Readersforum's Blog

May 3, 2013

Inside Isabel Allende’s world: writing, love and rag dolls

mayaAuthor Isabel Allende talks to Jessica Salter about her writing routine, falling in love and the death of her daughter Paula.

Isabel Allende, 70, was born in Peru to Chilean parents, and grew up in Chile, until a military coup in 1975 forced her into exile. She moved first to Venezuela, where she lived for 13 years, and then to California, where she lives now with her second husband, Willie Gordon, also a writer. Allende has published 19 novels, which have been translated into 35 languages and sold more than 57 million copies; her latest, Maya’s Notebook (Fourth Estate), is out next week.

Routine Olivia and Dulce, our dogs, wake us up very early. I do an hour of meditation, then I have a shower at about 7am and I’m ready to start my day. I have two offices in the house – one with no internet or telephone, where I just write, and another one where I do all the mail and office stuff.I’ll have an apple or a cup of tea, but not a real lunch. At 6pm Willie and I sit down in front of the fire or out on the patio and have a drink – he has vodka and I have mineral water, which I put it in a martini glass so it looks like a drink. We cook dinner together and go to bed at about 9pm.

Mother My father left when I was three and I never saw him again. He was the Chilean ambassador in Lima, and my mother suddenly found herself alone with three babies. She became everything to me – my mother, father and a great friend. She’s 92 now and lives in Chile, and I see her about four times a year.

Revolution When my mother moved back to my grandfather’s house, where her brothers were still living, she had shelter and food, but no freedom. She had a limited education and now three babies and a failed marriage, which was rare in Chile in the 1940s. From a young age I saw how different my mother’s life was from the lives of my uncles. And also how my own life was different from my brothers’ – they were climbing trees and I had to stay inside knitting. I didn’t want that kind of life – I wanted to be a man. Later I realised that what I really wanted was to change the world.

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