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Author Q&A with Allison Garcia: ‘It takes power and courage to stand up and fight’

Today we have a special guest — fellow Virginia author and friend Allison Garcia, in the first of what I hope will be many author Q&As, from time to time, at this blog.

Allison K. Garcia

So tell us about yourself and your writing. What type of writing do you do?

I write Christian fiction. Inside this genre I’ve experimented with a variety of subgenres, including speculative, mystery/thriller, children’s fantasy, and Latino. I really feel called to write Latino Christian fiction, and my book, Vivir el Dream, will be coming out on Amazon mid-May. My other favorite is my children’s fantasy series, called Prince Miguel and His Journey Home.

When did your passion for writing begin?

I can’t remember not wanting to be a writer. My first book, “My Future Car,” I wrote in 2nd or 3rd grade and included some pretty awesome pictures that still might be my current drawing level. It was revolutionary in its ideas about televisions and refrigerators in cars. Though the swimming pool car hasn’t made it to market yet, I think Honda might have stolen some of my ideas. ūüėČ

You have a new book coming out. What’s it about?

Vivir el Dream is about an undocumented college student and her mother, trying to make their way in the world. It’s about their old and new struggles, the faith that keeps them going, and, of course, there’s a bit of romance thrown in for good measure.

The subject matter is incredibly current to what Americans are (and have been) dealing with. Was it difficult to approach the subject of undocumented immigrants?

Not really. I really feel like God was calling me to write this book by putting people in my path who have been through similar situations that my main characters experienced. As my job as a counselor, I have heard some pretty rough stories on why people take the risk to cross the border undocumented, the traumas they’ve experienced in their countries of origin, their hopes for their children. I have also been to several Virginia Organizing events, including rallies for The Dream Act. The power and courage it takes to stand up and fight for justice is overwhelmingly inspiring. We have also had several people in my church get deported, so I’ve seen first-hand how it breaks up a family and how unwavering faith has allowed them to trust in God’s plan in the midst of chaos. That’s what impacted me the most.

What do you hope readers will take from Vivir el Dream?

I hope my book gets people wrapped up in the beauty of Mexican culture. I hope it helps people understand why people come here undocumented and why things need to change. I hope other Latinos find their voice in this book and see their people represented as strong, loving, faithful, invaluable members of American communities. And I hope it shows how trusting in God and holding onto your faith can get you through some horrible circumstances.

Though your book is in English, you also weave the Spanish language into dialogue and chapter titles. Could you tell us about that process?

I wanted to make it authentic. I’m bilingual so it came naturally. I have loads of Latino friends, plus my husband is Mexican, so I especially know a lot about Mexican culture. I wanted the dialogue to represent how intergenerational Latino families interact. Juanita, the mother, came as an older teenager but never went to school, so Spanish was her primary language, and I wanted it to be represented accurately. Linda, the college student, is bilingual but there would be times she would need to say things in Spanish so her mom would understand. The chapter titles are all Mexican songs or movies or phrases used in Latino communities. In the end, my editor advised me that the Spanish was too advanced for non-Spanish speaking audiences, so I’m adding in footnotes for my English-speaking peeps. It wasn’t until I started using footnotes that I noticed how much Spanish was in the book. 400 footnotes and counting!

You’ve written other books, too?

Oh my, yes. Many. In terms of readable ones, I’ve got 4 adult books and 6 books in a children’s fantasy series.

Prince Miguel is a children’s fantasy series that was inspired by a real life event, right?

Yes, it was based on events after my son’s birth. In the hospital, I started writing a story and things just progressed from there.

What was it like writing a baby (your son!) as a hero of his own book series?

Weird, at first, because babies can’t do much, and I wasn’t sure how to represent how strong he must be and the journey he had to go through. In the end, my friend, Josette (wink, wink!) helped me decide to use a spirit animal to show the journey. So when Prince Miguel awakens for his journey, he is a turtle.

How’s the series coming along? Do you have more books planned?

I have 6 out of 8 books written. The first book is close to being finished while the others are still in early editing mode. I plan to finish the last two during NaNoWriMo this year.

Many of your books were started during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) — for which you volunteer as a Municipal Liaison. (As do I.) Would you share a little about your experience with NaNoWriMo?

Oh, man. I love it!  Previously it would take me years to write a book and I would be editing it the whole time and I was like a lone wolf. Then, I found NaNo and realized I wasn’t alone; there was an entire community of writers to help me through my writing journey. Plus I wrote a book in a month, so that’s pretty boss!

