I was very lucky to have been referred by one…
I posted a Guess Who yesterday and today is the day we discover who I interviewed!
Who was the middle grade author who loves baking sourdough bread and has 25 rescue cats and 3 rescue dogs?
DRUM ROLL PLEASE!
Let’s get to know Tanya a little more.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I’m extremely fortunate to have some amazing authors in both my debut groups, The Roaring 20’s Debuts and The Class of 2K20 Books. These groups have offered me so much support and camaraderie. Early on, a few of us MG-ers started a smaller private group, where we bounce book ideas off each other, share our publishing experiences, and joke around about the wild publishing ride we’re on. Being that I’m based overseas, it’s been amazing to have these author friends, otherwise I’d feel like a one woman/author island. Definitely give them a follow, and add up their books to your TBRs! Shannon Doleski, MARY UNDERWATER, Lorien Lawrence, THE STITCHERS: Book One of The Fright Watch Series, and Janae Marks, FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
I actually think that a lot of MG books don’t get the hype they deserve. The reason for this, I believe, is that most books are categorized as mid-listers, which means they don’t get as much of a publicity push ($$$) as lead titles. Here’s a couple of books that I loved, and deserve to be read more widely.
How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
Great question! I firmly believe that MG readers are ready for stories that will provoke critical thinking. They are mature and smart enough, NOT to have everything spelled out for them. Particularly when it comes to a main character’s emotions—which should be poured out on the page without judgement. It should be up to the reader to glean their opinions from the material provided without being told. Additionally, MG-aged readers are sophisticated enough to read about cultures outside of their own, including dialogue in foreign languages, without having everything translated or explained. In the case of my debut, I made sure to include a glossary of Tagalog words and terms at the back, but didn’t necessarily feel the need to leave too many contextual clues in the story itself. As far as taking care of the reader, I think what matters most is making sure the story is satisfying in some way—this doesn’t necessarily mean it has to have a happy ending, but there should be a complete story arc for the protagonist, one which leads to some semblance of hope for his/her/their future.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot or avatar?
Definitely a passport! I traveled a lot as a kid/teen/young adult, so I want to show readers that there is a world that may be different, or not so different from their own, outside the US. That’s not to say that I’ll never write a story based in the US. In fact I’m planning one that will take place in New York—more specifically, the area called Little Manila in Woodside, Queens.
About Your Books
Tell us about your travels growing up and how that inspired your new book, How To Make Friends With the Sea.
Travel has always been a huge part of my life. I have no real memory of it, but I got my first passport when I was only a few months old. And when I was quite young, my older sister and me would often travel solo from the Philippines to Spain to visit family. When my parents separated, I went to live with my grandparents in Barcelona for a couple of years, and even though I’d been to Spain on vacations, living there full-time was a pretty big adjustment. I wasn’t fluent in Spanish, and the lifestyle was so different to what I was used to. And just when we were settling into our lives there, we moved to New York City to live with my mom. That was an even bigger adjustment. I knew nothing about American life and culture other than the TV shows I’d seen, and for the longest while, I felt like an awkward immigrant kid who didn’t quite fit in. Between the ages of 12-18, I went back and forth, between Manila and New York City, with vacation travel to parts of Asia, Europe, Africa and Australia mixed in. Although there were a lot of pluses to this kind of childhood, the one real negative aspect for me was anxiety. I worried a lot about family situations beyond my control, about making friends, about being the best student I could be so I could please my teachers, about the clothes I wore, about how organized and structured my day was, so on and so forth. So that’s basically what inspired my story and my main character, Pablo. There’s a lot of me in his emotions, and I hope that it reads authentically, and that his story will somehow help other kids that might be going through something similar in their lives, whether it’s moving around a lot, parents divorcing, struggling to make friends, or anxiety.
Tell us about your book-length of time it took to write, journey, publishing, release dates, etc.
HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA was the third book I wrote, my first two were YA books that went on sub with a couple of close calls, but ultimately ended up being shelved. I had gotten feedback from one editor that my voice seemed quite young—more juvenile than the YA market. So I decided to give MG a chance; in a way moving to a different age group kind of refreshed my creative juices. I wrote the draft fairly quickly, in about three to four months. And when my agent read it, she really felt it was polished enough for submissions, (I edit heavily when I draft). Because of that, I didn’t do much in the form of revising before we went on subs. It initially went out to six editors and after six weeks it went out to two more. One of those editors loved it, and requested a call with me to discuss a revise and resubmit she wanted to suggest. I loved her ideas, so I rolled my sleeves up and revised the first 50 pages. About three months into subs, my agent got the call that they loved my revision and that acquisitions was on board with an offer. That happened about 20 months ago, and in less than 6 months, HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SEA will be out in the world, on March 31, 2020.
Favorite line or quote from one of your books.
I have two favorite excerpts that have pretty much stayed the same from draft to its final version:
“I was tired of trying to please my father. I was tired of moving around so much. I was tired of having no real friends. I was tired of all my fears and worries. I was tired of being abnormal.
And most of all, I was tired of being me.
Twelve years seemed like an awfully short time to be alive and still be so exhausted.”
“We left the adults behind and stood on the curb, waiting for the tricycles to pass by. Finally, the road cleared. A gust of wind blew above us, shaking the narra trees. Hundreds, maybe thousands, maybe even millions of tiny yellow flowers showered down. It was as if particles of light were falling straight from the sun.”
Thank you Tanya for this insightful interview. I feel like I know you so much and I cannot wait to read your new book coming out early next year! You have had an amazing life so far and are so full of wisdom that I know you will continue to do really awesome things.
Also, don’t forget to preorder her debut before March 31, 2020!