Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Pre-Christmas Author Interview with Chantel Acevedo

Chantel Acevedo

Christmas is around the corner and I can already feel the chill and imagine the presents under the Christmas tree. Here in the Philippines we celebrate Christmas with a month long preparation decorating our house, attending Simbang Gabi and doing Christmas Caroling. It is also a red letter day for families and friends to bond together, so to make this first pre- Christmas post of Teen Readers’ Diary special we’ve invited the author of “Song of the Red Cloak” for a pre-Christmas author interview. Let us all welcome Chantel Acevedo!

About the Author: Chantel Acevedo's first novel, Love and Ghost Letters, won the Latino International Book  Historical Fiction and was a finalist for the Connecticut Book of the year. Having started her career as a high school English teacher, she holds an MFA from the University of Miami, and is currently an Associate Professor at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, where she lives with her husband and daughter. Song of the Red Cloak is her first novel for young adults.

Tell us about your book ‘Song of the Red Cloak’. What should we expect from it?
Galen is a 16 year old helot, or slave, in Ancient Sparta.  He's always longed to be free, and to wear the red cloak that is allowed only to Spartan citizens. When he hears talk of rebellion, Galen is tempted to join. But there's a catch. His best friend, Nikolas, is a Spartan prince. To join the rebellion would mean betraying his friend.  There's another catch--two girls, Korinna, a mysterious sibyl, and the beautiful but dangerous Zoi--have their own plans for Galen.

You can expect romance, adventure, a seriously scary monster, and a story about friendship in an ancient, yet really familiar world.

2.       What did inspire you to write your book?
I've always been interested in mythology and Ancient Greece. This story of two best friends from very different stations in life merged with what I'd learned about Spartan culture in my imagination.  Galen sort of came to me, fully formed.  

3.       Are you planning to write another YA Lit?
I'm working on the sequel to this book, SONG OF GLASS AND DUST. I'm sorry to say that SONG OF THE RED CLOAK ends on a cliffhanger!

4.       What are you doing when you’re not writing?
I teach Creative Writing at Auburn University, and edit a literary journal, THE SOUTHERN HUMANITIES REVIEW.  I also co-direct the Auburn Writers Conference.  That's the work end of things!  I have a beautiful five year old daughter, and another on the way, and a great husband--all of whom keep me busy.  

5.       Being an author is really an exciting work to do but can you imagine yourself doing other jobs?
Well, I taught high school for nearly a decade, and miss it a great deal. I've always wished I could start a school, or open a bookshop.  When I was in college, I toyed with the idea of becoming an anthropologist!  I guess I never had trouble imagining myself doing lots of different things, but truly, writing is where I'm most at home.

6.       Can you describe yourself in three words? Why did you choose these words?
Creative. Optimistic. Flexible.  I think these three qualities are related.  To be creative, you have to believe in your ability to invent, and believe in your own voice. At the same time, you have to be willing to bend, to take criticism, adjust, and get better.  And I don't mean creative solely in terms of writing.  People are creative in a million different ways!

7.       What is your favorite band? Why did you pick that band and how do they inspire you on your writing career?
The Beatles.  Hands down.  I learned so much about writing from listening to their music.  So many of their songs are stories, or are playing with language and sound in amazing ways.  I actually wrote a blog post about their influence on my writing!  Here's the link:

8.       Do you still believe in Santa Claus? Rudolph the red nose reindeer?
Of course I believe in Santa!  Santa Claus represents the spirit of giving, and there's nothing I like better than giving someone the perfect gift, whether it's a material thing or a helping hand.  As for Rudolph, well, why not?  He's certainly the reindeer with the most personality!

9.       What are the three things you wanted to receive this Christmas?
The truth is, I'm feeling very blessed this year, and don't need anything but what I'm already so thankful for--my friends and family, and their continued good health.  However, I'm human after all, and would LOVE a pair of brown boots I saw at the store the other day...

10   What is your most unforgettable Christmas experience?
Being a little kid, and waking up to all the toys Santa brought on December 25th. Nothing tops that. Well, except being a mom and watching my daughter wake up on Christmas morning. It's the sweetest thing in the world.

1   What does Christmas means to you?
Family, family, family! I live far from my extended family, and every Christmas we find a way to travel to them. I get to hang out with all my cousins, aunts and uncles, parents and grandparents.  There is nothing like it when we all get together.  We're a big, fat Cuban family and I love it!

12  Do you have any message to your fans/readers and to people who are aspiring to be someone like you?
To those who want to write, I'd say you need two things--lots of good books to read, and the will to sit in a chair and actually write!  Time and good books. Time and good books.  That's the recipe for making a writer.  As for fans, I'm so grateful for them.  So very appreciative.  Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.  Or as Galen might say, "S'agapo!"

    Song of the Red Cloak is now available on

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