Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Author Interview: Ashley Hope Perez
What was the hardest part about writing a book that dealt with gang members?
Balance. I didn’t want to glamorize or demonize Azael or his gang. MS-13 has been called “the deadliest gang,” and it’s definitely no joke. But at the same time, most of my research pointed to the fact that, in Houston at least, lots of youths involved with gangs like MS-13 are not highly organized or militarized like their counterparts in South America.
But this is not just an issue of veracity; it’s one of tone. I think the reader learns how to filter Azael’s portrayal of his experiences, taking into account the bravado in his words when he describes his affiliation and past “accomplishments” with his gang. And I think the reader detects the sincerity in his desire to start anew and keep the people he loves clear of MS-13.
Which character was more interesting for you to develop, Azael or Lexi?
Parents aren’t supposed to have favorites, but Azael is definitely mine. In an early draft, the book was pretty evenly split between Azael and Lexi, but I decided that it need to be his story. (If you find out about the news coverage of the actual event that inspired the book, you’ll see one reason why I wanted it to be Azael’s.) He gets more of the book, so we see more of his past and therefore understand how he came to the place where he is now.
That said, Lexi really grew on me over time, too. She can be a real punk, but she also has heart. Azael’s changing perception of her required that I let her grow into a better person. So I did.
If you could pair Azael and Lexi with any character from any book, who would you pick for each?
For Lexi, I’m thinking of Sammy from Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood, although she’s got some growing up to do before she’s ready for him. And for Azael… Reason Cansino from the Magic or Madness trilogy because she might be the only character who’s been through more than he has.
Which Death Eater, besides Voldemort, would you want to fight?
I’m not much of a fighter… I’m more of a “bring them to the light” type. So I guess I’d go with any of the Death Eater groupies who are really just under the Imperius Curse. That’s because I might actually be able to win them over. In fact, battling to bring someone back to who they are (as opposed to conquering pure evil) is not that different from some of my past work as a teacher. :)
What kind of pie would you describe yourself as?
This one, in fact. And if he saw me in a bakery window, my son Liam would SO eat me without a second thought!
Posted by Kari Olson at 1:00 PM