Monday, November 06, 2006

What's Fresh with Caridad Ferrer's Adiós To My Old Life

Does a seventeen-year-old from Miami have what it takes to be the next big Latin superstar? And does she really want it?

As a talented singer-guitarist with a dream of going pro, Alegría Montero is getting fed up with the endless, boring parade of quinces and other family party gigs. She's longing for something bigger. And Oye Mi Canto--a new reality TV show that's searching for the next Latin superstar--is definitely that. Ali figures she'll never make the cut, but auditioning seems like a good way to get her overprotective father to take her ambitions seriously.

To Ali's complete shock, she passes her audition. Next thing she knows, she's dealing with wardrobe fittings, cameras, reporters, vocal coaches, and websites designed by lovestruck fanboys. She's also dealing with jealousy, malice, and sabotage among the contestants, all of which has her wondering: Is it really time to shoot for the stars and try to win the whole competition, or is it time to say "Cut!" and become a normal teenager again?

Hello, Caridad, thanks so much for taking the time to chat. Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you came to sell your novel, ADIÓS TO MY OLD LIFE to MTV Books?

Caridad: Basically, I've been a storyteller my whole life and one of those lucky people for whom writing came pretty effortlessly. (I was hated when it came time to produce five paragraph essays in elementary school.) I've kept journals and entertained myself by creating stories in my head as far back as I can remember. However, I didn't give much thought to writing as a profession since it was music that was my true callin--or so I thought. But writing's never been too far behind in importance and these days, the two are so inextricably linked for me, I can't imagine doing one without the other.

As far as how I made my first sale--well, the thing there is that I never had really given much thought to writing in the Young Adult genre. My first love with writing had always been women's fiction with a good dose of romance and underscored by my Cuban-American background. However, in summer 2005, my agent had just begun submitting one of my women's fiction manuscripts and while I was working on another, I think I was still a little too twitchy for her taste, so she said to me, "Listen, I have an editor who's looking for a Latina-flavored YA. Do you have any ideas?" To which I responded, "I might." So I sat down, pounded out the first couple of chapters and a basic storyline and sent it to her. She asked me for a synopsis and she submitted them to the editor. A few weeks later, we had the offer--and I got the Call on the casino floor in Reno at RWA National! How's that for an unforgettable moment? Thank goodness my agent is so alert and keeps an eye on who wants what. :-)

A little less than a year later, July, 2006, ADIÓS TO MY OLD LIFE was released by MTV Books.

Great call story, Caridad! Readers and writers often like to get a behind the scenes peek of an author's writing routine. It would be great if you could please share your typical writing day schedule.

Caridad: Uh... there's no such thing as typical? Actually, I do treat writing very much like I would any other job. I'm fortunate enough to be able to write full-time, so after my kids are out of the house and off to school, I sit down with my coffee (the coffee's very important... must have coffee) and check email and websites, etc. Then generally, I pull up whatever I worked on the day before and reread it to get back into the flow and make sure that it's as I remembered. Then, depending on where I'm at in the story, I'll either do some editing or it might be a research day or a little of both. I'm a very linear writer, crafting the story from beginning to end, rather than writing in chunks that I rearrange, so if I'm at a point where I'm stuck, I'll treat the day as a research day--allow my subconscious to work on the problem at hand.

And always, always, I have music playing. That's my biggest source of both comfort and inspiration. Sometimes, that's exactly what will help me through a rough spot: creating a new playlist for the work-in-progress or for a specific character. It's a way to allow a different part of my brain to work on story issues.

I'm actually a fairly nocturnal writer, too. The day time is usually full of so many distractions-- the phone, the kids, the dogs, the door, etc. that if I really want uninterrupted time, I wait until after nine in the evening, when the house is reasonably quiet and mentally, I know there are less likely to be distractions. That's when I can allow myself to really sink thoroughly into the story. Often, I can write for four or five hours straight at those times.

Please tell us about ADIÓS TO MY OLD LIFE and what we can expect from your characters.

Caridad: Adiós is the story of Alegría Montera, a seventeen year-old musician from Miami who decides to audition for Latin music reality show called "Oye Mi Canto." She does it mostly as "practice" because she doesn't think she has a chance of making it to the finals, but she also wants to work on breaking away from the expectations her somewhat traditional and overprotective Cuban-American dad has placed on her. Of course, she does make the finals and her first hurdle is revealing to her father what she did and seeing if he'll allow her to compete--after that, it's very much a story of the challenges inherent not just in performing professionally, but dealing with the issues that come with wanting to be a part of that world.

As far as my characters go, I like to think that they're very relatable, no matter what the reader's age or background might be, but with a bit of a surprise to them as well. Ali is at heart a good girl--yes, she wants to explore the world beyond that of the Nice Cuban Girl, but she has a strong sense of who she is and that ultimately helps her get through the tougher issues.

And I'll just add, I enjoyed ADIÓS very much. It was a great read and I highly recommend it! What's up next, Caridad? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Caridad: I just turned in my second project for MTV Books, a novel called IT'S NOT ABOUT THE ACCENT. This one is very different from ADIÓS in that it's not centered around the music world, but it does involve performing, in a sense. It's about Caroline, a sixth generation, born-and-bred small town Ohio girl, who, when she goes off to college, decides to reinvent herself as a Cuban girl. Why? Because she discovered that her great-grandmother, who was the only person she knew of in her family who hadn't been born-and-bred in Ohio, wasn't American, as she'd thought her entire life, but Cuban-born. And to Caroline, her Nana was the only person she knew of who'd actually had adventures--who'd traveled the world and seen and done things that Caroline can only begin to imagine. In her mind, that has to be because she wasn't from Ohio, because she was Cuban, and Caroline wants to experience at least a little of that for herself. And while it's fun, there are unexpected repercussions that she has to deal with.

It takes the concept of reinventing yourself when you go off to college and ups the ante just a bit more. Currently, it's scheduled for release in August of 2007.

Thanks so much for taking the time, Caridad. I wish you the best with your writing career! Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Caridad: Oh... wow. This is hard, because I'd never presume that what works for me would be an effective technique for anyone else. I suppose that's my tip, actually. To be true to your voice and your story. The running joke is that there are no original stories out there--but the thing is, there are a million unique different ways to tell a story. No one can tell you story quite the way you can.

The other thing I'd have to say is to keep practicing and working at the craft. Like any other artistic endeavor, your own style emerges once you have the basics down and then, only continues to develop the more you work at it.

CARIDAD FERRER is a first generation, bilingual Cuban-American, born in Manhattan and raised in Miami, all of which she realizes makes her a walking cliche. However, it also means she speaks Spanish reasonably fluently, at least enough to be able to employ some of the more colorful expressions in her writing. Her novel, ADIÓS TO MY OLD LIFE was released by MTV Books in 2006, garnering praise such as "A page-turning must-read," and "…an intelligent debut novel about the world of music and reality television." Her second novel for MTV Books, IT'S NOT ABOUT THE ACCENT will be released in August 2007. Visit her website, www.caridadferrer.com.

2 fresh comments:

Susan Hatler said...

Just started reading ADIOS! I'm at the part where she's meeting the other finalists and I sense a heating up competition with the blonde chick...hmmm?

Kelly Parra said...

Oh yes, Susan, I remember! Lots of juicy conflict there. haha!