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Tracy Marchini on 4/17/2017
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LAURA RESAU INTERVIEW AND THE LIGHTNING QUEEN GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Hope you had a fantastic Halloween.

Today I’m thrilled to have Laura Resau here to share about her new MG multicultural THE LIGHTNING QUEEN. It’s set in 1950’s Mexico and sounds really good.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Nothing exciting happens on the Hill of Dust, in the remote mountains of Mexico in the 1950s. There's no electricity, no plumbing, no cars, just day after day of pasturing goats. And now, without his sister and mother, eleven-year-old Teo's life feels even more barren. And then one day, the mysterious young Esma, who calls herself the Gypsy Queen of Lightning, rolls into town like a fresh burst of color. Against all odds, her caravan's Mistress of Destiny predicts that Teo and Esma will be longtime friends. Suddenly, life brims with possibility. With the help of a rescued duck, a three-legged skunk, a blind goat, and other allies, Teo and Esma must overcome obstacles-even death-to fulfill their impossible destiny. Inspired by true stories derived from rural Mexico, The Lightning Queen offers a glimpse of the encounter between two fascinating but marginalized cultures--the Rom and the Mixtec Indians--while telling the heart-warming story of an unlikely friendship that spans generations. 

Hi Laura! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

I was born and raised in Maryland, and then spent a decade traveling and living in Europe and Latin America, and around North America. My travel adventures inspire my writing, and I keep detailed notebook journals of my experiences and stories people share. I’ve been avidly creative-writing since I was in second grade, but it wasn’t until I moved to Mexico that I started writing my first novel that would eventually be published. (WHAT THE MOON SAW.) Now I live with my husband, young son, and beagle in Colorado, where we like riding bikes, wandering by the river, playing guitar and ukulele, and camping in our little vintage trailer. And we all love to travel!

2. That's great you've had the experience of travelling widely to draw on. Where did you get the idea for THE LIGHTNING QUEEN?

While living and doing anthropology research in rural Oaxaca, Mexico, I became friends with a 96-year-old indigenous Mixtec healer. On the first day we met, she gave me a limpia (spiritual cleaning) and told me about the gitanos (Gypsies/Romani) who used to visit her village decades earlier. She said I reminded her of the Gypsy women, and recounted how they would come in caravans to tell fortunes and show outdoor movies. It was an incredibly exciting event for her village-- she and her community loved the gitanos. However, in other, more urban, areas of Mexico, and around the world, the Romani have been persecuted and disparaged. I was interested in exploring the relationship between these two marginalized cultures (the Romani and the Mixteco) within Mexico. And I was enchanted by the mystical tales my healer friend told me about her encounters with the gitanos. I wove these stories and social justice issues into my novel, along with bits of oral history from other Mixtec friends.

3. What an awesome inspiration for your book. THE LIGHTNING QUEEN is set in 1950’s Mexico. I know you lived in Mexico for a time. How did living in Mexico help you in writing this story? And what advice do you have for other authors who want to write multicultural stories, but can’t visit or live in the country they’re writing about?

Living in rural Oaxaca, Mexico, enabled me to become fluent in Spanish, and to form meaningful friendships with indigenous people of all ages who had fascinating stories to tell and important experiences to share. Immersing myself in the smells and tastes and sounds of a culture help me bring it to life for my readers.

If you’re an author who wants to write multicultural stories, but can’t visit or live in the country
you’re writing about, I’d recommend you find some people in your community who are part of that culture. For example, you could volunteer at your local ESL classes and connect with people from that culture. Maybe you could offer to help them with their English if they help you with the cultural aspects of your story. I think that mutually beneficial and meaningful cross-cultural friendships are a great place to start.

Even though I’ve spent a lot of time in Mexico, I still have “cultural-insider” friends check my details. One of my closest friends, Gloria Garcia Diaz, is a talented and dedicated native-Spanish-speaking and Mexican-born writer who lives in my town. She reviews my manuscripts, and in return, I mentor her in her own writing and help her navigate her journey in the world of publishing. We both highly value the role we play in each other’s writing life. I’d encourage all authors writing about other cultures to form these kinds of collaborative and mutually supportive relationships.

4. That's great advice. Share a bit about the stories from rural Mexico that you used in developing your story.

The true tale my healer friend recounted that inspired the book was this: When she was six years old, a gitana fortune-teller told her family that she would live a very long life. But then, shortly afterward, she caught a grave illness and died…. or so they thought. They were in the midst of mourning her body with prayers and candles, when a drop of candle wax fell onto her skin and she woke up! She told me her healing powers came from her time in the other realm. This story absolutely captivated me, and I reworked it a bit for the THE LIGHTNING QUEEN.

