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Exploring Immigrant Issues Through Fiction With Orlando Ortega-Medina

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In these last few years, immigrant issues have been a huge topic of discussion in the United States. People fleeing from war-torn countries, immigrants facing discrimination, and banning certain nationalities from entering the country have sparked endless debate. Author Orlando Ortega-Medina wanted to shed light on the challenges he went through as an immigrant himself by writing a fiction novel that reflects his non-fiction story. He joins Corinna Bellizzi to talk about his book The Fitful Sleep of Immigrant, which narrates the trials and tribulations of an immigrant in San Francisco during the late 90s. Orlando talks about his current life in London, the importance of authors seeking professional editing, and the reason he writes about tough subjects.

 

About Orlando Ortega-Medina

CMBB 142 | Immigrant Issues

Orlando Ortega-Medina was born in Los Angeles to Sephardic immigrants from Cuba. He studied English Literature at UCLA and has a Juris Doctor law degree from Southwestern University School of Law. At university, he won the National Society of Arts and Letters Award for Short Stories.

Ortega-Medina’s short story collection Jerusalem Ablaze was shortlisted for The Polari First Book Prize (2017). In 2018, he was named the Marilyn Hassid Emerging Author for the Houston Jewish Book & Arts Festival. He is also the author of three novels, The Death of Baseball (2019), The Savior of 6th Street (2020), and The Fitful Sleep of Immigrants (2023). Ortega-Medina lives in London, England, where he practices law and writes fiction.

Guest LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/orlando-ortega-medina-046a1820b

Guest Website: https://orlandoortegamedina.co.uk

Guest Social: https://www.instagram.com/sadot_medina, https://www.facebook.com/orlandoortegamedina, https://www.tiktok.com/@orlandoortegamedina

Additional Resources Mentioned: https://orlandoortegamedina.co.uk/the-fitful-sleep-of-immigrants

 

Show Notes

00:00 – Introduction

03:47 – Orlando’s origin story

05:39 – Writing about heavy topics

12:27 – Cultural difference between the US and the UK

18:09 – A mix of fiction and non-fiction

22:17 – Importance of an editor and book cover choice

27:05 – Choosing the topics to write about

30:16 – Looking back

34:10 – Thought on Twitter, social media, and online culture

38:29 – Final Words

 

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Exploring Immigrant Issues Through Fiction With Orlando Ortega-Medina

Over the course of the last several years, we’ve all been exposed to stories of immigrant issues from fleeing, war-torn regions, and seeking asylum, and topics that we’ve covered even from episode one of this very show to issues finding solace when we need a firm landing place. Often resulting in deportation and more displacement for those that have experienced incredible loss, trials, and tribulations over the years.

We’re going to dive into the personal side of a story like that through the power of fiction as I’m joined by Orlando Ortega-Medina. He is the author of a new work of fiction called The Fitful Sleep of Immigrants. I’ve got my advanced reader copy right here. Orlando Ortega-Medina was born in Los Angeles to Sephardic Immigrants from Cuba. He studied English Literature at UCLA and has a Juris Doctor Law Degree from Southwestern University School of Law.

At University, he won the National Society of Arts and Letters Award for Short Stories. Ortega-Medina’s Short Story Collection, Jerusalem Ablaze, was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize in 2017. In 2018, he was named the Marilyn Hassid Emerging Author for the Houston Jewish Book and Arts Festival. He is also the author of three novels, The Death of Baseball, The Savior of 6th Street, and The Fitful Sleep of Immigrants, which is available now. This is what we’re going to dive into. I’m so pleased to introduce you all to Orlando Ortega-Medina. Welcome to the show.

I’m happy to be here.

I have to tell you something. My son is named the same way as you. Orlando is also Roland, and so I chose the more French or British pronunciation of that myself. I learned a bit about the roots of that name through exploration and through discovery. I’m curious about how you ended up with the name Orlando.

