Harmony Book Reviews

AOM Interview: Diana Rodriguez Wallach

Posted on: December 1, 2008

To wrap-up the month, here’s an interview with Diana. Thanks, Diana, for being my November AOM!

Where did you get the inspiration for the series?

Well, it should be no secret at this point that the skeleton of the story behind Amor and Summer Secrets is based on my ethnic background—I’m half Puerto Rican and half Polish (like Mariana). But really, the idea for the series came out of a phone conversation with my agent, Jenoyne Adams. She had been working on different young adult projects I had written, and had mentioned seeing a recent increase in interest from editors seeking multi-cultural novels. Up to this point, my books had yet to feature a Latina protagonist. And of course Jenoyne asked the infamous question, “Got any ideas?” I didn’t. But by the end of our conversation, I had pitched the story for what became Amor and Summer Secrets.

Some of it was based on a experience I had after I graduated college. I took a vacation to Puerto Rico and visited my extended family in Utuado (where Mariana’s dad, and my dad, are from). That trip, and the relatives I met there, greatly impacted me and I used that experience to create the plot thread behind Amor and Summer Secrets.

How was writing the second book different from the first?

It was much harder! I think Amigas and School Scandals was the most challenging novel to write in the series. This is not because of the storyline, but because I had to carefully balance between readers who will vividly remember the events of the first novel, Amor and Summer Secrets, and those who may not. This means delicately weaving the back-story from the first book in such a way that I can remind readers of the vital plot points of the first book without boring them with an “info dump” in the first chapter.

Amigas was also challenging because readers now “expect something” from the characters they’ve come to know, as opposed to the first book where I had the freedom to develop them however I wanted.

What have you learned about your writing as you continue to write more books about the same characters?

By the third book, personally, I can see huge growth in my writing style (this is also true for my current WIP). I think that’s valid for any profession—the more you work at it, the better you get. And by Adios to All the Drama, I had learned from my previous experience.

It was also exciting to see some of my characters take on a life of their own. As the series grows, Mariana’s best friend Emily become a dominant character with an interesting back story of her own. I hadn’t anticipated this when I started the series. It just flowed out, and Emily gradually became more complicated as the series continued. Same is true for Mariana. She’s a much different person by the end of Adios to All the Drama then she was at the start of Amor and Summer Secrets. I think Mariana’s growth, in a way, mirrors my own growth as a writer.

Which of your characters do you relate to most? Which is your favorite to write about?

Clearly Mariana and I have a lot in common. I mean, how many Polish Puerto Ricans do you know?

But seriously, I shared many of the ethnic identity struggles that Mariana faces in Amor and Summer Secrets, which is why I set out to write a multi-cultural novel from the perspective of a girl who didn’t quite identify with either of her parents’ cultures. I feel that this is a very American story, and that a lot people (and a lot of teens) can relate to being torn between two very different ethnic groups—whatever they are.

That said, Mariana and I are very different people with different personalities. She’s much more set-in-her-ways than I am, and she’s definitely more responsible than I was at her age (sorry mom and dad, if you’re reading this). And on a superficial level, let’s just say Mariana grew up in a slightly higher tax bracket. The Ruizes have quite a nice house.

But my favorite character to write is Vince. He’s silly and comical, and his scenes at Cornell in Amigas and School Scandals are some of my favorite (this is partially because my husband was a Cornell frat boy, so I can relate to Vince at that age). Plus, I love writing dialogue, and Vince is always quick a snarky remark.
If the books were to be turned in a movie, who do you picture playing the characters?

Usually I say Miley Cyrus so that the film will make a bazillion dollars in its opening weekend! LOL.

But in all seriousness, this would be hard to cast. Mariana does not look like the stereotypical Latina. But I think for politically correct reasons, I’d have to cast a Latina in the role. So I would need a Cameron Diaz type, only younger and with red hair. Same goes for Lilly. I recently got a few interesting casting suggestions, like Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez, both of whom I think would be awesome.

As for Alex, there’s a guy who used to play “Diego” on General Hosptial, Ignacio Serricchio, who would fit; or maybe Jesse Metcalfe (the gardener from Desperate Housewives). Ashley Tisdale would be the perfect Madison, and my father would LOVE it if Hector Elizondo played Mariana’s dad.

How many books do you have planned in the series? Can you tell us about anything that will be happening in future books?

There are only three books planned for the series. So as of now Adios to All the Drama will be the final installment. But I think when you read the ending to Adios, you’ll see why it’s a good place to stop. The series really ties up at the end, and I think I’ve fully told Mariana’s story.

As for what happens in the final book, there is a bridesmaid dress on the cover. But the question remains for the reader—who’s wedding is it? Hmmmm….
What are you working on now? What can we expect next?

I’m currently working on a new YA project. It’s a complete departure from what I’ve done in the past—lots of spies, suspense, fight scenes and, of course, a love triangle. I’m really excited about it. Plus I get to travel because I’m setting some scenes in Europe. The character is a lot of fun to write. She’s much cooler than me, all about girl power, and her dialogue is very punchy. I hope to have it ready for the publishing world soon!

Name your top three of the following – Bands, singers, movies, authors, and books.

Bands:

Bon Jovi (Philly’s just across the river from S. Jersey)

U2

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Singers:

Madonna (my Oprah’s wildest dream would be to get on a stage with her)

Joss Stone

Alanis (she reminds me of high school)

Movies:

Godfather (when I’m feeling serious)

Wedding Crashers (when I want to laugh)

Pretty Woman (when I’m feeling nostalgic)

Authors

John Irving

Jane Austin

Stephenie Meyer

Books

The Little Prince

Cidar House Rules

Twilight

What advice would you give to your teen readers?

There are a lot of roadblocks set up on the path to publication, and those obstacles are there to see who wants it the most. If you want to be a writer, you have to be willing to work at it and roll with the rejections. It’s not easy. But not too many things are, so don’t give up if you’re willing to put in the work to see it through. It so worth it to spend your life doing something you love.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: