Earlier this summer, I interviewed Caridad Ferrer about her novela fabulosa, Adios to My Old Life. She was kind enough to do another interview for the MTV Books roundup. We talked about music, writing and reading.
How long did it take you to write the actual book?
I'm probably going to get killed for this but I wrote the initial proposal (the first couple of a chapters and the synopsis) over the course of a day or so. Afterwards, the bulk of the manuscript was written in about seven weeks.
Was your book written before or after you landed the book deal? Did you or your agent approach MTV Books or vice versa?
This is one of my favorite stories of all time -- Early last summer, my agent had just begun submitting one of my women's fiction manuscripts and while I was working on another, I think I was still a little too twitchy for her taste, so she said to me, "Listen, I have an editor who's looking for a Latina-flavored YA. Do you have any ideas?" To which I responded, "I might." So I sat down, pounded out the first couple of chapters and a basic storyline and sent it to her. She asked me for a synopsis and she submitted them to MTV Books. A few weeks later, we had the offer. So, short answer is, no, the book wasn't written and thank goodness my agent is so alert and keeps an eye on who wants what. :-)
Why write for teens? Did you write your book specifically for the teen fiction shelves?
I honestly never envisioned myself writing for teens, intially although my dear friend and fellow author, Alesia Holliday, had been encouraging me to try for some time. So when my agent suggested I give it a go, it wasn't the first time I'd heard the suggestion. Now that I'm doing it, I really am enjoying it. I'm able to revisit those days in a far less painful fashion (and WITH far less painful fashions, if you catch my drift!) And the thing I've discovered that I genuinely enjoy about writing these books, is that it's not really a whole lot different from writing for adults. I just remember how much I hated being "talked down to" in books at that age and try to keep that in mind. Given that this book was written for MTV Books, then yes, it was written for the teen fiction shelves.
What age range or grade levels do you feel your book is suitable for - or not?
Jeez-- in a way this is the hardest sort of question. Especially since I was "That kid." You know, the one who was reading Judy Blume's "Forever" in sixth grade. (And having it taken away...) I think though, I could safely say that Adios is a good read for any age from about 14 on up. I'm also very proud to say that every adult who's read it has enjoyed it as well, which is particularly gratifying to me-- writing a book that appeals across a broad spectrum.
What inspired the title of your book?
The title was a collaborative process-- I really wanted something that had (again) some musical significance. At the time we were wresting with title suggestions, I had been listening to Dar Williams' "Beauty of the Rain" CD (great CD, btw) and one of the songs on there is called "Farewell to the Old Me" and I thought-- wow, I really like that-- it really captures the transformation Ali undergoes throughout the course of the story. And since my publisher really wanted a title with a Spanish word in it to convey the setting/culture right off the bat and since "farewell" could easily be translated to "adios" which is such a universally recognized word anyway, I suggested "Adios to the Old Me" which got changed slightly to "Adios to My Old Life" and which I absolutely adore.
Do you (or did you) watch MTV?
See -- now I'm going to sound OLD, but I used to watch MTV when they actually showed videos during the day and not endless reruns of RoadRules/Real World/MudWrestling X-travagazas. Now I just watch VH-1 and VH-1 Classic. But I will shamelessly say I love videos. I'm just like Jennifer Garner's character in "13 Going on 30" who knew the "Thriller" dance and I used to laugh at Tawny Kitaen writhing on top of cars. More recently, I've adored the videos Outkast and The Black-Eyed Peas have done and of course, the one I reference in Adios -- "La Tortura." I'll take a side of Alejandro Sanz, thanks. :-)
Who are your favorite authors?
Girl, how much time do you have? Wow, I'll try to keep this reasonable. Growing up, Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary were absolute staples. (Still are, actually). Diana Gabaldon, Anne Rivers Siddons, Barbara Samuel, Jennifer Crusie, Lisa Jewell, John Jakes, Anton Myrer, & David Sedaris. And in terms of screenwriting, I bow at the altar of Richard Curtis (Four Weddings & a Funeral; Love Actually).
Your book has, of course, a great deal to do with music and reality television. List some favorite musicians, songs, actors, or TV shows. (Rob Thomas, perhaps?)
*snicker* Okay, okay, I gushed a little, didn't I? *g* Keeping in mind I ALWAYS forget someone, because there are so many... Yes, Rob, Sting, of course, Chris Botti, Sarah McLachlan, Paul Simon, Raul Malo, Chick Corea, Shakira, Stephen Sondheim, Antigone Rising (who totally kick, y'all), and KT Tunstall. Jason Mraz is a remarkable wordsmith and storyteller within the context of song and I absolutely adore him for that -- it's one of the reasons he got big mention in the book as well.
In terms of songs, I have been so severely earwormed lately with Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" it's not even funny. I also absolutely adore a song off Teddy Geiger's debut CD called, "Look Where We Are Now." Oh -- and even though I've only heard a snippet of it, Josh Groban has recorded a song called "Weeping" with Ladysmith Black Mambazo that sounds as if it's going to be absolutely remarkable. Just the thirty seconds or so I heard had me all goosebumpy. I can't wait to hear the whole thing.
Actors that I love -- hm, well, I've always had a thing for Rob Morrow (hence my addiction to NUMB3RS) and I've loved Hugh Laurie for years. And Kenneth Branagh could read the phone book to me, thanks, and I'd be happy. Meryl Streep, Olympia Dukakis, and Shirley MacLaine are acting goddesses and if I were ever in their presence, I might be reduced to a babbling puddle of goo.
Would you ever write a sequel?
Ooh, I love that you asked this. I've been asked if I'd ever write Sosi's story and I might have one for her some day, but really, the story I would love to write, would be a sequel to Adios that would actually be more a women's fiction story, picking up with Ali ten years later. As a reader, there were always stories, (Like "Forever" for example) that I desperately wanted to know what happened to those characters several years down the line. I know there are a lot of readers who are content to leave the characters where they are -- I don't tend to be one of them. *g*
For more information about her books for teens, visit caridadferrer.com
To check out her books for adults, visit barbaraferrer.com