Monday, October 15, 2012

In Conversation with Christina Diaz Gonzales

Click Picture to Visit Christina's website
by Hilde Garcia

Pen and Ink is pleased to be a part of Christina Diaz Gonzalez's blog tour for her new book, A THUNDEROUS WHISPER.

Christina is the author of the award-winning and best-selling children’s novel, THE RED UMBRELLA. Ms. Gonzalez’s debut novel (the story of a 14 year old Cuban girl who is sent to the U.S. in 1961 as part of Operation Pedro Pan) showcases the generosity of the American spirit and highlights the pain of losing one’s homeland. Reviewers from publications such as The Washington Post, Publisher’s Weekly and School Library Journal have praised the book as being exceptional, compelling and inspirational.

Her second novel, A THUNDEROUS WHISPER, was just released.

Ani believes she is just an insignificant whisper of a 12-year-old girl in a loud world. This is what her mother tells her anyway. Her father made her feel important, but he's been off fighting in Spain's Civil War, and his voice in her head is fading. Then she meets Mathias. His family has just moved to Guernica and he's as far from a whisper as a 14-year-old boy can be. Ani thinks Mathias is more like lightning. A boy of action. Mathias's father is part of a spy network and soon Ani finds herself helping him deliver messages to other members of the underground. She's actually making a difference in the world.

And then her world explodes. The sleepy little market town of Guernica is destroyed by Nazi bombers. In one afternoon Ani loses her city, her home, and more. But in helping the other survivors, Ani gains a sense of her own strength. And she and Mathias make plans to fight back in their own unique way.  

Christina, where did the inspiration to write this story come from?
It started with a friend of mine asking me some questions about Pablo Picasso’s famous painting, “Guernica”.  I was embarrassed that I didn’t know anything about this work of art and so, as soon as I left his office, I googled it.  I was amazed to learn about this small Basque town that Hitler chose to bomb during the Spanish Civil War and how Picasso used it to represent the atrocities of war in his painting.  From there my interest in the town and the Basque people (my own family being part Basque) was piqued and did more research.  I soon stumbled across an old picture of a sardinera (a woman who sells sardines) and the entire story flashed in my head. The only thing left to do was to write it!

What type of research did you do?  What was the most effective research? How did it differ from The Red Umbrella's research, your first book?
I read many first-hand accounts from survivors of the bombing and other primary sources.  Yet, unlike my research for “The Red Umbrella”, there weren’t many people alive that I could interview about the experience. So, I was very grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to Spain and meet with one of the curators at Guernica’s Museum of Peace and with the president of Guernica’s historical society.  They showed me the town, explained what it was like before and after the bombing…even snuck me into one of the old air raid shelters!

I have heard people say you are an SCBWI success story. For those of us that don't know this, please tell us how SCBWI made a difference in your writing career.
SCBWI had been instrumental at all points in my writing career.  I developed my writing skills with the help of my amazing SCBWI critique group, met my editor at a conference while having a critique, met my agent at another conference (a year after having sold my first book) and still get support and energy from all the SCBWI writers I meet.

Have you done a blog tour before?  What do find that works best? 
This is my first official blog tour (I visited a few blogs with “The Red Umbrella”, but nothing was structured) and I am really enjoying it.  I have to thank Alethea from Read Now, Sleep Later for setting everything up.  She has been AMAZING!

How was it different to work with an agent for this book as opposed to no agent for your first book? (If I got this wrong, help me rewrite the questions so it works for what message you want to get across.)
The great thing about having an agent is you have a partner that will help you shape your writing career…not just sell a book. I have been very lucky to have an incredible editor (Nancy Siscoe – who edited both The Red Umbrella and A Thunderous Whisper) and so there weren’t any real issues where my agent, Jen Rofe, would have to get involved (although it feels great to know that I have her in my corner).  I trust that my agent is always looking at the “big picture” and will tell me truth…even if I don’t want to hear it sometimes. It’s great to have that kind of relationship.

How did you get this book to an editor? Did you mail it? Was it a chance meeting at a conference? Was your agent the door opener?
My agent sent the first 30 pages to Nancy Siscoe, my editor from The Red Umbrella, as an exclusive. It was all I had written, but my agent felt confident about the book.  In a couple of weeks, we had an offer and then I got busy finishing the book!

How long from acceptance to launch date did this process take?  Did you find it shorter or longer than your process for Red Umbrella?
The book was sold in July 2010 and I finished writing the first draft in November (I think).  The process took about two years which is similar to The Red Umbrella.

Favorite advice for writers:  
When facing a difficult scene to write, don’t let “writer’s block” stop you. Write anything.  A poorly written page is easier to revise than a blank page.

Where do you like to write? Is chocolate your favorite tool other than a laptop? He he I know the answer! By the way, how were my cookies? Did they make it to the plane?
I like to write at a local Starbucks with another author friend of mine.  It’s like having a gym partner – even when I don’t feel like writing, knowing that she is there and waiting for me, forces me to go and be productive. 

Favorite tool?  Duh…chocolate! Not just any chocolate though…dark chocolate. Mmm. (As for your cookies…delicious! And no, they did not make it to the plane – several writers ate them throughout the night!)

Do you have a book trailer?  It seems that every book these days has one. 
Not yet!

Thanks, Christina. It's been a pleasure hosting you.


  1. How interesting that the subject of this book arose from a Pablo Picasso painting. I've often found inspiration in pictures too.

  2. These books sound like ones I don't want to miss.

  3. This book sounds great, as does The Red Umbrella, which I will plan to read also! And, I agree: dark chocolate. ;)

  4. Wishing you great success Christina. The books sound wonderful. Thanks Susan for a great review interview.

  5. A terrific review and a lovely success story. So glad I read it.

    Thanks, Susan, and all best wishes, Christina!

  6. Both books sound amazing! I am a fan of writing at Starbucks, too. :)

  7. The books sound great. I LOVE that cover of The Red Umbrella. Wonderfully eye catching.

  8. Great interview Susan and Christiana! Wonderful success story. Your books sound really captivating--historical fiction--done well. (I believe Dark Chocolate is a gift from the gods.) Best wishes for success.


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