The Pinata-Maker’s Daughter Interview with author Eileen Clemens Granfors

Greetings readers, bloggers, geeks, and authors and welcome to The ToiBox of Words. I’m your host Toi Thomas, author of Eternal Curse, and today I’m sharing a special interview with author, Eileen Clemens Granfors, about her fiction book entitled, The Pinata-Maker’s Daughter. Enjoy!

Image provided by author.

Where did the idea for The Pinata-Maker’s Daughter come from?

I wanted to write more about a character from the first book I published, Some Rivers End on the Day of the Dead. I thought a lot about going on with the same protagonist (Marisol), but I decided on a prequel. Carmen was my favorite from the first book although I love Joe too. I found a way to work both characters into the new book. So this is Book 1 of the Marisol Trilogy.

How did the title of this book come about?

I chose this title because who can resist a piñata? At the same time, the reader would also know that the family income is not going to be very high so life will be challenging. Several months before writing the book began, I found a picture by Donna Dickson that portrayed the comfortable, loving relationship of a mom and daughter. Donna, who lives and works in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, graciously allowed me to use her art. It is the perfect scene for the book’s cover.

What genre is this book and why did you choose to make it so?

Okay, here’s where I goofed, I guess. The middle book was about a junior high kid, very innocent and often put off by the world’s hardships. In The Pinata-Maker’s Daughter, since Carmen is in college, she gets herself involved in escapades that are PG-13. Compared to other YA, it’s mild, but I have had readers object. I felt that Carmen showed her impulsive side in the worst ways, but a few readers were pretty ticked off. I now call the book women’s fiction although it could certainly be placed as LATE-age YA or New Adult.

What would you say is the overall message or the theme of this book?

When writing this book, I was endorsing the growth kids go through in college. Yes, they certainly do a lot of stupid stuff, but they grow and learn. If they are lucky, they leave home and live in a dorm. They find out that the world they come from is not the only world there is. They learn about hardships of health, of love, and of parental expectations from a variety of sources. This opposition was something I faced as a senior; parents who did not see any reason to go away to college. They were worried about money, and they also didn’t really want me to leave for Los Angeles since our whole family is in San Diego.

Tell me about the experience of writing this book; how long did it take.

Raised by an army major, I am a disciplined person. I write every day, two to three hours. It took about a year to write this book if we include the rewrites, the changes, and the decisions of making things work out logically. I purposely left the ending brief so that if I someday finish the trilogy, the reader will know Carmen, Joe, Marisol, and Franco well enough to be interested in the futures they face. I grew up in a town that edged up to the Mexican border (Imperial Beach, CA) so my classmates and friends were often Mexicans. We were multicultural before the word was used much. That’s how I see the world.

Tell me about the main storyline within this book.

Carmen is accepted to a prestigious college. She lives in a poor Hispanic neighborhood south of San Diego and her mother absolutely opposes her leaving home for college. She goes anyway with scholarship money. Almost at once she feels like an outsider. Her roommate, Shirley, is a special girl, but even money can’t solve her problems. Carmen falls right away for two very different men, one a frat rat who makes her laugh and one a Hispanic rights leader who woos her into joining the campus movement against fraternities and sororities. Carmen is constantly saying the wrong thing to one or the other of them and getting mad at the way she feels used by both men. She has a hard time making herself feel equal although two nuns on a semester’s study break help her a lot. But she turns away from the religion of her youth to look into the religion of love and more freedom to live her way.

Who is the protagonist of this story?

Carmen has grown up as the high school nerd with just a kind of goofy, boy-crazy friend across the street. Kids know she is the piñata-maker’s daughter, and some befriend her just for the candy she gives away. By the time she is 18, she is ready to take on the world. She loves books, art, and her mom. But her mother is such an embarrassment to her! From the way she wears her hair to the coveralls she works in, Lucia is someone Carmen would lock in a closet if she could. Lucia seems to stand in the way of all Carmen’s dreams, but she also has a tender heart. She even loves tomato worms! Carmen knows her mother means well; she simply must have a way to show she is growing up as her own woman and that doesn’t mean being the piñata-maker’s daughter for the rest of her life. A college degree, travel, a job somewhere rich and fancy, that’s what Carmen dreams of.

