Posted by Tamera Wissinger
Today, Skila Brown is joining Smack Dab In The Middle Blog for a guest “middleview” interview. Skila’s debut middle grade novel CAMINAR, Candlewick Press, released on 3/25/2014! Congratulations, Skila!
Here is a bit about Skila:
Skila Brown holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She grew up in Kentucky and Tennessee, lived for a bit in Guatemala, and now resides with her husband and three sons in Indiana.
Here’s a description of CAMINAR:
Set in 1981 Guatemala, a lyrical debut novel tells the powerful tale of a boy who must decide what it means to be a man during a time of war.
Carlos knows that when the soldiers arrive with warnings about the Communist rebels, it is time to be a man and defend the village, keep everyone safe. But Mama tells him not yet—he’s still her quiet moonfaced boy. The soldiers laugh at the villagers, and before they move on, a neighbor is found dangling from a tree, a sign on his neck: Communist.
Mama tells Carlos to run and hide, then try to find her. . . . Numb and alone, he must join a band of guerillas as they trek to the top of the mountain where Carlos’s abuela lives. Will he be in time, and brave enough, to warn them about the soldiers? What will he do then? A novel in verse inspired by actual events during Guatemala’s civil war, Caminar is the moving story of a boy who loses nearly everything before discovering who he really is.
Now it’s time to hear from our guest:
Smack Dab Middleview with CAMINAR author Skila Brown
1. In a nutshell, what does your main character, Carlos, want?
He wants to grow up, to stop being treated like a child, and to be brave enough to do the right thing.
2. What’s in his way?
His mother, of course! At least in the beginning. She still treats him like a child and this bothers him. Then, when the worst happens, his own guilt and shame get in his way. (Shame and Guilt. Haven’t we all been blocked by those two?)
3. Did you know right away that this was your story, or did you discover it as you wrote? How did the story evolve?
This story lived in my head for a long time and was trying desperately to come out, but I wasn’t listening. I was also unsure how to tell it really. And then I started writing down some poems and realizing maybe verse was the way to go. Telling the story through poems felt like it allowed a place for things unspoken, that it gave the reader some space to absorb and make sense of the violence in the story.
4. Was Caminar always for middle grade readers or not? If so, why did you choose middle grade? If not, what had to change for it to be considered a middle grade novel?
When I started writing the novel, I really didn’t know if it would be middle grade or young adult. I could tell almost right away that this was a coming of age story, and that the main character was too young for YA. But I knew the story would have violence, war, death, and loss. It all seemed so dark for middle grade. It was a definite challenge, striking the right balance of information that a young reader needs to process what’s going on. There were descriptions of violence that I removed while drafting because I was afraid it would be too much for the audience. I also had to insert more information about the context of what was happening, to make sure the reader could understand. It was a tight balance.
5. What is the best part of writing for middle grade readers?
I write for my child self in mind. This is the time in my life where I fell in love with books, and I think that’s true for so many middle graders. Books haven’t taken a back seat to driving, texting, or flirting in their lives. Kids are starting to choose their own books at this age, and they’re reading them alone, without an adult around. It’s a magical time for a reader, with so much possibility.
Thanks so much for having me on the blog! It’s been fun!
Thank YOU for joining us at Smack Dab in the Middle Blog, Skila. Again, congratulations on the release of CAMINAR!