Latinx Voices: Interview with Gabriela Martins, author of LIKE A LOVE SONG

Hi and welcome to the first interview of the revamped Chai and Chapters!

I’m so excited to be talking to Gabriela Martins, author of the upcoming YA Romace LIKE A LOVE SONG (out in 2021!) as part of Latinx Heritage Month.

I’ve been so looking forward to LIKE A LOVE SONG ever since the deal announcement came out in Publisher’s Weekly. I mean, hello, Latina pop star and fake dating trope—what’s not to love?

Here’s the deal announcement so you know what I’m talking about.

You can add it on Goodreads here.

Gabriela very kindly and enthusiastically agreed to this interview and it was so much fun (as you will find out when you read on), and honestly, this book should be high on your 2021 radar if it isn’t already.

Ahhh, Gabriela, welcome to Chai and Chapters. I’m thrilled to have you here before you’re swept up by interviews once LIKE A LOVE SONG is out, because I know that it’s going to be phenomenal. Tell us something about LIKE A LOVE SONG that’s not there in the summary.

First of all, thank you so much for reaching out. I’m honored to be featured in Chai And Chapters!

The one bed trope! LOL. Other than that, there’s a whole lot of friendship and family talk. Both Nati and William are family-people in their own way, and it was important for me that they kept their priorities straight. Nati’s relationship with her best friends is also very important throughout the book. Hmmm let me see, what else! All of the main characters, with the exception of Nati, are queer. William’s bisexual, and so is Brenda, and Padma is gay. Hm hm hm hm! There’s a trip! Some random Brazilian history facts! I love trivia so there’s some randomness in there as well.

Gahh, is it possible to love your book anymore? Because I do. What was the origin story for LIKE A LOVE SONG?

The origin is a whole lot of depression. I’m saying this while smiling, because it sounds absurd, but it really is how this story got started. I’d always written very dark books, but when I started this story, I was in a very dark moment of my life, and nothing I started gained traction.

Then I decided to try writing a romcom. I’d always read them, but had never written one before… and it was so, so good for me. I fell in love with the characters immediately. While they handled their fair share of serious problems, the upbeat tone of a romantic comedy gave me the space I needed to start reevaluating my own problems. I looked forward to sitting down and writing this story every day. It was a major source of light and happiness for me, so I hope it is for you too!

This is so important. I don’t think romantic comedies get their due in litverse, but they have also kept me alive during this whole pandemic. What was the best thing about writing LIKE A LOVE SONG?

How much I fell in love with writing romcoms! I loved the rhythm of the beats, the fast-paced dialogue-heavy moments, the awkward and the swoony! I can’t see myself not writing romcoms anymore. 

Already looking forward to the rest! And the hardest thing about writing LIKE A LOVE SONG?

There is a lot of discussion of not feeling welcome/part of your own community in the book. Nati immigrated from Brazil to the United States when she was a young child, and therefore she has very conflicting feelings about her Latinidade. I share a lot of these feelings, but on a different scale. I’m not from the diaspora—I was born and raised in Brazil. But there are tons of aspects of claiming Latinidade, either online or when traveling, that feel odd to me. That aspect was both nerve-wrecking and empowering to write about.

As a South Asian blogger and aspiring writer, I feel this. There’s so much attached to how much of your identity is valid based on how well you perform your identity as per gatekeeping standards. Tell me about your favorite tropes. How many of them do we get to see in LIKE A LOVE SONG?

Fake dating is my absolute fave, and it’s definitely the biggest trope in the book! As I mentioned above, there’s also the one bed trope that I adore! There are a few tropes that I subvert a bit, so I’ll leave those a secret for now. Some of the tropes that I love but aren’t featured in this book: rivals to lovers, childhood best friends to enemies to lovers, reluctant chosen one, and found family.

The one bed trope both mortifies me and thrills me, lmao. Tell us the top 5 books by Latinx authors on your list right now.

Have you all read BLAZEWRATH GAMES by Amparo Ortiz yet? I’m obsessed! I’m super into FURIA by Yamile Saied Méndez. I couldn’t not mention Lucas Rocha’s WHERE WE GO FROM HERE, Laura Pohl’s scifi duology THE LAST 8 and THE FIRST 7. To finish my recs, one of my all-time faves: PERLA by Carolina de Robertis. 

