Today on the blog, we're here with an interview between Musa Rebecca Balcárcel and Musa Anika Fajardo, author of Meet Me Halfway.
About MEET ME HALFWAY:
When new classmates Mattie and Mercedes meet and realize they have the same Colombian dad, the two team up in a Parent Trap–inspired misadventure to meet him for the first time in this sharp and poignant middle grade novel about the bonds that make a family.
Rebecca Balcárcel: Hi, Anika! I’m thrilled to talk to you about your newest book, Meet Me Halfway! I fell in love with this book when I read an early copy, and I read this book in one day! Tell us what inspired this story.
Anika Fajardo: Thank you, Rebecca. Muchísimas gracias, too, for blurbing my book! It’s a thrill to have one of my favorite middle-grade authors say nice things about my book.
Rebecca Balcárcel: Aww, thanks! The admiration is mutual! So, the frenemy dynamic in your book is so vivid! Was that fun to write, or aggravating?
Anika Fajardo: So fun to write! Obviously, perhaps, the dynamic was inspired by the twins in The Parent Trap, which my mom introduced me to when I was a kid (the Haley Mills version). When I was young, I also loved the mean-girl dynamic of Nellie Oleson in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. So, in a way, I’ve been preparing for this storyline my whole life. What was most challenging about writing this, though, was making sure neither girl comes off more mean–or more likeable–than the other.
Rebecca Balcárcel: Yes, I see how that would be tricky. You did it well! (And I LOVE the Haley Mills' The Parent Trap!) You tackle the pain of lost family and the awkwardness of newly discovered family. Can you talk about how you entered the emotional lives of your characters to make that so real?
Anika Fajardo: Both of these–lost family and new family–directly reflect my personal experience. I grew up estranged from my Colombian father and, for a time, lived with a stepfamily. When I was twenty-five, I found out I had a half-brother around my same age. We happened to both live in the Bay Area at the time, so I spent a lot of time imagining what it would have been like to run into him unknowingly. I channeled my own experience in the writing.
Rebecca Balcárcel: I love how the girls run all over a college campus as they search for their father. What research did you do about the campus and other aspects of the book?
Anika Fajardo: I spent twelve years as an academic librarian at a small liberal arts college and so everything that happens on the college campus is inspired by real life! I really wanted kids to see college from the ground level, to help kids who might become first-generation college students imagine what the college experience is like. I think kids get a lot of information about how college is about studying and learning and getting ahead in life, but there’s a lot more to college life.
Rebecca Balcárcel: So true! No wonder the campus is so realistic! I was struck by your use of myth and folklore and how it added a deeper layer. Can you talk about that?
Anika Fajardo: My stepmother is an anthropologist in Colombia, and she helped me track down mythology of Colombia’s indigenous people. Kids tend to really love mythology, and I wanted to show a story that they might not be familiar with. The story of Tima and Yui comes from an indigenous group called the Arhuaco in the Caribbean coastal region of Colombia. I recently got to visit an Arhuaco village and meet with some of the people, and it made me extra glad that I used their story.
Rebecca Balcárcel: Wow, that must have been amazing! So cool. So let’s talk theme. Opening to love and being your honest self are a couple of themes in this book. What do you hope readers take away?
Anika Fajardo: First of all, I hope readers get a fun read! I was inspired by the adventure in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and I wanted to write a book that made readers feel like they’re on their own adventure. I also want kids to see that families can be lots of different things and that we can’t always know what’s going to happen when we first meet people.
Order Meet Me Halfway today!
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