Author Interview & Book Giveaway: Flying the Dragon by Natalie Dias Lorenzi

Welcome to Author Natalie Dias Lorenzi

Natalie Dias Lorenzi is a teacher, librarian, mother, wife and traveler. She has lived in seven US states, Germany, Italy and Japan, and traveled to more places than she can count (and she can count pretty high). Like Skye and Hiroshi, the main characters in her debut middle grade novel Flying the Dragon, Natalie knows what it’s like to make a complete fool of herself in another language. That said, she highly recommends the technique of throwing yourself into a new language, even if you’re not ready.

Links:
Website: http://natalielorenzi.com/
Blog: http://bibliolinks.wordpress.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/NatalieLorenzi
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Flying-the-Dragon-by-Natalie-Dias-Lorenzi/282036541848682

Interview:
When you were little, what did you want to be when you “grew up”?

In 4th grade, I had the world’s all-time best teacher, Mrs. Smith, at Bitburg Elementary School on an Air Force base in Germany. She read aloud to us every afternoon, which was my favorite part of the day. Learning was fun in her class, and I wanted to grow up and make learning fun for other kids, too.  I became a classroom teacher, then specialized in English language acquisition. I’m now almost finished with the coursework I need for my LMS (library media specialist) endorsement so that I can become a full-time school librarian. At the moment I’m a half-time ESL teacher and a half-time librarian at an elementary school.

If you could travel in a Time Machine would you go back to the past or into the future?

I would definitely go back to the past. I love the television show Who Do You Think You Are?,where genealogists help celebrities trace their family histories. I’d love to go back and meet my ancestors, especially one of my grandmother’s aunts who was a missionary doctor in China in the early 1900s. Her history in our family is a bit fuzzy, and I’d love to meet her and find out her story!

If you were stranded on a desert island what 3 things would you want with you? Okay, so the romantic version would include a book, a hammock, and a fruity drink. The realistic answer? A satellite phone—fully charged with a tracking device so someone would know where I am, sunscreen, and a bug-proof, critter-proof tent with air conditioning and a fully-stocked fridge and bathroom!

What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?

That depends on which stage of their career they are in. For someone just starting out, join SCBWI (www.scbwi.org) and get to know other writers at conferences and in online communities like the one author Verla Kay has created (http://www.verlakay.com/boards/). For someone who already has already written something, my next piece of advice would be to join a critique group and sign up for manuscript critiques at conference. My critique group has been together for about 7 years, and I can’t imagine going on this journey without them. For someone who has been writing for awhile and has started to get “positive rejections” (personalized notes from agents and editors, invitations to sub again, etc.), my advice is to be patient and KEEP writing. Patience is not one of my own virtues, so I know how hard it is to be in a business that seems to move at a glacial pace. But when I feel like a manuscript just isn’t clicking, I leave it alone, start something new, and come back to it later. It’s tempting to call it “as finished as it will ever be,” as sometimes it is. But try to discern if that’s really true, or if you just want to get it out there in Sub World. If it’s the latter, put it aside for a bit (a month or more, if you can stand it) and then come back to it. I can guarantee that you’ll see it differently once you’ve had some distance.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?

I’ve lived in many places, both as a kid and later as an adult. My dad was in the Air Force when I was growing up, so I’ve lived in Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Texas, Arizona, Oregon, Virginia and Germany. Once I graduated from college, I thought I would stay put in Virginia, but it wasn’t long before the travel bug bit. The summer after my first year of teaching, I backpacked around Europe, and the following summer I went on a 7-week trip across the United States. They were both amazing experiences, and I decided that, instead of waiting each summer to travel, I’d like to live somewhere where it felt like I was traveling every day. So I got a job teaching Kindergarten at the International School of Trieste in Italy, where I met my future husband. When my two-year contract was up, I went to Japan where I taught first grade for more two years before returning to the States.

