Sunday, December 21, 2014

2nd Annual Diversity Month Day 22: Author Interview w/ Josh Farrar +Kindle Fire 6" and Book Giveaway!

OMG, so this author we stumbled upon by accident and I swear it has been the best unforeseen event of 2014! His book, A Song for Bijou topped our Favorites list so imagine our excitement to finally get a chance to chat with him about our favorite thing in the world:

Diverse Books!

So sit down, have a coffee and maybe get to know this amazing author a little better!

While my sister and I are huge fans of you and your work, there are readers who are just now discovering you. What is there to know about Josh Farrar, the author?
Well, I grew up in San Francisco and have lived in Brooklyn since 2002. I am a musician, and take much of the inspiration for my writing from the music world. My first book, Rules to Rock By, was about a group of tweens who form a rock band in Providence, RI, and my current YA project is about a Syrian American high school kid who is both blind and a virtuoso player of the oud, an Arabic stringed instrument.

With the help of the #weneeddiversebooks campaign, we were able to discover your book, A Song for Bijou. What inspired you to write that story?

My friend Jeremy Robins was working on a film about Haitian musicians living in Flatbush, Brooklyn, called The Other Side of The Water. He invited me to an early screening of the film, and eventually I wound up composing music for it. I watched the film many, many times, and in so doing, I became more and more intrigued by the musicians in the Haitian "rara" band, Dja Rara. Far from their families, they had for a kind of second family within their band. 

Years later, after the 2011 earthquake that ravaged Haiti, I thought of the members of Dja Rara, many of whom lost family members to the quake, and I began to formulate a story about a girl, the younger sister of a rara musician, who moves to Brooklyn shortly after the event.

We have to ask, Alex in A Song for Bijou was sooooo adorable, did you model Alex after you were you were that age?

Thanks, I'm glad you like Alex! Yes, to an extent he is based on me. I went to an all-boys' Christian school, like Alex did. I had to wear a uniform, and I had less experience hanging out with girls than I would have had I gone to a public school. Alex and I differ in many ways, but I did try to put much of myself into him. 

I think every character a writer creates is somewhat autobiographical, though. Writers have to put themselves into the shoes of each character, in order to breathe life into them. So a little bit of my personality rubs off on every character in my books, whether they're young or old, male or female. 

Caribbean protagonists are very important to us as we come from Cuban American backgrounds. I was so excited to learn that your story centered around a girl of Haitian descent as I feel very close to Haitian culture due to my bf being half Haitian.

 What drew you to making Haitian culture your main focus in your novel, A Song for Bijou?

Above, I mentioned collaborating on a film project that explored not only Haitian culture, but more specifically the attempts of Haitian Americans to assimilate into American culture while maintaining close ties with their Haitian roots. Everyone who emigrates from one culture to another has to make decisions about what to keep and what to leave behind, and in the process, they create something new and vibrant. By participating in the film project, I'd been learning about the evolution of Haitian rara music within the US, the rapid evolution of a musical genre that reflected change and growth in the Haitian diaspora. And I wanted to tell a similar story, but on a smaller scale, about a specific Haitian teenager who grew and changed and became an altogether different person after her journey to America.

Let's talk about your other book, Rules to Rock by( which also seems very diverse). Music seems to be a common theme in your stories. What inspired you to make music to focus of this novel?

I'd played in bands, singing and playing guitar, for twenty-five years when I started my first middle-grade novel, so it was a natural springboard for me to tell a story set within the music world. But I felt that the only way to tell it from a fresh perspective was to use a female protagonist, so I created a Dominican American character named Annabelle Cabrera. Her ethnicity isn't nearly as central to her story as Bijou's is to hers, but I wanted her cultural background to reflect the current communities of Brooklyn and Providence, where the novel is set.

Representation is so important to us so we think it's important for younger audiences to see books that mirror their experiences, what makes you so drawn to writing kid lit?

I worked for nearly a decade as a designer and producer of educational software, working for companies like LeapFrog and Scholastic. I'd been doing my best to "think like a kid" for many years, so it was a natural transition to continue doing so, but in fiction instead of software products.

As far as why I'm interested in "diverse lit," I'm not sure if I have a straightforward answer. My own background is European American, but I find the lack of diversity among most YA books to be not just borderline-offensive, but boring. I live in a diverse community, and I want to write characters whose backgrounds are similarly diverse. Also, stories about cultural tension are so quintessentially American, it seems natural to me for any American writer, regardless of his or her own race or ethnicity, to be attracted to those themes.

Lastly, Where can our readers learn more about your past and current projects as well as connecting with you?

I'm pretty inactive on Twitter and Facebook until I have a book coming out and everybody starts saying I have to get on there (!), but I do list personal appearances and upcoming project news on my Official Site.

Here you can list social links you'd like for us to include like fb, twitter, an author photo and things like that!

Follow via Twitter @farrarbooks 
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