For the past few weeks When We Returned has been on a virtual book tour. The novel was featured on online sites where I had the opportunity to interact with some of their followers. Today I want to share a few of the questions I was asked.
Will you provide a brief bio (stuff that isn’t in your formal bio): I was born in Santiago, Chile and was spoken to in German and Spanish as a child. I went to an American elementary and high school in Santigo where English was the dominant language.
I developed a social conscience as a young teenager when I began to work with children in an underprivileged neighborhood with no access to electricity or connection to the city’s sewage system. When I was deemed ‘old enough’ to instruct adults, I was guided to use Paulo Freire’s method of literacy linking social consciousness with people’s day to day eperiences.
Years later wanting to share all I learned as an educator in North America, I accepted a job in Peru. There I created strong bonds with the people I interacted with, and traveled through various regions of the beautiful country immersing myself in Peruvian archeology and history.
What does it mean to be called an author? For me it means to be able to share stories that entertain and educate. As a former teacher I am passionate about making the world a better place. I want to rescue the experiences of people who live through troubling times and provide a perspective readers might not get in the news. I am interested in issues of human rights violations, injustice and discrimination that plague our world and delve into how people overcome challenges and learn to thrive.
Where does your inspiration come from? I lived in Peru for a few years during a time of turmoil. Most of the disturbances were taking place in remote locations and were reported in ambiguous ways. Later, when I started to write, I discovered how the news at the time was purposefullly silenced not to scare the citizens while thousands of people were displaced and thousands disappeared in deadly conflicts. These events became the theme for the stories I wanted to tell using accurate facts to inform the plot points.
Surprising things you learned? As I delved into contemporary Peruvian history I learned about how people survived during the civil war and it’s after effects. I found out that the German government is committed to the process of overcoming the past and helping nations that have gone through similar historical circumstances. Germany offered funding to build a museum of memory in Peru to remember the tragic events that took place.
Germany has been a model in providing reparations for survivors of the Holocaust; apologizing, compensating the victims and accepting responsibility for their actions. While at first the Peruvian government refused financial support from Germany, over time they secured backing from their population and accepted the donation. When the country was ready to build the museum called Place of Memory, Tolerance and Social Inclusion, the President of Germany encouraged participation from all sides of the conflict.
What comes first in your novel – plot or characters? For me the plot came first. I had a story I wanted to tell, a story about a violent period in the country’s history and the transition to a peaceful democracy seeking solutions for the past injustices. After developing the theme I placed the characters in circumstances where they found themselves in. The characters faced different choices and had personal stakes, each one determined by their particular backgrounds and experiences.
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