My great-grandfather was a great fan of opera, and his favorite opera was Orlando. He named his son, my grandfather, Orlando, then that just continued on a tradition. My grandfather named my father Orlando. They named me Orlando, and the name’s just floating around at the moment. Thanks to the opera.

I love the roots and the love of music. I’m sure you’ve heard it a few times. I was also named for a song. I was named for the song, Corinna, by Taj Mahal.

We have something in common, music.

Let’s get started with your origin story. What inspires you to write?

I was born to a multi-ethnic family. Both of my parents immigrated to the United States in the late ‘50s from Cuba. My father’s family, half of his family had immigrated to Cuba from Florida, his mother’s side. My mother’s parents had immigrated to Cuba from the Canary Islands. There was this wave of immigration focusing on Cuba. Because of the Cuban Revolution, my parents left Cuba. I was born in the United States.

They were located in an area of the country where we were the only Hispanic family in the neighborhood. We were very different from the people that were around us. Again, since I was born in the United States, I was effectively different from my own parents who had immigrated to the States. I was different from the children that I was going to school with.

The irony of it all is that my parents, at some point, decided to connect us, the children that were born in the States, with other Cuban families. They joined what was called the Cuban Cultural Club in Los Angeles. That was about 50 miles away from where we lived. I realized that I was different from those kids that were also raised in Cuban households as well because our family was Jewish and theirs mainly were Roman Catholics.

All of my early childhood, I was always questioning my identity. I felt like I wasn’t like anybody. Not even like my own family and the people that I was supposed to be like. That started me on a search for identity. I explored my identity in different ways, but ultimately, I found that the most productive way for me to do that was to explore it in fiction. A lot of my fiction is about individuals who are trying to find themselves in the world and some are more successful than others. That’s been the commencement of my journey into fiction.

I’m going to read from the back cover to give people a taste, “San Francisco of 1997, Attorney Marc Mendes, the estranged son of a prominent rabbi and a burned-out lawyer with addiction issues, plots his exit from the Big City of San Francisco to a more peaceful life in idyllic Napa Valley. Before he can realize his dream, the US government summons his Salvadoran life partner, Isaac Perez, to Immigration court, threatening him with deportation.”

When I first got this book, I read that and I thought, “This guy likes to write about some pretty heavy things and big issues.” I have to tell you, on this show, this is not the first time that I’ve interviewed authors who are tackling these big issues in this way. I was hoping we could dive into why you choose to write about these sorts of topics. In particular, why did you set this one in 1997 as opposed to more recently?

The novel is inspired by my own experiences in having to leave the United States for reasons having to do with immigration. This was before I became an immigration lawyer. That’s my day job, I’m a US immigration lawyer. I’m helping get people into the United States, a country that I wasn’t able to remain in. This is what happened. I got into a relationship with another chap who was in the United States on a grant of temporary asylum.

CMBB 142 | Immigrant Issues
Immigrant Issues: Orlando’s novel is inspired by his own experiences of leaving the United States for reasons having to do with immigration.

 

He fled the Civil War in El Salvador. He knew that eventually, he would have to present some claim in court. In the early days when we first got together, that didn’t seem to be that critical of an issue. We were just getting to know each other. Time passed, around 1995, 1996, and 1997, it was clear to us that the war had wrapped up in El Salvador.

My partner didn’t have strong grounds in which to claim asylum. If we had gone forward on a case to present in court, it was probably when he was going to lose, then we would have to be facing the option of him having to return to El Salvador and me having to go there. What we decided was that we would jump before we were pushed. We applied for immigration to Canada, left, and started from zero. I left my family and my career as a lawyer in San Francisco in the ‘90s and we sought the recognition of our relationship, which Canada did offer.

What happened with this book? Even though we felt very happy and free to be in Canada, I felt a certain bitterness and anger, if you will, at having had to make that decision. In 1997, there was no same-sex marriage in the United States at the time. That would’ve solved the problem, but it wasn’t available. I started writing what happened to us as a type of memoir. I realized after I finished that supposed memoir, it wasn’t the most pleasant read because again, my state of mind was very negative at that point. I put it aside and I continued writing the fiction that I had been writing previously.

At some point, maybe ten years later, I decided I can tackle this material again. Rather than write it from the perspective of my own life, my memoir, I’m going to fictionalize it and I’m going to set it in a way as if we had never left the United States and had decided to fight out the case in the courts as an alternate universe version of our own lives.

There are many touchpoints in the novel that are very similar to our lives, mine and my partner’s, now my husband’s. There are many parts that are quite different. It’s very interesting too for the people that know us. They’re like, “This doesn’t seem to be. This seems to be you.” A lot of certain people are trying to unpick what’s fiction and what’s not fiction.

CMBB 142 | Immigrant Issues
Immigrant Issues: There are many touchpoints in Orlando’s novel that are very similar to his life. A lot of readers are trying to unpick what’s fiction and what’s not.

 

I imagine trying to find out if there was this Silva character in your life. You’re also touching on things like the environmental issues that we are exposed to here in California from the earthquakes of our youth. I’ve been in California since 1989, shortly after the big one that hit San Francisco. Aptos was the epicenter. I’m in Santa Cruz County, so I’m much closer to that here, but the wildfires, the impacts that we see around the health of our ecosystems, and things like that are flowing out of control again.

Reading your book brought me right back to my coming-of-age story too, because I’m probably around the same age as you. You might be a little bit older, but I was in college at that time. I was also pretty deeply steeped in the gay community of San Francisco because a lot of my friends were gay. I was up in San Francisco and experienced much of this environment. People coming of age and making these choices. In some cases, even battling some of the issues you’re talking about like, “My partner is from Korea and their H-1B Visa is expiring and they’re going to have to leave,” and things along those lines.

Making decisions about whether they’re going to go to Korea with their partner or stay behind here and being forced to make choices. Maybe your relationship isn’t there yet but there’s a promise of it. It leaves me thinking, “Why can’t we get to this point where we are one global society and we accept that and people can move freely?” As opposed to saying, “You’re from that area, so you can’t come to our country.” You probably are right with me in this, we’re a little sick of it. Frankly, when we have political climbs erupt where suddenly deportation is top of the news, it’s unsettling.

One of the things that I think is something that people think about when they think of immigrants or migrants, they think of the migrants that are coming from the South of the United States. There’s quite a large amount of illegal migration that’s coming in. I know this because of my practice, coming from the North of Canada.

There are other people that come into the United States and they go under the radar. They’re working, and who’s going to distinguish them from any other American citizen? There are Europeans as well who come in and they overstay their welcome. The US’ official welcome, I should say. Again, they’re Europeans, so it’s obvious they’re not Americans but nobody asks them, “What is your status here? Do you have the right to work?” They’re there. They’re as much a part of the society as the people who are visible minorities that have come from the South. Yet, all of the focus is on the visible minorities from the South and now from other places as well.

South Asia and East Asia too, but you’re right. Most of it is focused on the South. I went through the process of doing a fiancé Visa for a German I was engaged to. We dissolved the engagement before we got married but I’m familiar with the process. Even then, working in a European country, you have to put your entire life on full display.

It’s a little uncomfortable at times, but the reality is that we continue to see people, and this is more an issue here in the United States than in some other parts of the globe. Canada has been an asylum for more communities and has a broader reach in recent years. It feels like we’re operating in the last century as opposed to this one in many ways. What do you see as somebody who’s now an expat? You’re no longer here in the United States. You live in London. How is it different there?

The politics are not as polarized here. Even what’s called the Conservative Party in the UK is much more progressive than what would be considered to be the Republican Party in the United States. We don’t have a political movement here that is that far to the right. There’s something called fringe parties like the English National Party, but they have no representation whatsoever in the parliament or in the government.

