At the Other End:
It's the story of a teen girl that is American in every way except for in one very important way: on paper. She was brought to the U.S. as a baby without proper documentation, so she's "illegal." As the end of the safe haven of her high school days draw near, she faces an uncertain future. Full of humor and frustration and love, The Secret Side of Empty speaks to the part in all of us that has felt excluded or has had a secret too scary to share. What M.T., the main character, finally discovers is the strength of the human spirit and the power that's unleashed when you finally live the truth.
(no cover has been released at this time)
Handy Hinty Links:
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Maria’s writing has appeared in Newsweek, The Washington Post and the Star Ledger. Her debut novel, The Secret Side of Empty, is the story of an “illegal” high school senior. It was inspired by Maria’s own experiences as an undocumented teen. Since becoming a citizen, Maria has run her own business and has become a soccer mom. She lives with her 13-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son in northern New Jersey.
Handy Hinty Links:
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1. Where have we seen you before? (previous projects/works)
Well, this is my debut novel, so this is my first foray into book stores. I have had pieces published in Newsweek, The Washington Post, NJ.com and the Star Ledger, plus I write a blog where I spout off about whatever is on my mind on any given day. I also write about how trippy it is to get a book published.
2. What goes through your mind after your novel has been on sale for the first week?
I don’t know! My novel will be out in March, 2014, so that’s a question I can’t wait to have answered! I suspect/hope that it will feel really cool to finally realize a dream I first wrote about in my diary when I was 12.
3. What inspired you to write this novel?
The novel is the story of an undocumented high school senior and what it’s like to grow up in the shadows. She came to the U.S. as a baby as is as American as the next girl, with the one exception: on paper. I wanted to show people the human side of the issue: the loneliness, the exclusion, the fear, the shame. I was undocumented as a teenager and although this is a fictional work, it’s a story that’s near to my heart.
4. What do you think about when getting/seeing negative reviews?
I’ve written and have been interviewed a lot about immigration issues, so I’ve heard a ton of negative feedback. When I was interviewed by the New York Daily News about signing my book deal and the topic of my story, someone posted that they hoped that the profits from my book would be taken away from me under the Son of Sam law. That’s the law that says criminals can’t profit from their crimes by writing books. It’s named after a guy who killed six people. So this person was equating me and my situation of having been brought over to the U.S. as a baby when I had no say in the matter to that of a serial killer. After that I figure a few bad reviews won’t faze me. I hope not, anyway.
The reality about negative reviews is that they hurt, of course. But then you have to remind yourself that you put out the best work you could and that’s the most you can do. And there have been lots of famous and beloved books that I haven’t liked, so the truth is every book isn’t for everyone.
5. How long was the writing/planning process?
There are two answers to this! One is that from conception to publication took about 7 years. But the cool (and true) version of the story is that the novel that FINALLY got me an agent (after years of trying with a different version of the book) was written in about two weeks. Two feverish, insomnia-filled weeks when I did nothing but write. That’s because I wrote 3 chapters and sent it off to the agency I most found in the acknowledgements pages of YA novels – Writers House – sure that they would reject me. I figured once I got rejected by the top I’d start to work my way down. Then they asked for the full manuscript, which had not yet been written. Oops. Rookie mistake they always tell you not to make. I cranked it out, kicking myself for possibly blowing my one chance with these guys. But to my eternal gratitude, they took me on as a client and sold the book on the first round of submissions with competing offers. So it was the fairytale at the end there.
6. What was your reaction to the cover art when you saw it for the first time? Did you have any ideas from the days of writing/inspiration?
Still biting my nails waiting to see cover art. You’ll be the first to know.
7. Any plans for future writing projects? Any being worked on now?I have another YA novel about halfway done, also contemporary fiction. I have two dystopian novels running around in my head. I love end of the world stuff. I also have a memoir halfway in the works. So, yes, writing is here to stay in my life.
8. Top 5 books
- Nightfall by Isaac Asimov – it’s a story about an imaginary world with 5 stars where they never know darkness. Except every 2000 years all the suns align on one side of the planet and there are a few hours of night. Everyone goes bonkers and civilization destroys itself. Just an awesome concept and so well executed. And not nearly as much of a downer as I’ve just made it seem.
- Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer – I have read this book maybe 10 times. It’s the story of an ill-fated climb of Mt. Everest, which I happened to follow online with my first computer in 1996. I’ve always aspired to be an adventurer, except I’m way too lazy and risk-averse. So I read about adventures instead.
- All the Harry Potter books - sorry, is that cheating? I couldn’t possibly pick one in the series. She is the master of making you care about characters and engrossing you in her world. Hats off.
- Looking for Alaska by John Green. I’ve been rediscovering YA now that I’m a YA writer. I loved my Judy Blume, but besides her I don’t remember a lot of quality writing aimed directly at my generation when I was a teenager. Now the quality and selection is unbelievable. So good. Looking for Alaska is probably my favorite, although I think all of John Green’s writing is fresh and smart.
- World War Z by Max Brooks. Yes, another “end of the world” type of book. In this one, civilization comes close to destruction due to a zombie apocalypse. Now, I am not a zombie apocalypse kind of girl, but this book is masterfully done. It’s told in the form of an oral history, the way you would read about a real war. Besides the zombies, it’s amazingly realistic and so well done.
9. What book/s from other authors do you wish you had written?
I get that feeling sometimes, of course. I got it during World War Z, a little research envy, because I don’t know if I could put that level of research and planning into a book. I’m always impressed with authors who put that level of detail and work into a book. I’m a little too ADD for that.
10. Why read your novel?
Maria is giving away two separate prizes on her tour, a $250 Amazon Gift Card AND a Kindle Fire.
For a chance to win the $250 Amazon gift card, OR the Kindle Fire leave a comment on her blog post for that day. Winners will be randomly selected on September 30th.