Chilean-American novelist Isabel Allende is one of the most successful Latin American writers of all time. Winner of 50 awards in more than 15 countries, her books have sold more than 60 million copies worldwide. Allende is known for writing historical fiction in the magic realism tradition. But her new novel is a marked departure from her usual genre. A work of crime fiction, it’s the story of a brilliant teenage girl who tracks a serial killer in San Francisco. She gets help from her beloved grandfather and a group of online companions. Diane discusses “Ripper,” a new novel from best-selling author Isabel Allende.

Guests

  • Isabel Allende author of 11 works of fiction, four memoirs and a trilogy of children's novels.

Watch A Featured Clip From The Show

Isabel Allende discusses what made her reconsider retirement from writing novels and instead write her first work of crime fiction, “Ripper.” She also talks about an unsuccessful attempt to work with her husband, a mystery author. “Art in general is not something you can do with a partner. It’s very hard because the creative process is so organic, so personal, so intimate. How are you going to share that?” Allende said.

Watch The Book Trailer

Trailer for “Ripper” by Isabel Allende.

Read An Excerpt

Excerpted from RIPPER by Isabel Allende Copyright © 2014 by Isabel Allende. Reprinted courtesy of Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Transcript

  • 11:06:53

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Isabel Allende's books have sold more than 60 million copies worldwide, including "Maya's Notebook" and "Island beneath the Sea." Allende is known as a master of magic realism. But her latest novel is a thriller. It's set in her hometown of San Francisco. It's all about a brilliant teenage sleuth tracking a serial killer with a group of online companions.

  • 11:07:26

    MS. DIANE REHMHer new book is titled "Ripper." And Isabel Allende joins me in the studio. Throughout the hour, you are invited to be part of the program. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send us an email to drshow@wamu.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. It's great to see you again.

  • 11:07:53

    MS. ISABEL ALLENDEIt's great to see you, Diane. And you look fabulous. I don't know how you do it.

  • 11:07:57

    REHMOh.

  • 11:07:59

    ALLENDEGosh.

  • 11:08:00

    REHMIsabel, you indeed look fabulous. Now, first, I understand that this book arose from your thinking about retiring.

  • 11:08:17

    ALLENDEYeah. I was thinking about retiring because I was tired.

  • 11:08:21

    REHMYou were tired?

  • 11:08:22

    ALLENDEI was tired, and there was a lot of family stuff going on. And then my agent panicked because I think I supported the agency. And she said, no, no, no...

  • 11:08:35

    REHMWell, with millions of copies, I understand that.

  • 11:08:39

    ALLENDEShe said, no, you can't retire. Write a novel with your husband. My husband is a mystery writer. And he has written several books that have been translated. And I thought, okay, I can't write a book in his genre, but I don't think he can move out of his genre. And so we decided to do that. And we started talking about it. I start all my books on Jan. 8. By Jan. 7, 19 -- I mean, 2012, we were fighting like dogs, Diane.

  • 11:09:13

    REHMReally. Really.

  • 11:09:15

    ALLENDEAnd on the 8th, I got up very early, did my meditation, run to my casita to work, and he prepared some eggs, started watching TV, you know. I realized that I was going to end up doing all the work, and he would get half the credit. So I thought, this is not very convenient for me. Also, he writes in English, and he has a span attention of 11 minutes. I write in Spanish, and I can write for 11 hours. So I thought, no, no. So he went to his room to write his sixth novel, and I went to mine to try to write my first mystery.

  • 11:09:55

    REHMYou know, it's fascinating that to bring two people together, both successful writers but with very different styles, very different approaches, doesn't work. That's all there is to it.

  • 11:10:14

    ALLENDEI think that art in general is not something that you can do with a partner. It's very hard.

  • 11:10:20

    REHMExactly. Exactly.

  • 11:10:22

    ALLENDEBecause it's such -- the creative process is so organic, so personal, so intimate. How are you going to share that?

  • 11:10:29

    REHMThis novel includes a young woman, the granddaughter of a character in the book, and she is brilliant. I want you to read for us your description of this young woman because it's very vivid.

  • 11:10:54

    ALLENDEDiane, you will have to forgive me if I stumble upon a few words because I write in Spanish, and this I didn't write.

  • 11:10:59

    REHMI know you do. I know you do.

  • 11:11:00

    ALLENDEThis is a translation. Okay. Here we go. This is the -- my sleuth is a 17-year-old girl and a bunch of teenagers that play with her a role-playing game called "Ripper." "In January 2012, Amanda Martin was 16 and a high school senior. As an only child, Amanda had been dreadfully spoiled. But her grandfather was convinced then, when she graduated from high school and went out into the world, that would sort itself out.

  • 11:11:36

    ALLENDE"She was vegetarian now only because she didn't have to cook for herself. When she was forced to do so, she would be less pernickety about her diet. From an early age, Amanda had been a passionate reader. With all the dangers that such a pastime entails, although the San Francisco murders, which would have been committed in any case, Amanda would not have been involved if an obsession with Scandinavian crime novels had not developed into a morbid interest in evil in general and premeditated murder in particular.

