Anjanette Delgado trails her right hand along the spines of books lining a shelf at Books & Books in Coral Gables, vigorously grabbing another paperback to add to the existing pile balanced in her left arm.
She makes her way to a small corner table in the bookstore's café and sits encased between a wooden wall and a self-made tower of books. Lining the coffee shop wall behind her is a collection of black-and-white photographs of authors who have spoken in the store in the past.
The author is not only content with her surroundings, she feels right at home.
Though home for Delgado is Puerto Rico, she has been living and writing in Miami for the last 22 years after arriving in a 1977 Toyota from a brief stint in Atlanta. While residing in the Peach State, Delgado made her living as a producer for CNN before getting an offer to produce the local morning show for NBC 6.
With an extensive background in the journalism field, Delgado naturally found her way to prose and began practicing long form. However, it wasn't until her 40th birthday that she had her first novel, The Heartbreak Pill, published.
"I think that was a bad choice, getting into a similar field like journalism when I really wanted to write. For example, let's say I can't be a master pianist, so I'm going to be a piano teacher. Those are compromises we make with ourselves because of fear," she says drifting off before concluding with: "I think if I had to do it over again it would be to have started [writing] sooner, trusting that I could make it work somehow."
Leaning her chin on the palm of her hand, she adds, "that was something I wish I had done differently."
Luckily, she came to trust herself soon enough and has recently released her fourth novel, The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho, which she will represent during Miami Book Fair International this year. Set in Little Havana, the book follows the journey of twice-divorced psychic Mariela Estevez.
"It came about in a funny way," says the author, using her hands to animate the tale. "I didn't set out to write about a clairvoyant, I had this image in my mind -- it always starts with a scene. There was this woman looking at a man that she had been married to forever and hating him. Really hating him, hating him as hard as she had loved him."
The most fascinating thing for Delgado about that moment was the "how" - how did the wife get to that point of hatred? How could she love someone and hate that person at the same time?
One quick answer is infidelity.
Although unfaithfulness is reason enough to drive people mad and marriages to destruction, there had to be more to it for Delgado. In order for her to tell the story of this couple, she felt it was best to bring in a third party observer: one of the husband's mistresses, Mariela.
Thinking over all the problems in marriage, she boils it down to one main issue: nobody sees. "The husband doesn't really see his own wife, the wife doesn't really see her own husband, and then the mistress, of course, needs to try to see."
Once she realized that all her characters have this problem of not fully seeing things that are plainly planted in their paths, she decided to bring in the clairvoyant, Mariela, as an overarching metaphor.
The issues of sight and a crumbling marriage aren't the only points in the novel. No matter how hard she tries, Delgado cannot escape writing about heartbreak.
"The issue of heartbreak is something that has always fascinated me. How your heart breaks -- how you're one day so happy and how you change your mind. When did that first seed of doubt come about? It fascinates me, that switch."
With a mischievous smile, the author says how that recurring theme showed up unintended, "in the end, it's about heartbreak again even though I set out to do something completely different."
Although the book centers on the lives and troubles of her three main characters -- the wife, the husband, and the mistress -- the way Delgado romanticizes Calle Ocho, it's as if the famous street is a character all on its own. There's something about that busy street in Little Havana that makes people fall in love.
Commenting on a trip she made to the area a few years ago, Delgado pushes her shoulders back and perks up as if sharing a new secret and says, "I thought I was in love!"
"I went in the morning and I remember buying vegetables and fruits on the street and then going into a record store and the music playing was just amazing. And in the end, after I had walked all those blocks, I began thinking about this [imaginary] person and thinking that I was in love.
"I'm convinced that it had to do with just being there and seeing the people in the morning just sweeping the sidewalks and looking at their faces and just seeing all of these things there that I had never noticed before. It was beautiful."
It's an unseen magic that little piece of Miami holds and Delgado brings it to light in The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho.
Delgado is currently working on two new novel ideas, both of which deal with her exploration of that basic human condition: heartbreak.
Anjanette Delgado will be participating at the Miami Book Fair International during a panel discussion with Mary Simses, John Warley, and Sam Barry on Sunday, November 23, at 1 p.m. in Building 7, first floor, room 7106, and again during the De Viva Voz session at 5:30 p.m. in Building 3, third floor, room 3314. Admission is free.
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