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  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.

Debut Author Interview: Alda Dobbs and Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Alda Dobbs here to share about her MG historical Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna. I was lucky to receive an ARC from Alda’s publisher. It was such a gripping story that I read it in two sittings. I know that those of you who love historical fiction are going to love this book.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

It is 1913, and twelve-year-old Petra Luna's mama has died while the Revolution rages in Mexico. Before her papa is dragged away by soldiers, Petra vows to him that she will care for the family she has left―her abuelita, little sister Amelia, and baby brother Luisito―until they can be reunited. They flee north through the unforgiving desert as their town burns, searching for safe harbor in a world that offers none.

Each night when Petra closes her eyes, she holds her dreams close, especially her long-held desire to learn to read. Abuelita calls these barefoot dreams: "They're like us barefoot peasants and indios―they're not meant to go far." But Petra refuses to listen. Through battlefields and deserts, hunger and fear, Petra will stop at nothing to keep her family safe and lead them to a better life across the U.S. border―a life where her barefoot dreams could finally become reality.

 Follower News

I have Follower News to share. Jemi Fraser recently released Reaching for Family: A Bloo Moose Romance. Here’s a blurb: One whose family didn't want him. One who wishes she'd been so lucky. When family isn't safe, you need to make your own. And here’s a few links: Website Amazon Apple B&N 

Denise Covey also has a new paranormal romance, Betrayed, that recently released. Here’s a blurb: Vampires have killed Vipunin’s family, now they’re coming for him!

And so the saga of Duke Vipunin de Castellina begins!Betrayed, first in my series of Renaissance Paranormal Romance, follows the adventures of Duke Vipunin de Castellina. Come with me on a glittering trip through Renaissance Florence, to Castellina in Tuscany where the action begins and never lets up. And here’s a few links: Amazon US Amazon UK Amazon CA Amazon AU WriterBlog 

Interview With Alda Dobbs

Hi Alda! Thanks so much for joining us.

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

Thank you, Natalie! I’ve gained so much knowledge from reading Literary Rambles – from book reviews and author interviews – and now it’s truly an honor to be interviewed by you. As a child, I grew up listening to family stories and enjoyed every minute of it. The idea of becoming a writer had crossed my mind but learning English as a second language proved to be difficult. My frustration with it turned me into a reluctant reader but I still had a passion for storytelling. I started college and was crushed when I was placed in remedial English. I signed up for courses like Latin and German, which vastly helped improve my English. My confidence in the language, though, took longer to acquire. However, despite pursuing a career in physics and engineering, my urge for storytelling lived strong in me. In 2010, I moved to Italy and being surrounded by so much inspiration, I found the courage to finally pursue my dream of writing.

2. I’m glad you found your courage. From everything else you’ve accomplished too, it sounds like you can be successful at anything you tackle. Where did you get the idea for Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna?

Growing up I loved listening to stories about my great-grandmother’s experiences during the Mexican Revolution. My family told of extraordinary events and unbelievable trials she endured as a child. One story, in particular, intrigued me. It was of my great-grandmother and her family anxiously waiting for the US border to open along with hundreds of other people so that they could cross into safety. I had a hard time believing there were “hundreds of people” trying to cross as the Federales chased them and I thought maybe it was an exaggeration. I started doing research and when I found a newspaper article that described the scene much as my family had described it, I knew I had to tell this story.

3. That’s awesome that your idea came from your family’s experiences coming to this country. What research did you do into the Mexican Revolution and the journey Petra and her family took as they struggled to reach the United States? 

I embarked on a long research journey, reading nearly every book, both in English and Spanish, on the Mexican Revolution but found nothing that depicted my great-grandmother’s story. After months of reading and almost giving up, a wonderful librarian (Mr. Tim Blevins at Pikes Peak Library System) introduced me to a portal that included all the newspapers printed in Texas during that era. Not having an exact date of the event, I searched through old newspapers and after six or seven months, I found an article that depicted the event exactly as my great-grandmother had recounted it. I also used Sanborn maps and non-fiction books written by journalist during the Mexican Revolution or that interviewed people from that had survived the conflict.

