Author Spotlight: Margo Sorenson
December 14, 2018
We are excited to feature young adult author Margo Sorenson! Margo is the author of SECRETS IN TRANSLATION (Fitzroy Books, June 2018). Enter to win an ebook below!
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Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children and teens.
I spent the first seven years of my life in Spain and Italy, devouring books and Italian food and still speak (or try!) four languages. A former middle and high school teacher, I began writing when some of my students' parents suggested I try my hand at it, since I'd been teaching their kids to write. So, I did, and thousands of rejections later (and still coming!)
Congrats on your recent release, SECRETS IN TRANSLATION. Tell us about it and what inspired you.
From the back cover: "In this celebration of Italian life and culture, seventeen-year-old Alessandra returns for the summer to Italy, where she grew up. Pressured by her parents into babysitting a rebellious twelve-year-old—ruining holiday plans with newfound American friends—Alessandra resigns herself to a tedious summer in Positano. Her babysitting gig, however, turns out to be anything but boring!
Not only does Alessandra fall for the handsome son of the Bertolucci family, renowned for their limoncello production, but when a body mysteriously turns up on the beach, the influence of organized crime in Positano become frighteningly real. As Alessandra is drawn further into an elaborate conspiracy, she must risk everything to protect herself, her family, and those that she loves, and in the process, she finds herself—and her Italian heart."
The inspiration actually began when I was three years old and moved from Madrid, Spain, to Napoli, Italy, and then to Bari. I absorbed Italian and Italy into every pore, not even realizing that it was becoming a part of me. After all, I was just a kid! Then, we moved to the U.S., and life was totally and completely different, and I thought I'd left Italy behind.
As I studied Italian in school and became friends with Italians (I used to babysit my Italian teacher's little boy in college and hung out with the Italian Department!), however, I began to realize that Italy was still part of my heart. On return trips to Italy, I felt I was at home again. Still, although I was writing other books, it never occurred to me to write about Italy, although Italian restaurants do pop up in my other books!
I definitely remember where I was when the first idea for SECRETS popped into my head. Guess where? Surrounded by people speaking Italian, of course! It was my very first trip back to Italy since I grew up there as a kid, so, even though I still studied and spoke Italian, I hadn't been surrounded by a lot of people actually speaking Italian for years.
When we all walked into the hotel, I saw several men look at us and say, "Ah, le donne americane vengono – che belle!" Then they kissed their fingertips (Italian men can be such flirts!). I started to smile and looked at our friends—and suddenly realized none of them could understand a word of what the men were saying: "Ah, American women are coming – how beautiful!" Not only that, the men speaking Italian had no idea that I could understand everything they said, either. Because I looked so obviously American and was with a group of other Americans, no one could even begin to imagine that I could understand the Italian language.
Now, there was an idea for a plot! Authors love to ask the question, "What if?" My "what if" question was, "What if you could understand and speak a language, but no one else knew you could? What if an American girl was fluent in Italian and could understand everything Italians were saying, but they didn't realize she could—and because she could speak both languages, she discovered a dark conspiracy that threatened those she loved?"
Was your road to publication long and windy, short and sweet, or something in between?
The road was long and windy (I was three, remember? 😊). My book's journey spans thousands of miles—and many years—with many versions and revisions, lots of research and help from my Italian friends and my long-suffering critique partner, fellow children's author Bonnie Graves, but, thanks to my wonderful editor, Jaynie Royal at Fitrzoy Books, who believed in Alessandra's story, it is in the hands of readers.
Italy is a beautiful country and the people are warm and generous, a wonderful place to make the kind of discovery that Alessandra is finally able to make, and I hope it resonates with readers of all ages. Because Italy is near and dear to my heart—and because I wanted to write a story about finding out who you really are—I am thrilled that SECRETS IN TRANSLATION is not a secret any longer.
What projects are you working on now?
I always have a number of projects, including picture books (think funny bunnies and dictionaries with minds of their own) and middle-grade mysteries (think Southern California and the Middle Ages) that are out on submission and also enduring the thousand cuts of revision. "Writing is easy," someone said. "You just sit down at the keyboard and open a vein."
What advice would you give to your younger self? Is this the same that you would give to aspiring authors?
Be patient and be open to revisions. Yes, the very same advice—it is surprising what a new look from someone can do for a story! Children's writers are a warm and supportive community, so reach out and get the help you need, even if you don't think you need any. The First Commandment of Writers: "Thou Shalt Not Fall In Love With Thine Own Words."
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I was a coach in the NFL. Really! I'm not kidding—the National Forensic League. I coached high school speech and debate for nine years.
Where can people find you online?
Margo's website: www.margosorenson.com
National Milken Educator Award recipient and author of thirty traditionally-published books, Margo Sorenson has won recognition and awards for her books, including being named a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award in YA Fiction. She enjoys doing school visits and Skyping and meeting with readers from Minnesota to California and Hawaii, as well as internationally.
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