Two kids and six years later, my husband and I decided to move back to Italy for two years so that our daughters could learn Italian, get to know their Italian relatives, and I could stay home with our girls. When our son was born, two years morphed into five years, and we didn’t return to the States until 2008.

Even after all of the traveling I’ve done, I’m living right where I want to—in Virginia near my family during the school year, and in Italy near my husband’s family in the summers. I still love to travel—the two continents I’ve never been to are Australia and Antarctica. But being near family is the best place for us to live for now.

Can you see yourself in any of your characters?

There are definitely elements of myself in both Hiroshi and Skye. Hiroshi is completely out of his element when he moves from Japan to Virginia. He doesn’t know the culture or the language, and feels totally out of place. When I was his age (in 5th grade), we moved from an Air Force base in Germany to San Antonio, Texas. While I didn’t struggle with the language, like Hiroshi does, I was definitely out of place culturally. These were the pre-Internet days, so those of us who lived on the base in Germany were pretty out of touch with what was happening back in the US. When I moved, I had no idea what the latest songs, TV shows and movies were, and I was pretty miserable for the first few months of that school year.

Like Skye in her Saturday Japanese class, I felt like I was expected to know the culture, when I actually I was clueless. When I moved to Italy and Japan as an adult, I had a taste of the bewilderment that Hiroshi and Skye felt with English and Japanese, respectively. Not being able to express yourself is frustrating and humbling, but at least my days were spent teaching at international schools where the staff and most of the students spoke English. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for my ESL students to sit through an entire day of school and only understand a few words!

If you had 24 hours alone how would you spend it?

This probably won’t sound very surprising, but I would definitely spend a good chunk of the day writing. As a full-time teacher/librarian, wife and mother, I don’t get big blocks of writing time very often. I would go someplace beautiful and peaceful, like the beach or the mountains, where I could think and walk and work on stories!

In your wildest dreams, which author would you love to co-author a book with?

The chapters in Flying the Dragon alternate by viewpoints, Hiroshi’s and Skye’s. As a result, the reader sees elements of Hiroshi and Skye that would have stayed hidden if the story had been told from only one of their points of view. For example, when Hiroshi has a cold, he shows up at school with a white cloth mask that covers his nose and mouth, as is done in Japan. The mask wouldn’t even warrant a mention if Hiroshi had been telling that part of the story. But to Skye, it’s a source of embarrassment.

I’d love to co-author a book with an author who was raised in a culture that’s different from my own. That culture might be right here in the US; our country has numerous cultures within its borders. Linda Sue Park, Sherman Alexie, and Mitali Perkins come to mind.  All three of them are such talented writers, and it would be an honor

If you could jump in to a book, and live in that world, which would it be?

I’d love to jump into the world of the Penderwicks and stay in the summer estate of Arundel in Massachusetts. Although the girls frequently seem to find themselves in heaps of trouble there, the place seems so lovely—peaceful and beautiful.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

I went skydiving when I was in my 20s. I’m glad I did it once, but wouldn’t want to do it again! 

Flying the Dragon

American-born Skye knows very little of her Japanese heritage. Her father taught her to speak the language, but when their estranged Japanese family, including Skye’s grandfather, suddenly move to the United States, Skye must be prepared to give up her All-Star soccer dreams to take Japanese lessons and to help her cousin, Hiroshi adapt to a new school. Hiroshi, likewise, must give up his home and his hopes of winning the rokkaku kite-fighting championship with Grandfather. Faced with language barriers, culture clashes and cousin rivalry, Skye and Hiroshi have a rocky start. But a greater shared loss brings them together. They learn to communicate, not only through language, but through a common heritage and sense of family honor. At the rokkaku contest at the annual Washington Cherry Blossom Festival, Hiroshi and Skye must work as a team in order to compete with the best.

Giveaway Details 
1 copy of Flying the Dragon
Open to US only
Ends 8/19/12

a Rafflecopter giveaway