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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Birthday Extravaganza: Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Today I'm happy to host an interview with Christina Diaz Gonzalez! Her debut novel, The Red Umbrella, will be released May 11, 2010. For more information take a look at her website.

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What inspired you to write The Red Umbrella?

The absolute dreariness of people walking around with black, boring umbrellas on rainy days. No, I’m just kidding. My book is actually based on the true experiences of over 14,000 children & teens who were part of Operation Pedro Pan (the largest exodus of unaccompanied minors in the Western hemisphere) and it’s part of my family history. In fact, it’s an important part of American history, but there hasn’t been much written on it, especially from the point of view of a teen girl experiencing the whole thing…I wanted to change that.

What kind of research did you do prior to writing?

Well, my first sources of information were my parents, mother-in-law, grandfather and the rest of my extended Cuban family (way too many people to list here). I also spoke with others who were part of Operation Pedro Pan to hear about their experiences. In addition, I read newspapers of the time (both Cuban and American) to gain a perspective as to what was happening and how it was being reported. In fact, I incorporated actual American newspaper headlines at the beginning of each chapter to give the reader an understanding of what was truly happening in Cuba (the newspaper dates follow the story’s timeline).

What do you hope readers take away from The Red Umbrella?

I’d love people to leave with an understanding that home is not a physical place. It’s where you feel you belong, where you are surrounded by people who love and accept you.

What was your road to publishing like?

Let’s start with the fun and exciting part. I met my editor at a SCBWI conference where she was assigned to critique the first ten pages of my manuscript, The Red Umbrella. I was shocked when, instead of telling me what was wrong with those ten pages, she actually said that she loved my writing and that Random House would be interested in acquiring the book. Fast forward three months (it took me two months to write the book because I only had about twenty pages written when I went to the conference---my editor didn’t know that) and there I was, getting ready to accept an offer from Knopf/Random House. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair share of rejections. I started writing short stories (no magazine wanted them) and chapter books (no agent wanted to read them) until I’d fine-tuned my writing skills to the point of having something published. The key is to keep writing because you never know when you’ll capture that lightning in a bottle and that’s when all the magic happens!

Outside of writing, what do you enjoy?

Hmm, so many different ways to answer this question. I enjoy spending time with my family and traveling. I enjoy eating chocolate (especially dark chocolate…yummy!) and I love watching my favorite shows on TV (absolutely love LOST).

What is your favorite adjective? Why?

Splendiferous is one of my current faves. Why? I guess because it seems to be a mix of sophistication (I imagine one of the British royals giving a polite clap saying “Splendid, splendid!”) and a certain type of innocence (it reminds me of Snuffleupagus on Sesame Street- who wasn’t my favorite character, but I did love saying his name). Truly, I have no real reason.

If you could meet any character from any book, who would it be and why?

I think I’d have to go with a safe choice and say Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. She’s smart, feisty and independent which are all qualities I like in my friends. Yep, I could totally hang with her.

Do you have any future plans for writing YA?

Absolutely! I’m working on a middle grade novel right now, but a few YA characters have been popping up in my daydreams and their stories are next on my list.

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Thanks so much Christina! I look forward to reading The Red Umbrella next May.

6 comments:

  1. WOW! this looks like a really cute-deep novel! Love the cover too! That word Splendiferous i will have to use! Its too fun!

    xoxox
    Rachel

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  2. Great interview, I really want to read The Red Umbrella(:

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  3. I truly love the cover of this book :) Great interview!

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  4. Wow! I hadn't heard of this before, but it sounds great. If this giveaway is open internationally, please enter me. Thanks.

    Alessandra
    outofblue1(at)gmail(dot)com

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  5. This book sounds great! I can't believe we have to wait so long ofr it to come out :(

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  6. One of the best children books ever written about the struggles of 14,000 Cuban children and their parent's quest for freedom. This is a book that every freedom loving parent must make sure that their children read it, so they can appreciate the freedom and liberties that we all enjoy.

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