Friday, September 21, 2018

Book Birthday Blog w/ Patrick Flores-Scott

Welcome to SCBWI-MI's NEW Book Birthday Blog! 
Where we celebrate new books by Michigan's children's book authors and illustrators

BIG congratulations to Patrick Flores-Scott on his new book
American Road Trip!

1. How did you come up with the idea for your book?
When my agent started trying to sell my first book, Jumped In, in the fall of 2009, he told me to get to work on my next novel. 
I didn’t have an idea for a next novel.
I did, however, have a lot of emotion around what was going on in our country after the 2008 economic collapse. The government planned a big fat bailout for the banks whose greedy policies caused the collapse, while working folks who were the victims of those policies were losing their homes and jobs...and there was no bailout planned for them. At that time, I’d also been listening to a series of stories on NPR about soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq and the problems they were facing reintegrating themselves into life back home. 
I had a lot of questions and I decided to channel them toward a novel. What if one family had to deal with all of those big issues of the time? What might it look like for a teen who is trying as hard as he can to be successful, while his family is crumbling under the stress of the times? What might hope and humor and creativity and romance look like in this situation? As these questions led me toward a story, I knew that I wanted to continue exploring what it means to be from South King County a culturally and economically diverse area near Seattle where I had taught middle school, and where Jumped In was set.But I also wanted to bust out of the confines of Jumped In. For me, that meant that at some point, this book had to get out of school and out of town and hit the road. It meant that both parents would still be in the picture, still fighting to make the best of things. It meant that no one would die. It meant that my protagonist would get the chance to fall in love. 

2. What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
When I started writing Jumped In, I was a total novice. The scope of that book was super small. That was helpful for a first time writer. It still took me a looooong time to finish. After years of work, the book seemed like an artistic success and I was confident I knew how to write a novel. 
So, for the second time around I figured I could go for it. I could add a bunch of strong characters with big conflicting needs. I could add magic-realism interludes that would tell the back-story of the Avila family. I could throw in song lyrics. I could write about current events and mental health and veterans. I could add a road trip with a ticking clock. I could accurately represent communities and geography from the Seattle area to Delano, California, to Hatch, New Mexico.
I felt confident about all of these elements. But, as the years went by, the truth hit hard: Yes, by 2013 I had learned to write Jumped In. But American Road Tripwas a whole other deal. And there was the realization that, for me, maybe there is no “knowing how to write a novel.” There is only research and the trial-and-error writing work it would take to wrestle so many ideas and feelings and multiple languages and cultures and current events (which in the course of this project became historical events) into a clean, coherent and compelling story. 
The most difficult part of writing American Road Trip? There was no way I could write it fast. 

3. In the voice of your main character, tell us what you hope readers will experience or learn while reading your book.
Teodoro “T” Avila:
I don’t have any idea what anyone will learn from the epic tale of me blindly fumbling my way through being a student and a brother and a son and like, an idiot maybe-boyfriend, when trying hard at any of those things seemed to mess up all the other ones. 
What did learn from that? 
I learned that it’s super embarrassing to have it all documented in a book. It’s all just a bunch of drama and it’s crazy that people will spend good money to dig in to my personal business. I don’t want to relive it or read about it, or think about “the reader’s” experience, I’ll tell you that much. 
Okay, okay, I know there’s some good stuff in the book. I mean, I think it depicts my sister fairly, like, her making some good choices for us, even though the mind-bogglingly crazy-ridiculous way she went about trying to do the right thing drove me nuts. It was mixed the way Wendy was portrayed, but mostly she came across sweet and silly and super smart, so I won’t protest too much. My parents and my brother—really good, solid, sweet people—and I were mostly at our worst back then. And you can pretty much guess that “us at our worst” is the stuff the author decided to dwell on in the book. 
(I hear you feeling my pain, saying, “Authors are the worst,” and I’m shaking my head up and down fast, saying, “I know, right?”) 
I’ll admit that the ending didn’t suck, even when everything turned out the best it possibly could, all we were left with was hope. Not a new house. Not a cured, normal, go-back-in-time to-the-way-he-used-to-be brother. None of that. Just hope. And that’s how it is living a not-rich American life during an American recession and an American war. You do your best and fumble through a bunch of impossible choices and hope no smug author decides to take advantage of your very personal experiences and put them in a book. 
Speaking of books, reader, you have many options. So instead of diving in to my sordid saga, maybe pick up To Kill a Mockingbird, or some other important novel? Or, people really seem to like the Hunger Games? Harry Potter? Wendy made me finally read it. I give it 3.5 stars out of 5 even though kid magicians ain’t my thing. And that’s saying a lot. Maybe dive into a nice long sci-fi series (one with ten our more books of 700+ pages each—ask your librarian) that will suck you in and occupy you until this American Road Trip “moment” fades away and we can all just forget about that year and that summer and move on. You do that and I promise, sometime in the not too distant future, I’ll write my memoirs and you can read about how I overcame my humble beginnings and I worked my ass off and made very solid choices, and became a big success and an awesome son and brother and partner...and I promise you reader, that book will lay it all out for you, everything you need to learn to reach your goals and make your dreams come true. Deal?

4. Who is your author idol and how have they influenced your work?
It’s so hard to name one author idol. Every time I read something great, I just add that author to my list of author idols. Currently, however, I’m working on a novel in verse so I finally read Brown Girl, Dreamingby Jacqueline Woodson. I have a tendency to try to give everything this huge emotional impact, so I draft these big, combustible scenes, I have to calibrate later. So many of Woodson’s poems in Brown Girl, Dreaming are quiet moments, quiet complex thoughts, and beautiful lingering images. The poems feel so understated. There’s a confidence in that kind of writing, knowing that In the end it will all add up to something so powerful. What she did in that memoir—I want to work to bring more of that deep and quiet stuff to my fiction writing.
I’m also reading Manuel Muñoz stories (for grownups). His sentences are so short and so sparse, but, again, they add up to something gut wrenching and beautiful. When I finished the first story in his collection, The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue, I just sat at my desk bawling and I couldn’t pick the book up for a week. The story is about the isolation felt by an undocumented mom whose son has died in an accident. The story was published in 2007, but it probably means even more now than it did then. Read it and see what you think. 

5. What are your marketing plans for your book? Where can we find it?
The marketing plan is still evolving. It includes more blog participation. Bolstering the website with American Road Triprelated content to connect to social media. Outreach to educators and librarians. I’m lucky to have a very proactive publicist at MacMillan who is helping to the get the word out. 
American Road Trip will be available wherever books are sold online. If you’re lucky enough to have an independent bookstore where you live, walk in and ask for it there. They’ll be happy to help. 

A little bit about the book: Teodoro “T” Avila—whose family is overwhelmed by the economic recession and his brother Manny’s postwar PTSD—escapes it all by playing video games and failing in school. But when he falls hard for cute, college-bound, Wendy Martinez, he fights to overcome chaos at home and turn his life around. With a summer to prep for a make-or-break senior year, T’s volatile big sister, Xochitl, coerces him and Manny into the road trip that threatens to put an end to his dreams of success and romance. 

A little bit about the author: A Washington state native, Patrick now lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his wife Emma and sons, Carlos and Diego. His first book, Jumped In, was a Walden Award finalist and won the Washington State Book Award. 
Visit him at

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing the backstory behind American Road Trip. Sounds like a great read and a gutsy move for an author to tackle those themes!