Generally speaking, I will say that people are allowed to live and let live. I personally think that I feel more freedom and more safety. There’s a national health system here that we all pitch into. We don’t have to be worrying about all the insurance payments that people have to be worried about in the United States, the affordability of healthcare. We’re also not being pushed and pumped by pharmaceutical companies to purchase this medicine or that medicine or what have you.

Whenever I go to visit the United States and I’m watching the television, I’m seeing this constant push about, “Talk to your doctor about this pill or go see your medical provider about that.” The massive pharmacies are on almost every single corner. We don’t have that over here. It’s like, what’s the reality? Is the reality that people are more ill in the United States than they are in Europe? I don’t think that’s the case.

There’s a big push on profit and business and all that. It has probably made the United States what it is now. It’s a great country. It’s got lots of opportunities. It’s a huge market but it doesn’t necessarily have to be quite like that. There could be more balance in the system between social justice and thinking about people as individuals, as opposed to commodities or something to sell their products to. Sorry that we’re veering off into politics here.

[bctt tweet=”The UK market needs to strike a balance between social justice and treating people as individuals rather than just commodities to sell products to.” via=”no”]

Big Pharma is a big problem. While I don’t necessarily talk about politics, I talk about things that touch on politics quite a lot. No apology is needed. What I will say here in the States differs in a way that is a little frustrating. Having spent time in Europe, I speak French fluently, so I’ve spent a lot of time in francophone countries as well.

You get a little sick, you have an infection, and you can go to the pharmacist. They can give you an antibiotic if you need one. You can’t do that here. You have to go to a doctor’s office. You have to do the copay and sit with them. Maybe you get a physician’s assistant or something like that. It’s more complicated than something quite as basic as, “I have an infection in my finger and you can see that it’s oozing puss. Can I please get an antibiotic to solve it?”

In a way, it’s like pharmacists are handcuffed a little bit here, but we also have a system like the Big Box stores like Walgreens or CVS, which are built to sell you a lot of stuff that you don’t need in addition to whatever you came to the pharmacy for. It’s a different focus on consumerism than what we see in Europe.

When I left the States, I didn’t notice a difference because the only country that I had spent a substantial amount of time in had been Israel. Israel was a completely different Israel than it is now. At that point, it was very agricultural. It was a different world. I wasn’t thinking about what awaited me in Canada and then afterward, England. I was looking for a place where I could live honestly as a gay man with his partner and hopefully, get married to my partner. That’s what we were looking for.

We’ve enjoyed a lot of liberal social policies that I can’t see going back to. Even now, I could marry my partner. I try to sponsor him back in the United States. I’m a proud American expat. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I have anything against the country or the state where I was born. I’m a Californian. I’m a Los Angelino. I love my visits there every year, but we just couldn’t go back on any permanent basis because we enjoy our lives so much here with all the liberal social policies.

A lot of things that people are still battling in the United States, environmental issues, and the right to make decisions about your own body. Gay marriage now looks like there’s a potential that can go backward if the Supreme Court gets a hold of a case like that. We don’t want to go back to that situation. That’s why we’re going to be here to stay.

[bctt tweet=”A lot of people in the United States are still battling over a wide range of problems, from environmental issues to the right to make decisions about your own body.” via=”no”]

I got the impression from being here in the United States that things were as polarized in the UK. It’s interesting to hear that perspective. That also speaks to how our media covers what’s happening in the UK as well, so very interesting. I didn’t get the chance to finish your book, but I did have the opportunity to read through some chapters and piece through.

I have to say that your prose is beautiful. I could see myself spending more than an afternoon finishing it. It’s not the longest book, 335 pages roughly. Again, it’s beautifully written. I can see why you’ve been shortlisted for Prizes in the past. What are your plans for this endeavor? What do you hope to see from it?

