An Interview with Andrea Barbosa
Welcome Andrea, it’s great to be interviewing you about your novel, Massive Black Hole.
Thank you for having me, it’s a pleasure.
You write both poetry and prose. Which do you prefer to write?
I find poetry easier to write as long as I find the right mood and topic. It flows and the words can be interpreted in different ways, making the reading more intriguing.
You were born in Brazil but you live in Houston, Texas?
That’s right. I’m Brazilian-born and have been living in the US.
To what extent did your own migrant experience contribute to the themes and characters within your novel?
Sometimes it’s easier to write about things that are familiar to us. My international experience definitely contributed to how the character of Cibele was developed, and details and descriptions of some of the setting and life in Brazil.
One of your characters, Cibele, is Brazilian and has strong Christian beliefs in heaven and hell.
As a teenager, Cibele’s character never really thought deeply about it until she visited the MET and became fascinated with Bosch’s painting. Because she’s Brazilian, it’s suggested that she was raised in a Christian environment where heaven and hell are a strong part of the belief system.
Do you identify with any of the characters? Is one of the characters your alter-ego? Are the characters based on real people you have met?
The characters might have a little bit of me and a little bit of people I’ve met in my life, but just snippets from some experiences with travelling and working in different environments. Their actions and motives are purely fictional.
Were you brought up as a Roman Catholic?
To what extent does Catholicism underpin Massive Black Hole? Would you say Catholicism and Christian morality are recurrent themes within this novel?
In the sense of heaven and hell, it could be considered as a religious theme appearing throughout the novel because of the ever-present imagery of the black hole as a portal to hell and the way in which Cibele is traumatized about it. However, the novel was not intended as a religious tale. The discussion Cibele and Amy have about sin, punishment, beliefs, was purely intended as a means to achieve the sort of paranormal ending I envisioned.
Would you say Massive Black Hole is a morality tale in which sinners are punished by god? And are people who do good rewarded by god?
I suppose it could be interpreted that way by some readers, but that was not the intention. When I started writing this novel, all I had in mind was the ending: a place where you’re stuck, going around in circles, not being able to escape. The characters helped me write the story, and it kind of evolved that way. Amy’s character was not planned and only showed up into the novel during the third or fourth editing. The religious motives were created to make some sense towards the development of the characters so they could end up in the black hole of their own conscience.
Is the black hole a metaphor for purgatory, or hell, or both? Is the black hole a place or a state of being, or both?
That depends on each character’s view. For Cibele, the black hole was a portal to hell. When she pictured Agatha’s ex-husband falling into hell, the image that came to her mind was of him falling through the hole and not being able to escape his fate. Agatha had absolutely no idea of it whatsoever. And for Amy, she always saw it as a celestial object, one of the mysteries of astronomy. In the overall context of the book, the black hole becomes the metaphor for Cibele’s vision of a portal to hell. In different interpretations, it could be either a place or a state of being.
It seems two characters undergo transformations as a result of things that happen to them. One character seems to learn and evolve from her experiences, while the other character is corrupted by greed and vanity, degenerates, and her path spirals downwards into the black hole. Would you say one of the themes of this novel is we all make moral choices in life and those moral choices determine where we end up in a spiritual sense?
Yes, one of the themes associates each character’s personal choices with their outcome. Their conscience should dictate their behavior, but in the novel, two of the characters become blind to their own fates, preferring instead to blame everyone and everything for what happens to them, instead of taking responsibility for their actions, which they never acknowledge.
One of your characters seems to be innately evil. Are some people born evil, or is it more life experiences and moral choices that make them turn evil?
The feedback of her life is designed to instigate some empathy in the readers for her actions, but that is not a justification for how she turns out. Her selfishness, bad choices, and desire to succeed are the catalysts for her transformation into someone with evil instincts. Everyone has choices to make, and the environment and the state of mind could contribute to the development of evil instincts.
There is a debate within the novel about the existence of hell after death and experiencing hell within life. Do you believe that after death, purgatory, heaven or hell awaits all human souls? Or would you say we experience these things within this life?
I don’t really believe in a hell created by god to punish us. I don’t believe in a punishing god, only in a good one. I suppose you can create your individual hell on earth if that’s how you decide to live your life. Happiness and goodness are a state of mind, as well as sadness and evil. Some people love life, some people hate it. It’s all in the mind’s perception, it’s the conscience. Whatever you believe in becomes your reality.
Tell us a little more about the massive black hole. We know about black holes from astronomy, but you seem to be saying these black holes exist in a spiritual sense. Do you believe each of us may fall into our own black hole, and we therefore need to be vigilant with our moral choices to avoid such a fate?
As I mentioned before, Cibele sees the black hole as a portal to heaven. The heaven she believes in is like the painting by Bosch. Agatha doesn’t believe in anything. Amy believes the black hole is what it is in astronomy; a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can not get out. In Cibele’s vision, a sin will condemn you to this physical hell. Ultimately, it’s their conscience that dictates their ending. Amy experienced Cibele’s hell vision when she was in a coma. Cibele never experienced her own vision of hell, instead, hers and Agatha’s ending stemmed from their fear of being stuck, of never moving ahead, of being rooted in their unfortunate predicament. The metaphorical use of the black hole could signify being stuck, not moving, falling into a routine where your dream of salvation (from whatever you want to be free of) never comes.
And what of heaven? Does any character achieve heaven within life or after death?
That, in the scope of the novel, would be their conscience, their state of mind. In that aspect, I could say that Amy achieved peace with her fate. Could this peace be considered heaven? That’s totally open for interpretation!
Will there be a sequel and/or a prequel to Massive Black Hole?
No, I wrote this novel as a single volume.
Thank you Andrea. I wish you great success with your writing. Where may readers buy your books?
Thank you so much for the great opportunity to interview for your blog. You may find me at: