Friday, February 26, 2010

Meet Sandra Alonzo

Sandra is an author after my own heart - she's a fellow horse lover. When I first read her picture book called GALLOP-O-GALLOP, I was genuinely touched. This woman not only knows horses, but her poetry captures that special bond between a human and a horse.

So of course I was thrilled with the news that Sandra's first YA novel, RIDING INVISIBLE will be released from Disney/Hyperion on March 2/2010.

Sandra - tell us a little about yourself. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

My love for writing started at six years old, when I wrote my first poem for a homework assignment. However, it wasn't until my daughter turned thirteen, that I decided to pursue writing as a career. Since I was working full time as a teacher, this new plan of mine didn't always fit into my schedule.

Where did the idea for RIDING INVISIBLE come from?

The idea for RIDING INVISIBLE came from my childhood. I am the oldest of three children, and unfortunately, my middle brother suffers from child-onset schizophrenia. His illness is very different from the conduct disorder I describe in the book, but when I was a child, my brother was scary. Even though I was older, whenever I was around him, I was afraid. Without warning, he could become violent. To escape my fearful home environment, I would ride my horse through the mountains where we lived. Many of the feelings in the book come from my experiences, but unlike Yancy's brother in RIDING INVISIBLE, my brother never threatened to hurt my horse.

How long did it take you to write RIDING INVISIBLE, from original idea to finished product?

RIDING INVISIBLE took about three years to develop. The manuscript went through many transformations to reach its present form. My first draft of the story was not told in journal format. It started as a traditional novel, told in Yancy's voice, in the present tense. After trying to get it published without success, I decided to try writing the story as a novel in verse. The experience was valuable, and it helped me shape the scenes and characters in a succinct manner. Apparently it worked, because I was able to get an agent with this version, wonderful Caryn Wiseman at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Unfortunately, novels in verse reached a peak in the market, and after various rejections, Caryn asked if I'd like to rewrite the story as a traditional novel.

Ugh! Been there, done that. I wanted to move forward; try something new. I decided to attempt a journal, written by Yancy, and also illustrated by him. It was a fun process, deciding where to place Yancy's drawings and illustrated panels, fitting them in with the text and action. Nathan Huang did a great job 'becoming' Yancy, the artist.
The last, perhaps the most difficult part in developing Yancy's story happened because of my fantastic editor, Christian Trimmer, at Disney/Hyperion. Partly because RIDING INVISIBLE is based on events from my past, facing the feelings in the novel, and coming to terms with Yancy's growth, turned out to be a difficult task. It meant I had to grow, too. It was a lot of work, but I made it through the revisions process. The result is a published novel I am proud of.

I love the name - RIDING INVISIBLE - how did you come up with it?

Originally, the story was called Running Shy, because Yancy runs away on his horse, who is named Shy. At some point, the title RIDING INVISIBLE came to me because Yancy sometimes refers to himself as 'invisible' because no one seems to be aware of his issues with his brother.

What is your writing process?

I write a lot, whenever I can. Ideas constantly pop into my head at strange times, like when I'm driving my car or riding my horse. If I don't jot down the idea immediately, it's often lost. Most days, you'll find me on my laptop, typing away. I usually follow the same process I used for RIDING INVISIBLE, which means revising, rewriting, and re-creating the novel two or three times. Even though it doesn't come easy, it's what I love to do.

I know you just received the arcs (advanced reading copies) of RIDING INVISIBLE. How did it feel when you actually held the finished product in your hand?

I am thrilled with the book. The art looks fabulous. The special font Hyperion used to make the print look journal-like is very convincing. Everything fell into place perfectly.

Are you working on anything new? Anything you can share with us about that?