4. Your book was one that I didn’t want to put down, and I read reviews that said the same thing. What was your plotting process like to make it a page turner? What tips do you have for other writers?

I’m truly flattered by your words! I read a ton of books that taught the plotting process. I also read many wonderful children’s novels that had executed plot beautifully and I tried to learn from their techniques. In terms of tips, these are five essential things that helped me as a writer: 

1. Find a trusted reader who enjoys books and stories as much as you do. 

2. Submit your work for professional critiques at conferences (these were a beacon of light at the start of my writing journey). 

3. Seek a mentor. There are many wonderful mentorship programs out there. Some are free, some are not, but they all do wonders when you pair up with a professional.

4. Write and submit to magazines. This helps your writing skills, lets you gain industry knowledge, and the confidence boost is tremendous. 

5. Read other books (lots and lots of books) and learn how they did it.  

5. Those are all great tips. Petra is such a strong 12-year old and was the leader in her family’s quest. Did you draw on any family member’s character and experiences in developing her as a character? What are some of your favorite things about her?

I wanted to create a strong female character and to do so, I drew a lot from the strength and experiences both my grandmother and great-grandmother endured in their youth. Both lived in harsh poverty and had to work since the age of three to help feed the family. They lived in huts with dirt floors and in a country where only 1% of the population owned land and 80% was illiterate. Shoes and school – things we take for granted – were a luxury and out of reach for them. My grandmother became the first in her family to learn to read, and she figured it out on her own around age twelve. Petra Luna’s strength resembles the strength these two women needed to survive and confront a world full of adversities and prejudices. They both took action to improve their lives and those of future generations. What I admire the most in Petra and in the women in my family are their resilience and wits. 

6. It’s amazing how strong your grandmother and great-grandmother were. My mother-in-law went through a lot of hard challenges too. Ammi-Joan Paquette is your agent. She sounds like a fantastic agent but is not very open to queries. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like? 

Joan is a wonderful agent! I’m fortunate to be represented by her. About six years ago, I began researching agents by reading interviews on blogs or articles about their wishlist or on craft. The ones I liked, or thought could be a match, I made it a point to track them down online (not stalking, just tracking, ha!) to find out their next conferences, workshops, or appearances. Once I met them, I got a better feel about the possibility of a match. I met Joan (Erin Murphy Literary Agency) during a small writer’s conference in Maine back in 2016. She read my book’s first chapter and asked me to submit whenever I felt ready. We kept in touch and I’m glad we did because it took another three years before I submitted to her. She signed me up within a month and after a quick round of revisions, my manuscript went on submission right as COVID19 surged in New York City. It was a scary, difficult time but Joan did a great job, and we sold the book in our first round! 

7. I noticed on your website that you’ve scheduled a number of appearances at webinars, book fests, and camps. Share how you arranged to be a speaker or on a panel at these events. 

I’ve been very lucky to have been invited to a number of events, especially while being a debut author. Again, research, research, research. As soon as I signed the book contract, I looked up events I could appear on and added them to a spreadsheet. I also invited a small group of fellow authors to join me in forming a potential panel and when events requested a panel proposal – boom! – I had one ready. I’ve also been very fortunate to have the incredible teams at Sourcebooks pitch my book to many of the events I’ve attended. It’s a combination of research, luck, and a lot of teamwork. 

8. That’s great to have a panel of authors and a proposal ready for conference opportunities. You have a quarterly newsletter that you started this year, which I really enjoy reading. What have you been doing to get writers and readers to sign up for it? Do you believe it is an important tool for an author to stay connected with their follower?