  • 11:12:11

    ALLENDEThough her grandfather was no advocate of censorship, it worried him that Amanda was reading books like this at 14. His granddaughter put him in his place by reminding him that he was reading them, too, so all Black Jackson can do was give her a stern warning about their content, which of course made her all the more curious.

  • 11:12:35

    ALLENDEThe fact that Amanda's father was deputy chief of the homicide detail in San Francisco's personal crime division fueled her obsession. Though through him she discovered how much evil there was in this idyllic city, which could seem immune to it. But if heinous crimes happened in enlightened countries like Sweden and Norway, there was no point in expecting things to be different in San Francisco, a city founded by rapacious prospectors, polygamist preachers, and women of easy virtue all lured by the Gold Rush of the mid-19th century."

  • 11:13:16

    REHMAnd, of course, there, you're referring to that brilliant Scandinavian trilogy.

  • 11:13:23

    ALLENDEYeah, of course, "The Millennium."

  • 11:13:24

    REHMExactly, "The Millennium Trilogy." And Amanda is fascinated especially because it seems as though there is a serial killer at work in San Francisco.

  • 11:13:39

    ALLENDEWell, her godmother happens to be an astrologer, famous astrologer in San Francisco called Celeste Roko. And she has predicted a bloodbath in the city. And so Amanda wants to shame her godmother and prove that the stars have nothing to do with people's destinies. And so she starts paying attention, and then she finds out that there are -- the murders are happening, and the bloodbath is happening.

  • 11:14:09

    REHMShe is also concerned because this woman predicts that Amanda's mother is going to be one of those who dies.

  • 11:14:25

    ALLENDEWell, it -- she will be one of the victims.

  • 11:14:29

    REHMIt's scary for Amanda. And I blame her not for pursuing this. I understand this novel was actually inspired by your own granddaughter.

  • 11:14:43

    ALLENDEYeah. I have a granddaughter called Andrea who, when she was 15, 16 years old, she was like Amanda. She had a hood. She was socially very awkward, very much of a nerd, playing -- always in a fantasy world and playing games. I mean, this -- I had never heard about role-playing games until I saw her playing alone in the kitchen with dice and cards. And she said, no, I'm not alone. I'm playing online with a bunch of kids.

  • 11:15:14

    ALLENDEAnd the kids were in other cities. I thought, oh, this is wonderful. There's kids playing -- they were playing a game called "Ripper." And the game is about hunting Jack the Ripper in London in 1888. But if I could move the action to San Francisco 2012, I could have my sleuth. So she allowed me to play with her, and I got involved in the game. And I knew how to handle it. That was wonderful because she gave me the idea for the whole book.

  • 11:15:53

    REHMIt's -- you know, we have known that you love to write about magic realism. In a sense, this opportunity to play games via the computer with other people you've never met face to face is a new kind of magic realism.

  • 11:16:21

    ALLENDEAbsolutely. And, look, Diane, when things like holistic medicine, like aromatherapy, like astrology happen in Chile, it's called magic realism. When it happens in California, it has another name. Have you noticed? Yeah. It's -- we're always blamed for magic realism, but, here, it's just as prevalent.

  • 11:16:45

    REHMNow, tell me, in Chile, how your last name is pronounced.

  • 11:16:51

    ALLENDEAllende.

  • 11:16:53

    REHMThere is an L that comes through.

  • 11:16:56

    ALLENDEDouble-L is like -- it's called Allende. It's like a W (sic) in the States, like yet, like yam. That's the pronouncing of the double-L.

  • 11:17:09

    REHMAll right. So I did it correctly?

  • 11:17:12

    ALLENDECorrectly.

  • 11:17:13

    REHMAll right. Someone said to me that there was a different pronunciation in Chile, and I wasn't sure of that.

  • 11:17:23

    ALLENDENo. It's the same.

  • 11:17:24

    REHMGood.

  • 11:17:24

    ALLENDESometimes in some countries, the letters are pronounced more harshly. But it's the same.

  • 11:17:30

    REHMWell, Isabel Allende...

  • 11:17:33

    ALLENDEPerfect.

  • 11:17:33

    REHM...is here with me, and we're talking about her new novel. It's titled "Ripper." And the San Francisco Bay Bridge is on the cover of this book.

  • 11:17:47

    ALLENDEMm hmm. Well, because it all happens in this wonderful city.

  • 11:17:51

    REHMIt all happens there. How long have you been living there?

  • 11:17:55

    ALLENDETwenty-six years since I met my husband.

  • 11:17:58

    REHMAnd that was on a book tour.

  • 11:18:01

    ALLENDEI was on a book tour. I met, as he was introduced to me, the last heterosexual bachelor in San Francisco. And I had just recently divorced my husband of many, many years, so why not have a fling? Well, I'm still there, stuck with a husband.

