Monday, June 29, 2015

FFBC: Welcome to the club, Ana of California by Andi Teran

Ana of California
by Andi Teran
Publisher: Penguin Books
Release Date: June 30th 2015
Genre: Adult, Young Adult crossover, Fiction, Retellings, Coming of Age, Contemporary
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Appropriate for YA audiences.

A modern take on the classic coming-of-age novel, inspired by Anne of Green Gables

In the grand tradition of Anne of Green Gables, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and The Three Weissmanns of Westport, Andi Teran’s captivating debut novel offers a contemporary twist on a beloved classic. Fifteen-year-old orphan Ana Cortez has just blown her last chance with a foster family. It’s a group home next—unless she agrees to leave East Los Angeles for a farm trainee program in Northern California.

When she first arrives, Ana can’t tell a tomato plant from a blackberry bush, and Emmett Garber is skeptical that this slight city girl can be any help on his farm. His sister Abbie, however, thinks Ana might be just what they need. Ana comes to love Garber Farm, and even Emmett has to admit that her hard work is an asset. But when she inadvertently stirs up trouble in town, Ana is afraid she might have ruined her last chance at finding a place to belong.

Hello Andi! Welcome to the FFBC! We are super excited to have you in our FFBC tours! 

Ana of California is the story of Ana Cortez, a 15-year-old orphan from East Los Angeles who has languished in the foster care system for most of her life. She’s screwed up another chance with a foster family so is sent to work at a farm trainee program in Northern California. The story was inspired by L.M. Montgomery’s classic novel, Anne of Green Gables—one of my absolute favorite books. I hope newcomers and fans of the original enjoy my take on it, and I hope the die-hard fans enjoy the similarities and differences between both. It all takes place on the Lost Coast of California in a small town full of oddball characters. 

Ana is courageous, Emmett is cantankerous (in a lovable way!), and Abbie is welcoming. 

The story came to me rather organically. I reread Anne of Green Gables and was surprised by how ripe it was for modernizing. The character of Anne Shirley is so beloved that it seemed impossible (and blasphemous) to reimagine her, but I couldn’t stop thinking about who or what she might be in modern times. Anne’s spunky originality, wild imagination, and strong sense of self appealed to me as a child because I recognized something familiar in her. I wanted to create a character inspired by those attributes but also someone wholly different and new. 

Most of my initial inspiration came from the spirit of Anne in Montgomery’s book, but the rest was born out of my own Mexican American upbringing. Writing my own version of Anne—Ana—was also my reaction to the absence of Latina characters in modern literature. When I sat down to write, I began with Ana, who is essentially chapter one of the book, and I was surprised by how she leapt onto the page. Abbie and Emmett were ready to be heard too, so I kept writing and just allowed everyone to speak. Reflections of my own history and family inspired certain scenes and situations as well. 

Honestly, I don’t have a favorite quote, but I do have a favorite series of lines. Without giving anything away, it’s the very end of chapter eight when Ana tells Abbie that the day was sunny even though it was raining. That moment meant so much to me when I was writing—it came out of nowhere—and it was the perfect way to end the chapter while also letting the characters evolve a bit from that specific interaction. My favorite characters in literature always seem to be the ones who find light where it’s darkest or are able to remain optimistic when everything seems hopeless. This moment was my version of that. 

Yes! I loved writing the hair-straightening scene between Ana and Rye. That whole chapter was a direct reimagining of the hair-dyeing scene in Anne of Green Gables. It’s such an iconic moment in the original that I couldn’t leave out of my story, so I updated it with the modern day equivalent. What was most fun to write was the dialogue between Ana and Rye. They’re both still getting to know each other at this point in the book, and then something unfortunate happens that threatens their budding friendship. I think we’ve all been in situations with a new friend where we don’t know what to do or say when something goes ridiculously wrong. I enjoyed exploring this situation with my characters while also trying to keep everything light and humorous. 

I did extensive research on organic farming, the foster care system, and the plight of migrant workers. What I discovered with each of these subjects was much more disturbing than strange. As you can imagine, the life of a foster child is never an easy one. Many teenagers in this situation face major difficulties when they turn 18 and have to be on their own in the world. Many don’t have the skills or support to make a living, so they end up on the streets or in even worse situations. The same can be said for migrant workers who are often undervalued, exploited, or trapped into harsh conditions. Small farmers find themselves trapped too, primarily by large corporations that are taking over the land. Part of the reason why I wanted to write this book was to shed light on these subjects. 

I’m currently working on a new novel that is set near my hometown on the Texas- Mexico border. I’m not ready to divulge too much about it yet, but so far it’s been a joy to write. I’m also working on some film and TV projects that I hope will one day come to life. I can’t not write, which often means that there are some random poems thrown in for good measure too, specifically haiku on Twitter. 

Haruki Murakami, Donna Tartt, Joan Didion, Patti Smith, Nick Hornby, Francesca Lia Block, Amanda Filipacchi, and John Green. 

At the moment, I’m fan-glrling over the BBC series The Honourable Woman, which has some of the best writing for women I’ve seen on TV. I’m fan-girling over a book I just read too, but you can read more about that in the next question... 

I just finished and thoroughly enjoyed Kim Gordon’s rock and roll memoir, Girl in a Band. Even though it wasn’t published this year, I recently read We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler and still can’t stop thinking about it (total fan-girl worthy). All I can say is READ IT, all-caps, but don’t read the description on the back. 

I can’t pick one. Thus, I’d choose Dorothy Parker, Nora Ephron, Charlotte Brontë, Louisa May Alcott, and L.M. Montgomery to join me for a martini lunch. We’d form our own vicious circle. 

Thank you so much for everything, Andi! 

You’re welcome!

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Andi Teran is a writer and performer originally from the deserts of West Texas. She has written about fashion, film, and culture for Vanity Fair, MTV, New York, and Monocle, as well as written and performed for various New York stages. She lives in Los Angeles. Ana of California is her first novel.

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