Thursday, December 9, 2010

Interview with Heidi Ayarbe (2010 WBBT W/Giveaway)

I read Compromised by Heidi Ayarbe back in May. Months (and many books) later its still one of my favorite YA novels of 2010. In 2009 Ayarbe's debut Freeze Frame won the IRA Children's and Young Adult Book Award

I wanted to reach out to the author when I first finished Compromised to see about doing an interview but I assumed there would many positive reviews in the blogosphere and the author's inbox would be filled with blogger interview request.

All the reviews I've seen are positive but there aren't that many. Compromised being under the radar, meant I hadn't lost my chance at interview with Heidi Ayarbe. ( Lucky Me)

Hi Heidi, Congratulations and thank you for a wonderful new novel.

Thank you for having me. I like this idea of having a stealth novel out there. Though being more conspicuous would probably be better for my career. :-)

Can you tell us a little about yourself and Compromised?

My big sister and best friend, Carrie, is my self-proclaimed biggest fan. My parents are definitely two of the strongest, most honorable, loving people on the planet. (no hyperbole there. Really. They are. I grew up in Carson City, Nevada, went to college in Reno and moved to Colombia, South America in 1997 which, considering I had spent the better part of the first 23 and a half years of life within an arm's reach of my family, was a Big Move.

A year and a half after arriving to Colombia, six months before finishing my teaching contract, I met my now-husband and subsequently stalked him for five years until he buckled and decided he'd either have to marry me or have a weird neighbor. We traveled all over the world, living and backpacking throughout 26 countries until we decided one day, sitting in a bar in San Antonio de Areco, Argentina drinking Gancia that it was time to share our lives with someone else.

Amelia Marie was born approximately ten months later. We haven't really traveled since, except to visit Nevada in fall because, well, I can't imagine a life without leaf pile jumping. So we live in Colombia and storm Nevada every fall! (And I do go up with Amelia when I have book releases, too!) Probably Way too much info there. And most likely the wrong kind!

Compromised is my second novel. (Freeze Frame, my first, came out in October 2008). Compromised was a really tough novel to write, but one I'm glad I hung in there to do because it's sometimes hard to see the truth and even harder to tell it without getting too corny or hopeless.

There are no wrong answers (in this case, that's actually true) What's the YA market like in Colombia?

Not existent. Unfortunately. In Pereira, the city where I live, the books-read-per-year average is fewer than one per person. That low. Nationwide I think it's fewer than two per person. (Only counting urban areas). I'm not really sure why, but I'm thinking that a lot has to do with a culture of oral tradition and music more than written tradition and reading.

I work at a non-profit bi-national institute and we Really try to make reading an incentive -- something that comes from the home. There are Harry Potter books here and Twilight, but the wealth of children's books we have in the States hasn't arrived. The libraries here are good. And they're being used. But it's an uphill battle -- one I'm willing to wage! So, basically, when I say I write YA books, I get blank stares.

I thought the beginning was great. Sometimes as a reader I like when authors don't hold my hand at the onset, but get right into the story. Maya and her con-man dad are in the middle of having everything they own repossessed. And, the dad is very close to being caught.

How many opening scenarios did you dismiss before you decided this was the one?
This was always the beginning. This, in fact, was where Compromised was born. One evening, Cesar and I were out to dinner with friends and one told us about the time he arrived home to see everything in his house repossessed. That seeded the idea -- the idea of a young girl losing everything she owned, then, ultimately, everything she had that defined who she believed she was as a person. I never changed this first scene ... just the rest of the book!

Maya's scientific thought process and know it all personality could've easily turned me off but didn't. One of the reason I liked Maya, she was who she was, outlined Hypothesis and all.

When did you know science and scientific reasoning would be Maya's thing? And Why?

I have a rule of thumb for novel characters. Protagonist or antagonist, they have to be good at something. They have to excel so we can admire them (even if we might hate them). So, one day, while imagining this character, I asked my husband what she should be good at, and he said plants. (He grows exotic flowers and foliage for exportation). I felt like plants and botany alone was too limiting, but I liked the idea of the science behind it, then moved forward from there ... I wanted the reader to see the world through Maya's lens -- and hers was one of reason because giving into emotion would put her too much at risk.

