guilie, for evoking the landscape of Curaçao in your post today.

Available as paperback, and in Kindle, epub, iBook, and Kobo formats. Find it on Goodreads and Facebook.

The book was released in paperback this past August, and has received enthusiastic feedback:

“The combination of money and sex always creates an irresistible dynamic. Add more than a few dogs to the mix, and Guilie Castillo Oriard has created a tale as beguiling as the seductive ambiance of Curaçao itself.” ~ Peggy Vincent, author of Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife

“Curaçao is lovingly rendered, past and present, as a character itself — post-colonial, starkly beautiful, and captivating. You cannot read this book without checking airfares to Curaçao.” ~ John Wentworth Chapin, author of Alexandrite and founder of 52|250 A Year of Flash

“A richly enchanting story of lives and loves unfolding against the backdrop of the Caribbean.” ~ Silvia Villalobos, author of Stranger or Friend

Read more feedback at the publisher’s website, or read a full-length review by Lynne Hinkey at the Internet Review of Books.

To celebrate the e-book release (Kindle, epub, iBook, and Kobo formats, Nook to follow shortly), THE MIRACLE OF SMALL THINGS is going on (virtual) tour. Several blogs will be hosting author Guilie Castillo Oriard during the month of November to talk about writing, about the book, its island setting and its characters — including a 100-lb. monster dog rescued from the streets — and to discuss some of the issues MIRACLE touches on, such as the role of large and small things in the realignment of our values, and the power of place in our definition of self.


Come join us. Come meet Curaçao.
But come as Luis Villalobos should have come to the island:

prepared for a drastic readjustment of the things you value most.

Guilie Castillo Oriard is a Mexican export; she transferred to Curaçao “for six months” — and, twelve years later, has yet to find a reason to leave. Her work has been published online and in print anthologies, such as Pure Slush’s 2014 A Year In Stories and gorge. THE MIRACLE OF SMALL THINGS is her first book. Find Guilie on Facebook and Twitter, at Quiet Laughter where she blogs about life and writing, and at Life in Dogs where she blogs about… well, dogs...

Thanks for coming by. Please take a moment to leave Guilie a comment.

  •  Have you been to Curaçao? I’d love to hear your impressions if you have. Or were you like me, totally clueless as to the existence of this island? Do you think you’d be the type to love it, or hate it? Where would you go for the vacation of your dreams?


  1. Hey Denise and Guilie, beautiful description, I love this - "It’s cosmopolitan and provincial, sophisticated and naïve. It’s a diorama of the world.
    And, for a certain kind of person, it’s paradise."
    Reminds me of my favorite place on earth, Alaska. LOL
    I'm not sure I could survive on an island, I have a healthy fear of water. :) But I wouldn't mind visiting - which I plan to do when I read your book! As soon as I finish NaNo that's exactly what I'm doing. Reading the winter months away! My kind of hibernation. :)

    1. Thank you so much, Yolanda! Haha, I'm not surprised to hear this makes you think of Alaska... Diametrically opposite to Curaçao, yes, but also weirdly similar in that they're places that "choose" people... That make "a certain kind of person" fall violently in love with them.

      I'm so glad Curaçao will be keeping you company during the winter. Maybe a sunny ray or two might find its way through the pages to you, too :)

      Thank you so much for the visit!

  2. Hi Denise and Guilie - gosh I'd love to visit ... sounds quite extraordinary. The history is fascinating. As Yolanda says ... wonderful description of Curacao as it is now ...

    I don't think I could live there ... in South Africa I missed the contact with the old world .. the history of 5,000+ years: it's really strange to say that ... I was too far away from everything - except I loved living there .. but am glad I'm home!

    The Anthology sounds amazing ... the way you crafted the book into chapters and created a whole ... Cheers Hilary

    1. Thank you, Hilary! It'd be fantastic to have you over... Who knows, maybe someday :) Though yes, living here is a different story. You put your finger on it: being away from 5000+ years of history is really, really hard. And the distance—Curaçao isn't nearly as far away from "everything" as you must've felt in South Africa, but here it's more a matter of logistics... Still, I understand.

      I'm so glad you stopped by, Hilary. Thank you!

  3. Howdy Denise and Guilie.

    Curacao sounds like a fascinating place. And I understand not wanting to leave when you're supposed to. We moved to London for two years. We've been here four now :)

    1. Ah, another unplanned expat! I love it, TBM :) If someone had told me, the day I arrived to Curaçao, that 12 years later I'd still be here, I might've fainted. It seemed so impossibly small, so far from everything I knew and loved. Sure, a few months were doable, but years? And yet... here I am. I wonder if it was the same for you, that you didn't make an actual plan to stay longer, it just sort of happened... Or was it a tad more deliberate?

      Thanks so much for the visit!

  4. Denise, I love-love-love what you did with the post! Thank you so much, my friend... It's wonderful to feel so welcomed :)

    1. I love, love having you Guilie. You are most welcome!

  5. Hi, Guilie and Denise; Your descriptions of Curaçao are enticing, Guilie. I'm especially intrigued by the mix of different cultures converging on one little island and would love to visit, someday. It's the perfect backdrop for your book, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

    1. You'd love it, Debbie... I have the feeling it's right up your alley. There's little formality, and a steady undercurrent of genuineness, as if façades and pretenses are seen as unnecessary as hooped skirts :D And I'm so glad you liked the book! Seriously... You've made my day. Thank you!

    2. Definitely my kind of place, Guilie! ☺

    3. Yes Debbie I was intrigued by so many cultures in such a small island.

  6. I didn't know you lived there as well. Now I'm going to go look it up on a map because I've never heard of it either.
    Congratulations on your release.

    1. You're not alone, Alex. 99% of the people I speak to (anywhere except here) have never heard of Curaçao (except as a drink, haha). It's a tiny island in the South Caribbean, right off the coast of Venezuela and in between Aruba and Bonaire. An enchanting place... of course, I'm sadly incapable of being objective ;)

      Thanks for the visit, Alex, and for the good wishes!

  7. Sounds intriguing - both the setting and the book! :)

  8. I've heard of Curaçao as a liqueur...a long time ago, when I was a bartender! I don't know if I've ever even tried it. But I was told it's named after the island.

    1. That makes perfect sense, Stephanie ;) The Curaçao liqueur is not my drink of choice (too sweet), but it's good to mix in when you want to add an orangey, citrusy flavor (to, say, margaritas)—or if you just want to paint a drink blue :D By the way, you were a step ahead of me: when I came to live here, I hadn't even heard of the liqueur! #clueless

      Thanks so much for the visit!

  9. What a lovely post.
    I love Denise's presentation!
    I love the interludes especially "...prickly kind of beauty.
    Rough around the edges, camouflaged in the humdrum, the unremarkable, even the unappealing." Definitely exotic.
    The laid-back vibe and multi-cultural perspective is reminiscent of South Africa...
    Congrats once again, Guilie!
    Looking forward to reading the story...

    1. I've long suspected, Michelle, that Curaçao has a lot in common with SA (including former Dutch domination—though that's perhaps not quite so "former" here). One day I'll come visit you :)

      Thanks so much for the visit! Very much looking forward to hearing what you think after you read MIRACLE, too!

  10. Amazing post dear! You have a wonderful blog:)
    What about following each other on Instagram, bloglovin, Twitter?.. :)


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