The book has been published. It’s been getting some good press. There was a story and a review in the Los Angeles Times, which I was happy to see that came out on publication date online and then the subsequent Sunday. I was happy about that. We also got some good press in Newsweek. The Today Show listed it as one of the books that they were looking forward to reading in 2023. All of that is good. I have an agent who’s working on subsidiary rights to do translations of the book and sell translation rights into other languages and other markets.

At this point, I’ve given birth, so to speak to the book. Put it out there in the world, and whatever happens, will happen. I’m working on the next project now, which is a prequel to the book. It is going to tell Isaac’s story. Isaac is the Salvadorian character in the book. What propelled him to leave El Salvador and his journey from El Salvador through Guatemala and Mexico and into the United States? That’s my next project.

You’ve been asked questions about how close this mirrors your life. How close does your depiction of Isaac mirror your partner?

The personality is there. There are biographical elements to Isaac’s story that mirror my partner’s. He and I were talking about that. He was like, “I think 10% of what’s there is nonfiction and the other 90% is your imagination.” I would put it at more like 30% biographical and 70% imaginary. Again, it’s all woven through, so it’s difficult to pick it apart.

I’ve been tempted to write my story from my early teen years in autobiographical form, but one of my dear friends suggested that I look to do it in fiction for a couple of reasons. One is to protect people’s anonymity if you don’t want to necessarily reveal too much about other people in your life. Another is that they said, “Frankly, you’ll sell a lot of work copies if you do this fiction.”

I didn’t think of that as the reason behind doing something like that, but I get where they’re coming from in another way too. I wouldn’t necessarily be writing it either to hit some bestseller list, but I am thinking about it. I was hoping to learn a little bit about that experience of shifting it from being a more autobiographical form to a work of fiction.

Probably the best way to approach it is to write out your autobiography, if you will, then look at it. Assess it at that point and decide, “Do I want to draw on this as fodder or inspiration for fiction?” You might test that out as well. Writing a novel, for me at least, it’s a very long drawn-out process. I was working on this one off and on actively since 2017, 2018, and 2019. I sold it to Amble Press in 2020, and the process of their editing started, which was unexpected.

[bctt tweet=”Probably the best way to decide if you should write a book is to start writing your autobiography first. This way, you can determine if you want to draw on this as fodder or use it as inspiration for fiction.” via=”no”]

I thought that when they purchased it and said, “It looks great. We’ll publish it,” that I was done, but no. Their Managing Editor extraordinaire, Michael Nava, is an excellent novelist himself. He said, “I’ll get this back to you.” He came back to me and it was another massive rewrite, but it made the book so much better. Between the time that I started working on it as fiction until the time that it came out in print, we’re talking about 5 or 6 years, it’s a slow process. You’d have to start somewhere and see where you go.

If you think about it, a great editor can change a book for the better in ways that are tough to see. I was a big fan of Raymond Carver, who you probably know. I learned a story about his editor and his shift in editors that changed my way of seeing Raymond Carver as an author. There was a podcast I listened to where they went into that deeply. They compared the Raymond Carver version, and then his edited version. I was like, “I don’t know. I like both of them,” but they are so different. It was curious to see that peek behind the curtain of what a great editor can do with even somebody who is broadly known as one of the great authors of our modern era, so to speak.

That is the peek behind the curtain because what the reader gets, there’s this assumption that the writer sat down, wrote that out, maybe corrected a few typos here and there, and that was it, but it’s so not like that. I have to say, and to be honest, I get all of the praise for whatever’s there or the blame. The truth is it’s very much a collaborative process. You probably know this as well. You write a draft, people read it, and they give you their feedback. Some of it you take on board and some of it, you throw out, then if you get a professional editor involved. Again, there are rewrites and all.

