Work-in-Progress Character Blog Hop, or Made Up People Can Jump Too
The amazing Adi Rule tagged me for a blog hop that’s leaping through literary cyberspace. For those who don’t yet know her, Adi is the author of Strange Sweet Song, the story of a young singer attending a music conservatory full of secrets and dangers. I did her Lego book launch, which pretty much captures some of the secrets and dangers of the boarding school, as well as the lushness of her scene-setting and storytelling. And, yes, that’s a vampire in the tree. There’s also a cat hiding out somewhere. Adi loves cats, and felines play a key role in her debut novel. (That’s why my dog, Charlie, refused to read it.) Adi lives in New Hampshire and is working on a new fantasy novel, Redwing, which you can read about here.
Thank you, Adi, for thinking of me!
I have novels in various stages, from forthcoming to sitting on a shelf in my office, to just starting a second draft after completing a first draft that basically has to be thrown out. This does not include a novel that died out after the first few chapters because of Passive Protagonist Syndrome, and one that exists only in 30-year-old notes from a summer of research in Nicaragua. Read on for the seven questions and the character I picked to hop:
What is the name of your character? Is she a fictional or historic person?
My character is Cristina “Tina” Aguilar, the younger sister of my protagonist in Gringolandia, my first traditionally published YA novel. In Gringolandia, Tina was a troubled 12-year-old. In the new novel, Surviving Santiago, she has just turned 16. She has grown more comfortable in her skin, but the stakes are higher for her now, and when she gets into trouble, it’s big trouble.
While Tina is a fictional character, she’s based on people I knew when I lived in Madison, Wisconsin, in the 1980s and worked among refugees from the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile.
When and where is the story set?
Surviving Santiago is set in Santiago, Chile, in June and July of 1989. It’s the end of the Pinochet dictatorship — he has already been voted out of office in a plebiscite but according to the constitution that he and his fellow military officers of the junta wrote, he still has nine months in office before handing over power to a democratically elected government (that will only be elected in October 1989). Even though the Chilean people knew the long years of dictatorship would soon end, it was a somewhat dangerous time because it was the final opportunity for the dictator’s supporters to settle scores and conceal evidence of their brutality.
Tina hasn’t lived in Chile in eight years. One year before she, her mother, and her brother fled to the United States her father was imprisoned for publishing an underground newspaper that named people responsible for torture and murder. Tina’s father was tortured so badly he has physical and emotional disabilities, and she has had very little contact with him because he has been either in prison or, following his release and a brief time in Madison (depicted in Gringolandia), working clandestinely in Chile to end the dictatorship.
In Gringolandia, Tina had difficulty adjusting to life in her new country. She had no friends and got into fights with bullies. Since then, she has gotten counseling, changed schools, and made friends with other kids who don’t always fit in but who are there for each other.
What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?
Tina’s mother, with whom she is fairly close, is divorcing Tina’s father and getting remarried. Tina’s father demands visitation rights in exchange for letting the divorce go through in the United States, since divorce was illegal in Chile at that time. So Tina has to leave her friends behind and visit a father she barely knows and who scared her the last time she saw him.
What is the personal goal of the character?
Tina still wants her father to love her, and she believes that her “old Papá,” — the one who took her to the beach and played soccer and read to her at night when she was a little girl — still exists. She thinks that if she can prove worthy of his love, she will regain the close relationship she remembers from her childhood. But when she fails to connect with her father, she looks for love and self-worth through a mysterious local boy who works in the neighborhood.
Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
The title Surviving Santiago is final, and more information is coming soon, including a separate page for the novel on this website. In the meantime, here’s a tiny excerpt from the catalog copy as a teaser:
The thought of seeing Frankie again makes me feel less alone, as if there’s someone else in this country who could possibly understand my life here, between the minusválidos and the ratones that drink and don’t work.
When can we expect the book to be published?
My awesome new publisher, Running Press Kids, will be bringing out Surviving Santiago in June 2015. So stay tuned!
Who are you tagging?
My classmate at Vermont College of Fine Arts, Nicole Valentine, has a spiffy new blog. I’m not surprised because she is a tech genius. She is also working on a time travel, which is especially fitting for me, because in this second draft of my newest WIP, I’ve turned a contemporary realistic novel into a time travel that takes my protagonist back 51 years. I’m looking forward to hearing from Nicole and learning from her.