Have you noticed a difference between writing a novel during NaNoWriMo and writing during other months?

Haha, ever since I started NaNo I’ve only written during NaNo. The rest of the year is spent editing that book usually.

What’s next? Publication? More projects in the future?

Vivir el Dream is coming out mid-May. I have another Latino book, Finding Amor, that needs to be edited, plus the Prince Miguel books are nearly ready as well. So many choices! I’m also planning to translate Vivir El Dream into Spanish.

Which other authors do you like to read?

I love Barbara Kingsolver. I love classics like Jane Eyre, And Then There Were None, and Heart of Darkness. I love Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. I’m a sucker for diverse fiction, so I love Como Agua Para Chocolate and The Joy Luck Club and Beloved. So pretty much I’m all over the map.

How can people find out more about your writing?

I have a Facebook author page  (https://www.facebook.com/allisonkgarciaauthor/) where I announce my books that are coming out. You can also check out my blog (http://allisonkgarcia.wordpress.com), find me on twitter (@ATheWriter), or look out for Vivir el Dream on Amazon mid-May!

Allison K. Garc√≠a is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a passion for writing. Latina at heart, Allison has absorbed the love and culture of her friends, family, and hermanos en Cristo and has used her experiences to cast a glimpse into the journey of undocumented Christians.

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Wyoming in my mind

My husband and I are down to one working laptop and one semi-but-not-really-working desktop.

This generally doesn’t pose too many problems for us.¬† After all, we both have Droid Razrs.¬† But smartphones aren’t the best for writing novels, or for downloading 20th Century retro video games.

So Monday night when I wanted to work on my book and Ryan wanted to play Unreal Tournament, we had to pull out the ole marriage handbook and strike a compromise: I’d get the laptop until 8:30, and then I’d go watch Biggest Loser.

Normally it doesn’t take much to get to me crash on the couch downstairs in front of the TV for several hours.¬† On one hand there’s washing dishes or putting away laundry…on the other there’s my¬†stockpile of Big Bang Theory episodes, followed by¬†Once Upon a Time, Elementary, and SVU.¬† I know, right?¬† Why am I always the one taking one for the team?

But Monday night was different.¬† For one thing, I’d already watched all of those shows over the weekend (the ones that didn’t have a bye week, that is); for another, I couldn’t get my novel out of my head.¬† I might have been listening to Jillian Michaels lament the probability of going home early after the likely demise of¬†her White Team, now down to one contestant, but really I was talking with Darby O’Dell in the forest of Wyoming’s Grand Tetons, considering¬†how to rewrite the scene that would come next, one of the many I’d tossed out in favor of a new, better-written(?) plot line.

Since reaching the end of this novel three summers ago, and actually thinking myself to have a readable manuscript, I have deleted half the book (eight chapters) and so far rewritten about seven.  I think there are another two chapters in there that will need to be rewritten from scratch too, but time will tell.

Really, not having the laptop to myself was not a good enough reason not to work on my book, but I let it be good enough as I chose reality TV over the reality of my life: That I’m a novelist who’s been editing her first complete book now for close to four years and frequently chooses almost anything to actually writing or editing.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy the story, and Monday night was a perfect enough¬†example of that.¬† My head was in the game, but my willpower was cooling its heels over on the sidelines planning out strategies while taking a breather with a gallon of Gatorade.¬† The reality of noveling is, it’s hard.¬† Even if you know what you’re going to write, it’s still more difficult than flipping through the index of your DVR and scanning through shows that have piled up over several months and that you still don’t want to watch but are considering anyway because you so desperately want to feel what you feel while writing your novel, only in an easier way.¬† The crux is that nothing will make you feel what you feel while writing your novel.¬† Movies and TV and other people’s books might come close; they might give you that fix for drama or comedy or heartbreak that’s similar to what you were looking to feel, like how¬†Cadbury chocolate will do, if it’s easily accessible, even though what you really wanted was Hershey.

And that’s what ultimately made me turn down old Charlie’s Angels episodes that have been stewing on the DVR since the last time Cloo Network had a marathon sometime last summer, and instead work on my novel by hand.¬† By hand is even better, by the way.¬† It’s harder than typing and takes longer, but that’s what makes it the Cote d’Or of the writing experience.

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