What you started with as your initial draft is so much more different and less publishable than what comes out at the very end if you’re fortunate enough to get published. The biggest shame is that there are probably a lot of excellent novelists, and excellent work out there that doesn’t make it to print because the process is difficult. You’re pitching your book to publishers throughout the entire country. You get a lot of rejection notices

It’s very easy to say, “I’m not going to keep sending my book out. This is the 25th rejection notice, or they don’t respond to me. Maybe I’m no good.” There are a lot of excellent writers out there that don’t make it to print. I was very lucky. I consider myself very lucky to have finally made it into print in my late 40s. I wish it would’ve happened earlier, but that’s the way it worked out for me.

Many people now turn to self-publishing with Amazon and other ePub providers. I think the point that we’re getting to is that you might miss out on that professional editing, which can offer that fit, finish, polish, and improvement to a story to make it that much more likely to succeed and for more people to discover it because it gets talked about and it gets good reviews. All of those things that are so critically important to an author’s work.

You mentioned that you’re working on the prequel for The Fitful Sleep of Immigrants. I wanted to ask you about the cover choice here, this beautiful painting that you put on the book itself. How did that process work through the publisher? Was this something you brought to them as an idea? It’s simply beautiful. For those reading, it’s a depiction of a couple of men in what looks like a watercolor, spooning in bed, I’m imagining. It’s beautiful.

I love it. I had no input into that. Once I was told by the publisher that the book was going into production and a book cover was being designed, I thought that I was going to get like, “Here are 2 or 3 different cover options. Which is the one that you prefer?” or something like that. Even about the font, “What do you think about the font? Should we use this? Should we use that?”

The cover designer is Ann McMan. She’s an award-winning cover designer. She does virtually all the covers for Bywater Books & Amble Press. She was the one who put that together. They sent it to me and said, “This looks great to us. We hope it looks great to you.” My partner looked at me and says, “It looks great to me.” I was like, “Okay, that’s the cover.”

Well done. I see a lot of covers that I look at and I go, “Interesting choice,” but this one was not one of them. It’s very fitting for the story too.

One of the things that I like about it, I don’t know if you’ll agree, is that when you see their posture and maybe even whatever you can make out of their facial expressions, you can see almost a melancholy feel to it. They’re close and spooning in bed, but it seems to me it communicates like all is not well, and that’s what the book communicates as well.

It captures the emotion. This touches back again on that earlier comment I made. It’s as if you’re not afraid to touch on these heavy issues. You cover addiction. The primary character goes to Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Lovers who’ve passed away, partners with looming deportation, all of that is here. Is there something that you won’t write about?

I don’t think so. I can’t think of anything. Probably, yes. I won’t write about the things that I’m not personally interested in, but I will write about things that scare me because that makes them all the less scary in the final analysis because I’m able to work out those things on the page. By the way, talking about rough drafts and the cutting room floor and the editors and all of that, I do believe in letting go and writing anything and everything that comes to your mind in the first draft, and not being afraid of how it’s going to come out or what have you.

You can always go back. You can always cut things. You can always edit things out. Invariably, those things will happen if an editor gets their hands on it. If this particular manuscript had been published in the original form that it had been submitted to the publisher, it would’ve been maybe 50% longer than it is. There was a lot that ended up on the cutting room floor in this particular novel. Those are the things that I tackled. Ultimately, it was not something that was necessarily publishable in the estimation of my editor and publisher.

That’s such a hard choice to make. You tell the story and it’s like, “What can you cut?” Maybe the book is even a little bit too long to be as marketable as you want it to be. When you start to get into the 500 or 600-page novels like the George R. R. Martins of the world, then suddenly, it’s like, “You might have an avid science fiction reader that wants to page through all of that,” but you might appeal to a shrunken audience. If these threads that might seem important to you don’t add to the story, it’s hard to see goodbye to those things though as the author. It’s like that’s where the finesse of the editor can be critical to your success. It’s a hard thing to do. The hardest thing to do is to cut.

That’s what I’ve learned to live with, to trust the editors and go with their instincts. Early on in my writing career, I was not that understanding but I am now. There’s the other thing. There’s an economic aspect to it. I don’t know if you wanted to touch on that, but for a small press, they don’t have the huge financial resources that a large press does. The difference between 100 words and 150,000 words when it comes to printing a book and then having to set a retail price so that they can recover their costs, it’s huge. That’s why what I gave to them was 150,000 or 160,000 words.