5. Wow! That's an amazing story about your friend. This is a middle grade story. You’ve also written picture books and a YA series. How is writing MG different from writing YA? Do you have any preference in what age group you write for?

I think that in my YA books, romance/love relationships are more central to the story, whereas with my middle-grade books, there’s more of an emphasis on friendship. I love writing for both age groups. I don’t necessarily set out to write a book for a particular audience. I just get an idea and start writing and trusting the voice that’s emerging. It soon becomes clear whether the book will be more YA or MG.

6. You’ve had a number of books published and even co-authored a book. Tell us about your road to publication and how you’ve been able to continue to sell so many books.

After about 11 rejections from agents and editors, I read in my SCBWI Bulletin that a new editor at Delacorte (Random House) was looking for manuscripts that seemed similar to the one I’d been shopping around (WHAT THE MOON SAW.) She loved the story and made me an offer, which I accepted. After that, a published author friend of mine referred me to her agent, who passed on it, but referred me to the amazingly wonderful woman who is now my agent, Erin Murphy. She artfully negotiated the eight book deals that followed over the past decade.

As far as how I sell books, that’s hard to say! I love writing. I don’t feel fully alive unless I’m involved in a creative project. I write from my heart. I approach writing with a sacred yet playful attitude. I make sure I’m prioritizing writing so that I continue to create more books. I’m very careful not to let social media suck me in too much-- that would be fatal to my personal creative process. Yet I do value the role that social media plays in helping me connect with readers. I’m just always trying to find the right balance!

7. Erin sounds like a fantastic agent. I met her at a conference once. Marketing is usually one of the least popular parts of an author’s job. Share what you’ve learned about marketing from promoting your books over the years.

As I mentioned, prioritize the actual creative writing. Use your freshest, most vital energy for writing your book. As far as promotion, I’ve been fortunate that a lot of schools read my books in the classroom, so I’ve been invited to do school visits all over the country. That’s been a great way to expand my audience and to meet my readers. I recommend connecting with other children’s and YA authors, librarians, teachers, book clubs, booksellers, and students, and forming supportive relationships with them. It’s always most meaningful to make in-person connections at conferences and events, but I’ve developed some really supportive online friendships as well. Word-of-mouth goes a long way…

8. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Most importantly, prioritize writing in your life. Set goals for yourself and plan steps to reach your goals. Post your goals somewhere you see them several times a day, and reflect on how you’re spending your time at any given moment. Is whatever you’re doing bringing you closer to reaching your goals?

9. What are you working on now?

I’m in the middle of another MG manuscript for Scholastic. It’s the second book in my two-book deal, but it’s a completely new story and cast of characters. Research for this one has been adventurous and delicious…. it’s involved a trip to the remote Amazon and a tour of a local chocolate shop.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Laura. You can find Laura at http://www.LauraResau.com .

Laura's publisher Scholastic generously offered an ARC of THE LIGHTNING QUEEN for a giveaway.  To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through November 14thIf your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. This is for U.S.

Here's what's coming up:

On Monday I have a guest post by debut author Ryan Dalton and a giveaway of his YA science fiction mystery THE YEAR OF LIGHTENING.

The following Monday I have a guest post by author Laura Wolfe and a giveaway of her YA ghost story TRAIL OF SECRETS.

Hope to see you on Monday!

42 comments:

  1. I was excited to see Laura's name in the title of this post. I've really enjoyed her YA novels and am looking forward to The Lightning Queen - it was already on my to-read list, so yes please enter me in the contest. :)

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  2. This is one of the most interesting authors and books I've come across on your blog! I would most definitely be interested in reading The Lightening Queen! Congratulations, Laura. I have tweeted.

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  3. This sounds like a super exciting book. I like the blend of legend and political issues, and I'll definitely want to add it to my TBR. Thanks for the giveaway! :)

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  4. Lightning Queen sounds so interesting and different with it's time and setting. Definitely adding this to my TBR pile. Thanks for the giveaway!

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  5. What an opportunity, getting to live in Mexico. I lived in New Mexico for a while and am grateful for the exposure to another culture. I also found the Hispanics living in Albuquerque to be the friendliest people ever.

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  6. Love this post~ hearing more about Laura's personal investment in this story and the research she's done makes me all the more excited to read it! Thanks for the interview, ladies!

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  7. Great interview! I love how Laura got the inspiration for her story. Such fascinating stories. And I completely agree about forming relationships with other authors.