But her reasoning mind put her more at risk on the streets because she was so detached to what might happen, not listening to her "gut", busy trying to find ways to make sense of things that are senseless. Maya's science, I felt, was a great place for constant conflict in a book in which survival depends a lot more on instinct than setting up a hypothesis and going through the procedure.

After Maya's dad is arrested, she's placed at Kids Place, where she meets Nicole who geeks Mafia facts and has always been in the system. I found Nicole and Maya, slowly getting to know each other while on the run, very refreshing. First they tolerated each other, then accepted and finally friendship.

When Maya and Nicole hit the streets together, Maya brings the book smarts, Nicole the street smarts. Which do you believe is more important?

I think the book shows that balance is the most important. I got book smarts from my education and street smarts from traveling around the world, and now I feel much more prepared having both ... and valuing both.

The diagloue between Maya and Nicole is very good. It's writing students should be paying attention and taking notes good.

What's the key to good diagloue?

Revisions! Okay. Actually good dialogue comes from honest characters. Honest characters come from somebody who knows them inside-out. Characters who aren't trying to be anyone but who they are (which, in a world of appearances, is sometimes hard to create). Sometimes they'll "surprise" you while you're writing, but when going over the surprising scene, you'll see how it was just right.

What's important to remember in writing is that every single scene, dialogue, exchange is an opportunity to reveal something about your character. And everything that character says Must Be From That Character... not you, the writer. So at the end of the day, you can put that character in any situation and know how she/he will react.

As the two try to find Maya's aunt Sarah, who may or may not exist, 10 yr old Klondike, who suffers from tourette syndrome, quickly attaches himself to Maya and Nicole.

When Kondike enters, the story Maya and Nicole have great chemistry. Kondike could've easily disrupted that, but doesn't.

At any point did you ever reconsider adding a third character into the dynamic?

The story always needed Klondike because he is, I believe, who ultimately brings Nicole and Maya together. Without him, they'd never have truly become family. And they would never have taken the emotional and physical risks they did had it not been for him. Compromised couldn't exist without him. It would've been too cynical. He was the heart of the story.

When you were creating Klondite, what did you do to make sure you were protraying a character with tourette's to the best of your abilities?

He was tough to write because with Tourette's being such an extreme condition, over-writing him would've been simple. In fact, in my first draft, the poor kid was just a walking tic. I watched several documentaries about Tourette's. I had read Motherless Brooklyn and was fascinated with that character. I spent a lot of time investigating the syndrome and asking friends who work with kids with Tourette's about the subtleties of the disease.

The ending was simply WOW for me. I loved the far from perfect feel of it. Like the rest of the story the strengths lies in its believably.

I actually changed the ending about six times because I knew what I wanted to happen but knew what I thought would probably happen -- and the two didn't coincide. It was tough to find that place where it felt right ...

What are some of your favorite genres?

Contemporary YA and adult fiction. I also really like historical works. (When I'm writing I don't read contemp YA so I try for adult fiction, biographies, historical fiction etc.) Plus, I'm a bit obsessed with Everest novels, climbing high mountains, extreme conditions, not being able to breathe on earth. So I love those kinds of biographical novels

Maya geeks, science, Nicole geeks the Mafia. What do you geek?

I worked for a few years, off and on, at a specialized sporting goods store for backpackers, kayakers, skiers etc. I used to really geek gear. (You would've have found me dead in a Columbia jacket -- only Mountain Hardwear, Marmot, Arc'teryx and all that stuff!) ... That was several years ago. Now I don't get gear at cost so my gear geeking is over! ;-) I'd like to say I geek books, but compared to most agents, editors, book reps, sellers, and librarians out there, my book geeking is pretty minimal. These people read first then breathe. Amazing!