Those are some fantastic recommendations. On that note, what are you currently reading?

Alright, so I’m a big language nerd. I’m currently reading SHORT STORIES IN NORWEGIAN by Olly Richards. LOL Before that, I reread SAPIENS by Yuval Noah Harari, which reinforces that I am, in fact, a big nerd. As soon as I finish the book of short stories, though, I’m starting UNDEAD GIRL GANG by Lily Anderson. Super excited about it!

We are all nerds here, so you’re in the right community, haha. What do you hope readers take away from reading LIKE A LOVE SONG?

You are perfect the way you are. You are accepted. You are loved. We all have your back. ❤

Those are words to live by! What’s a writing advice you swear by?

The writing advice I swear by is that no writing advice is actually good. Here in Brazil there’s a saying: if advice was any good, we’d charge for them! LOL.

There’s a lot of dos and don’ts and I personally feel that they all can be subverted, especially if you’re writing from the Global South, where stories can be told in different beats and still greatly succeed. While I plan my beats carefully, I don’t fully subscribe to the idea that a story has to be told a certain way for it to work.

Also, the way I write may not be the best for you, and the way I write one story is not even similar to the way I write my next. I’ve completed almost twenty manuscripts by now, and they were all written differently. Some very fast, some slowly, some with ideas that spurred overnight, some that had been taking form in my subconscious for a decade. It’s different every time, for everyone.

If I absolutely do need to give advice, my advice is this: be creative with your process. Be open to change.

Being open to change is something we could all use in all walks of life ❤ To top off this interview, if wishes were horses, what’s your biggest writing dream?

I have a ton! Right now, what I would love the most would be to know that my book made a difference in someone’s life, and brought them a little light. :’)

This has been an absolute pleasure and honor, Gabriela!

_______________________________

About Gabriela Martins:

GABRIELA MARTINS is a Brazilian kidlit author and linguist. Her stories feature Brazilian characters finding themselves and love. She was a high school teacher and has also worked as a TED Ed-Club facilitator, where she helped teens develop their own talks in TED format to present. She edited and self-published a pro-bono LGBTQ+ anthology (KEEP FAITH) with all funds going to queer people in need. Gabriela also used to host monthly webinars with themes ranging from Linguistics in Fiction to Self-Care for Writers. She was recently selected as a Pitch Wars mentor for 2020. Her debut, LIKE A LOVE SONG (Underlined/PRH) comes out in summer 2021. Find her on Twitter at @gabhimartins, on Instagram at @gabhi, and visit her website at gabrielawrites.com.

Hope you enjoyed this! See you all soon.

The Review Debacle

(I have a lot to say, so bear with me)

This has been going on far too long. I think every year there comes a time when the eternal debate of whether authors/aspiring authors should be book reviewers too comes up. This generally sparks off several more posts regarding reviews (blogger reviews, to be specific) and how positive or negative they should or shouldn’t be. And it’s alright to have these discussions. That’s why we are human beings. We have the power to reason and discuss, test and explore new ideas. And every year we have some very interesting discussions on said topics, which leave us with greater understanding of things, even if our fundamental beliefs remain unchanged.

This time, though, something went wrong. Something spiraled beyond discussions and took on an ugliness of its own – where certain authors ganged up on certain reviewers, certain agents conspired with certain authors to rig the review rating system on Goodreads and Amazon, mudslinging and bitch-slamming in public took place – it’s been one hot mess after another.

And it’s been very, very disappointing. This is NOT the book world as I know it. The book world I’ve grown to love and respect is the one where writers and reviewers and readers co-exist in harmony – occasionally going to tea with the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, engaging in Wildean witty banter, tipping their hats to each other when they gather at book clubs or pen clubs (where they brainstorm ideas. This doesn’t officially exist by that name). There are differences of opinions, yes. As long as there will be people there will be opinions and everyone has a different opinion and everyone’s entitled to it. But this is done with a respect for each other, with the thought that – ‘Yes, I understand that’s what you think about me/about this book and while I don’t necessarily agree with you, I appreciate your thoughts’.

