The Debut Authors Bash is an event that YaReads started in 2013. This is an event to promote debut authors through reviews, guest posts, interviews, promo posts, etc., and today I am thrilled to bring you an interview with debut author Cindy L. Rodriguez.
I read Cindy’s book, “When Reason Breaks”, earlier this year and it absolutely captivated me! It is a beautiful, suspenseful and thought-provoking. It was an emotional rollercoaster and by the end of the book I was in tears. If you want to read my full review, you can check it out here. In the meantime, here is a mood board I put together that captures the emotion of the book…if I do say so myself!
Interview With Cindy L. Rodriguez
One of the themes of ‘When Reason Breaks’ that resonated so deeply with me, was how accurately you portrayed the teenage experience. Do you feel like your interactions with teenagers as a middle school educator allowed you to write from a more familiar perspective? What were some things you felt were important to focus on to ensure an authentic portrayal of teens?
My job as a public school teacher has definitely influenced my creative life. While I have always been a writer in some way, working with students and reading a lot of middle grade and young adult fiction led me to write a novel. Working with young people every day gives me access to how they act, speak, dress, and react to the world around them. Sometimes I’ll say to them, “I’m writing that down and using it in a novel someday.” They laugh and tell me to make sure I spell their name right! Some things haven’t changed much since I was a teen—the universal things like feeling awkward, friendship and first love issues—but some things have changed, so seeing it all firsthand as a teacher has most definitely helped. The social media aspect of the novel was important to include because it’s a huge part of teen life. Also, I wanted to capture how teens really are so grown up in some ways and, at other times, they really need to just be kids. In the novel, for example, I loved the bowling scene, which is followed by them playing in the snow. The scene, however, ends on a more serious, painful note, which shows how teens’ lives are a mix of playful and intense moments.
Your use of Emily Dickinson’s poetry as a plot device was so unique and compelling. From using lines from her work as chapter titles to having the lesson plan in the classroom revolve around Dickinson, it mirrored the experiences of Elizabeth and Emily perfectly. What was your inspiration for incorporating Dickinson’s work and her life into ‘When Reason Breaks’, and how do you feel it drove the message of the story?
I fell in love with Emily Dickinson in graduate school when I took an author-centered course about her life and work. She was so interesting, complex, and multi-faceted that I started to wonder what her life would be like if she were alive today—a woman who was rebellious, a creative genius, intensely private, and who very likely experienced depression. I couldn’t contain her in one character, so I split her into three: Emily, Elizabeth, and Ms. Diaz who each represent her in different ways. Once I did that, I decided to go further and add characters who represented real people in Dickinson’s life. My hope was that anyone could read the story and enjoy it on one level, but anyone who was a Dickinson geek, like me, would get more out of it. As a teacher, I’ve always appreciated those kinds of books, contemporary fiction with either a literary or historical connection that could connect the past with the present and be used in the classroom.
As a member of the We Need Diverse Books team, you’re tasked with promoting books that represent the experiences of all young readers. Can you share five books that reflect the diverse world today’s teens are growing up in.
- Blackbird Fly by Erin Kelly is a middle grade novel that handles race, bullying, and finding the courage to be oneself.
- The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy is a middle grade about a multiracial and multicultural family made up of two dads who four adopted boys.
- Gaby, Lost and Found by Angela Cervantes is a middle grade about bicultural Gaby Ramirez Howard, whose mother has been deported to Honduras and whose father is inattentive.
- Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert is a YA Morris Award finalist about a teen named Braden who struggles with complex issues related to family and faith, including alcoholism, violence, and acceptance of his brother’s homosexuality.
- All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely is timely, important, and speaks to the racial tension and violence often experienced by young people of color.
Can you share a little about your experiences as a debut author in 2015? What has been one of your most meaningful experiences this year and what are you looking forward to in 2016?
Life as a debut author has been fun, exciting, nerve-wracking, and hectic. I’ve met so many wonderful people, including authors, bloggers, and readers. It’s amazing that my world has expanded and morphed in such an interesting, wonderful way. The book launch at the West Hartford Public Library was my most meaningful experience because almost all of the people who have supported me during the publishing process were in one room together, celebrating the release and having fun. Some local high school students acted out a scene from the book, and the event included lots of food, laughs, and tears (my own mostly). I’ll always remember that day.
In 2016, I’m looking forward to reading more great books, supporting my friends, like Carrie Firestone, who have books coming out, and writing!
Do you have plans for future novels? Are there any story ideas you’re excited to share with your readers?
I do have plans for future novels. I have written a middle grade novel that is very different than When Reason Breaks. It’s lighter and more fun. Tentatively titled Aesop’s Curse, it’s about a 12-year-old half-Brazilian boy who finds out he is the reincarnation of Aesop and must make amends for Aesop’s curse upon the people of Delphi. I am also working on a new project that is more in line with When Reason Breaks—a contemporary young adult with a literary angle. My hope is that I can write both middle grade and young adult books going forward. Fingers crossed!
Enter to win a signed hardcover of When Reason Breaks.
When Reason Breaks by Cindy L. Rodriguez
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on February 10th 2015
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.