What Would MacGyver Do?

That's actually a line from The Queen of Water, which I just finished going over in page proof form last week.  This is one of the final stages before the ARC (Advanced Review Copy) comes out this fall.  I am SO excited about this book... it's different from my other books in a number of ways.  For one, it's cowritten with Maria Virginia Farinango-- based on the true story of her amazing girlhood in the Ecuadorian Andes.  Here we are together in a photo taken by my friend Ken Burgess, who also took the cover photo on the book!

This book is also the most "sweeping" of my books in terms of timeline... it covers Maria Virginia's life from ages 7-15-- an eight-year span.  In my other books, the action is mostly limited to one season-- summer in the case of Red Glass, What the Moon Saw, and the Notebooks, and spring in the case of Star in the Forest.  It's definitely been more challenging for me to cover such an expanse of time, deciding what scenes to tell and what to summarize and which flashbacks to give and where... I rewrote this manuscript many times, trying to sift through Maria Virginia's entire lifetime to figure out where to begin her story, how to pace it throughout, which years to fast forward through... a monumental task!  It's so amazing to see it all coming to fruition after six years of working on it.

I really love the pop culture elements in her story-- I had fun weaving those in.  She had a crush on MacGyver (with Spanish pronunciation, MacGeever)-- he was her hero, too.  His approach to problem-solving inspired her to overcome obstacles in her own life.  I'm thinking about sending the actor a copy of the book once it's published (March 8 2011)-- I bet he has no idea that he influenced the destiny of an indigenous Ecuadorian girl in the eighties!

I also love the way The Slave Isaura-- a Brazilian soap opera set in the 1800s-- is part of our book... I've never actually seen the show (I'll get it on Netflix one of these days!) but I've read a lot about it online. I think it illuminates the hypocrisy in MV's society as she was growing up beautifully.

 Another thing I enjoyed about writing this book was seeing Maria Virginia's photos from events that ended up as scenes in the book.  Here are a few of when she was in a school play that altered the course of her life.

Maria Virginia wrote and directed and starred in the play... here she is crying over the death of her mother.

Here's the audience... her performance brought some people to tears.

Here she is giving her mother a Mother's Day card... this scene has a lot of emotional significance in the book-- you'll see!!

This is actually an event that happened after the book ends... she's graduating from high school.  Notice she's wearing her indigenous clothing, which is significant.  Figuring out her ethnic identity is one of the themes in the book, as you'll see...

All right!  Time for me to write more of The Jade Notebook now... my deadline for handing this to my editor is Dec 31, and I'm trying to get the first big chunk done soon to give to my mom, who's my first reader.  Wish me luck....