  • 11:18:19

    REHMThe fling turned into marriage. We'll take a short break here, and we know that many of your fans will want to talk with you. Give us a call, 800-433-8850.

  • 11:20:00

    REHMAnd if you've just joined us, Isabel Allende is here. One of my favorite authors. I'm sure one of yours, as well. She has a brand new novel and a brand new approach to her writing. She's written this time a thriller. And it's called "Ripper," a game that's played by the young people in her novel, searching for the reasons, the motives, the actions of Jack the Ripper, who assassinated a number or allegedly assassinated a number of prostitutes in London back in 1888. Now, Isabel, your central figure, Amanda, has a wonderful grandfather. His name is Blake Jackson. Tell me about that relationship. It's so sweet.

  • 11:21:19

    ALLENDEWell, it's a sort of dysfunctional family because the parents are divorced. The father of this girl is the chief of homicide in San Francisco.

  • 11:21:28

    REHMRight.

  • 11:21:28

    ALLENDEHe's a womanizer. He's a lovely character, in my opinion, but he's sort of out there. The mother is a healer who lives in a fairy world.

  • 11:21:39

    REHMNow, why do you say that? She's an acupuncturist, she's a massage…

  • 11:21:43

    ALLENDEYeah, but she's so innocent in a way…

  • 11:21:48

    REHMAh, okay.

  • 11:21:50

    ALLENDE…that they have a wonderful relationship...

  • 11:21:52

    REHMYes.

  • 11:21:52

    ALLENDE…the mother and the daughter, but the daughter is the brain. And she's much more savvy about the world than the mother. The mother lives in limbo, really. And the grandfather is the person who has really taken care of her since she was born. And they have this relationship. They play chess, they challenge each other with games. And so when the girl decides to play this role-playing game called Ripper, she invites the grandfather to be her henchman. So his role is to obey her orders. And because there are things that she can't do. She can't go and witness an autopsy, for example. She can't get out of school. She's in a boarding school.

  • 11:22:37

    ALLENDESo the one who investigates is really the grandfather. And they are all the time on the phone, with a cell, talking all the time.

  • 11:22:43

    REHMShe calls him at 2:00 o'clock in the morning.

  • 11:22:46

    ALLENDEAnd so does he. I love that relationship.

  • 11:22:52

    REHMIs he the grandfather you wish you would have had?

  • 11:22:55

    ALLENDEYes. And I am sure you, too. That kind of -- he's very young in spirit and he's kind and loving and totally dedicated to her. And he thinks that she's wonderful. He describes her with huge adjectives.

  • 11:23:12

    REHMHe's very proud of her.

  • 11:23:13

    ALLENDEHe's so proud of her. And devastated because she's going to go to college at some point.

  • 11:23:20

    REHMWhat was your relationship with your own grandfather?

  • 11:23:23

    ALLENDEI lived in his house when I was growing up because my mother was abandoned by my father. And she ended up going back to her father's house with three babies. So I grew up in the house of my grandfather. Then my grandmother died and my grandfather was a very stern, austere Basque, from Basque origin, a very wonderful man, but he never touched us or there was no kindness in his manners, although he was very kind in his heart. And he gave me the tools for life. He gave me discipline, a work ethic, a sense of honor and honesty, never ask for anything, never complain, don't whine, that kind of stuff that really has helped me in my life.

  • 11:24:15

    REHMTough love.

  • 11:24:16

    ALLENDEYeah, tough love, but in ways that I do appreciate now very much. I was never spoiled. So anything good that happens to me, like hot water coming out of the faucet, I'm so delighted. So delighted. It's a bonus, you know.

  • 11:24:33

    REHMBut at the same time something was clearly missing in that relationship that now you have created, you've imagined in the relationship between Amanda.

  • 11:24:46

    ALLENDEObviously, Diane, because in my previous book, in "Maya's Notebook" I have a similar grandfather. But he dies on Page 16, I think. So that was very unfortunate. I couldn't help it. In this case he lives through the book.

  • 11:25:04

    REHMIsabel, when did you actually begin writing this book and how long did it take you?

  • 11:25:14

    ALLENDEI start all my books on January 8th. And I started this one in 2012. And the story happens as I was -- I mean I was living in 2012, as the story was happening, day by day. So I didn't have much to research. I did have to research a lot about forensic medicine, crimes, guns, the protocols of the police, that kind of stuff. But that was very entertaining. And it took me only a few months. By October the book was done.

  • 11:25:45

    REHMWow. Tell me about the first book you wrote.

  • 11:25:50

    ALLENDEThe first book I wrote was "The House of the Spirits." I was living in Venezuela as a political refugee after the military coup in Chile. The coup had been in 1973. By 1981 when I started writing the book, I was losing my memories of Chile. Everything was like fading away. I think the book was an attempt to recover all what I had lost, my country, my family, my memories. And I was working at the time 12 hours a day administering a school, two shifts. And so I could only write at night. But I had the whole book inside. I sat down and my little typewriter with carbon paper and typing something that you don't even know what it is.

