Today at the ball, we welcome the awesome CINDY L. RODRIGUEZ, a fellow debut author, Fearless 15ers, and member of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks team.
In her debut, WHEN REASON BREAKS, which hit shelves this week, Elizabeth Davis and Emily Delgado seem to have little in common except Ms. Diaz’s English class and the solace they find in the words of Emily Dickinson. But both are struggling to cope with secrets and tumultuous emotions that will lead one of them to attempt suicide.
We caught up with Cindy to talk about inspiring reads, literary idols, balancing motherhood and writing, and, of course, what’s next for her!
Talk about one book that made an impact on you.
While I have always been an avid reader, the first book I really fell in love with was THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton. In middle school, I must have read the book dozens of times, and then my friends and I watched the movie so often, we had memorized all of the lines, starting with the first: “When I stepped out into the bright sunlight, from the darkness of the movie house, I had two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.” We’d actually go the bathroom in between viewings so that we could go back into the theater and sit through the movie again.
Years later, I read THE OUTSIDERS as a teacher with my 8th grade students. They only knew Paul Newman as the guy whose face was on salad dressing and popcorn. Reading it as an adult, I noticed some of the flaws, but honestly, I didn’t care. And they didn’t care that it was set in a time that was ancient history to them. There’s something about the novel—the characters and the way it’s written—that draws you in. It has heart. And that doesn’t change no matter how much time passes. When my 8th grade students finished the book, they clapped. They clapped!! For a book!! Need I say more?
Have you ever met someone you idolized?
Julia Alvarez is one of my all-time favorite authors. One year, she was visiting a local school, and my boss offered up his tickets to the dinner event. Yes and thank you! Being in the same room with her and listening to her speak would have been enough. But, as I waited in line in the bathroom, she walked in and stood behind me in line. Gah! So, here was a moment to talk to her face to face, but we were in the bathroom, where, you know, people want to get in and get out. I couldn’t resist though and said something goofy, like “I’m a really big fan.” She was kind and gracious and took time later (not in the bathroom) to chat, take pictures, and sign books.
What’s your next big thing?
My second book, which is completed but not yet sold, is titled AESOP’S CURSE. It’s about Alexandre Hart, a high school freshman, who discovers through his spirit guide that he is the reincarnation of Aesop, the fabulist. Before Aesop was executed for a crime he didn’t commit, he cursed the people of Delphi. Alex, in this lifetime, has to figure out a way to reverse the curse to prevent it from happening again and repair his karma.
The story is much lighter in tone than WHEN REASON BREAKS. While some people advised me to write another story about a serious teen issue, I felt that I needed to shift gears mentally after spending so much time working on a manuscript about teen depression and attempted suicide.
What is your advice for aspiring writers?
My advice would be to stick with it if it’s something you really want to do, whether publishing is your goal or not. I have friends who make time to write because it makes them happy, while others want to be published. Getting published can take a long time. Lots of things can get in your way — #1 being the demands of your life! — but it will happen if you keep at it and ask for help when you need it.
For example, I am a single mom to my beautiful daughter who was adopted from Guatemala. I also work full time as a teacher and part time as an adjunct professor. I started writing what would become WHEN REASON BREAKS a few months after my daughter came home. It was the worst time to start a major writing project, but scenes were dancing in my head and I had to get them down on paper. I chipped away at it for three years before I queried agents. The novel would never have been completed without the help of family and friends who were willing to babysit and read drafts.
I often felt guilty about asking my parents or sister to babysit my daughter so I could write. Was I being a horrible mother? A selfish person? Will she hate me because I spent time writing instead of being with her? The answer to each of these questions, it turns out, was, “No.” She watched me set a goal and work hard to achieve it. She watched others support me when I needed it, and we returned the favor when our friends needed us. These were valuable lessons taught through action, not lecture, and I think they’ll make a lasting impression. So, to all of the writers out there with overloaded schedules, I say: go for it, stick with it, and ask for help.
What time of day do you love best?
I am not a morning person, which is a huge problem since I have to be at work at 7:30 a.m. Whenever we have a break from school, I revert back to my night owl ways. I can easily stay up writing, reading, or watching something on Netflix until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. Because I prefer night to early morning, I would have to say my favorite time of day is when the sun is setting. Just the other day, in the middle of all the snow falls that have been burying us in the Northeast, the sky was a beautiful swirl of orange and pink as the blue sky darkened into night. Ahhhh…amazing!
GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by Noon (EST) on Friday, February 20th to win a copy of WHEN REASON BREAKS. Follow The Debutante Ball on Facebook and Twitter for extra entries—just mention that you did so in your comments. We’ll choose and contact the winner on Friday. Good luck!
Cindy L. Rodriguez is a former newspaper reporter turned public school teacher. She now teaches as a reading specialist at a Connecticut middle school but previously worked for the Hartford Courant and the Boston Globe. She and her young daughter live in Connecticut. When Reason Breaks is her debut novel. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.