Author Interview: Gaby Triana


Gaby Triana

Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Gaby Triana began her writing career in the 3rd grade when she wrote her 3-page novel, Skeeter Creek, a story about a girl who loved fishing during the lazy days of a mosquito-filled summer. It had no plot but sounded like Mark Twain and won her an A+++ from her teacher. It was then she had the twinkling of an idea that she might become a writer in the future, but being 9 years old, she thought becoming a veterinarian would be better, since she’d be able to “play with cats and stuff.”

Throughout school, Gaby dabbled in many activities, from softball to 1st chair violin, to dance and color guard. One of her hobbies, cake decorating, snowballed into a full-blown business, and in 2010, she opened her own cake design studio, Cakes by Gaby, featured on South Florida’s WSVN Style File and The Miami Herald. After high school, Gaby attended Florida State University and Nova University, earning a Master’s degree in Elementary Education, and she taught 3rd – 5th grades, earning Teacher of the Year in 2000. That year, she wrote her first novel for middle grades, FREDDIE AND THE BILTMORE GHOST, which remains unpublished but ignited her love of writing for kids and teens.

In 2001, her son, Michael, was born, and Gaby began writing full time and joined the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustators (SCBWI). She wrote BACKSTAGE PASS, a novel about a rock band frontman’s 16-year-old daughter caught between her real life of on-road living and global publicity and her secret life of nothingness and normality at a public high school in Coconut Grove, Florida. BACKSTAGE PASS (HarperCollins, 2004) earned an IRA Teen Choice Award in 2006 and praise from Booklist, School Library Journal, and Publisher’s Weekly. In 2005, her second novel, CUBANITA (HarperCollins, 2005), about a Cuban-American teen caught between the two cultures she loves, was released to a starred review on Kirkus, and her twins, Noah and Murphy, were born soon after. Her next novel, THE TEMPTRESS FOUR (HarperCollins, 2008), about four best friends on a graduation cruise, was one of Hispanic Magazine’s “Good Reads of 2008,” and RIDING THE UNIVERSE (HarperCollins, 2009), about 17-year-old Harley-Davidson enthusiast, Chloé Rodriguez, was highly praised by School Library Journal and Booklist. Her latest time travel fantasy, SUMMER OF YESTERDAY (Simon & Schuster, 2014), takes readers back to 1982 River Country in Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, a favorite childhood vacation spot of Gaby’s. SUMMER OF YESTERDAY releases on June 17th, 2014.

Gaby is always writing something, from young adult and middle grade novels, to textbook selections, to ghostwriting for private clients. She now serves as Co-Regional Advisor for SCBWI Florida, the organization that helped jumpstart her writing career. She recently finished her magical YA story, CAKESPELL, a holiday tale, WHERE THE TREETOPS GLISTEN, and she’s currently revising her first unpublished novel back to life. When she’s not writing, Gaby is running a house full of energetic, creative boys, hosting parties, and making big, Sunday breakfasts.

Gaby-Gaby (as I prefer to call her, since she calls me Fay-Fay) is one of the best authors that I’ve ever met. She’s so sweet and so nice and we became friends right away. I am totally blown away by her book, Summer of Yesterday, which is the first book that received an ∞ rating from me. (Click here for my review!)

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The Interview

PERSONAL QUESTIONS

What is your full name?

Gabriela Pilar Triana.

When is your birthday?

10-12-1971.

(Squee! Your birthday is a month away from mine! <3)

How old are you?

42.

Favorite food?

Steak and garlic mashed potatoes.

Favorite color?

Yellow.

Favorite flower?

Yellow roses.

Favorite song?

Right now, I’m loving anything by Iggy Azalea.

Favorite TV show?

I don’t watch much TV, since I’m always writing, but if I am, it’s always something to do with cooking, like Cupcake Wars or Chopped on Food Network.

Favorite place to read and/or write?

In my red leather chair.

Favorite book? (The one that you’ll never get tired of reading.)

The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough or The Shining, by Stephen King

ON WRITING

Who are you when you’re writing?

I’m the teen I wish I would’ve had the guts to be.

Who are you when you’re not writing?

A mom of 3 boys, a party planner, and a cake ninja.

Which do you prefer more? (You when you’re writing or you when you’re not writing?)

They are equal halves of the same person. And without one, the other is not complete.

What drives you to write more?

Paying my bills. 🙂 That, and writing the stories that I would want to read as a reader.

How often do you experience writer’s block and what do you do to get out of it?

I rarely experience writer’s block, because I write something every day, even if it’s terrible. But at least it’s something that I can go back and fix later. If I’m not in the mood to write, I might put on some music and dance in my living room to shake off the MEH feeling.

Are you a perfectionist when it comes to your work?

Like any good artist, I’m never completely happy with my work. There’s always something that didn’t come out quite the way I liked, and I’ll do my best to fix it, but I also know when it’s time to let go. When it’s good enough and others are laughing, crying, or questioning, then I know I’ve done my job.

Do you like making outlines when you write, or do you prefer to start from scratch and work your way from there?

I create an outline for every novel I write, but I don’t always follow it. It’s a guide to get me going in the right direction, but things always change along the way.

If you could do both at the same speed, which would you prefer: Writing on paper or typing your words? Why?

If the same speed, then writing on paper, because it’s real and earthy and you’re connected with the pen and paper. I love the feel of a medium ballpoint blue pen, and I love my handwriting, but I write my novels on my laptop because it’s faster. Still, I do write notes and create those outlines on paper first.

What is the best writing advice that you could share with us?

If you’re trying to get published, don’t put all your hopes on the same story. Keep moving. Try a different voice, a different gender character, a different setting or story altogether. Write a completely new book. If you’re really a writer, you’ll write anything, and you’ll always be coming up with stories. If you’re just writing for fun, then my best advice would be to put your whole heart into it. Don’t try to sound like someone else. Don’t be fake. Just be you, and the more truth you put into your stories, the more they’ll resonate.

Of all the things that you’ve ever written, which one is the most special to you?

I wrote a story called Freddie and the Biltmore Ghost, a middle grade novel about a tomboy who goes to an abandoned hotel and encounters a ghost of a WWII fighter pilot who needs help finding his estranged daughter. It was the first novel I ever wrote, and I was so proud that I finished it. I recently took it back out after 17 years and I’m remaking it into a middle grade series called FRIDA LOPEZ, GHOST HUNTER. I never thought it would be published, because it was my “practice novel,” but it’s getting a new life, and I couldn’t be happier for it.

ON HER BOOKS

What inspired the idea of your first book?

I’m going to assume that by first book, you mean my first published book, BACKSTAGE PASS. After writing my middle grade practice novel (see above), I decided to try something different, so I played around with teen voice. I was looking through pics online of my favorite band from way back, U2, and I saw a photo of the singer, Bono, with his then-13-year-old daughter who looked so bored next to him, like it was a terrible to be a rock star’s daughter. I wondered what she must be thinking and wrote a monologue pretending I was her. It turned into Desert’s voice from that book.

What message would you like your readers to learn from that book?

I honestly don’t wish for my readers to learn anything from my books. They’re not there to teach. They’re there to tell a story. But I guess the overall theme of BACKSTAGE PASS would be to let people in, learn to love unconditionally, and trust the people who love you.

What inspired the idea of your latest book?

SUMMER OF YESTERDAY was inspired by my trips to Fort Wilderness in Disney World when I was a kid. I spent many years splashing around in River Country (the now-abandoned water park) when it was “alive,” and the idea of bringing River Country back to life and seeing it again in the pages of a book was very appealing to me. Even if it didn’t sell to a publisher, I had at least written a love letter to a place I hold special in my heart.

What message would you like your readers to learn from that book?

The take-away from this book is to appreciate the things you love while you have them. Whether they’re people, places, things you love…take them in, study them, take a mental picture of them and frame them in your mind while you have them, because they won’t last forever. As a teen, I remember thinking that people and places would be around forever, never thinking that they’d one day go away, but as an adult, now I can tell you that I wish I would’ve appreciated things more when I was 17.

What is the greatest challenge that you have encountered in the publishing world and how did you overcome it?

The greatest challenge in the publishing world is getting published. 🙂 Seriously. The next greatest challenge is staying published by putting out more books. Just because you’ve published one book is no guarantee that there will be more. You have to always get better at what you do and top yourself off.

ON BOOK DISCRIMINATION

How would you define book discrimination?

I would define book discrimination as the underrepresentation of a given population in literature. It’s not having enough books for Hispanics, black people, gay people, Asian people, girls who love math, boys who love to sew, basically, anything that is different from the norm.

How do you feel about it?

I feel there need to be more books about diversity all around. I’m Cuban-American, born in the US, and I speak both Spanish and English. I know for a fact that I’m not the only one, yet there still aren’t enough books about different cultures for kids and teens.

What do you think is the cause of book discrimination?

Old traditions, for one. It takes time for change to happen in any culture, including the book industry. Ignorance is another, but this can be battled by creating the diverse books we need to represent the types of people who are out there.

What would you do against it?

I would help with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, ask editors I meet that they should buy more books about different kinds of people, and keep writing stories with diverse characters in them. All four of my first books were about Hispanic characters living in South Florida.

Fill in the blanks. More people should read ________ by ________ because ________.

More people should read books about diversity by authors of diverse backgrounds, because we are all different. Knowledge and information is power, and tolerance is the key to kindness.

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Gaby-Gaby will be giving away a signed Summer of Yesterday notebook! Giveaway will be up soon so stay tuned!

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