A huge Las Musas happy book birthday to Christina Diaz Gonzalez on the release of her latest middle grade novel, Concealed.
What does it feel to be on the run, always changing your name and identity, barely remembering who you once were? What if everything you knew… turned out to be a lie? These are questions Christina Diaz Gonzalez explores in this "gripping” story, “brimming with knotty twists and eccentric turns" (Kirkus Reviews).
Alyson Gerber, critically-acclaimed author of Taking Up Space, calls Concealed, “A masterful adventure with an authentic middle-grade voice about the power of identity and the journey to figure out who you really are.” ¡Felicidades!
Alexandra Alessandri interviews Christina about her novel, but first, here’s a quick look at Concealed:
What if you had no name, no past, and no home?
Ivette. Joanna. And now: Katrina
Whatever her name is, it won’t last long. Katrina doesn’t know any of the details about her past, but she does know that she and her parents are part of the Witness Protection Program. Whenever her parents say they have to move on and start over, she takes on a new identity. A new name, a new hair color, a new story.
Until their location leaks and her parents disappear. Forced to embark on a dangerous rescue mission, Katrina and her new friend Parker set out to save her parents―and find out the truth about her secret past and the people that want her family dead.
But every new discovery reveals that Katrina's entire life has been built around secrets covered up with lies and that her parents were actually the ones keeping the biggest secret of all. Katrina must now decide if learning the whole truth is worth the price of losing everything she has ever believed about herself and her family.
Alexandra Alessandri: Congratulations on your new novel, Christina! James Ponti, New York Times bestselling author of City Spies, called Concealed, “A pitch-perfect, pulse-pounding adventure with unexpected twists” and Ally Carter, New York Times bestselling author of The Gallagher Girls series called it “A twisty thrill-ride that will leave you on the edge of your seat!” and I couldn’t agree more! I also loved the Author’s Note, which has such a cool explanation about how this story got its beginnings. So readers—check it out!
What were the most challenging parts of writing a fast-paced thriller and keeping the reader on their toes throughout the whole ride? What parts were the most fun to write?
Christina Diaz Gonzalez: The most challenging part of writing something with a lot of twists & turns was making sure I didn’t get twisted up like a pretzel or leave the reader completely confused as to what was happening! That being said, I had so much fun crafting these unexpected surprises... I just had to make sure to leave clues along the way so that if someone wants to re-read certain parts of the book they’ll realize that the answers were there all along.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your dun-dun-dunnn (*cue the music*) chapter endings, and the role you see them playing in creating an unputdownable read?
Christina: I try to imagine someone reading the book late at night and thinking that when they finish that particular chapter they’ll go to bed... my goal is to make them want to read Just. One. More. Chapter.
At its core, Concealed is a story about family (and friends who become family) and identity. Why were these themes important for you to explore through this family on the run and this girl whose identity comes into question?
Christina: As much as I love an exciting plot, it really doesn’t mean much if you don’t have compelling characters who are evolving as people. In this story, Katrina has a lot to learn about herself and her place in the world around her. And this is something that everyone can relate to... even if we haven’t been forced to constantly change our name and identity.
Fun question: If you were in the Witness Protection Plan, where would you want them to take you?
Christina: If I had to pick one place it would probably be the Amalfi Coast in Italy... or Hawaii... or maybe somewhere in the Bahamas. Hm... maybe I’m just dreaming of going on vacation.
You’re the author of several other middle grade novels, including Moving Target, The Red Umbrella, and A Thunderous Whisper. How did writing Concealed differ from your other novels? How was it similar?
Christina: Concealed was different in that it felt like many of the things I was writing about were things that could be plausible in the very near future whereas my other books were tied to events in the past. The similarities are the themes of redefining what family can mean to a person and the importance of friendship.
Describe your perfect writing day. Do you write with music or in silence? Do you have any routines and rituals? Any special snacks?
Christina: I like to write in coffee shops with music (not of my choosing) playing in the background and people walking around. If I’m revising... there needs to be chocolate nearby.
Can you tell us what we can expect from you next?
Christina: Next summer there will be a bilingual (English and Spanish) graphic novel called Invisible that I wrote and Gabriela Epstein illustrated. We’re still doing the final touches on that one!
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Thank you so much for chatting with me, Christina! I’m so excited for readers to find Concealed, and I’m looking forward to reading your graphic novel next year!
Christina Diaz Gonzalez is the award-winning author of several books including THE RED UMBRELLA, A THUNDEROUS WHISPER, MOVING TARGET, RETURN FIRE, STORMSPEAKER (the 7th book in the SPIRIT ANIMALS: FALL OF THE BEASTS series), and the upcoming novel, CONCEALED. Her books have received numerous honors including the American Library Association’s Best Fiction for Young Adults, the Florida Book Award, the Nebraska Book Award and the International Latino Book Award. Publications such as Publisher’s Weekly, The Miami Herald, School Library Journal and The Washington Post have called her novels exciting, engrossing and compelling. Christina currently lives in Miami, Florida with her husband, sons, and a dog that can open doors.
Alexandra Alessandri is the award-winning author of Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! (Albert Whitman), Isabel and Her Colores go to School (Sleeping Bear Press), and the forthcoming middle grade fantasy The Enchanted Life of Valentina Mejía. The daughter of Colombian immigrants, she is also a former associate professor of English, a writer for Curriculum Associates, and a poet, with some of her work appearing in The Acentos Review, Rio Grande Review, Atlanta Review, and Young Adult Review Network. Alexandra lives in Florida with her husband and son.
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