The Quiet Man
A sentence about the central character of Carlos Alvarado’s first novel reflects the author’s own experience as a writer – “When he was writing, silence was a condition he liked for its contrast.”
At 64, the retired doctor is enjoying the solitary nature of writing novels, a lifestyle in stark contrast to the 32 years he spent in emergency rooms. Soft spoken and shy with a keen but understated sense of humor, Carlos is a self-described introvert who was drawn to medicine while attending UCLA for undergraduate and graduate school. “I was working at Children’s Hospital at that time and I was impressed with the role of the doctors, the authority appealed to me and compassion ultimately drew me in.” He appreciated the camaraderie of other medical professionals who shared that compassion.
Carlos describes his second career as an author as fun stress. “It feels amazing when you sit down and write; it’s rough, so you prune it and it turns into what you wanted.” He compares his style of writing to other Hispanic authors who embrace vivid romantic realism. His latest novel, Tujunga, is a murder mystery that raises the possibility of a government conspiracy to protect the integrity of the United States space program. At the center of the scientific thriller are two very different love stories that play out in heartbreaking detail as reasons behind a young scientist’s death are revealed. He notes his female characters are strong because of influences throughout his life, particularly his mother.
Born in Costa Rica, Carlos and his siblings relocated to Los Angeles with their mother in 1961 after she divorced their father. Described as a fair haired beauty, Bertelina Alvarado was one of Costa Rica’s first television actresses for live commercials in the 1950’s. “My sister and I appeared in a Nestlé commercial but forgot our lines so we were never hired again.”
The family’s departure from Costa Rica was as dramatic as one of Carlos’ storylines. Visas to the United States were extremely difficult to obtain but his mother was determined to leave because she believed macho attitudes in her home country would put a divorced working woman in precarious situations. Luckily, Bertelina was friendly with Costa Rica’s then president and his wife, and they issued visas for the family. “I remember walking away from the embassy and my mother asked me to pinch her, because she couldn’t believe it.”
Once in L.A., Bertelina’s aspirations quickly changed as the family’s survival became key. Within two days she secured a job as a maid at the downtown Beverly Hills Hilton. Carlos was seven years old at the time, and though the family struggled financially, he says they persevered. “One of my arguments about government programs we have now is that people talk about poverty as damnation but as a child it’s all you know so you don’t think about what you don’t have.” Reflecting on those lean years he fondly remembers, “We always knew mom got a good tip by the lunches she made for school.”
Family tuition packages, good grades and part time jobs allowed the five Alvarado children to attend Catholic schools. Catholicism was central to their culture and Carlos explores its far reaching influence in his first novel Cry Watercolors, published 12 years ago. As an adult, a private meeting with Mother Teresa in Calcutta two months before her death had a lasting impression. “I’m not one to be awed by religious people. Mother Teresa is the only person I’ve met who had an aura of holiness.”
Through the years, Carlos has remained close with family, particularly his older sister, Maria, who has been supportive of his writing. “For me, family is all about identity. They are my security.”
Introspective since childhood with a noble medical career behind him, Carlos’ goal now is to share his thoughts with readers. “Everything I write is from my thoughts. I give them life. That’s why I want to sell books. I want my thoughts to interact with people.”
He lives a quiet life in the Town of Hypoluxo with William, his partner of 17 years and is delighted to be a full time Florida resident after commuting to North Carolina and Virginia for eight years before retiring. His favorite part of the Palm Beach County lifestyle is the view from his waterfront townhouse. “I love watching the clouds form and the changes in nature that show us how vulnerable we are and how respectful we should be to nature.”
It’s a tranquil existence for a quiet man who still has a lot to share.
F – French fries or tater tots? French fries
R – Right brained or left brained? Mid-brain
E – Email or carrier pigeon? Email
S – Sunshine or moonlight? Dusk
H – Homebody or party animal? Defiantly Homebody