Caridad Ferrer is famous for many things, a few of them romance related. She’s written a RITA winner novel, Adios to My Old Life and this year she’ll be presenting at the RITAs in another vintage gown. Why another? Because last year, the fabulous Ferrer wore Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Oscar dress. Yes, I didn’t mistype that.
Caridad followed up her RITA winning book with another award nominated book, It’s Not About the Accent a book that she hopes will give readers the opportunity to “gain a greater understanding on how surface impressions are but a fraction of what makes us individual.” Good advice for all of us with RWA coming up.
Well, aside from the obvious, which is it’s the height of summer and I live in Florida where we have two seasons: Summer and Not Summer. Obvious aside, July’s historically been a memorable month for me. My anniversary is in July, my son was born in July, and I made my first sale in July. July 2005, to be exact and the way it happened wasn’t at all how I would’ve expected, starting with what sold. See, I started out in this gig writing romance and women’s fiction. I signed with my agent in March of ’05 on the basis of a romance manuscript and it was that manuscript we started shopping the following May. By mid-June, I finished another manuscript I’d been working on, then proceeded to sit around and twitch and basically drive everyone nuts while I waited to hear what was going on with the submission. My critique partner was desperately trying to get me to start something new since she claims I’m insufferable when I’m not working (she has a point) but I was all, “No, no- what if THIRTEEN sells? You know it would make me crazy to have to drop a new project in the middle and leave it hanging- unfinished- all forlorn and abandoned and crying out for completion-” (So I’m a twitchy anal-retentive Virgo with control issues-‘at least I’m self-aware.)
However, lucky for her, my agent swooped in and saved the day. In early July, while I was still sitting around and twitching, she asked, “Hey, I’ve heard there’s an editor looking for a Latina young adult. You have any ideas percolating in that brain of yours?”
To which I responded, “Are you high? I wasn’t YA when I was YA.” Essentially the same thing I’d said to my friend Alesia Holliday (AKA Alyssa Day) when she suggested I try writing a YA because she thought my voice was suited to the genre. Although honestly, I think I might have also been driving her nuts with the twitching as well. But now the idea was out there, and it’s just like how Sally said in When Harry Met Sally: once it’s out there, you can’t take it back and since the idea was out there, it was driving me (predictably) nuts. What on earth could I write about that would be relatable as a young adult novel? You know what? It’s like any other kind of writing-‘write what you know. I knew Cuban American girls. I knew music. I knew competitiveness. I knew Miami. And above all, I knew the desire to desperately want to succeed. So I sat down at the computer and over the Fourth of July weekend, sketched out the proposal for a story about a young woman, an accomplished musician, whose greatest dream is to become a professional performer despite her overprotective Cuban dad’s misgivings. I sent it to my agent who immediately emailed back, “It’s the 4th of July, why are you writing instead of grilling a hot dog or something?” Then, a couple of hours later, “This is great! It doesn’t even need any changes, I’m going to send it to the editor on Tuesday.”
At the very least, with this submission, I didn’t have time to sit around and twitch because RWA Nationals was coming up and there was list making and shopping and packing and pre-dawn cross-country flights galore. End result, there I was, jet-lagged as all get out, standing on the casino floor of the Reno Hilton with Alesia and Marianne Mancusi-‘beneath some big red truck suspended or mounted on a platform, honestly, I can’t quite remember much about that-‘just that there was a big red truck above my head when my cell phone rang. It was my agent, who was still in New York, calling to tell me that Pocket/MTV Books wanted to buy my young adult book. And not only that, they wanted to buy it as part of a two book deal.
Oh. My. God. The shrieking that echoed through that casino-‘I’m sure the innocent bystanders thought I’d won the Big One, you know? Well, in my world I had.
Fast-forward and AdiÃ³s to My Old Life is officially published on July 4, 2006, a year to the day after I wrote the proposal. Fast-forward some more, to July 14, 2007, where I found myself in the unlikeliest of places: on stage, accepting the RITA for Best Contemporary Single Title Romance for AdiÃ³s. (Story for another time how it wound up in that category.)
You know, all along I’ve referred to AdiÃ³s as my Little Book that Could. For a book in a genre in which I never expected to find myself writing, it’s taken me some amazing places. From the first sale to the awards it’s won, to the letters I’ve received from readers, teen and adult alike, to, believe or not, my second sale. An editor who’d read AdiÃ³s and loved it emailed me out of the blue and asked if I’d be interested in reinterpreting the story of Bizet’s Carmen as a young adult novel.
Um- let’s see. Classic big, sweeping, dramatic story with intrigue, a love triangle, and I can put my own unique spin on it? How could I not be interested? So that’s how, in July of 2009, my third young adult novel, So She Dances, will be released.
Suffice it to say, July = a very good month for me.