Latinos In The US: Marcela Citterio, ‘Amor En Custodia’ Telenovela Writer, Talks Creative Process And Tips For Aspiring Writers [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]

Marcela Citterio Talks To Latin Times Exclusively
Telenovela writer of the upcoming Telemundo production "Reina de Corazones" defines her creative process and gives tips to aspiring writers. MarcelaCitterio

Marcela Citterio is an acclaimed telenovela writer from Argentina who has written for Canal Trece and Telefe from her home country and worked internationally with Azteca, Venevisión, RCN and Telemundo. Remember Televisa's "Atrevete a Soñar"? The story about the little ugly duckling that transforms herself into a beautiful swan? Citterio wrote the original story titled "Patito Feo." Her biggest claim to fame is "Amor En Custodia," the tale of two bodyguards that fall in love with who they help protect. The original telenovela was so successful that Azteca made a remake soon after with the same name and years later Televisa made their own version with the title "Amores Verdaderos."

Ms. Citterio has continued to follow her passion and creating worlds of love, action and suspense for all the telenovela lovers. She has created works like "Aurora," "Corazón Valiente" and "Chica Vampiro." Her current project is "Reina de Corazones" which has already started production and stars Paola Nuñez, Eugenio Siller, Laura Flores, Juan Soler and Catherine Siachoque. The series is set to debut in Mexico in the coming weeks and make its way onto the Telemundo network soon after. LatinTimes had the pleasure and opportunity to speak with the successful author about her current project, creative process in creating telenovelas and even gave tips to aspiring writers.

Latin Times: Can you tell us a little bit about your new project "Reina De Corazones?"
Marcela Citterio: Reina de Corazones" is a story about love and espionage that takes place in Las Vegas, sin city. The romance between the main couple starts eight years in the past, when she is young and humble. Reina is a seamstress that would die to have a wedding like the brides she dresses. Nicolás is an attractive valet parking worker that lives life to the fullest and makes poker his challenge. They both fall in love and decide to get married, but the night before their marriage Nicolás finds himself in the middle of a bullet shower from a shipment of narcotics that was not his. Victor de Rosas and Estefania Perez meddle and change their lives forever making Reina think that Nicolás is dead and Nicolás believing that she cheated on him. Eight years later, an accident changed Reina's life and subsequently gets amnesia and doesn't remember anything. He adopts a new name and serves as a secret agent to dismantle a diamond trafficking band.

LT: Where did the idea of "Reina De Corazones" come from?
MC: It's an original novela and I want to make it clear that this has nothing to do with any other novela as I've read online. It's difficult to explain where this idea was born because it was a process of many years. First it was thought of as a romantic telenovela. Then I added action ... then suspense ... some cop drama... and I think that the final result has a little of everything multiplied.

It is not just one idea, the idea takes form episode by episode. It also transforms itself, permanently. I can tell you that in the beginning I didn't dare to write action telenovelas, but I got the courage thanks to my husband. He is my first "ear" in any of my projects. In some cases like "Amor En Custodia," he was the one that gave me the idea of the bodyguards. In this case, he made me think of the secret agent that I believe is very important for this story.

LT: When you write, how do you visualize your characters?
MC: It is very difficult to explain how... I admire my colleagues that can show you and can explain them to you, in reality I wouldn't know how to explain the process to you. Generally the story comes first, then the characters start appearing. With "Reina De Corazones" I worked with Marisa Milanesio, friend and colleague, in the structure. The premise every day is to bet on more, just like the promos in Mexico, "a bet to live or die."

LT: Where you involved in the casting of "Reina De Corazones?" What did you think of the final selection?
MC: The casting was excellent, marvelous. The main couple is like a dream, the villains are spectacular and all the cast is very strong. It is a dream and I am really excited and I sent a letter to Joshua Mintz (General Manager VP, Telemundo Studios) thanking him. Aurelio Valcarcel is the producer and it is now our third telenovela together. This time he did have more consideration with me (laughs), I think he loves me more. I respect him greatly and the production job, from what I've seen, is extraordinary, something out of this world. From the opening credits you can see that it is a telenovela well taken care of and high quality standards. I am anxious and happy and I feel at home in Telemundo. I feel like they love me and I love them.

LT: What is your process as a writer? How do you construct your characters and drive the story lines day by day?
MC: I clearly know that the story is the top priority then the characters that I need to tell that story. For many months I live, breath, think and dream of these characters... I live very intensely and my family has to as well. When I write, the story consumes me 24 hours a day. The process is daily and I get feedback from my husband. He helps me, especially with the action sequences and plays devils advocate at times. 

