Wonder Boi Writes

Spanish Surrender: The Photo Blog

Hey there friends,

If you’ve been following along for the last couple weeks, you already know that Spanish Surrender is out and widely available. You also got to read an excerpt from the first chapter in my last blog. I really hope that was enough to pique your interest for you to go buy it, and I’ve actually even heard from a few of you who’ve so graciously posted reviews on Amazon or taken the time to post on social media.

First of all, thank you!

Second, one of the comment trends starting to pop up repeatedly is something along the lines of “Spanish Surrender made me want to visit Spain.” A couple folks have mentioned googling places described in the book, and a handful of you have asked whether or not some specific restaurants or businesses actually exist. This blog is to assure you they do!

While my previous novel Full English was heavily inspired by my time living in England, I had to make a few adjustments, both out of respect for the privacy of people who live there, the legal issues involved with writing about a real dukedom, and the need to make a few scenes flow more smoothly. I am here now to tell you the same was not true for Spanish Surrender. Every single location described in the book was portrayed with all the painstaking accuracy I could muster, from hotel layouts to menus to driving routes, and even some of my family’s own experiences.

And of course I say all of this as an elaborate excuse to show you our vacation photos. You will notice that we are wearing jackets and hoodies because we were there in winter as opposed to summer, but the scenery is largely the same, starting with this night time shot of Calle Larios, the upscale shopping area that Simone loves and Loreto hates. In this photo the area is decked out for Carnival, but you can see it’s a pretty busy and trendy place.

And staying with the theme of places Simone loves, especially early in the book, here’s a photo of my wife and son at the Starbucks Simone visits on her first morning with Loreto. Can’t say that it’s authentically Spanish, but as far as Starbucks goes, it’s not a bad view.

That being said, given the choice between frappachinos and something a little more Spanish for breakfast, we’ll always chose the latter, and that’s why by the very next morning we’d located a tastier option just down an little offshoot of the same plaza where we found the Starbucks. Anyone who’s already read Spanish Surrender knows what I’m talking about, right? Churros!

Loreto’s love of churros con chocolate mirrors our own adoration of this Spanish breakfast dish. We ate them in every city we visited, but few could compare with the ones we had in Málaga.

And before we leave that city, I want to share one more photo, this one from the Alcazaba. This site doesn’t make it into the book, but I wanted to include it here for two reasons. 1) I don’t want you to think Málaga is all polished and gentrified, and 2) I just love this shot of my wife atop the old Moorish fortress.

From Málaga, our protagonists Simone and Loreto head northwest, away from the coast and up through the Sierra Nevada mountain range. They have a serious discussion I won’t spoil here. I’ll just say they begin to set the stage for some encounters that prove every bit as dramatic as this scenery.

Once up in the mountains, Simone and Loreto begin their Andalucian cultural lessons in earnest, starting at La Alhambra.

In the photo above, I’m standing in the gardens at the Generalife, and below is a shot of Jackson in a courtyard that features one of my favorite scenes of Spanish Surrender because it’s one where the temperature begins to really tick up between the two main characters. After you read that scene by the courtyard pool, come back and look at this photo again.

And no trip to the Alhambra would be complete without the obligatory photo of the Lions Fountain, so here’s one of those. Aren’t they adorable?

Then last but not least, there’s a scene in which Loreto relays a legend about a family who literally lost their heads while staring up at a particularly ornate ceiling…here it is! You can see where that might capture someone’s attention long enough for them to be snuck up on.

After Granada and La Alhambra, our protagonists head to Cordoba where, without any spoilers, things start to get tense again as world views collide. What better place to show clashing world views than the Great Mosque of Cordoba, a stunning example of Moorish ingenuity and devotion with a Catholic Cathedral cut right up through the middle of it.

This photo is of me standing in the infinity forest of columns and arches that make up the mosque.

And this one, for contrast in style, is some of the dark wood carvings at the center of the gothic-style cathedral.

After the intensity of the mosque/cathedral (and the things that happen there), Loreto finally gets the more uptight Simone to do a little day drinking in the form of local wine and fruits…aka sangria.

