Maria’s writing has appeared in Newsweek, The Washington Post and the Star Ledger. Her debut novel, The Secret Side of Empty, is the story of an “illegal” high school senior. It was inspired by Maria’s own experiences as an undocumented teen. Since becoming a citizen, Maria has run her own business and has become a soccer mom. She lives with her 13-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son in northern New Jersey.
If you were stranded on a desert island what 3 things would you want with you?
A loaded Kindle and plenty of tea (with lemon and stevia). I guess my kids don’t count as “things?” But I really hope they’d be there with me. (But only if we get rescued in time for them to get back to school).
If you could have any superpower what would you choose?
I once heard this story about someone who could stop time for everyone else but himself. I love the thought of that, just walking around the still, quiet world. That probably comes from too many days in crazy, hectic days in midtown Manhattan.
What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche. I ate that so much while I was pregnant with my daughter that I swore she’d come out with a Haagen Dazs logo on her forehead. Thankfully not.
If you could meet one person who has died who would you choose?
Isaac Asimov. I always had this feeling that I would meet him. I was crushed when he died. I love his books.
Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.
The Secret Side of Empty has a love story, adventure and dire danger… what’s not to love? 😉
Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects?
I am halfway through both a second YA novel and a memoir. I also have a couple of ideas that are more “cinematic” so I’m excited to see how those develop.
If you could jump in to a book and live in that world, which would it be?
Harry Potter, hands down. Hogwarts in the first book. Not when things start to get hairy. Just when they’re learning spells and sneaking out at night. Fun stuff like that.
What was your favorite book when you were a child/teen?
I had many books I loved since books were a solace for me. I remember being particularly impacted by Judy Blume’s Tiger Eyes. She was so alone and so pissed off at the world. Being undocumented and feeling so marginalized, I really related to that character. And of course, Blume’s Forever. Really anything Judy Blume. Genius.
What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?
The only thing that says whether you’re a “real writer” is your decision that you are. Keep writing no matter what.
If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
Right in the spot I live right now. I adore my little house and my beautiful area of New Jersey.
What is your favorite Quote?
“The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” The Rev. Martin Luther King. I love the thought that we may live in a world with injustice but it’s getting better all the time.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you “grew up”?
I have this wonderful diary entry from when I was 12 or 13. It says “most of all, I want to be a writer.” Going back to that kept me going during times I was afraid I’d never get published. It was like it was meant to be.
How did you celebrate the sale of your first book?
My mom and brother came over and surprised me with a bottle of champagne. That was the best. Also, when I got my “yes, we’ll take you on as a client” letter a friend framed it for me. It’s still in my living room. I love remembering that feeling of accomplishment and sheer joy.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Reality TV. It’s a problem.
Finish the sentence- one book I wish I had written is….
World War Z. That’s talent.
Favorite quote from a movie?
“I’ve crossed oceans of time to find you.” Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I am a total sap.
If you could take over the world, would you?
That sounds like a tremendous management problem.
Something your readers would never guess about you
If you look at me, I look just like any suburban soccer mom you know. But I was undocumented like M.T., the main character in my book. I lived here “illegally” until I was 18 and became a citizen through an amnesty that was granted back then. I drew inspiration from that experience to create M.T. and her world.
The Secret Side of Empty – Coming in 2014
It’s the story of a teen girl that is American in every way except for in one very important way: on paper. She was brought to the U.S. as a baby without proper documentation, so she’s “illegal.” As the end of the safe haven of her high school days draw near, she faces an uncertain future. Full of humor and frustration and love, The Secret Side of Empty speaks to the part in all of us that has felt excluded or has had a secret too scary to share. What M.T., the main character, finally discovers is the strength of the human spirit and the power that’s unleashed when you finally live the truth.
Maria is giving away two separate prizes on her tour, a $250 Amazon Gift Card AND a Kindle Fire.
For a chance to win the $250 Amazon gift card OR the Kindle Fire leave a comment on this blog post. Winners will be randomly selected (from all comments posted on all blog posts participating in The Secret Side of Empty pre-publication tour) on September 30th.