eBookEnvy: Tell us a little about you, your writing, your passions.
Jacobo Schifter: I like writing and writing saved my life when I was a kid. I was born Jewish and Gay in a Catholic, homophobic society and I could not have my own voice as whatever I wanted to say was forbidden. When I left Costa Rica to pursue my University education in the States, I found myself in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement, the struggle against the Viet Nam War, and the emergence of the feminist and gay movements. I don´t know how, but I got involved in all of them. This was enough to make some changes in my head!!! But coming out of the closet as a writer was even more difficult. My first books were historical books and “conventional”. The subjects I loved were forbidden subjects in Costa Rica. I could not write about them and no one would publish them anyway.
I returned in 1983 to Costa Rica because my mother had developed cancer. Once in Costa Rica, I realized that what happened in the States was going to strike Costa Rica even worse: the Aids epidemic. The Ministry of Health started to do “prevention” by having raids and by exposing those infected; people refused to shake hands with homosexuals, dead bodies were thrown in trash bags, funeral homes refused to bury homosexuals. It was actually hell and people started to get infected without anyone telling them how to stop it. I wasn`t planning to be an Aids activist, I wasn´t planning to be a gay activist but people were just too scared to come out in public,I thought my social life and my career were going to be over. They even tried to fire me from the University because I was a homosexual. Those were the days!!! But I came out in TV (the first Tico to do so) and I started organizing the Gay community to fight back. Twenty years later this is a more tolerant society and homophobia has been reduced dramatically.
eBookEnvy: Your body of work on Free-eBooks.net is dominated by a great many pieces regarding sex in the Costa Rican society – a somewhat controversial and unusual subject. What made you delve into this world so deeply? And how do you think it may have affected your life (aversely or otherwise)?
Jacobo Schifter: My books on sex were projects that I was hired to do by the World Health Organization in order to get data on sexual minorities. These books were not the sort of books I was ever thinking on writing, but these books were the ones that would make me known as a writer. No one would publish them in Costa Rica. I had never ever been reviewed on them. Since the books were “Academic”, bookstores, papers and libraries simply made them invisible. I have never ever been invited to give a lecture on them by any of the national universities, including my University. But when they were published in the States by a reputable publisher, at least I was able to breathe abroad.
eBookEnvy: I believe you are helping us at Free-eBooks.net to establish and flesh out our Spanish collections – would you like tell us anything about this project?
Jacobo Schifter: Since my life as a writer was so difficult because of prejudice, I dreamed of a publisher that would do things differently. A publisher that would let the readers decide what is a good read for them. I dreamed of not having literary agents, no review boards made of people who did not know well the subject you were writing about or that were members of Military Juntas or the Opus Dei, a publisher that could be affordable and that you did not need to be filthy rich to publish. I also dreamed of a publisher that would give opportunities to new writers and one where you did not need “friends” and family to be on the review boards, something that is so typical in Latin America. And I found www.free-ebooks.net!!! I uploaded my first book and then I saw what a revolutionary concept this was. I loved it so much that I wrote to the company that I wanted to do the same in Spanish and when I let other writers know about this in Latin America and in Spain, they also realize this was they were dreaming about.
eBookEnvy: Is there anything in particular you would like to share with the Free-eBooks.net community – on writing, on eBooks … on life on the darker sides of life, on anything at all? 🙂
Jacobo Schifter: Now that I am helping to launch the Spanish site, I realize that I can write what I want to write about and this is no simple realization. Most of my writer friends have always to take into account what is comercial and what is that some publishers are looking for before embarking on a project. This means that thanks for www.Free-eBooks.net my next book will be a totally different book and perhaps the book that I needed to write from the begining. This is no major breakthrough for me and for the Spanish writers that will join us. Should we worry that the books are given for free? I never cared about making money out of books, I cared about writing and be read. Most of the good writers I know feel the same way.