Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Book Tour and Giveaway: Bernardo and the Virgin by Silvio Sirias

Bernardo and the Virgin by Silvio Sirias

Bernardo and the Virgin is based on “actual events—in the eyes of many”. It is a book about miracles juxtaposed against the backdrop of revolution. The story begins in 1980 as the Sandinistas have seized power from the Somoza family.

Bernardo Martinez is a devout Catholic who prays the rosary many times a day, serves as the caretaker of the church in the village of Cuapa, Nicaragua. Two weeks after determining that there is no problem with the power inside the church Bernardo rushes to investigate when the lights appear to be on yet again. Inside he is surprised by the illumination of the statue of the Virgin Mary. One month later she appears to Bernardo asking him to instruct the villagers that they should pray the rosary daily and “work for peace”. Aware that he does not have the stature to be taken seriously, Bernardo’s faith leads him to be obedient.

The story moves between time spans to relay not only Bernardo’s earlier life but also the lives of those close to him. Sirias intersperses Spanish into the novel, which brings to life the village culture. In the beginning this may be a little difficult for some readers, but as the story progresses readers will adapt to the flow. Bernardo is a sympathetic character with wide appeal. Although Bernardo and the Virgin vividly portrays the characters’ deep religious faith, the story has more of a spiritual tone than a religious tone.

Bernardo and the Virgin is well-written and moving. Silvio Sirias has gifted readers with a deep exploration of humanity as well as spirituality, presenting book clubs with much to discuss as they peruse this novel.

About the Author:

Silvio Sirias was born in Los Angeles, California were he grew up there until the age of eleven, when his family moved his parents "country of orgin, Granada, Nicaragua. His bicultural outlook on life was shpaed by this move. He attended returned to Los Angeles where he attended college. He eventually received his doctorate in Spanish from the University of Arizona where he worked as a professor of Spanish and U.S. Latino and Latina literature for several years before returning to live in Nicaragua in 1999.

In 2002 he moved to Panama with his wife and several pets.
To learn more about Silvio Sirias please visit his website: Silvio Sirias website

Bernardo and the Virgin can be purchased at the following locations:

This is Condor Book Tours' Amazon affiliate site and ALL 100% of commissions made are being donated to Unicef's Storybook Gift, which sends culturally appropriate storybooks to children in need throughout the world.

The book may also be purchased from the Independent Book store: Dulce Bread and Bookshop

One lucky person commenting on this blog today will win: an awesome Kuna Mola change purse and decoration made by the Kuna artisans in Panama, called Molas. Below is a picture of some of the change purses and decorations along with a link for more information about these artist.

Here's a link to the Kuna artisans and molas:

Please submit questions for Silvio Sirias as he will be stopping by periodically throughout the day.

Shall we begin:
Why did you choose to write the story as a work of fiction instead of a biography?

How close to the actual person is the character Bernardo?

Is it more difficult to write a fictional account of a true event?

Please tell us about your writing process in creating this story?

There will be a live chat with Silvio at the author chat salon at Condor on Friday, June 18th:


Mayra Calvani said...

Thanks for sharing this review!

Silvio, I hope you're enjoying your tour! I look forward to reading your novel. I have it on my summer TBR list.

Silvio Sirias said...

Hi, Mayra,

Thank you so much for being a faithful visitor. I am loving the tour! And I hope you have as much fun reading BERNARDO as I did writing it.


Silvio Sirias said...

And to Deb:

Thank you for the lovely review. And thank you for having me as your guest. I like your list of questions. Allow me to answer the first one, and I shall drop by throughout the day to address the others.

There was really no choice between novel or biography. I had been wanting to write a novel about Nicaragua for many years. When I heard Bernardo's story I immediately knew his experiences would be a wonderful canvas on which to paint the portrait of Nicaragua in the 20th century. To write only about Bernardo would have left all the other characters on the cutting room floor, so to speak. Besides, I believe it would've have been impossible for me to write about the apparitions and the miracles as non-fiction. Fiction allows the reader to suspend his or her disbelief and just go along with the flow of the story . . . and that is what I wanted.

Will drop by later to answer your next question, Deb.

nilki said...

This is such a great post! I love your questions for Silvio--I'm looking forward to hearing his replies!

Deb said...

I love how Silvio made the characters so human. It is so interesting to peer into the disillusionment of revolution as well. There is so much warmth in the story as well as the tradgedy of man against man and the question of where faith fits into that world.

nilki said...

Well said, Deb!

dollycas aka Lori said...

This looks like a very interesting book, will be checking it out.


Silvio Sirias said...

Hello again,

Nilki, thanks for visiting again. It's always comforting to have you in the comment section. Deb, wow, I love your comments, thank you. And Lori, I hope you check out BERNARDO and that you enjoy the experience.

To answer Deb's second question: The real life Bernardo was a complex person, which, essentially, every human being is. Like all of us, he had his faults and shortcomings. But I chose to focus instead on his childlike faith and on his ability to sum up a situation and make solid common sense decision--a quality that made him a natural leader in Cuapa.

Marina said...

Silvio, I think this book has great potential as a movie. Have you thought about taking it in that direction at all?

Silvio Sirias said...

Hi, Marina,

So good to have you here. It warms my heart to learn that you think it would make a great movie. To be honest, I think it's a little too panoramic, and thus unwieldy. But I do think my second novel, MEET ME UNDER THE CEIBA, has far better potential for the screen.

Unfortunately, I have no say on the matter. In fact, I read an article that gave the percentages of novels that are made into films, and that is very, very low. When one is a relatively unknown writer, all one can wish for is that someone in Hollywood takes a liking to one's work.

Still, it's nice to think that might happen.

Marina said...

Yes, I see your point. Well I have another question for you. Seeing as you've drawn a lot of your inspiration for your works from places you've lived, do think about what other Latin American country might be a good place to move to? Or do you ever see yourself moving back to the States?

Silvio Sirias said...


Your question is far more difficult to answer than it seems in the surface.

I returned to Nicaragua--after many, many years away--because it had been calling to me all along without my realizing it. I had to leave for reasons beyond my control and because I received a job offer in Panama. Although it's only one country removed from Nicaragua, Panama seemed alien to me for the three long years. And, then, I woke up one morning loving it. Still, it wasn't the smoothest of transistion, but now home is in Panama and I have no plans to leave.

Returning to the States? It would take a compelling reason or a phenomenal job offer (and I don't see myself being in the job market.)

Where to move in Latin America? Move somewhere where you can firmly anchor your heart, and be willing to embrace the culture--flaws, eccentricities, an all. What's more, when in Rome, one should become Roman--and that's far easier said then done.

Silvio Sirias said...

I'll take this opportunity to answer Deb's third question.

I find writing fiction based on actual events far easier than writing straight fiction. An event is like a skeleton, and I am able write the bones of truth, and fill the flesh with invention.

My understanding of this came when a friend who writes historical novels said to me: "I write what historians agree in the truth, but through the vast gaps of what we do not know, I can drive a Mack Truck." And he was absolutely right.

Silvio Sirias said...

Since I'm on a roll, I'll answer Deb's final question, about the writing process during the creation of BERNARDO AND THE VIRGIN. And I will cheat a bit here by giving the answer I gave Mayra Calvani during our last interview. I do this, because I can't say it better than I did there. In that interview, I told Mayra:

"The first task was to conduct the research. That’s always the most exciting part for me; it’s where I vicariously experience the story I’m preparing to write. Once I’m confident that I have most of the information I need, I sketch a general outline of all the chapters, and this includes the ending because, for the sake of my nerves, I need to know how the story ends. Then I begin to write with the help of a detailed outline of each chapter. As I write, I start each day by revising what I have written the day before. This helps my mind get back into the story. I then start a new section and write straight into the mid-afternoon. This cycle repeats itself until the rough draft is concluded. Then I will work on a chapter at a time, revising it until it is as perfect as I can get it. When I polish the last chapter I share the manuscript with my peer editors, a wonderful team that has served me faithfully."

To read the entire interview, one can go to

Anonymous said...

I think the human and humble qualities of Bernardo are very compelling for the reader to keep the book in hand.

I can see him being somewhat timid in real life. But because of his intense belief in his faith could go out and lead his Cuapa neighbors into thinking and acting spiritually by giving them the simple message from the Virgin: Not to only pray for peace but, to make peace. Nicaraguans are still travelling this path.

Deb said...

I agree with the anonymous statement above. His "childlike" faith, as Silvio put it, gives him the courage to share his experience with his neighbors. Bernardo set the example for his neighbors for believing enough to follow through even when it was hard. Acting in peace is not always easy but the results are amazing.

Deb said...

Thank you so much Silvio. It was a pleasure to have you visit today. Best wishes for the next book. I am looking forward to it. And thank you Nilki for arranging everything.