  • 11:26:40

    REHMOh, yes, I do.

  • 11:26:41

    ALLENDEAnd I would write at night, without a plan, without thinking. It would just come out, you know, like spit it out. I have never been able to write again with that freedom and innocence, you know. That sense that you are playing, that kids in this book are playing, no restrictions of any kind.

  • 11:27:06

    REHMNo censorship.

  • 11:27:06

    ALLENDEI have never read a book review in my life. I had no idea that there was a world out there of people who study literature, of publishers, of critics. No idea. I just wrote as I would write a letter to my grandfather.

  • 11:27:20

    REHMAnd then what happened?

  • 11:27:23

    ALLENDEWell, then, of course, nobody wanted to read that book. It was a very dirty manuscript. And eventually someone told me about an agent in Spain. And I sent the book by mail. My mother wrote me yesterday, an email, and she said, remember that when we went to mail your manuscript we didn't have money to pay for the…

  • 11:27:43

    REHMPostage.

  • 11:27:44

    ALLENDE…for the postage because it was so heavy. And my mother said -- I had forgotten. My mother reminded me yesterday. And that's how we lived at the time. And so I sent it to Spain -- my mother sent it to Spain, really. And…

  • 11:28:00

    REHMHow old were you?

  • 11:28:02

    ALLENDEI was almost 40. I was 39. And I thought my life was a disaster. It wasn't going anywhere. My marriage wasn't going anywhere either. My children were ready to go to college. It was a bad time. And then in Spain it was published, it was translated, it goes…

  • 11:28:23

    REHMBut wait, wait, wait. How did you learn that this agent liked your book?

  • 11:28:31

    ALLENDEWell, we had to separate the book in two packages with my mother. So it went into different envelopes. And I had a letter explaining in one of the envelopes, but she got the second one first. And she didn't get the -- you know, the mail in Venezuela can be pretty bad. And so she got the second envelope first. And she didn't know what the heck this thing was that she had received. And then she got the first part. And when she got the first part, she called me to Venezuela. At the time, people didn't make those…

  • 11:28:59

    REHMReally?

  • 11:29:01

    ALLENDE…international phone calls, you know. But she did call me and she said that she wanted to be my agent. And she said something memorable that I have never forgotten. She said, "Anybody can write a good first book because it's all their lives. Everything they have. The writer is proven on the second book." So while I sent the manuscript I started typing my second book, just to prove to her that I could be a writer.

  • 11:29:32

    REHMWow.

  • 11:29:32

    ALLENDEIn the meantime, in Europe the book was published. It became a sudden success, something that very seldom happens to a book, especially with an unknown author. And in a matter of a month every publisher in Europe was bidding for the book. So it was translated to all the European languages. But I was in Venezuela. I had no idea what was going on until a year later when I got an envelope with the first checks and the press reviews.

  • 11:30:03

    REHMA year later?

  • 11:30:04

    ALLENDEYeah, and by then I had finished the second book. So that's how it got started. Without the success…

  • 11:30:09

    REHMWow.

  • 11:30:10

    ALLENDE…of "The House of the Spirits" I wouldn't be here talking with you, Diane.

  • 11:30:14

    REHMThe first book, "House of Spirits," you came here after it was published in this country.

  • 11:30:23

    ALLENDEWow, that must have been in '84.

  • 11:30:25

    REHMExactly.

  • 11:30:27

    ALLENDECan you imagine?

  • 11:30:27

    REHMI can. I can. It's been a long time…

  • 11:30:31

    ALLENDEYeah.

  • 11:30:31

    REHM…we've had together. And this novel is really something. So different and yet, with much of your own magical writing.

  • 11:30:45

    ALLENDEWell, I just came back from the book tour in Spain. And what everybody said is that they recognized my voice in the first page.

  • 11:30:52

    REHMExactly.

  • 11:30:52

    ALLENDEAnd the same characters. So I just don't seem to be able to move away from that.

  • 11:30:59

    REHMSo you're no longer thinking of retiring? Maybe you're going to write another thriller?

  • 11:31:05

    ALLENDEWhen I announced that I was going to retire, everybody -- not only my agent -- in my family panicked. They want me locked away writing. The minute I come out, I'm trouble. And my daughter-in-law, who travels with me, is horrified at the idea that I could stop writing and be out there.1

  • 11:31:24

    REHMBut why would you? Don't you still have more stories to tell?

  • 11:31:30

    ALLENDEWell, I have thousands of stories.

  • 11:31:31

    REHMOf course you do.

  • 11:31:32

    ALLENDEBut my back hurts. And I want to play with the dogs. And I want to have a life.

  • 11:31:36

    REHMI understand.

  • 11:31:36

    ALLENDEI mean like other people my age have a life. Not playing golf, of course, but I don't know, going to the movies a little more.

  • 11:31:45

    REHMReading? Doing other things?

