See link above for interview: "Long, Winding Road to a Novel" from Santa Fe Journal
Ortego, who has a Ph.D. in American studies from the University of New Mexico, said she had to teach herself how to write a novel. “I’ve written most of my life, poetry beginning in high school,” she said. “I was working the whole time I was writing it. There were a lot of false starts, self-study and workshops. The Writers’ Digest books on plot and character were helpful.”
Ortego’s book is loosely based on a period of her life in the mountains of New Mexico. “I was trying to write about how an emotionally dominated situation is not good and women should find the strength to move out of that,” Ortego said.
“People would say women aren’t oppressed like that anymore, but my contention is that they are,” Ortego said.
Ortego, who was born in New Orleans, is of Acadian heritage. Her Spanish heritage dates to Joaquin Ortega in the 1700s who was married to a French woman in Louisiana.
“They had nine sons, and she taught them all to speak French,” Ortego said. “It’s much more natural to pronounce the last syllable in French, so probably within the last generation, it became Ortego.”
Her next book will focus on her Acadian roots. Since becoming president of the community college two years ago, Ortego hasn’t had as much time to write, but is fitting in time for research and reading and drafting out some skeletons of chapters on the weekend.
Ana’s shift at St. Joseph’s had ended. The road ahead was a familiar ordeal. At La Cueva, 30 miles from town, the battered cattle gate had come into view, chained and padlocked on its cedar post. A late November snow had come, turning the road to muck. She had to get out to open the gate, slogging anke-deep in caliche, then back to the Wagoneer to drive through, and out again, to shut it.
— opening lines from “The Road from La Cueva” by Sheila Ortego