My daughter Chiara who is 10 years old, is a novela-holic just like her mother, asks me about everything and wants to know about the cast, characters. She watches Mexican novelas and knows all of them. My son Tiziano doesn't provide too much feedback and let's not even get started on my mother. All of my family is very attentive when the telenovela starts airing. That's when another process starts in me if I am writing it as it airs. This is not the case for "Reina de Corazones" that we are well ahead of the broadcast in Mexico and even more from the USA airing. The day-by-day is influences and each telenovela is its own particular case.

LT: When you write, do you have a special place where you like to do so? 
MC: I have a little back-house that is separated by my home garden and my family. It has an old vitraux, pink walls, a secretaire, different types of dolls like antiques, porcelain, Barbie's, American Girl's.. all of them. I have photos on the walls, posters of my telenovelas, everything you can imagine that I bring back from my trips and couches where my dogs Aurora and Cielo rest as I write. I am surrounded by a Harry Potter broom, Sherlock Holme's cane, books and more books. That is my world when I write and when I creatively liberate myself I ride Caburé, my horse ... too bad he can't come inside my office (laughs).

LT: How much of your personal life is implemented into your characters?
MC: Very little. My life is extremely calm to be a reflection on my characters. Maybe little details like in this novela Estefania, played by Catherine Siachoque, collects dolls just like I do or Reina that sews I thought of my grandmother Emma. The name of the main character is Javier, just like my husband. Little details like that and maybe other that I don't perceive but not in story lines. As they say in books and movies, characters are not based on reality and any similarities is just a coincidence.

LT: You are from Argentina and wrote many telenovelas for your home country. Lately you have been writing for Telemundo, is it any different writing for a broader audience?
MC: It is different, yes. The Argentine audience is very loyal, if something starts off as a hit, it continues that way. The Hispanic audience has more offerings and very different. In Argentina we don't do remakes, in the U.S. they do. In the U.S. the rating fluctuates from one day to the next for better or for worse and one ponders, "what happened?" In Argentina or Colombia ratings are more stable.

LT: Remakes have surged in the last couple of years, why do you think that is the case?
MC: I think it is a safe bet to something that has worked in the past and supposedly will work again. "Amores Verdaderos" was a remake done only 7 years after "Amor En Custodia." Personally I prefer to take a risk.

LT: Do you rule out ever adapting a telenovela from a colleague?
MC: I have never adapted and I don't like the idea of adapting something already done. I like to start from scratch, a blank page and let the imagination fly.

LT: The telenovela genre is frowned upon, why do you think it hast lost its value in the last couple of years?
MC: I don't think so! It is a genre I love and it's marvelous. Many series in the U.S., obviously with different production values and budget, have incorporated elements of the classic telenovela. They are just presented in a more spectacular manner. I think that gives the telenovela its value, even though they might not say it, there are clear examples that show it.

LT: Who was your inspiration to becoming a telenovela writer?
MC: My grandmother Emma that always watched telenovelas in the evening and who I used to steal her Corín Tellado's (Spanish writer of romantic novels and photo-novelas). She was the one that introduced me to the world of romantic telenovelas at 7 years of age, and I've never left since then.

LT: What kind of tips can you give aspiring telenovela writers to make a successful career like yours?
MC: I will say this cliché that everyone says of following your dreams and reaching your goal, but for me that's how it is. I was a young 18-year-old, I worked at a pizza restaurant and had a dream of writing telenovelas, with a father that was an accountant and a homemaking mother. In a time where the internet, Twitter and no other medium that now-a-days can make it easier to reach people in the media. Here I am more than 20 years later working doing what I love.

There are many paths on how to pursue your dream from writing authors, producers, to writing books or a blog. It is more difficult to reach a television network because if you've never written they won't let you write a novela, it would be highly risky. There is always a first time and sometimes you fight for one of those paths. The opportunity comes from the least expected one, like what happened to me. Just like that saying goes, 99 percent of transpiration and 1 percent of inspiration ... with passion, patience and hard work ... it can happen.

What do you think?

Armando Tinoco is an Orange County-based writer with a degree in Marketing from Cal. State Fullerton and a degree in Graphic Design from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. In addition to reporting for Latin Times and when he is not watching Brazilian and Mexican telenovelas or quoting lines from "Clueless" and "Friends" he is brushing up his skills in CSS and responsive website design. Some of his celebrity idols include Eiza Gonzalez, Paulina Rubio and Amanda Bynes.