A couple of months (yes, months) ago I reached out to author Alexandra Diaz for an interview. We immediately connected, we did the interview and I let it sit in my inbox. And sit. And sit. I could say I’ve been busy (because I have been!) and I could say I simply forgot to post it (which I did) but those lame excuses pale in comparison to the guilt I feel for not posting this sooner.
Alexandra is an award winning author. Her books include When We Were (Paper Lantern Lit) (previously published as Of All the Stupid Things), Good Girls Don’t Lie (Leap) and two books in the Roller Girls series: Falling Hard and In a Jam (Capstone).
Hello! How about starting with what you’re currently reading?
I just finished the audiobook of Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. As a die-hard Harry Potter fan, how did I go so long without picking it up?!
Do you have favorite authors?
I love Stephanie Perkins, Mildred D. Taylor, and of course J.K. Rowling (but only the Harry Potter series. Her adult books are weird)
What’s the very first thing that you wrote?
The first story I published was about Martha, the last passenger pigeon and it was published by a small kids’ nature magazine called Otterwise. I also pretended to be older than I was in the submission, thinking that was somehow cooler than admitting my real age.
How have you as a writer and ostensibly your writing change over time?
When I was younger my writing was influenced by the books I was reading which I realize now weren’t particularly well written (though enjoyable at the time!) and therefore, my writing wasn’t that great. My stories were also related to things I wanted to happen to me so I made up characters who were essentially me with different looks and had them live out my dreams. There will always be a part of me in every character I write, but hopefully they are their own people now and their story arcs are more interesting and better written.
You released two books last year! Did you plan for it to happen like that?
Not at all! Good Girls Don’t Lie (Leap Books) was written before The Only Road (Simon and Schuster) but it took a long time to find a publisher. When it turned out that they would be released in the same year and around the same time, I thought that was cool. It also helped in terms of promotion because it was easier to promote two books at once than each book at a different time.
The Only Road is a 2017 Pura Belpré honor book. Congratulations!! What was winning like for you? Did you feel a shift in you career?
It is great and amazing and thrilling and wonderful and a lot more adjectives that are coming to mind. I’m so pleased! Yes, it has made a difference in my career, which is fantastic because this is the career I’ve always wanted. People suddenly became aware of its existence and are contacting me about school/library visits (which I love) and other opportunities I didn’t know were possible. It has also prompted a sequel which I wanted to write even as I was writing the first one.
How did you select Guatemala as the setting?
It was my editor who picked Guatemala due to all the unaccompanied kids traveling from Central America. Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras are being overrun by gangs who are forcing children to join them or be killed. Of those countries, Guatemala is that little bit closer to El Norte and seemed like the journey would be “easier” with less borders to cross.
If you could have a package with a copy of Good Girls Don’t Lie and The Open Road delivered to three people of your choosing, who would it be?
Both of those books are topical and controversial. Certain people who would be most influenced by reading them would never read them or are so hung up on their personal egos/opinions they wouldn’t allow themselves to be influenced if they were to read them. So yes, I would love to send the books to certain politicians, but as another anti-immigration law passes and women’s rights continue to retreat, I’d be thinking about the poor trees that gave up their lives to be books that were thrown away without ever being opened by those who don’t read.
You’ve lived in many different places and love to travel so I have to wonder how many languages you speak. How does speaking other languages, traveling to other countries and exploring other cultures affect a person’s writing?
I have lived in various part of the US and Europe and I do love traveling and exploring new places. I’m interested in people and culture which contributes or explains my love of character and character development when I write. It’s not just language or phrases but behavior and mannerisms are very different as well—for instance the use and commonality in everyday conversation of using “please” varies from languages and countries.
Visit Alexandra’s website for more information https://alexandra-diaz.com/