iCLA Student Releases New Spanish-Language Novel ‘Sinvergüenzas’ Co-Written with Partner

An In-Depth Interview with Dania Garcia-Donas Marquez

iCLA student Dania poses with a copy of Sinvergüenzas

In February, iCLA 4th-year student, Dania Garcia-Donas Marquez released her romantic comedy novel Sinvergüenzas, a book that has been four years in the making.

Dania, who is a Spanish native, co-wrote the book with her partner in writing and partner in life, Aurora Boge Rojas. Inspired by friends who have been discouraged by reading at school, Dania and Aurora set out to write a novel that was enjoyable and easy to read, so that even those who disliked reading could finish the novel.

The pair share the pen name, Hart&Creek, which originates from the characters in their first novel written together. To date, they have written 13 books together.

Also an avid reader, Dania discovered her passion for writing at age 11, when she finished the annual limit of books in her school’s reading program before the year was over. It was then that she opted to write her own. With a cover illustration provided by her sister, Dania’s first book was printed and hot-glued together by her mother, which Dania affectionately called a “family project”. A people-person, Dania continued to explore her passion through writing with family and friends.

In 2018, she started to consider writing and publishing more seriously by participating in writing contests and educating herself on the ins and outs of creating a novel.

A copy of the book has been donated to the library of iCLA’s Reading Center – the first Spanish-language novel to be added. The book is available in print and e-book on Amazon.


Interview with Dania Garcia-Donas Marquez

Q: Please tell us about your book and what it is about.

iCLA Student Dania's new novel Sinvergüenzas

It’s a romantic comedy that happens in America.

We made up an agency where you can rent people’s time. There are actors and actresses in this agency and you can rent [them] for a day to pretend to be someone in your life. They can pretend to be your boyfriend or your girlfriend, your brother… they can pretend to be whomever you want for a day.

Both of the main characters are people with a problematic past. The main character, Freya, travels from England to America and she wants to work in this agency. But she wants to work as a premium agent because their jobs are better, they get paid better… for that she needs training. They ask Eros, who is the current premium agent, to train her. And that’s how the rom com goes.

Q: What was your inspiration for writing Sinvergüenzas?

There are many things that inspired the book. First of all, all the characters are named after people that I met during my stay in Canada. I wrote this book right after coming back from Canada and I felt like I really wanted to have those people written down. They were part of my life for a long time.

The idea for rent-a-boyfriend or girlfriend – it’s from Japan! Even when I was living in Canada I was already investigating a lot of things about Japan because I was really interested in the culture and coming here. It was one of those things where it really surprised me to see videos of being able to rent a person for a day, it was a completely new concept [to me]. So I took that from Japan and took things from Canada and jumbled it together.

The inspiration to actually write it down was mostly our friends. My partner and I have a lot of friends that don’t like to read because of the way that reading is taught at school. We wanted to create a novel that is really easy to read, really light for someone that has maybe never read, and for them to be able to finish it.

Q: From the start of the idea until the publication, how long did it take?

4th-year iCLA student Dania takes interview about her new novel, Sinvergüenzas.

The book was written in 25 days. This was in 2019, and from there until now, we have been correcting the manuscript over and over. I did the first correction, then my partner did another one, and then we did one together, which took a really long time.

When you write something, it is very difficult to self-correct it. You think it’s written properly, and you don’t realize it’s not because you’ve seen it so many times. So we actually let it settle for a year or two, and then we started correcting it all over again. Then, over winter vacation, I had 3 months [where I was free], so we decided to go for it.

Q: Tell me about the writing process. Did you encounter any challenges while writing, or was it a smooth process?

We found a system to write between two people, which was with text messages. We created a group chat and organized it as if we were in a roleplay campaign. Each one of us would be in charge of certain characters and we would both be the narrators at the same time.

We took turns [to write] and the idea was always to surprise the other person. You are technically writing the book, but you also don’t know what’s going to happen yourself. We had an idea of where we wanted to start and where we wanted to end, but there were multiple times in the book where I didn’t know where the scene was going because it was not my turn to be the narrator. The fun about having two people write it is that there are certain parts of your character that you share with the other person, but there are also parts you keep to yourself to make it more interesting.

Transforming a roleplay into a narrative-style novel was very challenging. Each of us has a different style [of writing], but when it’s a book, you have to make it cohesive. You have to neutralize both styles or have a middle ground, and finding that is very difficult – especially when every five lines, there’s a new style. That was a big challenge.

The book was initially not written in a narrative style per se. We were trying to create a new writing style that we call “Troubrook”, which was a combination of theatre writing and novel writing. Precisely because of the people who don’t read, we wanted to create a style that would be easy to read. It was sort of text message-looking in the sense that the name of the character would go first, and underneath that would be whatever they said. Sort of like in a theatre play, but it was not meant to be acted, it was meant to be read.

We actually ran a trial with 20 people that had never read anything outside of school, to see if they could finish a 300-page book. Right now it’s 250 pages, but the first manuscript was longer. Actually, all of them finished the book, and most of them liked it. It’s not everyone’s style, but the point was that even people who are not used to reading were able to read it because it was written in text message style. But then publishers didn’t want to risk having a new style completely because they weren’t sure whether it was going to work or not. In the end, we had to transform that style into a narrative, which took even more time.

