I'm very excited to have Bettina Restrepo here today ON THE DAY OF ILLEGAL'S RELEASE (feels extremely privileged) for an interview AND giveaway! You should all go out and buy her book because it was really good as I noted in my review (which you should check out after you read the interview ^.^)
Bettina received her Bachelor of Science in speech communication from the University of Texas at Austin in 1993.
She flunked economics her freshman year and decided a business degree wasn’t a good idea. She spent too many years in the corporate world, and finally got brave enough to become a writer.
She loves getting dressed up at Halloween!
Bettina is a mommy, a wife, a daughter, a little sister, aunt and a friend. She spends her free time cleaning, cooking (not very well) , playing Legos, and keeping the Star Wars toys from being eaten by the dog.
1) What was the inspiration for Illegal?
I worked for a Hispanic Supermarket Chain called Fiesta, actually portrayed in the book. I’m a 2nd generation here in the States, the first in my family born on US soil. I’m have always been interested in the “how I got here” story.
But, during my first draft, a horrible incident happened in South Texas. A truck driver, who had over 80 immigrants illegally packed in his truck, abandoned the trailer in the middle of a field. It was July – and he left those people to cook inside the trailer. It was horrific. 19 people died. The Houston Chronicle (I was living in Houston at the time) did excellent coverage – the pictures were so compelling and heart breaking.
My own personal story starts with my Dad. While visiting Miami in the early 60’s, he didn’t want to go home, so he enlisted with the US Army to earn his citizenship (immigrants can still do that). I imagine they promised him world travel and beautiful tropical places…like Vietnam. He stayed in the Army 26 years. He met my German mother at a swimming pool. That’s how a Colombian marries a German and has American kids.
2) What is your view on immigration reform?
Great question. Our system needs some major work.
First, I would like to see the system streamlined by offering an amnesty program so that people who are already here can reveal themselves and pay a fine that would be equivalent to the taxes they would have paid had they been legally employed. Their employers would also have to contribute to the fine.
Second, I would like to see massive fines for employers who knowingly employ illegal immigrants. Many, many corporations (like Fiesta) worked really hard to fairly employ qualified and legal workers.
For instance, the DREAM bill would have extended amnesty to children born in the US to illegal immigrants but had graduated from high school, were attending college and had no criminal record. The bill was never passed – because no one wanted to be the politician allowing ‘illegals’ into the system.
I’m sure there are more angles to consider. People should not immigrate illegally – it’s against the law. But, America can’t beckon with one hand and play halt with the other.
3) Immigration in general is a pretty touchy subject, has there been much backlash (I know your book hadn't been officially published until today, but it's been circulating through reviewers and such)?
Actually, no backlash.
Those who have read the book understand this is one story and one family, not a gilded ‘coming to America’ fairytale.
I’ve had so many teachers say they are going to use the book in their classrooms. ILLEGAL is not just an immigration or Mexican story. It explores family, friendship, gangs, and the impact of those who are ‘unseen’ – and those themes are universal. Actually, I think I could have choosen any nationality and made this story work, I was just most familiar with what I saw.
4) Illegal is a very different book from Moose and Magpie (at least I would assume so having not read Moose and Magpie). Are your plans for writing going forward going to be lots of different genres? Give us a peek if you can!
The only thing Moose and Illegal have in common is their creator.
My next book is called Telenovela – and it’s a comedy. My main character’s name is Mercedes - a foreign exchange student with a bit of a translation problem. I’ve really had a ton of fun writing it.
I would like to do more picture books. I like irreverent humor that makes a child and the parent reading laugh the 1st and the 100th time the read the book.
5) I think it's super awesome that you play with Legos, can I come play with you? What sets do you have, and just tell me about your Legos.
Bettina's very small collection of Spongebob. She loves that crazy cartoon!
I must admit, the Lego sets belong to Hubbie and my son. I have a few sets – like SpongeBob. Over Christmas break, I spent over 100 hours sorting, rearranging and rebuilding (with super glue) a few of our sets while I worked out rewrites in my head. Not all writing is done at the computer.
Just a few of the Lego and Star Wars memorabilia Bettina and her family have.
Now, as to playing. We have play sets, and sets that stay behind glass in our ‘museum’. (also known as the man cave).
But, our next acquisition will be the Lego Death Star for little’ man’s birthday.
Just a few of the mini figures. Sometimes they form and army and march through the house looking to impale toes at midnight.
Sniffly Kitty: Thank you, Bettina, so much for taking the time to answer my questions! (My boyfriend says that he really wants to be your friend and play with your Legos heh~~) I hope Illegal does really well!
Summary from Goodreads
A promise that we would be together on my fifteenth birthday . . .
Instead, Nora is on a desperate journey far away from home. When her father leaves their beloved Mexico in search of work, Nora stays behind. She fights to make sense of her loss while living in poverty—waiting for her father's return and a better day. When the letters and money stop coming, Nora decides that she and her mother must look for him in Texas. After a frightening experience crossing the border, the two are all alone in a strange place. Now, Nora must find the strength to survive while aching for small comforts: friends, a new school, and her precious quinceañera.
Bettina Restrepo's gripping, deeply hopeful debut novel captures the challenges of one girl's unique yet universal immigrant experience.
Now, the part you've all been waiting for I'm sure.
The PRIZE: 1 of 5 FINISHED copies of Illegal by Bettina Restrepo
How to Enter:
- Just leave a comment with your answer to this question: Would you break the law to find your family across a foreign border?
- That's it, no need to follow (although that is always appreciated) and no extra entries.
THE FINE PRINT
Contest is open INTERNATIONALLY (yay!)
Winners must be over 13
The winners of the contest will be announced on Bettina's Facebook and Twitter on April 1, 2011. I will post the information here as well. You will have to get in touch with Bettina to contact your prize so make sure to check back!