From the time she was a 10-year-old girl hanging around in her tree house reading books, Christina Gonzalez wanted to be a writer. But it was a secret dream. Everyone knew she loved to read, but the idea of becoming a writer seemed so far-fetched and impractical that she didn’t tell anyone.
“It wasn’t until I saw that love of reading blossom in my own children that I decided to follow my dream and share some of the stories floating around in my head,” Christina told Cracking the Cover.
Christina is the author of two novels for young adults — “The Red Umbrella,” which is based on the real events of Operation Pedro Pan where more than 14,000 Cuban children were sent to the United States between 1960-62; and the recently released “A Thunderous Whisper,” set in Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.
When you’re young, anything is possible, Christina says. That’s why she writes for young readers. “My characters — like many of my readers — are facing critical decisions which will set them on certain paths for the rest of their lives,” she said. “It’s also a time when you are leaving the safety of childhood and forging your own destiny … that, in and of itself, is a great adventure!”
When it comes to finding ideas for writing projects, Christina says she stumbles into inspiration and that her muse is fickle, never providing her with ideas from the same source.
“A Thunderous Whisper” was initially inspired by Pablo Picasso’s painting “Guernica.”
“A friend of mine was talking about the importance of this work of art and I felt embarrassed to not know anything about it, so I Googled it,” Christina said. “I was amazed to learn about Hitler’s bombing of this small town and how Picasso’s painting is considered a testament to the atrocities of war. That provoked an interest in the Basque region (my family has roots there), and when I stumbled upon an old photo of a sardinera (a woman who sold sardines door to door), the entire story flashed into my head. Like I said, my muse is craft — never giving me a story when I expect it.”
The novel takes place just before World War II, and Christina says it was fascinating to research and write about that period in time. “Perhaps it was because I knew WWII was just around the corner, but my characters do not yet see this, that I found it so intriguing,” she said.
Christina worked hard to make sure everything she wrote was as accurate and authentic as possible. One of the biggest challenges came as she incorporated the Basque culture and language.
“I asked several Basque friends for help, and the highlight was getting to travel to Guernica to see the city and it’s people for myself,” she said. “I am forever grateful to president of the Guernica Historical Society and the curator of Guernica’s Museum of Peace for showing me around the city and telling me what it was like during the bombing. I even got to go into one of the air raid shelters and really get a sense of what it was like during those times.”
As Christina looks back and forward on her career, she says her writing is constantly evolving because she is constantly reading and learning from others. And when it comes to why she thinks her books appeal to young readers she has a simple answer: the characters.
“Whether a story is historical or contemporary, there are certain issues that transcend time and place,” she said. “Readers can relate and identify with the characters and then they themselves can become lost in the story.”
*Read a complete transcript of Christina’s interview with Cracking the Cover.
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