For economic reasons, probably as much as for the conciseness and to strengthen the novel, we have to get this down to 100,000 words or less. Now, it comes in at about 98,600 words. I can tell you, even though I wrote 160,000, I do consider that it is a much stronger novel now than what it is that I gave to them. Their instincts were correct for whatever their reasons were, and I’m happy with what came out.

You put a question on your intake form that I’ve often wanted to ask people that shy from because perhaps I don’t want to be asked it, but I’m going to ask it. If you had to do it over again, all of it, what would you do differently?

I went from being an English major at UCLA to going to law school because I wanted to make a living. I thought that it was going to be difficult if I went on to an MFA program to continue my studies in creative writing. I made the decision to become a lawyer. I thought eventually I’ll come back to writing. It took me a long time after graduating from law school and getting into my career as a lawyer to get back into writing.

If I had to do it all over again, I would’ve looked for a way to incorporate writing into my life as I have learned to do much early on because I lost a lot of precious time in setting it aside and figuring I’ll get to it eventually. That’s what I would’ve done differently on the professional side of things. On the personal side of things, I don’t have any regrets. Now, this is all hindsight as opposed to my instinct at the time.

I probably would’ve looked for ways to take a more active role in trying to advocate while I was still in the United States, advocating for the rights that my partner and I were looking for. We didn’t do that. We chose, you can say, the easy hard way, which is to leave and go somewhere where those rights were already there. By doing that, in some ways, I may have shortchanged myself and ourselves at least to have given some a try and become a bit more active in trying to change the system as opposed to leaving the system.

I would say that on that side of things, that’s probably what I would’ve done differently. We may not have accomplished what we would’ve wanted to accomplish but at least, I would’ve felt like we did something. Now, I’m happy that I’m doing this at least and I’m being able to talk about it in a way that I was never able to talk about it before.

You’ve done amazing work. I look forward to finishing the book cover-to-cover. I already shared on TikTok that I was excited to be interviewing you. I may even share a snip here and there because again, your prose is great. I’m always looking for a new author I enjoy reading. As somebody who read a lot of the classics, I consider myself a realist, so I like realist works a lot. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a romance or a sci-fi here and there, but I do like works very much like this one where I feel like I can get into a story and inside someone’s head and inside the experience. It feels like something I could have lived. I enjoy that so much, and this book provides that.

Thank you for writing it, for being willing to put your story out there in this way, and for drawing attention to something that we should all think a little bit more about, which is simply the plight of immigrants, people who’ve been displaced for any number of reasons, and were seeking a forever home. That’s it. You’re seeking a space where you can live and be your full self. Why shouldn’t that be our human right? Thank you so much, Orlando, for joining me. I know you have your own website, so where would you prefer that people go and find you? We can send them to social spaces.

I’m quite active on Twitter, @OOrtegaMedina. I also have a presence on Facebook, but I’d say that Twitter’s a good place to see what I’m up to. Connect with me if you want to send me a message and ask me something about my work or what have you. Your readers are more than welcome. I do have a website, which is OrlandoOrtegaMedina.co.uk.

As a question for you about Twitter, why do authors like Twitter so much?

Maybe old authors.

It seems like authors and politicians. I see even those that write for things like Forbes or Entrepreneur, they’re all over Twitter and not so much on other social platforms.

When I first start exploring social media, I was a complete neophyte to it, and somebody told me, “Let’s start with Twitter.” They showed me the ropes of how to use Twitter, then I started as of late looking at Instagram and posting things to Instagram. I’m learning the ropes on Instagram. I’m sure it’s simple for most people, but for me, I’m still trying to decide which is the one that I like to use more.