Unfortunately, that’s the ideal. Which obviously, also makes it unreal. The ugly truth of it is that somewhere that line between public and private has been crossed and dirty linen is being washed in full view of the rest of the world.

I mean, look at us. I’m assuming (and rightly so) that we are all literature lovers here. And literature preserves the ideals of humanity. It’s supposed to give us a better understanding of life. Supposed to sensitize us to people and their situations. Of all people, we, readers and lovers of literature should know that jumping at each other’s throats is not the way to go about things. And creators of literature? You should know better.

My biggest dream is to be a published author. I want to hold a book in my hands, which has a shiny new cover and my name on its spine. A book that people will want to read and hopefully, some of them will love a little. Yes, that’s what I really hope happens someday.

But you know what? I was a reader first. It’s my love for reading, for books, that made me want to be a writer. I love talking about them, what they made me and didn’t make me feel. What worked and what didn’t work for me. Would I be reading it again or would I be putting it aside? I like the process of reviewing, evaluating a book and then interacting with fellow readers and getting to know their thoughts on said book.

But when someone tells me that by putting forward my honest thoughts about a book I may as well be killing off my future career as an author, that disappoints me. You’re asking me to choose between my love and my dream. I ask you: WHY? Why does it have to be a choice between either? I understand that the writers of the books I don’t fangirl over might become my colleagues when/if I do get published, so it might get awkward, but whether I deal with it by simply deleting all reviews I’ve written or not, is entirely my decision. If I’m not mistaken, whether or not I become published or not depends entirely on my own merit and not because I may not have liked a book by a fellow author and publicly said so. Unless there’s a conspiracy of some sort brewing in the industry.

Which brings me to a post by a certain very well-respected author that saddened me a great deal. The author made some interesting points but it all boiled down to her perception that book bloggers aren’t real reviewers. That, I vehemently disagree with.

Now, guys.
I understand where she’s coming from. She talks about jerk-fests – personal attacks that come under the guise of reviews. That is wrong. That is just very, very wrong. Yes, we live in a free world (at least most of us do) and we are allowed freedom of speech (at least, till now) but that’s NOT to be exploited. Reviews that go: “Oh jeez, I think this author wrote this book simply to annoy me! She should be locked up in an asylum and that goddamned book should be barbecued!” NO. That is NOT how book reviews should go, no matter how much you hate a book. Be snarky, yes, use funny gifs, have a good laugh – heck, yes, that’s fine – but you cross the line at cruelty and meanness. I get that. And I’m totally against it.

But what I don’t get is the distinction she makes between paid reviews and unpaid ones. Between how real the professional reviews (say, ones that appear in The Guardian and the New York Times and other literary publications) and how not real the unprofessional reviews (say, on Goodreads and book blogs) are. I mean, seriously? That’s like saying that books that don’t win awards aren’t real books.
Blogger reviews are NOT all jerk-fests that take potshots at the author’s personal life. NO. They probably comprise only 2% of the blogosphere. So clubbing every blog reviewer under the ‘jerks’ umbrella is biased and wrong.

The author also says:

Let’s talk about the negative “reviews” that authors have been lashing out at. They often involve animated gifs, swearing, and snark. They’re often quite funny. But here’s the thing, though. When a blogger writes a biased, hilarious, snarky rundown of a book they despised, he/ she is not writing a review. They are writing a post about a book. I’m not saying that bloggers shouldn’t write biased, hilarious, snarky rundowns of books. I’m saying that those rundowns are not reviews. Bloggers who regularly write them cannot expect to garner the same respect and treatment from authors that pro reviewers or non-pro reviewers do. They can’t expect authors to read their posts and learn something from them. And they cannot expect authors to not take it personally. They’ve made it personal. 