I'm presently working on another YA novel called NAME: INDIANA. It's is a story I'm excited about, written in the voice of a fifteen year old girl who arrives at a hospital and discovers she cannot remember her past. Various clues and small clips of scary scenes tell this teenager that the life she used to live was far from mundane, possibly evil. With the help of Reggie, a cute guy she meets after moving to a foster home in a remote location, Indiana is able to uncover her past, and struggles to save herself in the process.
Sandra, thank you so much for stopping by and telling us about your books. To learn more, go to

Book Giveaway!!

If you'd like to win a copy of RIDING INVISIBLE, you can enter in the following ways:

1) Leave a comment on this post, or

2) Send an email to linda (at) lindabenson (dot) net.

For an extra entry you can also:

3) Become a follower of this blog (also applies to current followers) +2 or

4) Reposting about this giveaway, and linking to it. Let me know! +1

Contest open until March 15th, 2010. Good luck, Everyone!


Monica said...

Yay! This sounds like a wonderful book. I can't wait to read it! Congrats, Sandra!

Joanna said...

Great interview! What a journey to get this book published--truly inspiring. And RIDING INVISIBLE sounds wonderful.

Congrats to all your success!

suzie townsend said...

Yay! Great interview :)

I linked this contest on my blog at :)!

Eliza Osborn said...

Horses and books? I'm in!

Great to hear about this, winning or not!


Dee said...

Sounds like a great story! Congratulations!

+2 for me (already a follower!)

Borostyán said...

This book sounds so good!

If this is international please enter me!


I'm a follower

Kathleen Ortiz said...

Great interview! I Tweeted about this on @KOrtizzle :)

I'm trying to figure out how to follow you since it doesn't have "follow" at the top like it normally does :-/ Hmmm...will log out and log back in to see if it lets me...

Kathleen Ortiz said...

Nevermind...I figured it out! :) I'm now a follower! Lol

joannehuspek said...

Great interview, I'll also retweet!

Vonna said...

Nice interview, Linda. Sandra, triple congratulations for your beautiful picture book, your impending release and your new Wip.
They all sound like winners!

Loretta Nyhan said...

I know quite a few teens (and adults) who will love this book! Thanks for the great interview,Linda, and best of luck Sandra!

Joyce Lansky said...

I'm always ready to read something new.



Sara Kendall said...

Wow, what a great interview! And the book sounds like such a wonderful read. If I don't win a copy here (fingers crossed), I'll definitely be looking for it in bookstores.

And I'm newly following the blog! I can't believe I haven't stumbled on it before now. Can't wait to read more from you, Linda.


Jade Winters said...

I'm following now and I posted about this on my blog:

I have 6 kids that would love this book!!

Sharon Mayhew said...

Wonderful post, Linda! I juat found your blog via twitter. :) I'm now a follower. I'd love a copy of Sandra's book. It sounds great!

OmNomNomBooks said...

Great interview! Sandra gives hope to all the writers out there still in the early phases of revision. Thanks! -Judith

Becky said...

Great interview! Riding Invisible sounds like a wonderful book.

Regina said...

This book sounds like such a personal, intimate, and touching story. I'm sure that it will be a big seller. What a great interview. Thank you.

Ms. Book Sniper said...

This book sounds great! And I like the interview a lot! Best to both of you!!

Bunny B said...

I love horses! This sounds like a lovely read. Thanks so much!
bunnybx at gmail . com

Beth said...

Oh this sounds like a wonderful read. I would love to sneak a read before I passed it on to child I know. I also just started following you.

Meredith said...

Thanks so much for sharing, Linda! As a fellow horseperson, I know that there's just no part of life that they don't that you're combining your talent for writing with your talent for the ponies.

Gina said...

Great interview! I would love to read this book :) Hope I win!

Hardygirl said...

This looks like an incredible book! And, I love hearing about your journey toward publication and all of the revisions, revisions, revisions. Whew.


Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

I want this book! I linked this post on my Facebook and I am now following you.

Thanks for the great interview!

Carrie said...

Oh! This sounds lovely! Horses are an integral part of who I am and my stories, too. I just love the sound of this. I'll be subscribing to double my entry!