  • 11:31:47

    ALLENDEReading novels. I have to read a lot for research. So I spend most of my time reading research. Only when I travel I have the luxury of reading novels.

  • 11:32:00

    REHMOf course. We have many callers waiting. I'm going to open the phones and hear what they have to say. Let's go first to Boone, N.C. Lynn, you're on the air.

  • 11:32:18

    LYNNHi. And thank you so much for taking my call.

  • 11:32:21

    REHMSurely.

  • 11:32:22

    LYNNIsabel, I just wanted to let you know that I have four children or teenagers at (word?) High School, and I am so thankful that you are an author, that you help kids throughout the world understand what it means to be a global citizen. Two of my kids have been fortunate enough to read your book in their class and my youngest is starting the class this morning. And we hope that your "House of Spirits" will be taught. And I'm so thankful to hear that you are still writing. Can't wait to read the book. Can't wait to have my teenagers read the book. And by the way, I'm from San Francisco or the Bay Area originally, and yet I'm here in Boone.

  • 11:33:03

    ALLENDEOh, thank you so much. You know, that "The House of the Spirits" has been forbidden in some schools. It takes one parent to take a book out of the reading list. So there is a huge scandal right now in North Carolina because a teacher has been fighting to put the book back in the list. And the kids seem to like the book. And they love to read it, but, you know, some parents object to the sex in the book. As if the kids were not watching porn on TV.

  • 11:33:34

    LYNNWell, and I will tell you that I am one of the parents and one of the many, many parents and children and teenagers who have been in her class who are fighting desperately so that the censorship of books that help kids understand the global issues, remain in our classrooms. So you have, in fact, you have inspired me to send you all of the letters and writings…

  • 11:33:57

    ALLENDEOh, thank you.

  • 11:33:58

    LYNN…from students who have appreciated your writing. Thank you so much for continuing your efforts.

  • 11:34:04

    ALLENDEThanks.

  • 11:34:05

    LYNNAnd you're publishing fantastic material.

  • 11:34:07

    REHMThank you for calling, Lynn. That's really quite something that that particular book is being pushed out of the some classrooms. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." So you've heard lots about that happening?

  • 11:34:27

    ALLENDEYeah, and it's gone to the board of education and all that. But the controversy is good because it's not only about my book. Parents object to love and sex and in my books there's never an openly sexual scene, but they don't object to torture, to repression, to poverty, none of the social issues matter. And kids can watch the most horrible violence on…

  • 11:34:57

    REHMI know.

  • 11:34:59

    ALLENDENo one objects.

  • 11:34:59

    REHMI know. It makes very little sense. To Gabriella, in Dallas, Texas. You're on the air.

  • 11:35:07

    GABRIELLAHi.

  • 11:35:09

    REHMHi.

  • 11:35:09

    GABRIELLAThank you so much. I'm so grateful to talk with both of you. First and foremost I want to thank you for your work. Both, very, very moving and inspiring.

  • 11:35:15

    ALLENDEThank you.

  • 11:35:16

    REHMThank you.

  • 11:35:20

    GABRIELLAMs. Allende, I'm Basque, like you. My last name is Chatagram (sp?). I'm from Mexico City, originally. And my mother's life was a lot like yours. And your first book and movie completely changed my life. I can't describe it. A lot like your life, in that my mom was from the classic, you know, fall from the social status, economic grace that happened so often to women in those types of intensely social class of societies, especially in her era. She's now in her 70s. So we moved to The States in '68, but I wanted to tell you that I went to see you speak on your book, "The Island of the Sea" at the Dallas Museum of Art, here a couple of years ago.

  • 11:36:02

    GABRIELLAI think it was right when it came out. So I purchased your book and you autographed it. The line was long, but I didn't the need to keep the book. I bought it specifically for a dear friend of my little sisters. My little sister lives in California and was recovering from breast cancer surgery and this is when I met this adorable woman, a friend, a fourth generation white Haitian. And as things would have I got the book and I mailed it immediately to this beautiful lady named Florence Isabelle. And she was gone. She was out of town. She went to New York City to visit one of her sisters.

  • 11:36:40

    REHMAll right.

  • 11:36:40

    GABRIELLAAnd on the coffee table she saw a copy of your book. Her sister said I'd let you read it, but I can't, because I'm still reading it. Then she went to Haiti to visit her second sister. And the book was there.

  • 11:36:51

    REHMOh, how wonderful.

  • 11:36:52

    GABRIELLAAnd her sister said, "You must read it." She eventually returns to California and in the mail, she finds the autographed copy of your book.

  • 11:37:01

    ALLENDEWhat a coincidence.

  • 11:37:01

    GABRIELLAShe was thrilled beyond words and it moved us both to tears. And I think I came out the winner because she sent it to me. I don't know if you went to Haiti during your research and your work. And I think I remember you didn't, but I received a gift from Yackmel (sp?), which is a cultural center. And I just wanted to thank you very, very much.

