Monday, November 5, 2018

Blog Tour Author Interview: Lucia DiStefano


This week I have the honor of conducting my first official Blog Tour Author Interview. I definitely was excited to have the opportunity to pose questions of interest to my audience of students and teachers, as Lucia has a background (like me) as a former high school English teacher. Special thanks to Lucia and Elephant Rock Books for including me in the Blog Tour for Borrowed! Without further ado...



Meet the Author

A former high school English teacher, Lucia DiStefano currently works as an editor, ghostwriter, and writing coach. First-generation Sicilian-American and daughter of an olive farmer, she admits to having recurring pasta dreams. Hailing from central Connecticut, Lucia lives near Austin, Texas with her husband and an old bloodhound named Waffle.


Interview

1. You have 15 seconds to pitch Borrowed; what description do you give to your potential reader?


The lives of a girl with a broken heart and a girl with a "borrowed" heart collide, and each girl needs to rely on the other for survival.

(Oops, that might’ve been 18 seconds…)


2. The baked goods Linnea concocts sound delectable. Are you also a baker, or is there an actual bakery that inspired these?

I am an amateur baker at best (and some of my stuff may taste good, but it doesn’t look pretty, like Linnea’s creations). I enjoy baking (but sadly, do not enjoy savory cooking; I say “sadly,” because cooking is much more practical). My baking hobby was curtailed after my husband found out he is gluten-intolerant. (He’d been my most enthusiastic audience.) Gluten-free baking is quite tricky!


3. Borrowed has distinct parts. How did you organize your ideas, and in what order did you write?


My wonderful editor at Elephant Rock Books, Jotham Burrello, recognized the distinct parts within the storyline, and he helped me make those parts even more distinct and work toward the three-part structure. In early drafts of the book (and there have been so many drafts; I lost count long ago!), I doubt there was much you could attribute to organization. Early on, I was just exploring the characters and making a mess of structure while I did so. (I held onto the adage that “you have to make a mess of the kitchen if you want to make a great meal.”)


4. Without giving anything away, what was the most difficult aspect of writing Borrowed?


Great question. Most definitely the moment for Harper (by way of Linnea) when she knows she has to make a sacrifice that she doesn’t think she can make. The dread, the fear, the resignation, and the sheer stubborn drive to survive (and to be sure she protects her sister) were hard to write because I was forced to imagine myself in that same scenario.


5. In the author interview at the end of Borrowed, you say, “I’ve always been drawn to books...that push me to the edges of my emotional limits.” What are some examples of young adult books that push you to the edges of your emotional limits?

Before I Die by Jenny Downham, Cut by Patricia McCormick, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Stolen by Lucy Christopher, and Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott.


6. You mention being “so profoundly moved by the novels [you] read as a teen that did a good job of depicting grief and loss.” What are some of the novels that brought you comfort?

A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Watership Down by Richard Adams, A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck, and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (not because of a treatment of grief, but because it helped me so completely escape my reality).


7. If you could tell a minor character’s story, who would you choose, and why?


Leo, definitely Leo! Sometimes I’m quite surprised at what comes out of his mouth, so I think it would be fun to follow him along a new journey. Plus I love to see people getting second and third chances, and making something of them, as Leo has.


8. What advice would you give an aspiring editor?

Embrace balance. For instance, be proud of your love of detail, but don’t feel the need to edit correspondence from friends in your head (or, my own faux pas: hitting the pause button one too many times during a movie with subtitles to point out errors. Ha.). And along the lines of balance: when working as a developmental editor, it’s important to balance the client’s vision for the book with your own. After all, the work belongs to the client, so you don’t want to convince them to run with your ideas if they don’t resonate with the author.


9. What are your favorite classic and contemporary books for high school students? Why?


Classic: 

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier. I love stories about secret societies in strict schools (I went to a Catholic school for elementary and middle school, though we didn’t have any clandestine groups, or, if we did, no one told me). And my unofficial research tells me that this was the first YA to explore this. Plus I love the protagonist, would follow him anywhere.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I’ve heard it said that this is the first true YA novel. Whether or not that’s the case, I loved it, loved the story of familial loyalty and survival. (And what’s there not to love in a book starring characters named Ponyboy and Sodapop?) So when I was teaching high school, and S.E. Hinton was speaking at a local library, I arranged a field trip for my students to hear her speak (even though the school board hadn’t let me teach the novel). The students had come up with some questions for her ahead of time, and one young man said he was going to ask how much she earned, and I gently but firmly told him that wasn’t an appropriate question. He seemed to understand. And when the time came, he asked it anyway. S.E. Hinton just laughed and told him he could interpret that laugh as he wished.

