Interview by Ceri Wheeldon
I love to share stories about inspirational women. Evelyn LaTorre shares the inspiration behind her book Between Inca Walls based on her own life story, from wanting to become a nun to marrying a penniless student in Peru and the subsequent adventures that followed.
Tell us a little about yourself
I am presently a memoir writer, aged 77, who has lived an adventurous, exciting and fulfilling life by taking risks. I joined the Peace Corps in the 60s, married a penniless university student in Peru (read about in Between Inca Walls, by Evelyn Kohl LaTorre), obtained a doctorate degree in Multicultural Education, and made a life for my family. I worked as a school psychologist and special education administrator in the San Francisco Bay Area for 32 years. I’ve lived in and travelled to close to 100 countries.
When did you start to write?
As soon as I learned how to write I wrote imaginative stories. I read avidly in my teens, then wrote academic articles and a doctoral dissertation during my work years. I’ve written two memoirs since retiring in 2002.
What have been the challenges for you?
Keeping life interesting and balanced while obtaining an education and supporting a family during the 1960s into the 2000s. Good fortune and my intuition have guided me to temper adventure with responsibility. My background of growing up in rural eastern Montana and moving to California at age 16 grounded me in the values found in nature, family and travel.
What did you do prior to this?
I was a school psychologist and administrator for 32 years in public schools.
When was your first book published? August 2020.
What is the title of your latest book? Between Inca Walls: A Peace Corps Memoir
What was the inspiration behind your latest book?
A desire to understand how I could go from wanting be a Catholic nun to becoming pregnant before marriage when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Peru.
What can you share with us about the plot – without spoiling the ending!
An adventurous and romantically inclined twenty-one-year-old seeks fulfilment volunteering in Mexico and Peru. She joins the Peace Corps and works in the Andes, where she falls in love with her village, her indigenous pupils—and a university student. After violating the sexual prohibitions of her Catholic upbringing, she finds herself pregnant and must chose whether to marry the father of her unborn child.
Who are the key characters – and how do you hope readers over 50 will relate to them?
Evelyn, the protagonist, is shaped by her close-knit family and their strict religious rules about sex in the 1960s. Becoming pregnant before marriage then was a scandal. Antonio is a handsome university student who meets Evelyn’s high standards for compassion and sensitivity.
I believe readers will recall the sexual mores of the 20th century before birth control was readily available and the confusion of a naïve girl coming of age in those times.
What do like the most about the character/s you have created?
Their innocence and brashness. The descriptions of the life and terrain in a rural part of the U.S. and the colorfullness of the same in two foreign countries (Mexico and Peru) are exceptional (per reviewers).
Are there any key issues you wanted to draw attention to?
- The value of taking risks early in life.
- The positives of seemingly negative situations.
- The importance of volunteering and living in another culture and country.
What do want readers to take away having the read the book?
- How the lived experience of other people leads to greater understanding of others and oneself.
- You don’t always get what you want, you often get what you need.
- Challenges and risks nurture self-confidence, self-knowledge, and resilience
What’s next for you? I’m completing a sequel about my 55-year bicultural marriage and how I overcame obstacles like poverty and parental admonitions to become educated, self-sufficient, and fulfilled. It is scheduled for publication in August 2021.
What 3 tips would you offer women looking to write their first book?
- Be brave and write your truth honestly and it will set you free
- Impulsive risk-taking can bring you a wealth of rewards
- You have unique experiences others can learn from