  • 11:37:20

    ALLENDEThank you for reading it.

  • 11:37:20

    REHMWell, Gabriella, thank you. And thank you for telling us that story. Short break here. We'll be right back.

  • 11:39:58

    REHMOne of the characters in Isabel Allende's new novel titled "Ripper" is Amanda's mother Indiana Jackson. Tell us a little more about Indiana. You said she's innocent. You said that while Amanda is very bright, very talented, Indiana sort of lives a very different kind of life. She has one boyfriend Alan. She has another friend. I'll call him friend boy or friend man who is a Navy SEAL -- or was a Navy SEAL.

  • 11:40:42

    ALLENDEWell, Indiana is based on a person -- the model for Indiana is a person we know, a healer in Buenos Aires who has become a very good friend. My husband had -- was diagnosed with a terminal disease that there's no treatment for it. This was in 2010. And he started doing all kinds of alternative medicine and found many people, acupuncturists, yoga, even this healer. And so we learned a lot about all these practices. And now the doctors say that my husband was misdiagnosed because he's fine. Three years later he's doing fine.

  • 11:41:26

    ALLENDEAnd I imagined the healer, just like the one we know but tall, a little overweight, fleshy, you know. The kind of sensuous opulent blond that I would love to be. And she's very sexy. And at the same time she's a very good honest person who loves her boyfriend. And she's very loyal, faithful to him. And in her heart she has a space for this Navy SEAL who has been wounded in the war and who is a person who adores her, but understands her relationship with the other one.

  • 11:42:09

    REHMThe other one, Alan, is quite wealthy, quite powerful. But...

  • 11:42:16

    ALLENDEBut he's pretty much of a loser if you think about it because the money's inherited. He didn't make it.

  • 11:42:21

    REHMRight.

  • 11:42:21

    ALLENDEHe has this artistic err. He's a seducer. He's just a playboy. I don't like him that much really. And I imagine him like Hugh Grant, a guy that I hate. And I hate...

  • 11:42:39

    REHMHugh Grant, the actor.

  • 11:42:40

    ALLENDEYeah, the actor. I just don't like him.

  • 11:42:41

    REHMOh, you don't like him. Okay.

  • 11:42:43

    ALLENDEI don't like him at all.

  • 11:42:44

    REHMAll right.

  • 11:42:44

    ALLENDEAnd that's how I imagine him.

  • 11:42:46

    REHMOkay.

  • 11:42:46

    ALLENDEWhile the Navy SEAL I imagine him much, much better. And the relationship of the three of them is a very interesting triangle that I try to put myself in the role of each one of them.

  • 11:43:05

    REHMThat's what one does in a dream, isn't it?

  • 11:43:09

    ALLENDEWell, that is what one does in any book. And for the Navy SEAL I really had a model, a person who helped me for each one. So it was easy.

  • 11:43:20

    REHMTell me about the Navy SEAL and how he helped you create this character.

  • 11:43:26

    ALLENDEHe gave me a lot of information. He was very generous. And of course he wouldn't say anything that was secret, and they have a lot of secretive missions. And Navy SEALs don't talk about their job. But he's retired now and...

  • 11:43:44

    REHMHe has a dog.

  • 11:43:46

    ALLENDEYeah, and for me the dog is the best character of the book, Attila. And I love dogs. You have a dog, Diane.

  • 11:43:55

    REHMI have a dog. I adore dogs.

  • 11:43:56

    ALLENDEYou know what the relationship can be like. My relationship with my dogs -- I have two rescues -- is very -- it's a stupid relationship. I just spoil them to death. And it's not the case between the Navy SEAL and his dog. They are real companions, warriors. Both of them have been wounded. They're all scarred by the war. And they go side by side into the world. I just love that relationship.

  • 11:44:23

    REHMBut, you know...

  • 11:44:24

    ALLENDEIt never says that he owns the dog.

  • 11:44:27

    REHMRight.

  • 11:44:28

    ALLENDENever.

  • 11:44:28

    REHMRight.

  • 11:44:29

    ALLENDEBecause he doesn't own the dog. He is the dog's companion.

  • 11:44:32

    REHMThe dog has his own spirit.

  • 11:44:35

    ALLENDEOf course.

  • 11:44:36

    REHMNow, when you say your relationship with your dogs is stupid, you spoil them, what happens, I think, between humans and dogs is that your heart opens more in a different way from the human relationship.

  • 11:44:58

    ALLENDEI think that except with a newborn baby, the relationship with human beings always has an element of criticism. You are being judged. You are being classified, qualified in a way. With animals, it's just affection. You -- there is no intellect, no brain. It's just affection. I feel that when I am with my dogs, my heart is completely open.

  • 11:45:26

    REHMExactly.

  • 11:45:27

    ALLENDEI don't want the dog to be different as I don't want a tree to be different, but I want my grandchildren to be different.

  • 11:45:35

    REHMTo Bill in Montville, Conn. You're on the air.

  • 11:45:41

    BILLHello. Can you hear me?

