Christina Gonzalez is the author of the forthcoming THE RED UMBRELLA (May 11). This historical fiction YA novel uses Christina's own family history, as you'll see in the interview. Before becoming an author, Christina worked as a lawyer.
1. Your novel THE RED UMBRELLA is historical fiction, loosely based on your parents' and mother-in-law's experiences leaving Cuba two years after the Communist revolution as part of Operation Pedro Pan. When did you first become interested in their stories? What kinds of research did you do in order to write the novel?
I don’t think there was a specific moment when I became interested in the story it was always part of my life. Ever since I was a little girl, I’d been hearing about how my parents came to the United States … so I guess it was really a part of me, too. As for research, I spoke to my family in great detail, spoke to other members of the Cuban community who were heavily involved with Operation Pedro Pan and I read newspaper accounts ( U.S. and Cuban) to see how the media was reporting the situation. In fact, I incorporated actual American newspaper headlines at the beginning of each chapter to give the reader an understanding of what was truly happening in Cuba (the newspaper dates follow the dates in the story).
2. Clearly this is a somewhat personal story. What is the hardest part about fictionalizing a true story? How has your family reacted to the book?
I think the hardest part is the worry that you’re not telling the story accurately enough. Since this story also “touched home” with me, I wanted to make sure to convey the pain, desperation and hope the characters felt.
My family’s reaction has been amazing and supportive. Then again, they are a pretty amazing bunch of people.
3. You grew up with a blend of cultures, Cuban and Southern. What are some of your favorite traditions from each?
Well, if we’re talking food (and I love talking about food) a couple of my Southern favorites are chicken fried steak and banana pudding. Cuban yumminess can be found in the basic dish of picadillo, white rice and black beans.
4. Was THE RED UMBRELLA your title? What were some other titles considered, by you or your publisher?
The Red Umbrella was my title and, once the book was written, nothing else was ever considered.
5. Apparently you love peanut butter and jelly with fried egg. How did your sister come up with that combination? What are some of your other favorite foods?
I guess you read that silly blogpost I made a while back, but yes, my sister and I do like dunking a PB&J sandwich into a fried egg. I know it sounds totally gross (we were little when we wanted to “invent” a crazy new sandwich that would slightly disgust our parents), but it’s actually really good. Other favorite foods include Oreos, doughnuts, brownies, chocolate chip muffins…man, I’m getting hungry!
6. I'll probably be guilty of asking this question a lot, since I'm interviewing a number of debut authors and it is such a tempting one to ask. What are your plans once THE RED UMBRELLA debuts? Do you have other novels in the works?
Lots of plans…BIG plans! I have a science fiction novel and historical fiction novel in the works. Hopefully, you’ll be hearing more about them later in the year. After that, who knows? I adore writing and hope to be doing this for a long time to come.
To win a red umbrella and signed bookmarks, leave a relevant comment by April 13. I will only send the umbrella within the US, but if someone international wins I will send them the bookmarks and choose a second winner. You can earn a bonus entry by posting about the contest.