Thursday, April 16, 2015

Interview: Tara Willis

Today I'm please to welcome Tara Willis to the blog to talk about her new book, "Carry Me Home." 

But first, a little about the book...

Following the passing of their invalid father, the poverty-stricken Montoya family is barely surviving, as, together, they wage a daily war against the ravages of extreme poverty, racism and a system bent on separating and destroying them. Nine months after her husband’s death, his widow makes the difficult decision to accept an advantageous marriage proposal from a close friend, for the sake of her nine young children. Her eldest, thirteen year old Celina, is hurt and angry about the remarriage which appears, to her, a betrayal to her dear father’s memory. Just as the young family is growing close, a stranger from the past appears and reveals the shocking secret Celina’s mother has kept for many years; a secret that will test the Gonzalez family’s love for each other and leave them changed forever.

1. What inspired you to begin writing? Reading about the lives, even fictional lives, of writers, such as Jo from Little Women and Laura Ingalls Wilder. As a child, I thought the life of a writer was glamorous. Although I know different now, I am addicted to the written word and in creating books and stories for others to love and enjoy.

2. Would you classify your writing more as plot driven or character driven? In this book, I would have to say more character driven; however, I do not believe the plot suffers as a result.

3. Can you tell us a little about your main character? Celina is a 13 year old girl of mixed race, growing up in poverty in modern day (give or take a few years) New Mexico. She is the eldest of nine and very devoted to her family, especially her dying father. Due to poverty, Celina has had to grow up a little too quickly, and this shows. She is extremely responsible, fiercely loyal and devoted, loving and caring. She is also very proud, outwardly tough and inwardly resilient.  

Celina is far from perfect. Despite her street smarts and an unusual ability with music, Celina
struggles in school, especially reading, as, in her mind, earning income to help her family takes precedence. Celina is not a fan of change. Her mother’s remarriage, although it makes her family’s life easier, is not something Celina is happy about. Throughout the novel, Celina grows, changes and learns some important lessons about life, love, acceptance and forgiveness and the unbreakable ties that bind a real family. 

4. Without giving away too much, tell us a little about the main conflict in the book.  The main conflict, though by no means the only conflict, in Carry Me Home, is that of Celina coming to love and accept her role in a blended family and a secret hidden for many years that she is fearful of her stepfather discovering. Throughout the book, Celina has to reassess what truly makes a family following the revelation of this terrible secret. Celina, like most teens, has to learn to accept and deal with change, fear of rejection and grief and healing following the death of her beloved father. In the end, she comes to realize that blood doesn’t make a family and she learns to appreciate and lean on the unconditional the love that has always sustained her.

5. 5. What do you hope readers take away from your book? In this day and age, I feel that friendships/peer relations are often sadly emphasized over family. I hope my young adult readers take some time to think about their families, blood or otherwise, and the strength, love and value they have in each other; a bond that should be much deeper than middle school/high school friendships.

6. What song best describes your writing style? Caledonia by Celtic Woman. I’m not sure I can explain why but it’s always inspired me and I often play it while writing.

7. Night owl or Early Bird? Night owl hands down.

8. Skittles or M&Ms? Peanut butter M&Ms! Eaten in same colors and in 3s. Eccentric much? Yup 

9. Who are your favorite authors? Oh, where do I start? Robert Alexander, SJ Bolton, Leo Tolstoy, Louisa May Alcott, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lori Wick, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen,  to name just a few.

10. Can you tell us about your future projects? My very next projects, already well on their way, are the prequel to Carry Me Home, titled Wait Until Sunset. This is the story of Celina’s Russian Jewish mother, as a young teen growing up in the 1980s Soviet Union.  After that will be the 3rd and most likely final installment in this trilogy, Celina’s further story (5 years after the conclusion of Carry Me Home), titled Praying for Daylight.

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