Contemporary: 

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. Ah, for the “why” for this one, it’s hard to even know where to begin—this book is that good. Style, content, structure: it’s all so compelling, powerful, unforgettable. As close to perfect as something human-made can be.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. I think she’s a master of world-building. Rich, vivid details; a brisk, twisty plot; and a swoony, complicated love story.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman. I am a huge fan of Shusterman’s work, across the board (including and especially his middle grade novels, with an extra hug to The Schwa Was Here). The reason Scythe is on my list of faves is because it hits all the notes for me: appealing prose, characters I have no choice but to root for, a fantastical premise that somehow isn’t all that far removed from reality (which means there’s a chilling element to it)—and there are even philosophical discourses about mortality. Brain food all the way around.


10. I, too, am a former English teacher and work in a high school library. What advice can you give to the teachers caught between teaching approved curricular texts and instilling a love of reading in their students?


That’s a tricky space—at least it was in the ’90s when I was teaching (I hope it’s gotten easier to navigate for many teachers). It’s tough to assure recalcitrant readers that there are books out there written with them in mind if you aren’t permitted to put those books in their hands. Required books may not be all that contemporary, and therefore may not feel relevant to the students; in that case, I think it’s important to focus on something within the work that can launch of-the-moment discussions, can help students recognize the universal human underpinnings of story and thereby “modernize” the classics for themselves. Projects calling upon various ways of relating can help readers feel more invested (sometimes group projects can help). When students who may not naturally reach for books see that reading isn’t a thing to be crossed off a list on the way to a diploma, everyone wins.


DiStefano, Lucia. Borrowed. Elephant Rock Books, 2018. 978-1-732-41410-5. 264 p. $14.00. Gr. 10 and up.



From the Publisher: 

Love, mystery, and danger collide in this new literary thriller with the dark heart of a Gillian Flynn novel and the lyrical prose of Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun.

A triumph of authenticity, grace, and nail-biting suspense, Lucia DiStefano’s ingenious debut is an unflinching, genre-bending page-turner.


As seventeen-year-old Linnea celebrates the first anniversary of her heart transplant, she can’t escape the feeling that the wires have been crossed. After a series of unsettling dreams, inked messages mysteriously appear on her body, and she starts to wonder if this new heart belongs to her at all.


In another Austin neighborhood, Maxine braces for a heartbreaking anniversary: her sister Harper’s death. Between raising her brothers and parenting her grief-stricken mother, Max is unable to ignore her guilty crush on Harper’s old flame or shake her lingering suspicion that her sister’s drowning wasn’t really an accident. With Harper as the sole connection, Linnea and Maxine are soon brought together in fantastic and terrifying ways as the shocking truth behind Harper’s death comes to light.


My Review: 


     


I received an eARC of this book from Elephant Rock Books in exchange for an honest review. 

Meet Linnea, almost 18 and not quite at the momentous one year post transplant mark. A budding pastry chef in Austin, Texas, Linnea fears she's on borrowed time. An increasing number of dreams and unusual cravings for things she's never liked make her question if this heart is really hers to keep. 


Across town Maxine is living in a fog of grief. Devastated by the sudden death of her sister Harper, yet unable to focus on her own grief, Maxine is the only thread keeping her family afloat. While her mother is drowning in grief, Max tries to focus on caring for her younger brothers Will and Race. Max has her own feelings to deal with too; even with help from her best friend Shelby and Harper's boyfriend Ezra, Max is barely getting by. 


Harper's death gave Linnea a chance to live, but as the line between dream and reality blurs, Linnea is drawn towards what would have been Harper's life. Is becoming Harper even possible? One desperate to save herself, and one struggling to understand what happened to her sister, Linnea's and Maxine's worlds will collide, taking readers on an unforgettable journey into the unknown. 


THOUGHTS: Honored to be selected for the blog tour, I was excited to read Borrowed because my students are always asking for mysteries. What begins as a seemingly innocent story about grief and life abruptly transitions into so much more. DiStefano's multiple, well-developed narrators vie for attention in this fast-paced, genre-blending thriller. Buckle up because this book will take readers on a wild and unpredictable ride. 


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Book Depository | Publisher

Check out more Blog Tour details below!  

Full Blog Tour Schedule: 
August 1: Cover reveal at YA Interrobang
September 4: Review at Alice Reeds
September 10: Author interview at Alice Reeds
September 24: Cover reveal at BubblersRead
October 8: Review at Liz Loves Books
October 9-15: Giveaway at Miss Print
October 15: Review at BubblersRead
October 17: Guest post at Liz Loves Books
October 22: Excerpt at YA Interrobang
October 25: Author interview at YA Outside the Lines
October 31: Author interview at Katya de Becerra: The Last Day of Normal
November 1: Giveaway and guest post at Carina's Books
November 5: Author interview at BubblersRead
November 12: Author guest post at BubblersRead
Week of November 12: Author interview at Cynsations
November 20: Author interview at The Story Sanctuary

And more to come, including an a podcast special at The Writing Barn and an event with book blogger, reviewer, and YouTuber BookRatMisty


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