Who is the antagonist of this story?

Because of Carmen’s insecurities, she finds almost everyone her antagonist. She is possessive about men when she has no right to be, so she is constantly jealous of womanizer Franco and casual flirt, Joe. Both men cause her to question her self-righteousness and tendency to be judgmental. Franco does take advantage of their shared heritage and he’s not as kind as Joe is. He is absolutely dedicated to himself and his causes. College life itself is a conflict for her. She is used to be the best student, and now she’s one of thousands.

What is the major conflict in this story?

Carmen is faced with growing up. She is no longer under her mother’s thumb, and sometimes, she is so impulsive she stirs up more trouble than she can handle. She tries to be a good friend to her roommate, but her roommate also makes her uncomfortable. She is far too fixated on finding romance and lets her studies come second. She has fought hard to achieve this dream, but she is in danger of losing it to her wayward heart.

Where and when is this story taking place?

The story takes place in a fictional college north of Los Angeles. It is not UC-Santa Barbara! But Carmen travels home to San Ysidro, CA often. The time is the present.

Who is your favorite character in this book?

I’m a mom who has had the kid who thinks I’m way too strict, way too old-fashioned, and she really wishes I would get a grip. With that in mind, I absolutely dearly love Carmen’s mother. So I love Lucia and the way that she doesn’t back down to her impulsive daughter. I also love Joe Sneed for his youthful goofiness that contrasts with Carmen’s serious side.

Are there elements of your personality or life experiences in this book?

The most important part of my life experience in this book is my desire to attend a big, well-known, prestigious university. Not one person in my family supported that dream. Not even my college counselor thought a four-year university was worth it. I found a way. The city of San Ysidro, the beach scenes, and many of the people come from my growing up in the San Diego area are part of Carmen’s love of place.

What is one thing from this book you wish was real or could happen to you?

I wish that all students at the cusp of adulthood would take time to learn that life is beautiful and meaningful. Lucia (Carmen’s mom) raises tomato worms because she loves all living creatures. She wants for Carmen to live right, be strong, and to be free, like the mariposa butterfly. If people felt free to act as themselves sooner in life, there would be so much less bullying and fixation on looks. Carmen learns a lot about getting over herself in her first year of college.

What is something you wish wasn’t real and hope doesn’t happen to you?

There is death in this book. There is illness. It is a sad part of the book from which Carmen learns more lessons, but honestly, having taught for 33 years and having students or their loved ones die of disease or their parents or car accidents, I wish no young person ever had to face death without knowing the joys of living life as an independent adult.

Let’s say your book is being turned into a feature length film; quick- cast the main two characters and pick a theme song or score.

Carmen: America Ferrerra

Joe: Josh Hutcherson

Franco: Emile Hersh

Mama Lucia  Eva Longoria

Theme song: La Vida Loco

Do you have any special plans for this book in the near or far future?

I am so lucky! The new film, THE BOOK LIFE, with Diego Luna, Tatum Channing, and Zoe Saldana came out October 17th. So there will be interest in the Day of the Dead, which is the middle book, SOME RIVERS END ON THE DAY OF THE DEAD. And some readers may choose to read THE PINATA-MAKER’S DAUGHTER FIRST!

My plans for this book are to keep it in the view of the readers through Twitter, newspapers, local libraries, my book business cards, my blog, my interviews, and attending book clubs. I have a recipe for a piñata cake on Pinterest. I’d love to bring a cake to your book club discussion!

Okay readers, bloggers, geeks, and authors, that’s all for today. Be sure to follow this blog to see who will be visiting next time. To obtain your copy of The Pinata-Maker’s Daughter, please visit the link provided.


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Toi Thomas

I like reading, writing, cooking, dancing, movies, and music. I'm a big kid and choose to see the world in my own special way. Yes, I'm educated, but I haven't let that stop me from being who I want to be. I'm a wife, teacher, author, blogger, and more.

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