I am not a drinker. I don’t generally consume alcohol more than 4-5 times a year, and never in excess. One glass is generally enough to wipe me out, but when we were in Spain, a friendly waiter comped Susie and I each an extra glass of sangria, so just to prove how good it really is, here’s a photo of me well on my way to being toasted…let’s say it was all in the name of research.

And while we’re on the subject of local delicacies, Loreto convinces Simone to try a dish that takes a bit of bravery for most of my American audiences. Pulpo!

Don’t feel bad if that doesn’t look super appetizing to you. Even as an enthusiastic pursuer of all things Spain, I wasn’t eager to jump on board the pulpo bandwagon, but that’s something I regret now! Don’t let the little suction cups fool you: It’s not slimy! And when rubbed in paprika and olive oil or sprinkled with roasted almonds, it’s actually quite tasty.

After shit gets real for Spanish Surrender‘s dynamic duo in Cordoba, they move on to Sevilla. The first thing they do (after the pool of course) is visit the Plaza España. Interesting side note, the Plaza España is also featured in Spanish Heart, and even makes an appearance on that cover.

In Spanish Surrender, however, Simone and Loreto hone in on the moat surrounding this famous landmark, and even more so on the people who rent the rowboats on the moat. This exchange comes directly from my family’s experiences of doing just that. This was not Susie and I’s first time in a rowboat. We knew how to sit, how to work the oars, and which direction to face/pull in order to go the direction we wanted to. You wouldn’t think that would be setting a very high bar, but turns out it put us well ahead of everyone else in the moat that night! We saw people doing some of the most absurd things in wildly unsuccessful attempts to even navigate away from the dock area. They were sweating and swearing, and several of them nearly ended up in the water. It was the biggest collection of inept numpties we’d seen in ages, so we dubbed the place “Numpty Cove.” And there you have it: When Loreto uses that term, you’ll know we earned the right to do so by weaving our way through them all!

The Plaza España was also the only place we actually got to see flamenco. Since we were traveling with a kid in tow, unlike my characters who can go out to clubs at 10:30 at night, we had to make do with street performances of this powerful and passionate dance, but even on that front, we were not disappointed!

From Sevilla, my characters travel back toward the coast and up the Rock of Gibraltar. Again, this is a spoiler-free blog, so you will have to see what end ups in the story, but I will tell you about my own family’s experiences of taking a trip up “The Rock.” For over a year, Jackson had wanted to go see the monkeys that live there. As we neared the top, our tour guide informed us that while the monkeys were friendly, curious, and vaccinated, they were not by any means tame, and they would bite if they felt threatened. He told us to secure our belongings, put away food, and not to make any sudden movements. Then he asked who would like to hold a monkey. Every single person in the group raised their hand…except for my wife. Anyone care to guess who the monkey jumped on first?

This is one of my favorite shots of the whole trip. No worries, the money soon climbed onto Jackson’s head, much to his (Jackson’s, not the monkey’s) delight, and Susie was no worse for the experience. She simply declared that monkeys were merely cats with opposable thumbs.

Finally, as Simone and Loreto complete the circle of their journey in Malaga, they visit an establishment I am very happy to report really does exist. The Hammam Al Andalus is heaven on earth in my opinion. While my personal experience was vastly different from my characters, I still had one of the most luxurious experiences of my life here. The various rooms my characters visit are all real, and I did my best to describe them in luscious detail, but here are a few photos to better illustrate my point.

I think it’s pretty clear why I loved this place enough to put it in my book completely unaltered, but if you want to find out what my characters do in these rooms and why it matters, you’ll have to read Spanish Surrender!

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August 1, 2019 - Posted by | Uncategorized

2 Comments »

  1. Awesome blog post, Rachel. The photos and your descriptions made the book even better. As an aside, was that plate of churros for all three of you, or just for Jackson? Good grief, I’m having a sugar rush just from looking at the photo.

    Comment by Diane | August 1, 2019 | Reply

    • All three of us, but he would have eaten them if we’d let him. We were all hooked!

      Comment by rachelspangler | August 1, 2019 | Reply


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