Following is from an interview of me (March 2013) by author Mary Cronk Farrell in the "Next Big Thing" Blog Hop! This traveling blog hop began in Australia, and each author was asked ten questions about a Work In Progress.
My Thanks again to Mary!
What is the working title of your book?
The Shells of Mersing
Where did the idea come from for the book?
My husband and I lived in Kluang, Malaysia for nine months in 1995-96. I was volunteering at a local orphanage when I learned that one of the boys (7) had been rescued from domestic slavery. I was aware of human slavery, of girls mostly, but my shock level jumped to a new level. This was the little boy I had made yarn dolls with at Christmas time. I then learned that human trafficking and slavery did indeed exist in Malaysia and even more so in Thailand to the north. From this experience a story grew.
I began to ask a lot of what ifs. What if a Malay girl and her sister had been sold in Thailand? What if an American G.I. later met and fell in love with this girl, and took her to America as his bride? What if he then died and left his Malay wife alone with two children? Would she miss her family, especially her sister in Thailand, and try to rescue and bring her to America? And finally, what would be the fate of her children, if she disappeared in Thailand?........which is where my story begins.
The idea for the title came from my travels. We sometimes meandered up the east coast of Malaysia along the South China Sea. The views were incredible. We would stop to gather shells or just walk along the beaches. Mersing was the first stop, and I fell in love with the colorful boats in its fishing harbor and a section of beach. I decided to make Mersing the childhood home of my Malay mother, and the shells a special collection her daughter inherits.
What genre does your book fall under?
Adventure/Mystery, Young Adult fiction.
[also - Multi-cultural and Romance]
What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
-Only two actors so far. They may be too old for the part, but I have always imagined Vanessa Hudgens as my main character Callie (15), who is half Malay; and Zac Efron for Sam (16), the American boy she meets in Malaysia.
-Lucas (8), Callie's brother (also half Malay), plays an important role, but I'm not familiar with younger child stars. He needs to be smart and confident.
(Zac Efron and Vanessa Anne Hudgens; realitybyrach.blogspot.com)
[Here is the song from High School Musical I that really inspired me. Both my husband and I love this movie, and we were reminded of our own sweet romance in high school.]
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
After witnessing the murder of her Seattle foster dad, a teenage girl runs away with her eight-year-old brother and sets off on a journey to find their missing mother in Thailand and family in Malaysia.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I hope to find an agent. [I did not find an agent. Instead I found a small publisher in Canada, Evernight Teen, which I was thrilled to find]
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
One year. I have since written several drafts and changed the tense twice. [Note: this was 2013. It took until 2017 to be published, but I always believed in this novel]
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
To some degree the following:
-Patricia McCormick's Sold, the story of a thirteen year old girl from Nepal, who is sold into sexual slavery. (There is a tragic back story of human trafficking and slavery in my book that becomes a live threat to my main characters, Callie and Lucas).
-Wendelin Van Draanen's Runaway - Holly is abused by her foster dad. (My main character is afraid of her foster dad when he drinks, especially the night she and her brother run away).
-Heidi Ayarbe's Compromised - A father goes to prison and his motherless daughter is left to fend for herself, and ends up in an orphanage; She runs away to search for an aunt in New Mexico. (My main characters’ mother is missing and their father is dead; they are placed in a foster home and then run away to search for their missing mother and Malaysian relatives).
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
-Callie and Lucas stowaway on a large sailboat called the Meli Ann and cross the Pacific to Hawaii.
-The Mersing shells are stored in a wooden box with a beautiful dragon carving on top, but there is a secret compartment and much more in this "dragon box."