Recently the bookish community was pretty devastated to find out that Egmont’s USA division was shutting its doors. This left the authors with upcoming books pretty much out in the cold with very little marketing or publicity.
Enter Cuddlebuggery. They gathered community together and organized a blog hop to help these authors promote their books, spread a little love, and hopefully get people interested in buying said books!
I, of course, signed up, and the book I was assigned was Anne Bustard’s Anywhere but Paradise.
It's 1960 and Peggy Sue has just been transplanted from Texas to Hawaii for her father's new job. Her cat, Howdy, is stuck in animal quarantine, and she's baffled by Hawaiian customs and words. Worst of all, eighth grader Kiki Kahana targets Peggy Sue because she is haole--white--warning her that unless she does what Kiki wants, she will be a victim on "kill haoleday," the last day of school. Peggy Sue's home ec teacher insists that she help Kiki with her sewing project or risk failing. Life looks bleak until Peggy Sue meets Malina, whose mother gives hula lessons. But when her parents take a trip to Hilo, leaving Peggy Sue at Malina's, life takes an unexpected twist in the form of a tsunami. Peggy Sue is knocked unconscious and wakes to learn that her parents safety and whereabouts are unknown. Peggy Sue has to summon all her courage to have hope that they will return safely.
Even though I didn’t have to, I read Anywhere but Paradise, and I am so glad I did. I loved the book and thought it was absolutely perfect. I recommend it to just about anyone, but definitely to the readers it is written for. You can see my review here. It was also yesterday’s post.
I was lucky enough to get the author on the blog today to interview, and after the interview there is a giveaway for THREE ARCs of the book.
Kara: I loved learning about Hawaiian culture as I read Anywhere but Paradise. I thought this story might have worked well with an older protagonist too, so what made you choose to write this story as a middle grade book?
Anne: Hi, Kara! Thanks for inviting me to this Q&A! I’m thrilled to be here.
And I love that you loved the Hawaiian cultural aspects of the novel!
I totally agree with your observation—this story could have been written with a YA protagonist—by someone else. Deep down, a part of me is still twelve. So when I imagined a story about a reluctant newcomer to Hawaii, Peggy Sue was a seventh grader.
Kara: How much research did you do to get down the cultural and historical aspects properly, and what kind of research?
Anne: I did an ocean-full of research. Even though I was born and mostly raised in Hawaii, I didn’t live there in 1960, when the story is set. So, even when I thought I knew something, like Madame Pele’s rule about not carrying pork over the Pali (cliffs), I double-triple checked to make sure my memory was spot-on.
Primary sources were my go-to research tools. I read reels of microfilm from the 1959 and 1960 Honolulu Advertiser newspaper for historical context, fashion details, and more. With the help of my cousin, who works in a library in Hawaii, I tracked down a Hawaii Civil Defense Bulletin in order to mirror the radio announcement of the tsunami warning. And found photographs of the old Animal Quarantine Station where Howdy, Peggy Sue’s cat, lived for 120 days.
I interviewed the principal of my old intermediate school about the tradition of bullying on the last day, talked to people about their experiences in the islands, read the autobiography of Queen Lili‘uokalani and many other books about Hawaii. I contacted experts regarding the Hawaiian language, bufos (cane toads), tsunamis, rabies’ shots . . .
Kara: What do you enjoy about writing for a younger audience? What don’t you enjoy?
Anne: I love it all! Middle grade novels are my favorite books to read. That my voice is appropriate for this audience is a huge yay! Really, I write to the child within me. I relate to the wonder, the possibility and hope.
Kara: Do you have anything in common with any of your characters?
Anne: Like Peggy Sue, I took hula lessons and had a cat (though not one in quarantine). Like her, I am shy in unfamiliar settings, have worrywart tendencies, and am horrified by injustice.
Like Kiki, I am saddened by the hurtful ways Hawaiians were treated by outsiders.
Like Malina, I have strong friendships and believe in aloha, love.
And like all of my characters, I consider Hawaii paradise, home.
Kara: Was it difficult writing about prejudice from a white person’s point of view? Why?
Anne: There are stories about prejudice against white people who are newcomers/immigrants, who are disabled, gay, Jewish, rural, etc.
Peggy Sue is twelve years old and is trying to make sense of her world. While her experience touches on universal themes, her story is not a story about every white girl who lived in Hawaii in 1960.
Nor is it my personal story, though I did draw from portions of my own life.
Separate from the cultural dynamics, this is a story about bullying and the psychological warfare we too often see between girls of a certain age. But in the end, there are no villains here, only disparate heroes, struggling to find common ground.
Kara: I was bullied as a child. I really felt like this aspect of the novel was handled so well. How did you get it so perfectly?
Anne: Kara, I am so, so sorry that bullying was a part of your childhood. It is truly pain personified. At least that was my experience.
My first week of seventh grade, an eighth grader told me that I would be beaten up on the last day of school because I was haole, white. She called it “Kill Haole Day.” I still remember the dread I felt. And how it shook and shaped my whole school year. But nothing bad happened to me on the last day of school.
I began this novel in the last century. Sometimes it rested five years between revisions. Beta readers always had the same comment–I was protecting Peggy Sue.
If I wanted to make the story read real, I had to be real. I had to return to a painful place. Finally, I did. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t easy. I made Peggy Sue’s life almost unbearable. Almost.
Kara: Can you tell us anything about what you might be writing next?
Anne: I’m working on a humorous novel for young readers. Though not set in Hawaii, like Anywhere but Paradise, it takes place beside an ocean. Once a beach girl, always a beach girl.
Mahalo nui loa, thank you very much, for hosting our conversation, Kara!
Anne Bustard is a beach girl at heart. If she could, she would walk in the sand every day, wear flip-flops, and eat nothing but fresh pineapple, macadamia nuts and chocolate. She is the author of the award-winning picture book Buddy: The Story of Buddy Holly (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers). Her debut middle grade historical novel Anywhere But Paradise (Egmont Publishing) will be released on March 31, 2015. She lives in Austin, Texas.
And now for the giveaway:
We have three ARCs of Anywhere but Paradise to give away to three lucky readers from US/CA. Giveaway only accounts will be disqualified. Enter using the Rafflecopter form below.