Um, hello – WHAT?
So because they are informal, these are not reviews? I don’t get it. How I evaluate is book is entirely up to me. And what’s the deal about these being personal? DUDE, art is personal. Everything about art is personal. There can’t ever be anything such as looking at a book ‘objectively’. I mean, how can it? The way you respond to a book is entirely yours. You and I might love a book but on a deeper level, in almost all probability we love it for very different reasons. EVERY REVIEW IS SUBJECTIVE. It is personal, because it it about how I personally feel about the book. Irrespective of whether or not I mention the ‘I’ in my reviews, it’s omnipresent. It would be ridiculous to suggest otherwise.

I realise it’s very hard to let your book – your sweat and blood and tears – out there and watch other people take a swing at it, but that’s what happens when you go public with your work. If you want the fangirls, you have to accept the non-fangirls as well. You are allowed to be secretly angry with them but don’t lash out at them. Don’t demean the bloggers who are putting forth a thought on your book because of their love of reading, irrespective of which way their opinions might swing. I stumbled upon this blogger’s post while writing this. Go read it. It’s more articulate than I can be at this point.

As for the reviewers, you’re allowed to be honest. You’re allowed your opinions. You’re allowed to like or dislike a book (don’t let anyone threaten you otherwise) but be careful not to turn that dislike into a personal attack. Don’t. Do. That.

Guys. Look at us. We’re Literature lovers. All of us. Lets not indulge in such pettiness. It’s unbecoming and savage and puts Literature to shame.

We are all doing something we love. Bring on the respect, guys. And be a sport.

I LOVE DARK YA Blogfest: The Next Generation

Today brings the curtains down on the I Love Dark YA blogfest hosted by the team of smart and amazing writers and bloggers over at YAtopia, all throughout the month of November.

And today, I get to talk about the dark YA book I’m most looking forward to reading.

Well, you know, there’s this treasure-house of YA books out there that are brilliantly thought-provoking, atmospherically evocative and totally punch-in-the-gut worthy. There are. YAs are full of them, cos this genre is awesome.

And there’s a Next-Generation of such books queuing up, and queuing up fast. Brimming with kickassery.

But can you guess which book runs away with the I’ll Give Up Dinner If I Can Have This Book Right NOW Award? Can you?

THIS one.

What Goodreads says: He’s saved her. He’s loved her. He’s killed for her. 
Eighteen-year-old Archer couldn’t protect his best friend, Vivian, from what happened when they were kids, so he’s never stopped trying to protect her from everything else. It doesn’t matter that Vivian only uses him when hopping from one toxic relationship to another—Archer is always there, waiting to be noticed. 
Then along comes Evan, the only person who’s ever cared about Archer without a single string attached. The harder he falls for Evan, the more Archer sees Vivian for the manipulative hot-mess she really is. 
But Viv has her hooks in deep, and when she finds out about the murders Archer’s committed and his relationship with Evan, she threatens to turn him in if she doesn’t get what she wants… And what she wants is Evan’s death, and for Archer to forfeit his last chance at redemption.


Goodreads also says that it is expected to be published on the 6th of Dec, 2011.

Doesn’t that creeptastic summary make YOU want to give up dinner just to have this book right now as well? Do. Not. Lie.
And you also have to give it to the publisher for not keeping you hanging there with a faaaar-off release date. See, they understand my enthusiasm.

Oh, and you know what’s totally amazing? Kelley York‘s one of the contributors at YAtopia. That is testimonial to how awesome YAtopia is. It’s the hub of awesome 🙂
A huge THANK YOU to them for hosting such a great tribute to Dark YA!

And to all those who played along for your lovely company.

And now. You. Which book would you give the I’d Give Up Dinner For You Award? (Can be something you’ve already read/looking forward to, non-YA/YA, dark/not) Just to settle my curiosity.

This is what you shall be seeing soon

It’s been a bit quiet around here and that’s mostly cos it’s October, the Festival Season of Awesome. So we had a string of festivals, like Durga Puja and Laxmi Puja and then yesterday it was Diwali a.k.a. the Mega Festival of Lights. And even though, it’s most often than not a one-day fest, celebrations begin the day before and stretch on  to the day after and till Bhai Phota, which is on Friday, which kinda brings the curtains down on the festivities.

