Instead of a history post from me today, you get a sweeter treat! Lisa Rivero, historical fiction and non-fiction author, was kind enough to grant me an interview. Let’s start with a little background on Lisa:
Lisa Rivero is the author of the award-winning young adult book Smart Teens’ Guide to Living with Intensity. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators.
Her writing career began with a column in a Milwaukee-area food and wellness magazine, the Outpost Exchange and grew to include newspaper and magazine articles, online articles, and four books on education and parenting.
Lisa also teaches writing, technical composition, creative thinking, and other humanities courses at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. She speaks to groups across the country about intensity, giftedness, learning, homeschooling, and creativity
I’m so happy to announce that Lisa’s new children’s book, Oscar’s Gift, is now available in paperback, on Kindle, and on Nook, and will soon be available for iPad. Let’s find out more about Lisa and her book.
Was there a book or an author that influenced your life growing up?
I went to a two-room country school, and the nearest library was 30 miles away, the nearest book store even farther, so most of my books came from Scholastic orders and a county-wide Bookmobile (books shelved in a small van) that came to the school every week. Perhaps because I had access to fewer books than children today, I treasured nearly all of them, from Heidi to The Hardy Boys. In particular, I remember reading the Little House series over and over and going through a brief phase of calling my dad “Pa” (he wasn’t amused). I can definitely see the influence of Laura Ingalls Wilder in my most recent book.
Could you, please, give us a brief summary of Oscar’s Gift?
Oscar’s Gift takes place in 1904-1905 on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in
South Dakota. The story follows eleven-year-old Tomas, the son of Swedish immigrants, through a year of difficult changes, a new family, and a new home. Through it all, he gains new perspectives on luck and on the value of inner and outer diversity.
What was the inspiration for this book?
The form the book eventually took–that of a work of fiction for young (and young at heart) readers–was inspired by the many children and teenagers I’ve known whose sensitivity and curiosity can make them feel at odds with the world, and whose intensity and sense of justice can so easily be dismissed or squelched. I remember in particular a young boy in a writing and literature group I led who gave an impassioned reading of Langston Hughes‘s poem I, Too, Sing America. I wanted to write a story that captured that wonderful, youthful idealism and that encouraged young readers to stay true to themselves.
Your character, Oscar Micheaux, was an actual person. Can you tell us how much of the story is fact and how much is fiction?
Many of the details of Oscar’s life in the book are from biographies written
about him and his own semi-autobiographical novels. Some examples are his participation in the land lottery and subsequent purchase of a relinquished claim, his admiration for Booker T. Washington, and his avid reading. Everything having to do with Tomas and his family is fictional, but sometimes a historical detail served as the basis for a fictional scene. For example, Micheaux biographer Patrick McGilligan wrote, “Micheaux seemed cursed with fiendish mules, once getting spiked in the temple so hard that he was out cold for hours.” In my version of the story, I imagined Tomas’s finding Oscar lying in the field after the accident.
What’s the most surprising thing you learned during the process of research and writing Oscar’s Gift?
This question is a tough one, because there were so many wonderful surprises along the way! The most interesting personal discovery was just how prominent Oscar Micheaux was in the area where I was raised, yet somehow I had never heard of him until just a few years ago. After I wrote the book, my dad said that my grandmother had talked about Oscar. I wish I’d discovered him earlier so that I could have asked her about him.
If you could travel back in time, when and where would you choose to land and why?
I hope this isn’t a cop-out answer, but any time or place would be fine. History has always fascinated me. If I had to choose, though, I would love to have known my grandmother when she was a little girl. She was born in 1902, so maybe I subconsciously settled on the turn of the 20th century to tell Oscar’s story for that reason.
What project do you have coming up next?
One project I’m looking forward to is the next book in the Fiction for Young Historians series, which takes place during the Great Depression.
If you could leave your readers with one bit of wisdom, what would it be?
This wisdom certainly isn’t original, but it’s important: If you have a gift or talent in a certain area, don’t be afraid to own it, and to remember that practice and patience are far more important than luck in making that talent into an activity that can bring you joy.
Please let our readers know how they may connect with you and find your books.
Oscar’s Gift in Paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Oscars-Gift-Planting-Words-Micheaux/dp/1466215593
Oscar’s Gift for Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Oscars-Gift-Planting-Historians-ebook/dp/B005GS6YVA
Oscar’s Gift for Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/oscars-gift-lisa-rivero/1104885355?ean=2940013111486
I’m also currently putting together a reading and discussion guide for the book, and I’d love to hear from readers with their questions and suggestions. My email address is lisarivero at sbcglobal dot com.
Thank you, Marcia, for jump-starting my brain with such excellent questions!
You’re welcome, Lisa! Thank you so much for joining us here today! I think our readers have enjoyed learning about you and how Oscar’s Gift came to be. I’ve read Oscar’s Gift and plan to give my 10 year old grandson a copy, as well. He’ll love it as much as I did!
Do you have any other questions for Lisa?