Thank you, Natalie! You’ve made my day. I’m still experimenting on getting readers to sign up. I have a “Subscribe” button on my website and recently added a pop-up window that asks visitors if they’d like to sign up for the newsletter. Also, while hosting an in-person book fair this past spring, I taped a newsletter sign-up sheet to my table that offered a chance to win a free advanced reader copy. I also mention my newsletter when I talk at events. I’m sure by next year, I’ll have a better idea as to what method works best. I believe newsletters are important because you create a personal following that’s your own. Social media platforms change quickly – remember Tumblr? – and the followers you have there are not permanent. However, email addresses/subscribers are your own and will never change. I like to provide specific content which includes writing/publishing tips, behind the scenes peeks, latest news, and shoutouts to fellow authors. I also ask subscribers for feedback to make my newsletter more helpful to them. 

9. What social media platforms are you on to connect with writers, authors, librarians, teachers, and readers? Why did you pick them and how well do you think you’ve connected with others? 

I’ve never been much of a social media person and before I only used Facebook as a research tool for the craft and for historical research. Upon signing my book contract, though, I set up an author Facebook page where I connected with several people in the industry. I recently opened an Instagram account and have really come to like it. I’m a very visual person and I really enjoy seeing other people’s stories through pictures. I’ve never done twitter and don’t plan to. I’ve heard it’s very fast paced and I can’t see my mind adapting to it. 

10. That’s good that you’re focusing on the social media you like. Most authors and agents advise writers to take your approach. How else are you planning to market your book? 

I plan to connect with teachers, librarians, and indie booksellers through events, magazine articles, and through amazing blogs like yours. I plan to reach out to local media as we approach the launch date. I’ve also printed out bookmarks, postcards, and stickers and had pencils and mugs made with the book cover which I plan to gift to teachers and librarians. I joined Las Musas last year and the collective is incredible at creating buzz and exposure for our books via announcements, podcasts, and a newsletter. I will also work with my publisher to reinforce the connections with indie bookstores and with our pre-launch campaign, which I’m excited to share will consist of a writing journal that contains illustrations and quotes from Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna. I still have lots to learn but I look forward to sharing all that during our next interview J 

11. What are you working on now? 

I’m currently working on Book 2, the follow-up book to Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna! Book 2, still untitled, will follow Petra and her family to a refugee camp in Eagles Pass, Texas and then to San Antonio where 30,000 refugees settled during that time. I’m also working on the Spanish translation of Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna and will soon help record the Author’s Note for the audio book. I’m also kicking the idea of a picture book and a historical YA. Stay tuned! 

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Alda. You can find Alda at: 

Website: www.aldapdobbs.com

Facebook: Alda P. Dobbs

Instagram: @aldapdobbs 

Giveaway Details 

Alda has generously offered a hardback of Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by September 25th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address. 

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The giveaway is U.S. 

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog. 

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways 

Wednesday, September 15th I have an agent spotlight interview with Nicole Eisenbraun and a query critique giveaway 

Thursday, September 16th I'm participating in the Falling Into Leaves Giveaway Hop

Monday, September 20th I have an agent/author guest post with Chloe Seager and  Brianna Bourne and giveaway of Brianna’s YA dystopian You and Me and the End of the World and a query critique by Brianna 

Wednesday, September 22nd I have an agent spotlight interview with Crystal Orazu and a query critique giveaway 

Monday, September 27th I have an interview with debut author Jessica Vitalis and a giveaway of her MG fantasy The Wolf’s Curse 

Tuesday, October 5th I’m participating in the Howloween Giveaway Hop 

Wednesday, October 6th I have an interview with debut author Sacha Wunsch and a giveaway of her YA psychological mystery Lies My Memory Told Me and my IWSG Post 

Monday, October 11th I have an agent spotlight interview with Kristin Ostby and a query critique giveaway 

Hope to see you on Wednesday!








Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Nice tips for writers! Alda's story covers a time I know very little about and it sounds fascinating. Best wishes for the book and for writing book two!

Tonja Drecker said...

I'm going to have to check this one out...I love historical and it sounds amazing. Good luck with the next one, too!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's a great setting for the story, not one we hear often. And looks like you became quite proficient at English!

