An Interview with Angélica Lopes

Interview by Rachel Gul

What inspired you to write The Curse of the Flores Women?

I grew up in the seventies, at a time when women were considered each other’s rivals.
That kind of thinking doesn’t even cross my 19-year-old daughter’s mind nowadays. My goal with this book was to talk about the importance of communication among
women. That’s why the novel has so many references to forms of communication: code in the lace stitches, hidden messages, colors linked to birdsong. It’s a book about the
various forms of female resistance: its more quiet forms and the ones involving direct confrontation.

Why did you choose to set the novel in the rural state of Pernambuco?

My grandfather was born in the region where the book takes place. Even though I’ve never lived there—I’m from the urban area of Rio de Janeiro—it’s a place that was always present in my childhood imagination. The Curse of the Flores Women also came out of a desire to talk about family ties. Ancestral lines that can’t be broken, as they’re the threads that have stitched our identity. Unfortunately, my mother, who told me these stories about her grandparents’ land, developed dementia shortly before the book’s release in Brazil, and she was unable to read it. It’s such a shame.
What is the main message you hope readers will gain from this novel? All women, without exception, are united by an invisible thread, the result of millennia of oppression. We can feel this thread even in the silence, even as the years and
generations pass. Lacemaking has always been an activity women were permitted to do, because it’s a domestic task. In the book, the characters manage to overcome this
isolation through courage, creativity and the support of other women. They form a support network.

What about historical fiction appeals to you as a writer?

I think that by recreating an era, we can understand how we got here. I chose two interesting moments in the feminist cause in Brazil: the turn of the 20th century, which was marked by women’s suffrage and the right to divorce; and the early 2000s, when debates over sexism, abortion and violence against women multiplied, including the #metoo movement, #mybodymyrules and new terms like “mansplaning”, “manterrupting”. In Brazil, one woman is killed every six hours by femicide, the majority carried out by
husbands or ex-partners. For the story set in the past, I used real facts and characters to reconstruct the atmosphere: the Ave Libertas feminist movement, the building of a grand, European-inspired cinema in the town of Triunfo, the story of Saint Agatha’s martyrdom, the existence of a celebrated style of lace from the region, called “renaissance lace”.

What are the differences between writing scripts for movies and TVs and writing novels?

As a screenwriter, the final product is the result of teamwork, it’s the combination of many talents. The director, actors, costume designers, set designers, editors: they’re all creators. In literature, it’s just me, the words and my future reader. I have more control and freedom. This is a great source of motivation for me as an author. In any case, I think I also naturally write in a visual way and at a pace appropriate for film or TV adaptation. One fundamental characteristic I bring from my scriptwriting practice to literature is the need to captivate the reader with each sentence. On large-scale productions, like Brazilian TV dramas, where I’ve been working for 15 years, the author can’t lose their audience under any circumstances. We have to hook them, reel them in.

How did you approach the research for your novel?

Before I started writing The Curse of the Flores Women, I wanted to learn needlework. Crochet, knitting, sewing… I took several courses, always in groups, mainly free embroidery. In these classes, I learned a lot about silence, movement, patience, doing and undoing. Immersing myself in the textile arts alongside these unknown women proved decisive in helping me convey the lacemakers in the book
more truthfully.

The Curse of the Flores Women is your first adult novel. Why did you turn from YA novels to a story for adults?

I trained as a journalist, and I’ve always written about everything. One topic that’s always moved me is the education of readers. When I published my first YA book, in
2003, my intention (somewhat pretentious, I’ll admit) was to help children, whose reading is monitored by parents and school, transition into adult readers, who read by personal choice. That’s why I started my career writing high-quality books for young adults, who are wonderful readers, intense and open. But, in parallel, I was writing adult fiction for TV and film, and I always wanted to write an adult novel. I just lacked the time to immerse myself. I was able to finish The
Curse of the Flores Women during the pandemic. I already had a rough outline, but I hadn’t been able to devote myself to it completely.

What are you working on now?

I’m starting my next novel, which will be about the pressure women face to become mothers. The story will take place in Rio de Janeiro a few years before the invention of the birth control pill, in the 1950s.