Basically that means that all throughout this month I’ve been running around town with my friends, although the roads have been choc-a-bloc like this

Of course, we weren’t merely running around, just for the sake of doing so. We were pandal-hopping, setting off firecrackers (and every possible firecrackers we could get our hands on), hogging on the festival-special platters…and going deliriously bonkers doing it all!

Did I tell you that the Diwali night sky is a most magnificent sight?
And, you know, this is a satellite image of India on Diwali night:

So, anyway. This month has been perfectly perfectly amazing, even though I also managed to set my laptop on fire in the process. Yeah, don’t even ask me about that. And while it recuperates in the service centre I have to make do with the Ancient Family PC From The Jurassic Age, which I am not much friendly with at the moment.

HOWEVER, there are things coming up here (how exciting is that? :P)
Like, The String Bridge Book And Music Blog Tour on November 3rd.

Where I shall be talking about this author and this book,

And this trailer where the author, who is a musician herself, sang the absolutely beautiful song.

And starting November 2nd, there’s the Dark YA Blogfest. If you love dark YA, you know that’s where you’re expected 🙂

Meanwhile, I suppose no one’s forgotten NaNoWriMo. So who’s taking the plunge this year? 🙂
I have something in mind, something very different from the kind of thing I write. I don’t know how far that’ll go, but if you’re hanging around the forum, add me.
My username: Bidisha
Maybe we can peep into each other’s works and be jealous. Haha. I’m such a naturally slow writer, I’ve never had a successful NaNoWriMo. The no-quality-all-quantity policy kinda doesn’t work for me, but every year I do join in. With hope.

And while all that will be going on, I have lots of reviews coming up as well. And some of them might even be non-YAs if you’re up for that.

So. Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?

Happy Birthday ENID BLYTON!

She was the reason I bothered with books in the first place,
And then became an addict.

She was the reason I tried my hand at writing,
And then fell in love with it.

She showed me a world of adventure –
Where castles hid treasures waiting to be discovered,
Princes’ were held hostage in the house-next-door,
An island could be owned by a girl and her dog,
    Secret passages existed right under your nose.

    She showed me a world of enchantment –
    Where trees took you to magical lands,
    Wishing chairs traveled far and wide,
    Moonface, Silky, Saucepan Man and Dame Washalot
    could be your friends,
    And swish you away to the
    Land of Take-What-You-Want,
    Or the Land of Birthdays,
    Right according to your wish.

      She took me to exciting boarding schools,
      To Malory Towers, St Clare’s and Whyteleaf school,
      To midnight snacks and sneak-outs and circus mayhem,
      Befriending artsy scatterbrains and brainy pranksters,
      Who dabbled in stink pellets and invisible chalk.

       She taught me life’s lessons,
       Amidst nabbing smugglers,
       And finding tunnels behind bookshelves,
       And fairy folk inside your neighbour’s basket.

    She made me believe that,
    Toys could talk,
    Trees could dance,
    And chairs could grant my wishes.

    Kidhood couldn’t have been more fun!
    And it all I owe to her.

Celebrating CAYMAN SUMMER with Angela Morrison, Leesie and Michael

If you’ve been hanging around my blog for a while, you would know how much I adore Angela Morrison and her books. Her debut novel, Taken By Storm inspired my blog and now that the third book in the series, Cayman Summer is out, I decided to celebrate not only with Angela but with the two main characters, Michael and Leesie as well.

Just so you know, the series consists of Taken By Storm, Unbroken Connection and Cayman Summer.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, you can welcome the three here and read what they say. This kicks off the M + L Forever Blog Tour and Contest. Enjoy 🙂

———————————————————————————————————————-

A journey worth three books. Lets rewind back. Leesie and Michael, how did you guys meet Angela?

Michael: I started as a disembodied “what if” that haunted Angela after she heard about a real scuba accident during a hurricane like what happened to me and my parents. My voice made it out of her head and onto paper her during her first residency at Vermont College. She was sitting in a big circle with her new classmates and was challenged to free write from the prompt, “Remember a sound.” And I slipped out. She says it’s the first free write she ever wrote. She loves them now. Freak, she got me out of the deal. I guess she should love them. She saved the free write. Do you want to read it? Okay. These are my very first words . . . and the very first words that eventually became TAKEN BY STORM.

“I jump in and start breathing through my reg. The sound of sucking in, blowing out fills my head. My gut tightens like it always does. Sploosh. Swoosh. Bubbles flow out the back. Face down. Air out. Descent. Suck in. Long count. Don’t hold it. Blow out, blow out, blow out, smooth and slow. My bubbles interrupt the deep blue serenity of the world below. Then a short blast of air for buoyancy control. Quiet fin strokes. Arms glued at my side. The ocean of wonders opens to my view. Coral fronds of orange yellow pink green sway . . . “

It’s kind of rough. I think I got better, don’t you?

Leesie: I came on the scene when Angela decided to send Michael to live in her Grandmother’s house in the rural Washington town where she grew up. She created his Gram and made him go to Tekoa High School. She needed someone to fall in love with him, so she let me join the story. He showed up, devastated, in my physics class. And I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Angela let me live on the farm where she grew up and gave me a lot of the issues she dealt with growing up in one of the few Mormon families in that tiny town. That was okay, to an extant, but then she tried to make me suffer all of her worst adolescent tragedies in the space of about five chapters. I think I had to cry through the entire opening act. Not good. I was ready to bail on the whole thing, except, I mean, Michael. Who could bail on him? And Angela was working with an amazing mentor, Ron Koertge (STONER AND SPAZ), who got her to cut the waterworks and a few over the top scenes. A huge relief. She never really got me, though, until her daughter, the wise and wonderful Rachel who all of Angela’s characters love and adore, gave Angela a Kelly Clarkson CD with the song, “Beautiful Disaster,” on it. Yes. That’s me. A hundred percent.

And Angela, why did you choose to tell their story?

Angela: As soon as I introduced Michael and Leesie, they started talking in my head and wouldn’t shut up. I had to scribble it down or go insane. And then I fell in love with them. I invited them back and coaxed them to keep talking. When I finished CAYMAN SUMMER, I knew their story was finally complete because they don’t wake me up in the middle of the night anymore. I sleep better, but I miss their voices.


I’ve always thought the stylistic devices employed are unique. Michael, when did your ‘dive log’ turn into a reveal-it-all journal?

Michael: My mom’s dive logs were amazing. She put photos of me and Dad and all our dives in them and wrote a lot about us and our trips. She bugged me to do the same since I was a little kid. By the time we went on the trip to Belize, it was second nature to pour my guts out in my own dive log. Kind of embarrassing that you guys read all that stuff.

Why choose poetry, Leesie?

Leesie: The first gazillion drafts Angela had me speak through first-person prose chapters. The only one of my poems she included was the poem about my Grandmother. Michael’s dive logs were so intense and cool that my chapters seemed lame in comparison. She and I both love to write poetry and were trying to figure out how to include more. We experimented replacing entire scenes with narrative free verse poems, and, wow, that made it so much better. I still think Michael’s dive logs are the most intense and amazing part of the collage Angela created to tell our story, but I got so much deeper with my poetry than the prose scenes that I didn’t feel stupid letting you read them along with his entries.

You’re the writer, Angela. What made you stick with these modes of expression?

Angela: TAKEN BY STORM is the first novel I ever attempted. And I made the huge mistake of trying to write it as a dual first-person narrative. Not a good idea for the first time out. It’s way harder than it looks to write a novel in two voices. The concept for Michael’s dive log came first. I loved the idea and wrote a draft using the dive logs, but I got sidetracked when an editor from Candlewick requested that I rewrite the whole novel just from Michael’s point of view. She didn’t like that–she missed the dive logs. She asked me to rewrite it using a dive log to open each chapter and third person narration to tell the rest of the story. Bleck. But I did it. And she turned that down, too. Huge, huge rejection. And that point I had three very different versions of the same story. It felt broken. So I sat back and asked myself how I wanted to tell this story. That’s when I began to let Leesie speak through her poems. I married her “Most Private Chapbook” with Michael’s Dive Log and their ChatSpot transcripts. The result was far better than any of the other versions I’d written. And it was different enough to catch an editor’s attention. (It didn’t hurt that she was a poet herself!)

