Interview with Sandra Lopez, author of Beyond the Gardens

Publisher: Outskirts Press

Publication Date: October 27, 2009

Order Links:  Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: She was a shy artist, who was afraid to blossom into the beautiful flower she was meant to grow into. 

At the age of 18, Esperanza Ignacio begins her college years at an upscale Los Angeles art school, where she studies to fulfill her long-term dream in Animation. But she soon learns the truth to the old folktale: "you can take the girl out of the barrio, but you can't take the barrio out of the girl." Even though she's getting financial aid, Esperanza works a part-time job during her break from classes just to make ends meet. Her roommate, Anna, is what she calls a "chicana from Beverly Hills" because of the rich daddy and the new car she got for her quinceaera. 

Things get a little confusing for Esperanza when an old friend comes looking for her, hoping to start a meaningful relationship. But is Carlos the right guy for her? She never even considered him to be anything more than a friend since high school. Then comes Jake, a gorgeous mechanic, who shares her passion for books and loves her for who she is. What's a girl to do? 

Strength and determination help pave the way for the future. And, as she approaches her graduation, she is faced with a difficult decision: should she leave Los Angeles and leave behind her family, her home, and everything she's known? Ever since she was born in the California barrio of Hawaiian Gardens, she's always had to look over the fence, wondering what she's been missing. Now she's taking a flying leap over to see what's beyond the little barrio. What's beyond her family, her friends, and her past? 

What's beyond the little nothing town, where dreams don't exist? What's beyond The Gardens? Is it life, love, a future? The story of Esperanza is finally concluded in this wildly entertaining and heart-warming sequel.

Excerpt of Chapter 1: As the evening sun was settling over the small hills, I steadily hiked along the concrete path that led into the center of the campus quad. I hung to the strap of my book bag with a light wind sweeping through the air, then walked past the student store and the food court. The garlic aroma of chicken chimichangas was overwhelming and floated around seamlessly. My god, did it smell good. I almost wished I had five bucks to waste. Instead, I ignored the aching grumble in my stomach and moved on.

The dorms were located on the outskirts of the school next to a highway that was often busy at this time of day. When I reached Da Vinci Hall, I passed along a few students bundled in a corner with large pads sketching the scattered trees on the forefront of the breaking dawn. I had missed the elevator going up just as the doors were closing. Damn. Exasperated, I punched in the button for the next one. But the wait was so long I decided to just forget it and took the stairs instead.

Crossing down the hallway, I fumbled inside the withered pocket of my jacket for the keys. I unlocked the door and then stepped into a tiny cubicle, where I hit my knee passing by the end table. At that point, I couldn’t decide whether the furniture was moving closer or the room was just shrinking.

I limped across the room and dropped my bag on a nearby chair. Then I took off my cap and tossed it aside. Oh, what a day, I thought while my fingers stroked through the thick strands of my dark hair. I couldn’t believe I stayed up half the night to study for a quiz the teacher decided not to have after all. What a shame. I was really looking forward to it, too.

After spotting my bed just a few feet away, I fell on top of it landing on a soft pillow that cradled my head. Humble sighs trickled through as the evening sun cast a mild afterglow through the shiny window, shadowing the room with a tinted orange. I yawned while the soothing warmth poured across my tanned face. Then I closed my eyes as a tranquil slumber soon began to take its course. Suddenly, the door quickly slammed open, and I instantly bolted upright.

Interview: Q. Please tell us about the inspiration for your current release.

A: Beyond the Gardens is a follow up to my first published novel, Esperanza, which was published WHILE I was in college. They both chronicle the young life of a bright, ambitious Latina that just wants more than what her poor barrio is offering. Her dream is to go to college and study art, which was actually what I studied in school. I basically based her character on me.

Q. How did writing this book affect you?

A: It reinforced my desire to continue writing stories, which I will do until the day I die.

Q. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

A: I’d say the hardest part of writing comes when you have literally nothing to write about. Yes, that pesky writer’s block. I hate it. It drives me nuts! For me, that’s a definitive sign that I’ve been spending too much time with the story and need to distance myself with “the break”—just like any relationship in life.

Q. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

A: When I get tired of writing, I read; and when I get tired of reading, I write.

Q. Do you plan any subsequent books?

A: I don’t really have a plan. I just write whatever stories are of interest to me, and the writing seems to take on a life of its own.

Q. What are you currently reading?

A: I just finished Tree of Sighs by Lucrecia Guerrero.

Q. Please tell us your latest news (book-related or not!).

A: I just came back from a 3-month stay in Italy—a beautiful country that I look forward to going back to!

Q. Please tell us a fun-fact about yourself!

A: I’m an entertaining story-teller. Really! Ask the audience at my book signings.

Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

A: READ, READ, READ ‘til your eyes bleed.

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