Stephanie Owen said...

Congratulations on your book, Alda! I would love a copy for our school library!

Chrys Fey said...

I've been reading a lot of books similar to this so I can learn about events that have not been taught to me in American schools. This book is definitely going on my TBR list. Thank you, Natalie, for having Alda on your blog. And thank you, Alda, for writing this story. We need more books like this!

Fundy Blue said...

Wonderful interview, Natalie ~ full of interesting information. Thanks, Alda, for sharing. I would love to receive a copy of this book.

btw, Natalie, I am going to post a review of Cliff Burkes' "An Occasionally Happy Family" on Friday. It is a wonderful MG book, and I'm glad I received a copy from him. I laughed almost all the way through until it took a serious turn for a satisfying, poignant ending. Have a great week!

Carl Scott said...

This story is so close to home for me. Every day we see people of all ages and backgrounds striving for a better future for their families. Everyone should know about the history of immigration and its benefits. Thanks for the chance to win a copy of this important book.
I follow daily by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com, and on twitter: @carlrscott
I've also tweeted: https://twitter.com/carlrscott/status/1437471166722031618, and shared: https://www.pinterest.com.mx/pin/336573772160386126/
Thanks again, have a great day!!

Greg Pattridge said...

I've read some wonderful reviews of Alda's book and your interview has me even more excited to read this one. The MC is appealing as is the setting. Thanks for the giveaway. Happy MMGM.

Danielle H. said...

This book is high on my want to read list especially after reading this inspiring interview. I love that this author pulled from family experiences to write this novel. I follow Natalie on Twitter.

Patricia T. said...

I love good storytelling, especially when it is based on a true story. Have read many books on current border crossings, but nothing about the Mexican Revolution in 1911. Sounds like a gripping read. Enjoyed the interview!

Liz A. said...

That's a great story. And the fact that it's based on your family's experiences. It's funny how a story will be told in a family for generations, thought to be embellished, and then it turns out it really wasn't.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Congratulations to Alda - that sounds like a great read!
Congrats to Jemi and Denise, too!

Kim A. Larson said...

Great interview! Congratulations, Alda! Sounds like a wonderful story. I follow you on Twitter, Natalie, and tweeted this. Thanks!

Gretchen said...

Alda, thank you for sharing your journey. Very ispiring! I can't wait to read Petra's story, too.

nashvillecats2 said...

As always enjoyed the interview, Sorry I'm late in replying but have been busy,
Most enjoyable post Natalie, hope all is well.

Maria Antonia said...

This looks like a good book! Thanks for sharing the interview as well. That's really cool that the author's grandmother taught herself to read!

tetewa said...

Congrats on the release, I'm always looking for new authors to read!

Sandra Cox said...

Congrats to these great authors and their new releases.
Have a special day, Natalie.

Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf said...

What an awesome interview! Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna sounds like a wonderful read, and I've already heard so many good things about it on other blogs. It was wonderful to hear about Alda's journey from physics/engineering into being an author, and I love that she only uses the social media platforms she's comfortable with—I know I'm not a social media person at all, so I can't imagine having to get on Twitter for marketing or something. I'll pass on the giveaway, but thanks so much for the great interview, Natalie!

Denise Covey said...

Hi Natalie. Sorry took me so long to get here, but these days I have trouble remembering what day it is. Lovely of you to give me a spot in your Follower News. Thank you!

Rosi said...

Awww. You know I love historical fiction, and this one sounds so good. I love the kind of research Alda did for this book. It sounds terrific. I was not going to get into drawings for any more books because I am BURIED, but I can't resist, so please throw my name in the jar. Thanks for an interesting post.

Annmarie Weeks said...

Got my fingers crossed! Amweeksoc at comcast dot net

Annmarie Weeks said...

I tweeted! https://twitter.com/amweeks00/status/1439696781504303106?s=21

Nancy P said...

Sounds like a fantastic book. Following. positive.ideas.4youATgmail.com