Beyond the love story, a major part of the trilogy is faith – staunch belief in it and even the lack of it. How has your perspectives evolved (if at all) over the course of your journey?

Leesie: Ladies, first. Michael, you can’t really say anything without spoiling CAYMAN SUMMER.

Michael: I’m not an idiot.

Leesie: I never thought anything could shake my faith. Even Michael. Even some of the mistakes I made when I fell crazy in love with him, didn’t make me doubt my faith. I felt guilty, like I wasn’t living up to the promises I’d made to the Lord, but I believe in repentance. I knew the way back. And then, well, you guys who’ve read UNBROKEN CONNECTION know what happened to me. Guilt and grief overwhelmed me. That’s all I let myself believe. That I was evil. I never stopped believing in God, but I didn’t believe in myself anymore. Michael did. He never stopped believing in me.

Michael: And that’s not a spoiler?

Leesie: It’s a teaser. There’s a difference.

Angela: I think you two have said enough.

Michael: My parents and I weren’t religious. We believed in diving. My gram went to church all the time. Not me. Leesie’s church stuff drove me crazy at first.

Leesie: The truth comes out.

Michael: Come on, you knew that. But then stuff would happen, inside me, that I couldn’t explain. I shrugged it off until, well, I guess I can’t say anymore.

Angela: And all I’m going to say is writing is a spiritual thing for me. I can’t do it without prayer and inspiration.

Michael: You mean I came from a prayer? You never told me that.

Angela: Now you know. I pray and stuff–good stuff like Michael and Leesie–bubble up in my brain and I attempt to capture it. Some people would call that my imagination or subconscious, but I know it’s more than that. Throughout Michael and Leesie’s entire journey, from the rough free write of Michael scuba diving to the final epilogue in CAYMAN SUMMER, I relied on that process. Why did I write Michael and Leesie’s story? Why did I cling so stubbornly to it when my editor, publisher, and agent all bailed on the second and third books? Because it’s the story I was given by my Father to tell. And I  would be an ungrateful daughter to ignore such an amazing gift.

Michael, did you ever think this could happen to you?

Michael: “This?” You mean star in a book? Of course. I’m waiting for the movie.

Angela, we know Leesie and Michael’s story publicly brought you recognition as an author, but on a more personal level, what kind of impact has it had on you?

Angela: I never realized what a huge impact my readers would have on me. I love you guys. You’ve shared–and through the CAYMAN SUMMER blog–even taken part in the creation process with me. Every time I get a comment or an email or a new friend on FaceBook or Goodreads, it touches my heart that you’ve taken Michael and Leesie and me into your lives. Losing my editor at Penguin and then my agent was so hard. But my readers turned what could have been a depressing unproductive time, into a joyful collaboration. That was and always will be a HUGE blessing in my life.

Leesie, tell us a fun fact about Michael that we didn’t know.

Leesie: He has really long toes–can pick up stuff like a monkey.

Your turn, Michael. Spill one of Leesie’s best kept secrets.

Michael: No, she’ll kill me. Okay. Un-a-brow.
Leesie: Shut up. I do not.
Michael: Oh, yeah. And the more she plucks it the faster it grows back.
Leesie: I can’t believe you.

All three of you have struggled in some way – whether personally or professionally – and inspiringly overcome it all. What would your advice be to those going through a difficult time now? 

Michael: Hang on to the people you love. Nothing else really matters.

Leesie: I hope you mean me? What if you lose the person you love?

Michael: Then pray to find somebody like Leesie.

Leesie: That’s so sweet. I’d say, remember that none of us are ever really alone. No matter what you believe, there is a higher power waiting to help us through. Don’t turn your back on that. Don’t ignore it.

Angela: Ah, my creations. You took the words right out of my mouth. Now I have a confession. Many times over the last year I asked myself why I keep writing. It’s so hard to get published, and then when you do get published it gets even harder. I decided that my life would be way too easy if I didn’t write. I needed the challenge or I’d get lazy. But then I was talking with a friend who wants to create a foundation that helps the less fortunate, and I realized that I don’t write for just myself anymore. I write for you, my readers, now. Nothing thrills me more than getting an email from a reader that says one of my books has helped them with one challenge or another in their own lives. That makes all the hard stuff and the setbacks worth it.

