By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: May 18, 2012
Laurisa White Reyes has been writing since the age of 5 when she wrote her first poem on a scrap of poster board. After earning a degree in English at California State University at Northridge, she spent thirteen years writing for various magazines and newspapers, working as a book editor, and teaching creative writing. She gave up all that six years ago to follow her lifelong dream of writing novels. Her first book, The Rock of Ivanore, released in May 2012. She lives in Southern California with her husband, 5 children, 4 birds, 2 lizards, 2 turtles, 1 fish, 1 dog, and a partridge in a pear tree.
TCBR: After writing in newspapers and magazines for many years, your first novel, a middle grade fantasy called The Rock of Ivanore, has hit the shelves. Thirteen years is a long time to wait. Why the wait? And what made you choose to pursue this story first?
Laurisa Reyes: I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. After college, I spent a decade writing for magazines and newspapers. But what I really wanted to do was write novels. So about six years ago I turned my attention to fiction. I have five children and I read to them at night before bed. One night my son asked me to make up a story instead. That story eventually became The Rock of Ivanore. I spent a year writing it, two years submitting it to publishers, and three years getting it from contract to publication. It’s been a long process, but well worth the wait.
Described as having more twists and turns than a labyrinth, and a story in which nothing is as it seems, what do you think (or hope) children will enjoy the most about your debut novel?
I think kids have always enjoyed fantasy stories and magic. I hope my readers will not only enjoy the fast-paced adventure, but will also relate to the characters who face the same kinds of challenges we all face—self-doubt, building friendships, making choices between right and wrong. But mostly I hope kids will want to read the entire series.
Tony Abbott (author of popular humor, fantasy, and adventure books) said, “[The Rock of Ivanore] is a swift and compelling epic that readers of high fantasy will love!” How does it feel having such a great blurb from one of your favorite authors?
I met Tony at a writer’s conference in Los Angeles a few years ago. He is the author of the popular chapter book fantasy series The Secrets of Droon, but he also writes contemporary fiction. My favorite is a book called Firegirl. I had left my copy at home, so he was gracious enough to mail me a new signed copy. When I later asked him if he’d look at The Rock of Ivanore, he was happy to do it even though he’s very busy. He’s a very kind and generous man.
What does it take for a children’s book author to be considered a favorite of yours?
I just have to love their books! I’m a big fan of Newbery Award winning fiction. Lois Lowry, Jerry Spinelli and Linda Sue Park are some of my all time favorites. I also love YA (young adult) paranormal and dystopian. I love Neal Schusterman (Unwind), Veronica Roth (Divergent) and Megan Miranda (Fracture).
What do you feel influences your writing style or the topics you choose to write about?
My kids are my biggest influence. I like to write what they like to read.
This is a question you are often asked, but I really have to know! As the mother of five children, who is busy homeschooling, how do you even possibly have the time to write? Would you consider yourself super-human? Or do you just drink a lot of coffee and stay up late?
I have no idea how I’ve managed to write so much. In addition to ten years of magazine and newspaper articles, I’ve also written eleven complete manuscripts. I used to stay up until 1 or 2 am because I can only write in dead silence. But now that I’m older I tend to fall asleep at the computer. So finding time to write is more difficult. I try to write a little before the kids get up in the morning, and again after they go to bed. I guess it’s a good thing I got so much writing done early on. It may be a while before I can devote that much energy to a project again.
How do you incorporate the reading of books into your children’s home-school curriculum?
I believe that kids should be free to read what they love. I rarely assign books to read. That takes the fun out of it for me. Instead, I keep an extensive home library including picture books, middle grade and YA fiction, historical non-fiction, biographies, and adult fiction. And the collection is always rotating. My kids are free to read anything they choose. All of them are avid readers and usually have stacks of books by their beds.
When you’re not busy parenting, teaching, writing, eating, sleeping, or tending to your four birds, three lizards, two fish and one dog … which book would we find you reading?
(I forgot to mention that we also have two Desert Tortoises, Marie Curie & Albert Einstein – and one of my fish died recently.) What book I’m reading depends where I am at the moment. I usually have three or four titles lying around. At the moment, X-ilse by Steve Augard is in my bathroom, Slide by Jill Hathaway is in my car, and The Fox Inheritance is on my Nook beside my bed. I read a lot of YA paranormal and dystopian novels, but I also love historical fiction. I am anxiously awaiting the release of Citadel by Kate Mosse this September.
Aside from your obsession with books, you also love musical theater and fantasize about singing on Broadway. Is there a particular musical you imagine yourself being a part of?
I love this question! I am a huge fan of Patti LuPone, who won Tony Awards for Evita and Gypsy. She also was the first Fantine in London’s production of Les Miserables and Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. I would love to sing any of songs she made famous, but it is just a dream at this point. I’m content belting out “Everything’s Comin’ Up Roses!” in my car.
The Last Enchanter is the follow-up novel to The Rock of Ivanore. Could you tell us about this sequel and any upcoming books or projects that you’re working on?
The Last Enchanter picks up where The Rock of Ivanore leaves off. A new character is introduced, Lael, a girl about Marcus’s age. She becomes integral to the rest of the series. Lael’s mother was taken by slave traders years earlier and now she wants to find her. When Marcus and Zyll head to Dokur to protect the new king, Lael tags along. Many of the characters in the first book return including Bryn, Jayson and Xerxes. There are even more surprises waiting in book two. I think readers will really enjoy it.
For more information on Laurisa Reyes and The Rock of Ivanore, visit these links:
Author Website: http://www.laurisawhitereyes.com
Tanglewood Press: http://www.tanglewoodbooks.com
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