For the time being, Twitter is probably the best platform for me because it’s an easy one to toss something up there, share it, and communicate with the people who are liking or sharing onwards whatever it is that I post. Also, supporting other authors and politicians and whoever it is that I see that resonates with me.

CMBB 142 | Immigrant Issues
Immigrant Issues: Twitter is probably the most convenient way right now to follow and support people who resonate the most with you.

 

I was curious because I have not ever fallen in love with Twitter. People tell me I have to make a space for myself there because of the show and also because I write. It’s a little bit of a mystery to me still.

Which is the platform that you prefer?

I like Instagram. I appreciate visual media but frankly, TikTok is a lot more fun. I’ve been spending more time on TikTok and understanding that people don’t like to read as much as they once did on social platforms, so video media seems to be where it’s at. If I’m sharing my thoughts in video format, where’s the best place for that? Probably TikTok or Instagram as opposed to Twitter.

I’ve played around with TikTok a little bit but it seems to me that I don’t have the equipment to make a quality video. I feel like if I had better technology, then probably I would venture into TikTok, but so far, I haven’t quite found it.

The technology you need is just your phone.

Is that it? Lighting, microphones, no?

Not really. Most people that are there are using their phones. There are those who connect a microphone. I can give you some personal recommendations offline, but I’ve got to tell you, it’s superfluous. Your message and your content would resound. It’s getting comfortable with the platform. Good time of day, face a window, hold your phone, and go for it.

I will take you up on that.

Find a reading nook, and read a passage from your book. I will give you an example. My friend, Cassie Alexander, is an author of paranormal romance. She had a series that was bought by another press and produced five volumes of that series there and has since gone to self-publishing everything because she has better margins.

She has cracked the TikTok nut. What she will do there is read excerpts, a review, share news, or even share some of the struggles that she’s having as a writer or something that she’s excited about. It has seemed to be a comfortable space for her to connect with her audience and continue to build. It doesn’t seem like it’s rocket science. It’s a little bit more relaxed than how formulaic everything seems to be on Instagram these days. That’s my thoughts.

I’ll look into it.

Thank you so much again for joining me. Do you have any closing words or perhaps a question you wish I’d asked that I haven’t?

No, you pretty much covered everything. It was a very insightful and deep dive into my work. I appreciate that, Corinna. Thank you so much for the opportunity.

The next time you come out with a book and when you’re ready with that prequel, reach out and I’ll gladly bring you back on.

Thanks very much. Take care then.

To learn more about Orlando Ortega-Medina, you can always google him the way I did or visit his website, OrlandoOrtegaMedina.co.uk. Please be sure to sign up for our newsletter. Subscribers receive a welcome gift as part of this community, which is simply a five-step guide to help you get organized, inspire your activism, or even serve as a great project management tool.

If you have feedback or you want to suggest a future show topic or guest, please send me an email directly from the site or you can even click that microphone button in the bottom right-hand corner at CareMoreBeBetter.com to leave me a voicemail. I want to hear your voice too. This can be a two-way exchange.

Thank you, readers, now and always for being a part of this pod and this community because together, we can do so much more. We can care more. We can be better. We can even create a better, more global society where refugees and immigrants from all over can thrive. One people, one planet. Thank you.

 

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Author

  • Orlando Ortega-Medina

    Orlando Ortega-Medina was born in Los Angeles to Sephardic immigrants from Cuba. He studied English Literature at UCLA and has a Juris Doctor law degree from Southwestern University School of Law. At university, he won the National Society of Arts and Letters Award for Short Stories. Ortega-Medina’s short story collection Jerusalem Ablaze was shortlisted for The Polari First Book Prize (2017). In 2018, he was named the Marilyn Hassid Emerging Author for the Houston Jewish Book & Arts Festival. He is also the author of three novels, The Death of Baseball (2019), The Savior of 6th Street (2020), and The Fitful Sleep of Immigrants (2023). Ortega-Medina lives in London, England, where he practices law and writes fiction.

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