Hello there, folks! Doing great, yes? I'm very excited about today's post because I got to interview Cindy L. Rodriguez! ^__^ Cindy is the debut author of YA novel When Reason Breaks, which, by the way, is one of my favorite 2015 reads so far. You can read my shining review of the book here, but for the meantime, here's what When Reason Breaks is about:
When Reason BreaksAuthor: Cindy L. Rodriguez
Genre: YA Contemporary
Published: February 10th 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Purchase from: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble
13 Reasons Why meets the poetry of Emily Dickinson in this gripping debut novel perfect for fans of Sara Zarr or Jennifer Brown.A Goth girl with an attitude problem, Elizabeth Davis must learn to control her anger before it destroys her. Emily Delgado appears to be a smart, sweet girl, with a normal life, but as depression clutches at her, she struggles to feel normal. Both girls are in Ms. Diaz’s English class, where they connect to the words of Emily Dickinson. Both are hovering on the edge of an emotional precipice. One of them will attempt suicide. And with Dickinson’s poetry as their guide, both girls must conquer their personal demons to ever be happy.In an emotionally taut novel with a richly diverse cast of characters, readers will relish in the poetry of Emily Dickinson and be completely swept up in the turmoil of two girls grappling with demons beyond their control.
Before we get to the interview, here's a little something about Cindy:
Cindy L. Rodriguez is a former newspaper reporter turned public school teacher. She now teaches as a reading specialist at a Connecticut middle school but previously worked for the Hartford Courant and theBoston Globe. She and her young daughter live in Connecticut. When Reason Breaks is her debut novel. For more author information, click here.
And now for my favorite part, I'd like to present to you, people,
Cindy L. Rodriguez!
Cindy L. Rodriguez!
*First of all, congratulations on your debut novel (I really loved it!) and welcome to the blog, Cindy! Speaking of debut, what's your favorite part of being a debut author?
A great thing about being a debut author is having people I don't know read the book and give me feedback. It's one thing to have friends and family support me (which is awesome and completely appreciated) but it really blows me away when someone I don't know reaches out to me with a comment. Another great part of being a debut author is entering into the kid lit community. Other authors, my debut groups, and bloggers have been friendly and supportive. Writing is a solitary activity so much of the time, so it's been really helpful and comforting to have people to turn to with questions or for general support.
*Who are your writing influences?
Throughout my college years, I read a lot of women, Latino, and African-American authors. Some of my favorites include the Brontës, Julia Alvarez, Sandra Cisneros, Junot Diaz, Piri Thomas, Toni Morrison, and Maya Angelou. In children's literature, some of my favorites include Laurie Halse Anderson, Gayle Forman, and J.K. Rowling. I read mostly realistic fiction in both middle grade and YA.
*Can you share with us some of your writing habits/rituals/quirks?
I have an office, but I don't write there. I do work stuff, like answer emails or update my website. When I write, I need quiet and I need to be cozy, so I write in bed. My dog is usually nearby to keep me company. I usually alternate between writing by hand and using the computer. I tend to plan by hand, and I'll jot down ideas and dialogue in notebooks sometimes, but if I'm settling in to write, I do it on a laptop.
*Why Emily Dickinson and her works? What's the reason behind your choice of this particular literary icon?
I knew very little about her before I took a graduate class on her life and work, but I was immediately fascinated by her. She was a genius who produced almost 2,000 poems, but she wasn't fully published until after she died. She didn't write to be published or famous, so her poems represent her authentic thoughts and emotions. Also, her experimentation with language, structure, and point of view were like nothing anyone else was doing. She also stopped going to church, and questioned God, life, and death, which was really rebellious in her time. She was complicated and interesting. Although she was reclusive, she experienced love, heartbreak, depression, and joy. But because she was reclusive, you only really know more about her through her letters and poems.
*Who among Emily & Elizabeth was more difficult to write?
Emily was definitely harder to write because she was the quieter one. Elizabeth, being more bold and extroverted, was easier. She's right out there and in your face. Conveying depth with a person who's introverted and working hard to let the outside world see only so much was more of a challenge. Plus, Emily's type of depression was like mine. Nothing tragic had triggered it. Instead, it was a slow burn and eventually I couldn't live that way anymore and sought treatment. I worked hard to appear as normal as possible on the outside and thought I could somehow manage it or make it go away. Emily and I are not the same--she definitely grew into her own character, but for her, I had to tap into parts of myself that were hard to return to, which is why writing her was more difficult.
*If you could talk to your characters, what would you want to tell them?
I'd tell them to stick to their plans to get better and surround themselves with supportive people. Also, to not be afraid to be honest about how they feel and what they need from others. I'd encourage them to "live aloud," as is stated at the end of the book.
*I've read in your website that you also suffered from depression before. Did your personal experiences with depression make it easier or harder for you to write When Reason Breaks?
In some ways, having experienced depression made it easier to write When Reason Breaks because I know what it feels like mentally, emotionally, and physically. I also purposely had Emily and Elizabeth experience depression differently because, while I know what it feels like, not all people experience it the same way. As with anything, there may be commonalities, but one person's experience can't define an entire disease. Overall, though, yes, it did make some of writing easier to have experienced it personally. At the same time, as I stated above, it was hard to write because it was personal and writing about it, even though it was through other characters, put me back in that place. Writing some of those scenes were emotionally draining.
*Is there any part of your novel that you wish you could change?
Honestly, I wouldn't change anything, and that's not because I think it's perfect. It's not, and it's not the right book for all readers. No one book is. And that's why I wouldn't change anything, meaning one reader might say she was confused that both main characters have names that begin with E, but another reader might say she wasn't confused at all. One reader might say the use of Spanish took her out of the story, while another might say the use of Spanish added to the story. No one book will satisfy everyone, and that's okay. Everything I did with this novel was intentional, and it includes three things that have important in my life personally and professionally: Dickinson, depression, and teaching teens. In the end, it is the story I wanted to tell.
*What lesson/message do you want your readers to get from When Reason Breaks?
In general, I think readers will get the message that depression doesn't discriminate and that we can't always tell how deeply someone is hurting. I don't want to say more than that because I think it's important for readers to extract meaning for themselves.
*What's next for Cindy Rodriguez? Pitch your book to us.
I have a few ideas being considered by my agent and editor now. My hope is that one of those ideas will become my next contracted book. Since I don't know which idea they might approve, I'll have to leave you in suspense...sorry!
*Thank you for gracing the blog with this interview, Cindy! It's really a pleasure to have you here today. ^__^