  • 11:45:42

    REHMSure can.

  • 11:45:42

    ALLENDEYes.

  • 11:45:44

    BILLAll right. Thank you for taking my call.

  • 11:45:46

    REHMYes.

  • 11:45:47

    BILLI -- my question is, the -- your guest -- I want to make sure the name -- it's Isabella (sic) ?

  • 11:45:58

    ALLENDEYep.

  • 11:45:58

    REHMIsabel Allende.

  • 11:45:58

    BILLOkay. Your guest Isabella (sic) mentioned a couple of times at least that she starts her novels writing them on January 8. Is there some significance that she wants to share with about that date?

  • 11:46:17

    ALLENDEYes. I started my first book on January 8 and it was a very fortunate book. So I thought just for good luck I'll start the second one on the same date and then the third one. And then I didn't dare change the date because all my books have been fortunate. But now it's a matter of discipline because my life has gotten to be very, very complicated. There's much more to my life than just writing. Traveling to begin with, books tours, lecturing. All that takes a lot of time and energy.

  • 11:46:51

    ALLENDEAnd also I have a foundation so I need to set aside a few months a year to just be with my writing and nothing else. And generally it's a good day because it's the end of the holidays, it's winter. It's an introverted time so it's perfect for me.

  • 11:47:11

    REHMTell me about the foundation. Why was it established and what you are doing with it.

  • 11:47:20

    ALLENDEMy daughter Paula died in 1992 and I...

  • 11:47:23

    REHMAnd you and I talked about that.

  • 11:47:25

    ALLENDEYeah, and I wrote a book about it. And the book has -- I mean, became very successful. And all the income that I got from that book was set aside in a separate account because I wanted to honor my daughter somehow. But I didn't know quite -- I didn't quite know how. And three years later I came up with the idea of creating a foundation. And the mission of the foundation is to empower women and girls in the areas of health, education and protection. Of course health includes family planning.

  • 11:48:03

    ALLENDEAnd then my daughter-in-law came into our lives and she directs the foundation. She has the firm wrist of a good captain and keeps it afloat and she does a wonderful job. So I'm very proud of the little work that we can do. I say little because the needs are so huge, Diane, that one gets sort of discouraged. I think, well, we are helping this project but there are 100 more projects that -- noble causes that one wants to support and there's not enough resources.

  • 11:48:45

    REHMWhat is the foundation called?

  • 11:48:48

    ALLENDEThe Isabel Allende Foundation. You can Google it and you will find all the information...

  • 11:48:53

    REHMGood.

  • 11:48:54

    ALLENDE...and all the projects that we support.

  • 11:48:56

    REHMGood.

  • 11:48:57

    ALLENDEWe do not go around trying to get money for the foundation. It's only my income that feeds it. But people are very kind and people really want to help. So we always tell them, go directly to these organizations because we have researched them. We know about them and we can guarantee that the money's well spent.

  • 11:49:20

    REHMThat's wonderful. All right. Let's go to Scott in Houston, Texas. Scott, you're on the air.

  • 11:49:34

    SCOTTHello, Diane. Hello, Isabel. How are you all doing today?

  • 11:49:37

    REHMFine, thanks.

  • 11:49:37

    ALLENDEGood, thank you.

  • 11:49:39

    SCOTTDiane, thank you. Your show is a bright spot in my day every day. So thank you for having Isabel especially today. Isabel, (speaks foreign language) .

  • 11:49:46

    REHMI'm so glad.

  • 11:49:48

    ALLENDEGracias.

  • 11:49:50

    SCOTTMy wife and I read "The House of the Spirits" back in 1986 when she was pregnant with our first set of twins and named the first daughter Clara after Clara, the main character in "The House of the Spirits."

  • 11:50:05

    ALLENDEThank you.

  • 11:50:07

    SCOTTNo, thank you. It's...

  • 11:50:08

    ALLENDEExcuse me. Excuse me. You said my...

  • 11:50:10

    SCOTT...a wonderful, wonderful daughter, very special and reminds me so much of Clara, the clairvoyant in your book.

  • 11:50:17

    ALLENDEOh, wow. You said my first set of twins. You have more than one pair of twins?

  • 11:50:22

    SCOTTNo, we only have one pair of twins -- our first...

  • 11:50:24

    ALLENDEOh, god, I...

  • 11:50:25

    SCOTT...children. We had a son later. And...

  • 11:50:28

    ALLENDEOh, well, congratulations.

  • 11:50:30

    REHMGood.

  • 11:50:31

    SCOTTYes.

  • 11:50:32

    REHMAll right, Scott. Thanks for calling. That's very good of you.

  • 11:50:36

    SCOTTThank you.

  • 11:50:37

    REHMAnd congratulations on those children. Now to Mona here in Washington, D.C. You're on the air.

  • 11:50:48

    MONAThank you. Diane, it's a great pleasure to talk to such a progressive artist. I grew up hearing about President Allende and ousted or an installment of the awful dictator Pinochet. But I really respect you as an artist too. I'm Egyptian American and used to go to my grandmother's in the summer. And one time when I got sick, she cut a paper doll and burnt it with a little bit of my hair to get better. And, you know, even though we come from Muslim background, these old traditions, you know, really back from ancient Egyptian times are really still part of our culture.

  • 11:51:30

    MONAAnd I hope that one day you'll come and do research on January 8 in Egypt and write a historical novel about Egypt.

  • 11:51:36

    ALLENDEOh yeah, it's a wonderful idea.

  • 11:51:40

    MONAThank you for your work.

  • 11:51:41

    ALLENDEOh, thank you for reading it.

  • 11:51:42

    REHMThank you, Mona. That's just a great story. Let's go to Brandon, Fla. Hi, Sharon.

  • 11:51:53

    SHARONHi. I'm so glad you took my call. Thank you. Ola, Isabel.

  • 11:51:57

    ALLENDEOla.

  • 11:51:58

    SHARONI'm so delighted. I'm such a fan of your work. And I adore your short stories. I was a classroom Spanish teacher for many years. And we read them together. And it was all young ladies. And I think I successfully passed along my love for your work to many of them. And I just wondered if maybe you have an idea to ever write anymore short stories.

  • 11:52:22

    ALLENDEYou know, it's a very difficult genre. People...

  • 11:52:25

    REHMTell me why.

  • 11:52:25

    ALLENDEOh, because people think that because it's short it will be easier than a novel. But it isn't.

  • 11:52:32

    REHMIt has to be so much more compressed.

  • 11:52:34

    ALLENDESo concentrated -- yeah, every word counts. You have to know from the very first line how it's going to end. It's like poetry. In a novel -- a novel is a tapestry. You can spend time and make mistakes, nobody will notice. And you have the time and the space to develop characters and the plot and everything else. In a story what matters is the tone. What makes it memorable is the tone more than the plot.

  • 11:53:07

    ALLENDEProbably you have read a thousand short stories and you can't remember only three or four. So I don't know if I will dare write short stories again. It's a very scary proposition.

  • 11:53:19

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I want our listeners to know that there is a link on our website drshow.org to the Isabel Allende Foundation. And I think we have time for one last caller. Sandra in Miami, you're on the air.

  • 11:53:46

    SANDRAHi, Diane. How are you?

  • 11:53:47

    REHMI'm fine, thank you.

  • 11:53:48

    ALLENDEHola.

  • 11:53:50

    SANDRAHola, que tal. I'm so happy for having the pleasure to listen to you. And I just wanted to thank you because, you know, people like me, make way to a new place sometimes is asking all the time where do you belong? And I just love your book (unintelligible) "My Invented Country" when you say you are coming back from Chile and you are traveling and you say, I don't know if my house is a place where I live or it's just Willy (sp?) , which is your love, right?

  • 11:54:22

    SANDRAWe have been together for many years and it seems like that he's like the only place where I belong. So I really feel so identify because as you, U.S.A. is my home, but Colombia is the place where I have my nostalgia.

  • 11:54:42

    ALLENDEWell, thank you. You know, you don't have to choose. You can have a foot in Colombia and a foot here. The heart is very big. You can have Colombia and the States in your heart. I say always that my home is where Willy is because I have started from scratch...

  • 11:54:59

    REHMHe is your husband.

  • 11:55:01

    ALLENDEMy husband.

  • 11:55:01

    REHMYes.

  • 11:55:02

    ALLENDEBecause I have started from scratch many times. I have no problem closing the door of my hour, leaving everything there. And I know that in six months I won't even remember what I lost. But where the -- the person you sleep with, the person you tell all the secrets to, that's your home. And your home is also memory, what do you remember.

  • 11:55:26

    REHMAh, yes. Absolutely.

  • 11:55:28

    ALLENDEThe territorial memory.

  • 11:55:30

    REHMAbsolutely. Tell me, today is. I think, January 26...

  • 11:55:38

    ALLENDE27th I think.

  • 11:55:40

    REHM27th, okay. Did you start a new novel?

  • 11:55:45

    ALLENDEYes, because I'm very superstitious. So in spite of the book tours and despite of all the work we have had -- and I say we because it's my whole office and me -- I reserve that day, January 8 to be alone in silence with my computer in the casita where I write. And I wrote a few pages. And now on the book tour I carry my iPad and I go back to those pages every minute that I'm free so that I don't lose the thread. And by the end of February when I'm finally back home, I think I will be able to write another book.

  • 11:56:25

    REHMGood for you.

  • 11:56:26

    ALLENDEThank you.

  • 11:56:26

    REHMWonderful. And Isabel Allende's current book that has just been released is titled "Ripper." And I know people are going to love this one. Congratulations.

  • 11:56:44

    ALLENDEThank you so much for having me on the program, Diane.

  • 11:56:47

    REHMMy pleasure. And thanks all for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.

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