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  8. This sounds so great! I've seen this book around on Twitter! Thanks for the chance :D

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  9. I love that this book features a misunderstood and sometimes maligned culture.

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  10. What a great interview, and this story sounds delightful! It makes my heart happy to think of two kids connecting like this, and helping each other. :)

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  11. Congratulations, Laura! I bet you learned a lot from that Mixtec healer. We'd all like to reach that age.

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  12. Sounds like a great book and an interesting read. I love being introduced to new cultures and since I can't travel much, I have to do it through books.

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  13. This does sound like a good story! Wishing Laura well with it. Nice to learn more about her. Natalie, thanks so much for the intro and interview!

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  14. This sounds like a must read for me. I've always been fascinated by gypsies and the themes of this book sound fascinating. I love Laura's advice for writing about other cultures and also her advice about prioritizing writing and creative time.

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  15. The story of Laura's healer friend is AMAZING! Wowzer! I have been hearing a lot about this book, and although my TBR pile totters dangerously, I would like to have a chance to win this one. I really want to read it. Thanks for a wonderful, informative interview.

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  16. Looks like a great book! Thanks for introducing it and thanks for the giveaway!

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  17. Sounds like a great read!!
    Thanks for the chance to win!
    natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

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  18. The Lightning Queen sounds like an amazing book and I love the story behind it. :-)

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  19. Sounds like a wonderful story! Thanks for such a great interview; it's so inspiring! And thanks for the chance to win this fabulous book! I did tweet about it also. ;)

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  20. Wowee, that's a gorgeous cover! And a tour of a chocolate shop sounds heavenly. =)

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  21. Such an enticing storyline – both for the book and Laura's route to publishing. Best of luck with this and future projects to a fellow Colorado resident.

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  22. Wow! That's an interesting start to a story writing journey.

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  23. I can't wait to check out your book! It's an intriguing premise!

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  24. I remember loving WHAT THE MOON SAW, and I'm sure I'd love this book as well. What a fascinating setting and mix of cultures. Great interview, and great advice. It's hard to find just the right balance with social media.

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  25. Several years ago Laura was in Steamboat Springs at Epilogue bookstore for a meet and greet. I stopped by because of her connection to Oaxaca. We found that we both have a deep love of the state in southern México. Although I'm an adult, I thoroughly enjoy her work. Thanks for your interview

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  26. This looks fabulous! I write YA fantasy and have the Romani (but use a different name for them) as minor characters. The third book will feature them, and I'm so excited to get started on it. I find the whole culture fascinating. I would love to win a copy, but definitely plan on buying one if I don't! I tweeted this page. :)

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  27. This book is unlike anything I've ever read. It sounds so exciting and I can't wait to read it. I tweeted: https://twitter.com/dhammelef/status/661921035571236864
    Thanks for the giveaway!

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  28. What a great interview - I can't wait to read this book! Laura Resau is an incredible writer - I love her other books - and this one sounds incredible.

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  29. What a unique concept! I'm with her 100% of the way. You need a cultural anchor for these types of stories. I've got one brewing that requires help, and I'm still searching for the right person.

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  30. Sounds like a fun story, especially the time setting. Though I confess that it's making me feel old that book can be historical now from a time period when I was a kid. I guess I'm an antique now. lol

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  31. This interview was full of inspirational gems, and The Lightning Queen sounds amazing. I'm adding it to my good reads list now. please use emilygmoorewriter@yahoo.com for giveaway. Thanks!

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  32. What great inspiration. The travels sound like magical times. And it's a beautiful cover.

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  33. I love the inspiration for Lightning Queen. The book sounds great.

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  34. Sounds like an exciting book from an exciting author!

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  35. I have always been fascinated by gypsies and having a 96-year-old indigenous Mixtec healer as inspiration for the book makes me eager to read it ASAP. Love the time and the setting. Congrats Laura.

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  36. This book sounds charming, and I love the advice she gave. Congratulations, Laura!

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  37. Congrats, Laura! I love how you came up with the idea for your book from the story the healer told you. It's so important to prioritize writing if you want to be a writer.

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  38. Congratulations, Laura! Your books sound great. You've led an interesting life with much more to come! Sounds exciting :)

    Hi Natalie!

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  39. This sounds like an amazing book! I really like how your life abroad inspired your writing and your advice about putting your best energy into your writing.

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  40. Sounds like a great book! I love that she used her experience living in Mexico--best way to research a location!

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  41. What a great cover! I also enjoyed learning about Laura. I always like finding out about the path to publication for different authors. Wishing Laura the best of luck! :)
    ~Jess

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