Bonus question [SPOILER]: Leesie, did Britney Spears inspire you to shave off your hair?

Leesie: I wasn’t thinking about her when I did that, but it was probably in the back of my mind.

I knew it!
Loved having you here, guys, as much as I loved reading your story. Thank you for being so awesome 🙂 
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EDIT: As part of the M + L Forever Blog Tour, the all-too-awesome, Angela is organising a humongous contest. Head over now to win the complete set of the STORM series, M + L M&Ms and lots of books. Yes, it’s that awesome.

Unbroken Connection (…and some more)

Against all odds, the couple that swept you away in TAKEN BY STORM is back. Michael is in Thailand diving his dream. Leesie is at BYU living hers. And they just can’t leave each other alone. Their romance rekindles, deeper than before. They grow desperate to see one another again. To hold one another again. Michael decides there is only one direction their relationship can go and asks Leesie the ultimate question. Her answer challenges everything Michael is and wants to be. Can she change for him? Can he change for her? Enough? 
Taken By Storm was one of the best books I read in 2009.
Which is why when Razorbill rejected it’s sequel, I started the Support Group on Facebook. Leesie and Michael’s story had to be heard. Out loud. ‘Cause no one does emotional storytelling and luminous prose like Angela Morrison. And no couple can complement that like Michael and Leesie.
 
If you haven’t yet read Taken By Storm, this might get spoilerish. Be warned.
 Also, if you haven’t read it, what are you doing here? Read. It. Now.
 
Michael and Leesie are back. As opposed to their promises at the end of Taken By Storm, they can’t stay without each other. Sufficing on just platonically loving each other over the internet, while separated by oceans, isn’t working in their favour. ‘Cause sometimes, love runs deep and it’s more about needing than wanting. And this is what brings one of my favourite teen couples back together.
 
The narrative style employed in Unbroken Connection, is similar to it’s prequel – dive log entries, Chapbook poems, chat logs make up the bulk of the book. And this quirky stylistic device is tackled with such cleverness that in spite of the narrative divisions, the story flows without jerks and breaks. It’s awe-inspiring for any writer how Angela Morrison does it but she does it, the fantastic writer that she is. Her grace in handling religious issues is once again (as seen in Taken By Storm) highly commendable. Leesie may be a faithful Mormon but Michael presents a totally different perspective. What is remarkable is how Morrison presents both sides of the coin in an unbiased, honest manner. I think that’s why, in spite of my differing views on religion and spirituality, I love Leesie and Michael’s story so much. It never gets preachy. It’s about two people in love, facing very realistic obstacles, like family, faith and religion — and while the ‘love conquers all’ theme does run through, they have to deal with life first before that happens.
The character development in Unbroken Connection is realistic and remarkable. I loved, loved Michael here. The Michael from Taken By Storm who was experienced in all kinds of love, redeems himself through Leesie’s love here, while by the end of Unbroken Connection, Leesie who’d always tried her best keeping things under control emerges battered and bruised from tragedy.
This is a deeply moving, poignant tale of young love and it’s power to destroy, yet heal.
You can browse through and buy Unbroken Connection here.
 
Leesie and Michael’s story doesn’t end here, though. The third and final installment of their story, Cayman Summer, will officially release in early 2011. But before that, Angela Morrison has created a blog wholly dedicated to Cayman Summer. Here she will share rough drafts, unfinished poems, revised scenes and finally polished chapters as she writes Cayman Summer. I urge you to join her on her journey.
                Cayman Summer Blog
 
Meanwhile, my Blog Anniversary is coming up in just a couple of days. I have things (hint: giveaways) in store for you, so don’t forget to check back.

Also, thank you for sticking around. I realise I haven’t been a particularly faithful blogger, lately, owing to some very personal reasons (which are..up and around in this blog, anyway) but thank you. For being here. For sharing your thoughts. You guys make my day.