Q: I saw many reviews on Amazon with many people saying that it was a lovely read – very entertaining and easy to read.

I mean, it has just started [to sell] so we might get more reviews in the future. But I was actually really happy because we were able to do a promotion where the e-book version was free for a whole weekend. We were expecting to maybe reach 100 people, but then suddenly we reached 600 people.

Q: Going back to the topic of writing with your partner – did you have any challenges where you wanted the character or story to go one way and she wanted it to go the other?

Sometimes it happens, whenever a specific line really ruins the entire scene you had in your mind. Sometimes it’s good to just roll with it because maybe what you had in your head was good, but whatever is about to come is even better. One thing about this kind of writing is that the characters seem very real because it’s actual real reactions. Of course, I react through the filter of my character and the character’s personality, but in the end, it’s like a real conversation because I never know what’s coming and I don’t know how she’s going to react to what I say – which is like real life.

Q: Was it a goal of yours to publish before completing your degree or something that just happened?

I only have my family back in Spain because it’s been so many years since I lived there. It’s kind of sweet and sour when you publish a book and all of your friends don’t speak the language. They think, “Oh! This is so beautiful, but I can only look at the cover.” So that’s why I didn’t do it earlier, but then these three months… I suddenly realized I’m graduating and this is a project that I really want to do and the time matched. So yeah, it was always the intention.

Q: Is there any chance for you to translate this into English or Japanese?

I would love to, honestly. It’s one of my goals. Every time I write a book, I think about at least translating it to English, because the thing is, everything I read is in English. Most of my texting right now happens in English because of the people that I talk to. So whenever I write a book, I actually think about whatever I’m writing in English first and then I have to translate it to Spanish in order for my girlfriend [Aurora] to understand what I’m saying.

Especially since the environment of [Sinvergüenzas] is in America, it just makes more sense that a lot of things are in English. It would be my goal to translate it, but of course, it depends on how popular it is in different places. Right now, it’s really popular in Mexico and the US. If it were to become more popular, then it would be easier to get a translation.

Q: After you graduate, do you plan on becoming a full-time writer?

4th-year iCLA student Dania takes interview about her new novel, Sinvergüenzas.

That would be an ideal goal. I do have some things that I would like to do that are related to my career so it’s not like I would be miserable if I couldn’t become a writer. I can do other things, certainly. But it’s been the reason why I wrote so much. Which was very challenging because finding time everyday to do this, which is not giving me any money and is not giving me any results yet on top of studying, can be difficult sometimes.

Especially the correcting part. Writing is fun, but when you have to correct it, when you have to send it to a contest, when you have to keep social media updated, it becomes a lot of work. And it doesn’t pay off immediately. It takes forever to pay off, and I think that’s maybe the reason why I decided to go to university instead of full-on focusing on writing. I was insecure about whether I could do it or not, but now that I have my book published, and I am super excited about it, I think I can maybe make it work.

Q: Finally, please give your message!

At the beginning, I thought, there’s no way I can be a full-time writer. I’m writing as a hobby and that’s cool, but I need to get a real career. If anyone is going to read my interview, I would like to spread the message that it’s as real as you make it to be. Honestly, this book was just a test and this test became literally the happiness of my life during this year. It became such a huge project – we call it our first kid (laugh).

If someone can read [the book] I hope they enjoy it! But mainly, I would like to encourage people to, even if they’re studying in university or if they already have a job, take their hobbies seriously because they’re not dumb things, they’re not wasting your time. And I’d like to encourage people to keep it going and keep working for it because it might become a super great project in the future.

The publishing sector in Spain is not super great right now, because a lot of people are writing and sending in their work, and there are way more people who want to write than books that can be published per year. We’ve received many terrible comments from people, from publishers… and social media can be a wonderful place but it can also be a terrible place.

There are many difficulties, but in the end, if I put everything in balance, it’s worth it. It was worth going through all that to see my book now, here, and the first Spanish book in the LAC!

Just like there are terrible comments and people that make your life hard, there are also awesome people. When we finally decided to publish [the book], we needed a cover. There was an artist that I had been following for a long time. She was creating a comic, and I casually found her on the internet when she was just starting. Even though we were strangers, I talked to her about her comic.

When I thought about the cover [of Sinvergüenzas], I thought about her because I really liked her drawing style. I went back to social media to try and find her, and it so happened that right now she’s drawing comics for a big company. She’s a big artist now, and I hadn’t realized. So I talked to her, and said, “Hey, do you remember me?” And I thought, this person is already working for a big company, they probably can’t compromise to do something like this. And especially not for a very tight budget, because the first book is always a tight budget.

She said, I remember you perfectly because you were there from the beginning when I started. I don’t usually make covers because I only draw comics, but I’ll definitely make the cover for you and I’ll definitely adjust to your budget.

Even though she’s definitely getting a lot more money right now, but it was just very beautiful to see that some people still remember. Now we have this awesome cover, which I’m super proud of. It was the most beautiful thing that happened to me.