Monday, February 02, 2009
Between the Pages with Berta Platas
I've interviewed quite a few actors and writers in my day; some famous, some you'd see on the screen and wonder where you'd seen him or her before. Before some interviews I get a little nervous, like the one I did with Oscar Nunez of The Office and this Q&A with my Friday Night Chicas and Names I Call My Sister pen pal, Berta Platas. When you really respect someone, you don't want to look stupid by asking stupid questions.
But Berta gives good interview and even better story. Her latest release, Lucky Chica is about values, how Rosie values herself, her family and her heart. It made me happy for my friend and it made me pretty damn proud to be included in the same company with her.
Please welcome Berta Platas!
Chica Lit: What inspired the idea for Lucky Chica and how long did it go from manuscript to published novel?
Berta: I play the lottery with my dad and we have fun scheming what we'll do with all the loot if we win. So many people get excited about the lottery that I thought it would make a fun novel. I started plotting it while I was writing Cinderella Lopez, and then devoted myself to it after turning that book in. A major rewrite, at my editor's suggestion, set it back a bit, but I figured out a way to make her ideas work, and they've certainly made it a better book.
Chica Lit: The first act in Lucky Chica shows Rosie's dismal and hardscrabble existence. It was painful reading it because it brought memories of my college years. Did Rosie pop out of your head complete, or did it take time for her to develop into a full-fledged character?
Berta: I knew Rosie from the first. The Buford Highway area in Chamblee and Doraville, on the outskirts of Atlanta, have a very dense concentration of immigrants. It's the place where folks start, where everyone speaks your language. Here, you either acclimate, then move up, or you start a business and are happy surrounded by folks just like you, or you feel stuck forever. I wanted Rosie to feel stuck, but optimistic. It's hard to be optimistic forever. and the story starts when she's at the end of her good attitude.
Chica Lit: How much research went into your book?
Berta: A lot! I studied past winners of huge lottery prizes, not just the ones you hear about who go wild and lose everything, but the ones who make good choices and live happily ever after. I found out about the types of people who prey on lottery winners, what the best advice is if you win a big prize like this, and what resources can offer dependable advice. Did you know that there's a "Sudden Wealth Institute"? It's a group of financial planners that help those who come into big money, whether it's a lottery win, an inheritance, or an insurance settlement. They help you find the best tax advantages and make wise choices with money management. For a fee, of course!
Chica Lit: I know that you're a marketing exec by day and novelist by, well, when you make the time to write. But do you keep a tape recorder or notebook on hand when you're away from your book ... ahem, do you sneak writing in at the office?
Berta: I have a digital recorder that my husband gave me. It's so cute! It's so complicated! I never could figure the little darling out. So I take notes. I carry my AlphaSmart with me and write whenever I can, aided by a chapter outline that lets me know exactly what's coming up next in my book. As for sneaking writing at the office - never! My office mates know I'm an author, and I want to keep the two realms totally separate. At lunchtime I write on my Alphie, or longhand. At night, when my brain is fried, I can just transcribe what I wrote when I was fresher. Close to deadlines, I write at night, too, fried and all.
Chica Lit: Your next book is a complete departure from "chica lit." What can you tell us?
Berta: I also write a humorous young adult urban fantasy series with my friend and longtime critique partner, Michelle Roper. The first trilogy is very popular and a critical success, and we recently sold a second trilogy, making it an official series! It's set in Renaissance Faires, and follows Keelie Heartwood, a California teen who is uprooted and sent to live with her absentee dad when her mom dies in an accident. She soon discovers that her father is not human, and that she too has magical abilities. Kids as young as nine have read it, and we have a lot of adult fans, too.
I just got an email from a twelve year old who read Lucky Chica and reviewed it on Flamingnet.com, a review site for kids. I would never have thought of this book as young adult material, and it made me think hard about how books are marketed to children. I can see teens enjoying this book, it just never occurred to me to market to them. Twelve seemed a little young, though.
[Editorial note: Dude, tell me about it! A 13 year-old read Hot Tamara after reading the Red Hot Read excerpt in Cosmo magazine.]
Chica Lit: And finally, have you ever won the lottery and do you think you'd make the same mistakes that Rosie did?
Berta: I've never won more than $57 dollars at a time on the lottery, but it's fun to play, as long as you don't go crazy. I certainly wouldn't make Rosie's mistakes. My dad and I have a PLAN!
Funny thing is that while I was writing Rosie's story, my family was going through some painful financial times, and I found that Rosie was making some really smart choices, money-wise. I had to rip all of that up! What was I thinking? It would have been a very different book. Frankly, it would have been a snore!
Check out Lucky Chica (hint: it makes a great Valentine's Day girlfriend gift!)