With a background in cultural anthropology and ESL-teaching, Laura has lived and traveled extensively in Latin America. Her first book in a new travel-adventure series, The Indigo Notebook, has just been released.
Her previous novel, Red Glass, won numerous awards, including the IRA YA Fiction Award and the Americas Award, and was selected as an Oprah's Kids' Book List Pick. Acclaimed for its sensitive treatment of immigration issues, a starred review from Publishers' Weekly calls Red Glass a "vibrant, large-hearted story."
Laura's award-winning debut novel, What the Moon Saw was praised as "a powerful, magical story ... a rare glimpse into an indigenous culture" in a starred review from Booklist. Laura now lives with her husband, toddler, and dog in Colorado. She is donating a portion of her royalties to indigenous rights organizations in Latin America. Please visit her at http://www.lauraresau.com .
"The characters fairly brim with life in this thoughtful, poignant novel filled with cultural details." – Kirkus Reviews on The Indigo Notebook
Please join us in welcoming Laura to the Cafe . . .
Mary: Tell us about your newest book, The Indigo Notebook.
Laura: This is the first novel in a new series about a teenage girl named Zeeta who lives in a different country every year with her flighty, ESL-teaching mother. In this first book, Zeeta and her mom are in the Ecuadorian Andes. It appears that Zeeta's wish for a "normal," settled-down life might come true. It's in Ecuador where she meets Wendell, an American boy who needs her help on his search for his birth parents. As Zeeta and Wendell have adventures together, they explore what it means to have their greatest wishes come true.
While writing this book, I thought a lot about the idea that what we think will make us happiest might not be what truly makes our spirits fly. In some ways, this story was my attempt to work through this "happiness trap."
Mary: What was your inspiration for this story?
Laura: I've always loved living abroad and traveling, and there's a part of me that wishes I could live a wandering life, like Zeeta and Layla. That's how I got the idea for the series premise. I felt inspired to set the first book in Ecuador after spending time in indigenous Quichua communities in the Otavalo region. At the time, I was researching a different book-- a memoir co-written with my Ecuadorian friend Maria. On my first trip there, I fell in love with the landscape and heard fascinating stories and met new friends… and not surprisingly, the beginnings of a novel started brewing.
On my second trip, I focused on research specifically for this novel, which led me to a healing ritual with a shaman. During that ritual, I realized I was ready to adopt a baby (after five years of trying to have one). When I returned home, I spent the next several months filling out the adoption paperwork, going to adoption workshops, and writing a draft of The Indigo Notebook. Inevitably, my reflections on my son's possible future feelings about his adoption became woven into the novel.
(Update: My son came home to us from Guatemala almost two years ago, and he's an exuberant, loving, beautiful little toddler.)
Mary: Congratulations! Your writing really did take you on an incredible life-changing journey!
Do you work on more than one book at a time?
Laura: Normally I work on one book at a time during the first several drafts, although this book was different. During an early draft of The Indigo Notebook, I was inspired to write Star in the Forest-- a middle-grade novel about a girl whose dad was recently deported to Mexico (a story interwoven with magical folklore). I felt a sense of urgency to write this novel, and didn't think I could wait until after The Indigo Notebook.
I was motivated by a fan of What the Moon Saw (my first book), who identified strongly with the main character, Clara, but with one important difference: Clara had documents, which enabled her to come and go across the border to visit her grandparents' Oaxacan village. This girl, however, came to the U.S. as a young child without documents, so she was unable to go visit her father (since the return trip would be too dangerous).
A complete story idea came to me. I was afraid that if I didn't write it down immediately, I'd never do it. So (without telling my agent or editor, hee hee hee) I put The Indigo Notebook aside for a few weeks and wrote Star in the Forest like a madwoman. It felt like playing hooky, since I had a contract and a looming deadline for The Indigo Notebook. The guilt made me spin the story out that much faster, so that I could get back to working on what I was supposed to be doing. The resulting book, Star in the Forest, will be released in March 2010. I'm so grateful I gave into that impulse to play hooky-- I'm really proud of the final product (and I ended up finishing The Indigo Notebook on time anyway. Happy ending!)
Mary: Wow, that is amazing, and I am sure your agent and editor are happy you played "hooky" too. Do you do other types of writing besides YA or MG?
Laura: I love writing short travel memoir pieces (for adults). People who read these pieces get a special glimpse of the inspiration for my novels, since my fiction is largely based on experiences I've had. These pieces are mostly set in southern Mexico, with some mysticism and humor thrown in. I have a piece appearing in The Best of Lonely Planet Travel Writing, to be released in November. (On the links section of my website, I link to anthologies that have published these short works.)
Mary: Can you tell us what you are working on now?
Laura: I'm revising The Ruby Notebook, which is the sequel to The Indigo Notebook. It's set in Aix-en-Provence, France, where I lived for a year during my junior year abroad in college. I'm also jotting down notes about the third novel in the series, The Jade Notebook, set in a small coastal village in Oaxaca. And I'm getting ready to revise The Queen of Water, the collaborative memoir with Maria Virginia Farinango, to be released in spring of 2011. Okay, I'd better get to work now…
Thanks for a great interview! It's been a pleasure!
Mary: The pleasure is all ours, Laura! Best of luck with your new book!
Cafe Note: As a regular part of our interviews, featured authors will pop back in for one week after their interview is posted to answer any other questions blog readers may leave for them. So if you have any questions or comments for Laura, please feel free to post away in the comments!