Teresa Vale was born in Mozambique in the early sixties, moving to Portugal in 1975, after the African country had gained independence. She pursued an executive career in the financial sector and lives in Lisbon with her family. She runs the blog, The Many Stories of a Woman, and this is her first book.
TBE: Congratulations on this amazing book ‘Love Secrets Lies’. It contains so many important insights and observations the world needs to hear. Tell us about your book, can you share with us something about the book that isn’t in the blurb?
Teresa Vale: First of all, thank you for your kind words about Love Secrets Lies! It’s really exciting to get all these positive reactions and reviews.
As to your question, I might say that, although the book clearly has a named protagonist, it goes beyond that to tell the story of a conflict between generations. The people who became adults during the Portuguese dictatorship of 1926-1974 are somewhat backward-looking and cling to a world that no longer exists, which they stubbornly try to preserve, while Teresa’s generation set their sights on the future but find themselves torn between their elders’ impositions and their own dreams and desires.
This is a battle that transcends individuals and obviously Teresa can’t wage this war by herself, let alone end it. All her peers engage with different aspects of it, both men and women.
TBE: The self-identity is a big theme of the book. What inspired you to explore this theme?
Teresa Vale: Definitely my own search for autonomy and self-determination. The right to define my own life and boundaries. The book is loosely based on a few things that happened to me, and there’s a lot of myself in Teresa – feelings, aspirations, clashes, and some achievements as well. Like her I was forced to leave my homeland and experience pain and heartbreak very early in life.
All teenagers try to figure out the kind of person they want to become, and they make mistakes and stumble and fall because some lessons can’t be taught, only learned. So in that regard I was no different from Teresa.
TBE: How would you sum up the journey that the characters go through in ‘Love Secrets Lies’?
Teresa Vale: Well, different characters go through different journeys. Teresa and her young friends are on a journey of exploration, learning about life, experiencing love and adventure – in a world that throws up barriers at every turn, discourages important conversations, and forces them to hide so much of their inner lives and attitudes to intimacy.
As for the adults in the book, they try to heal as best they can, pull through the trauma of losing their homeland, their assets and property – but most of all that feeling of being uprooted and cast out and having to remake their lives in a quiet little country that wasn’t at peace with itself, where bitter contradictions simmered beneath the surface of everyday things.
Furthermore, Teresa’s parents are also doing their best to overcome the collapse of their marriage, and their strategies to cope with it vastly differ. Then we have other characters, like the girl who chooses to become a nun and join a convent much against her family’s wishes, and another girl who lives in the country and must follow in her mother’s footsteps, who in turn had lived like her mother before her, chained to the land, to what amounts, really, to a servant’s lot; no learning, no opportunity, no way out. And this during the last quarter of the 20th century. It really depends on the characters, they face different challenges.
TBE: Do you think the rising of women, and feminine principles in the world, is a natural, evolutionary shift we are experiencing now?
Teresa Vale: I firmly believe in gender equality, and there has been some clear evolution over the past decades, namely in Portugal, but unfortunately many countries all over the world seem to be rolling back. I would say so, in the West, even if there’s still a lot to be done; but I can’t remain indifferent to my sisters’ fate and it grieves me terribly when I see women treated like chattel, like slaves, just because of their gender.
I’d rather talk about gender equality than women rising, and I think that should be a natural, evolutionary shift, but unfortunately it’s not happening everywhere and there’s still a long, long way to go.
TBE: From what I know a little bit about you, you were born in Mozambique in the sixties and have lived in Lisbon, Portugal, with your family and also have pursued an executive career in the financial area. but can you please tell us in your own words a little bit about yourself and your passion?
Teresa Vale: When I was young I used to write a lot. I kept journals, but also wrote short stories, comics – I drew passably well – and even plays I would then put on with my friends! Then I got to my teens. Life could get hectic, I had to strike a balance between school and leisure, and I stopped writing.
Then came a demanding career, then came my children… Six or seven years ago I felt this urge to write, when I already had more free time on my hands. I had achieved my professional ambitions and my sons were growing up. And there were all these stories I wanted to tell, so I began writing Love Secrets Lies and also started a blog, The Many Stories of a Woman.
TBE: Do you read much and if so, who are your favorite authors?
Teresa Vale: My tastes have changed over the years, but among my favourite authors I would name brilliant Portuguese 19th century author Eça de Queiroz; George Orwell; Carlos Ruiz Zafón; Hilary Mantel; Barbara Erskine; Yrsa Sigurdardottir; and Juliet Marillier. I also love South-American authors such as Mario Vargas Llosa, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, Isabel Allende and their unique sense of humour. Many others have charmed me with their writing, obviously. The last book I read (during these summer holidays) was The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and it touched my heart deeply.
TBE: In your opinion, what is the most important thing about any book?
Teresa Vale: That it touches your heart. Whatever the genre or subject, a book has to speak to its readers in some way. And bring them into the time and the place, and the emotions it portrays.
TBE: What was one of the most surprising things you learned during creation of your book?
Teresa Vale: Something that my editor taught me. To blend fact and invention and learn to “play God” with my characters. It’s a wonderful, powerful, liberating feeling. It’s deciding how you want the story to develop and then be creative.
He also taught me the importance of describing places, colours, odours, sounds and details that may seem minute but in the end make a huge difference – and really transport the reader, put them where you want them to be. I can never thank him enough for what he did, because this goes far beyond editing.
And the long, long hours at the keyboard, drafting and re-drafting, the back-and-forth with my editor, all the painstaking work we did, these things showed me beyond the shadow of the doubt that I want to go on creating people and worlds for as long as I live. Although maybe that wasn’t a surprise after all, but confirmation.
TBE: Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?
Teresa Vale: Well, I certainly hope so. I keep writing on my blog (once a week) about anything that stirs my interest, or any stories that may come up. I write about real-life events, mine or other people’s, so I’ll keep doing that.
My editor and I are also working on a short story that we hope to publish soon and, of course, there’s the sequel to Love Secrets Lies. We have a first draft but a lot of creative work remains to be done, and then the editing will follow. This sequel will wrap up Teresa’s story, covering the next five or six years of her life as she grows into womanhood. There will be new loves and flings, new friends and foes, and many new adventures, I can assure you. I’m sure I’ll have the time of my life as I dive into this next chapter of Teresa’s life!