Three must see places for anyone visiting Colombia?*

The Coffee Region (where I live) is exquisite with its mountains, bamboo forests, butterflies, hummingbirds, and wonderful people. Cartagena -- on the Caribbean -- is a magical place. An Colonial city with cobble-stoned streets, the best juices on the planet, and a history filled with pirates, rebellion, gold/silver/emerald exportations to Europe and more!

Boyaca -- North of Bogota, the region where emeralds are mined, is a favorite of mine. It's a region dotted with fantastic villages, all known for something particular: artesan crafts, a particular fruit, colonial villages with names like Mongui, Paipa, Raquira and Sogamozo ... Who wouldn't want to visit a place with those names?

COMPULSION -is a starkly honest, compelling read. It will grab you and plunge you into the unusual, yet strangely familiar mind of Jake Martin and you will come out different.
— Francisco Stork, author of MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD

Can you tell us a little about your upcoming release Compulsion Which is scheduled to be released in May 2011

I'm pretty excited about Compulsion. It's a big risk because it takes place over a period of four days in which the main conflict is within my main character's head. Jake suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder and everything falls apart for him over the course of one weekend. Writing about a mental illness that's so hard to understand, about which our only cultural references about OCD come from the TV show Monk or Hoarders, was a huge challenge.

It was a subject I really wanted to explore. I loved creating Jake and one of my all-time favorite characters, Mera. It's scheduled for release May 3. I'm grateful for my publisher, Balzer and Bray, editor, Ruta Rimas, and agent, Stephen Barbara, for giving me opportunities to write about things that are risky like this. I'm pretty lucky to have such a strong professional team behind me.

Heidi, Thanks so much your time. I wish you much non stealth success in the future.

The author is graciously, giving away one signed copy of Compromised. (Open to United States residents only)

The lucky winner will be the first person to leave a comment. Please name one of your favorite YA novels of 2010 , you think more people should know about.

Be Sure to check out the other WBBT interviews

Kathi Appelt at Shelf Elf
Julia DeVillers & Jennifer Roy at Bildungsroman
LeUyen Pham at Finding Wonderland
Paula Yoo at Hip Writer Mama

If you've missed Monday - Wednesday, no worries. The round up can always be found at Chasing Ray

*This final image is from Heidi's blog. I wanted a visual that represented Colombia. Check out the original post about Simon Velaz, an award winning Colombian architect who specializes in bamboo.


Anne M Leone said...

Oh, what a lovely interview with the wonderful Heidi! I would love to win a copy!

Anne M Leone said...

Sorry, almost forgot! The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson is probably my best 2010 read (so far!!).

Heather said...

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly is an amazing book. She weaves historical fiction in to present day teen issues. Excellent book.

I also cannot wait to read some of Heidi's work!

tanita✿davis said...

WOW, I've read nothing yet by this author, but I'm definitely interested.

Revision is the key to all too many things... writers must learn to love it. (Eventually.) What a challenge to do the kind of work she does, so far from home, in a country where writing is probably seen as a "What? Why?" kind of job...

Thank you for the intro to another author. My TBR is getting tipsier than usual...

Heidi Ayarbe said...

I think writing from Colombia is, in a way, easier, though, because I live in a happy little bubble of peace. Not many "writer" distractions: conferences, groups, etc. So It's actually worked well for me.
And congrats, Anne! I'll have my mom put the book in the "post" ;-) next week!
Thanks, again, Doret. It was a fun interview.
And, Heather, I LOVED REVOLUTION! I can't wait to read THE SKY IS FALLING and REVOLVER.
And to answer Doret's question. My 2010 best read? I'd have to say THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy (for the wow factor) THE BONESHAKER by Kate Milford, and REVOLUTION by Jennifer Donnelly ...

Anne M Leone said...

Thanks so much, Heidi and Doret! I can't WAIT!!!!

Charlotte said...

Thanks for the great interview!

B. A. Binns said...

I love reading these interviews, because I either learn something, or something I know gets reinforced. In this case, the importance of revision to making dialog "real".

As for my favorite novel of 2010 - the list is so darn long.

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