|How to Build a Heart releases 1/28/20|
Tuesday, January 28, 2020
It’s Book Birthday time! Wheeeeeee! How to Build a Heart is officially “On Sale” today!
Even though my local bookseller has been ringing up copies for a few days now … shhhhhh …
But honestly, Happy Dancing Time! Launch Time! Book Party Time! Reading aloud to students and friends time! Which is my FAVORITE thing to do. I prefer it to writing. Way prefer it. But that makes sense, right? The point is to tell a story, and it’s so much more fun to tell it in person to real live breathing people. As opposed to handing someone a book and saying, “Here. Hope you like it!”
When I talk to students about writing I try to debunk the old “Write what you know,” rule. Honestly? If I only wrote what I “know,” I’d write about grocery shopping and balancing the checkbook. Vacuuming and emptying the dishwasher. Most teens don’t want to read about that.
“Write what you know is emotionally true,” I tell them. Dig deep. Connect with something you feel, something very personal. Chances are you’re not alone. Write about that.
For all my books I’ve tapped into an emotion or an uncomfortable feeling and used it to fuel a particular character’s motivation. In Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress, my first novel, I wanted to write about friends growing apart. I remembered being in middle school and feeling terrible as certain friends drifted away from me. It was inevitable (I realize now) as we matured, but at the time it felt lonely and isolating. I don’t know if I behaved particularly well or kindly as it was happening. Connecting with those emotional “truths” helped me write from Brett’s 14-year old perspective, even though I was in my 40’s.
For this new book, How to Build a Heart, I had to dig deep again, this time into my background as the child of a Hispanic mother and Irish father. Growing up, I didn’t think much of it. That’s just who we were. Half our relatives spoke with Irish brogues, the other half spoke with Spanish accents. Dinner might be arroz con pollo followed by a hunk of Irish soda bread. One grandmother was Nana; the other was Abuela. Whatever.
But as I matured I realized: I really wasn’t fully any one thing. I didn’t speak Spanish. I didn’t look Irish. Whenever I attempted to embrace one identity or another, I felt like a fraud. Growing up was like being a guest at a country club you weren’t allowed to join.
Creating the character of Izzy Crawford, a girl whose mother is Puerto Rican and father is North Carolinian, I tapped into those feelings of ethnic and cultural displacement. I threw in a few more challenges for her — challenges I didn’t share — such as economic instability, a parent’s death. I got on board with her as she travelled the winding road which finally led to a real home, and real self-acceptance. And finally, joined her as she discovered how to define “family.”
I hope readers love Izzy and her little family as much as I do.