Thursday, March 10, 2011

Eleven Up: Interview with Bettina Restrepo

Well hello there, and welcome to the March 10th Apocalypsie/Elevensie interview! Today we hear from the fabulous Bettina Restrepo: author extraordinaire of the newly released, and beautifully written, “Illegal”.

First- an overview of the story:

A promise.
A promise that we would be together on my fifteenth birthday . . .
Instead, Nora is on a desperate journey far away from home. When her father leaves their beloved Mexico in search of work, Nora stays behind. She fights to make sense of her loss while living in poverty—waiting for her father's return and a better day. When the letters and money stop coming, Nora decides that she and her mother must look for him in Texas. After a frightening experience crossing the border, the two are all alone in a strange place. Now, Nora must find the strength to survive while aching for small comforts: friends, a new school, and her precious quinceaÑera.

Bettina Restrepo's gripping, deeply hopeful debut novel captures the challenges of one girl's unique yet universal immigrant experience.

And now for the inside scoop:

TS: Hi Bettina! You’re a girl after my heart because in addition to writing your beautiful novel: Illegal, you’ve also authored an awesome Picture Book (Moose and Magpie)! But we’ll save that for later. For now- tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write a story about illegal immigration.

BR: Check out this link on my website.

TS: Did you know from the get go, a particular message or tone you wanted to convey with your book? ie- optimism, uncertainty, hope?

BR: No. I intentionally didn’t want a message because I didn’t want to seem preachy. But, I think the message that comes through in the end is hope. Perhaps people might think differently about immigrants, but the focus was really on Nora and her struggle and how she finds her voice.

TS: Is Illegal your first completed novel?

BR: It was my first novel, then rewritten a lot over six years. This novel taught me how to just keep going.

TS: How does it feel to be on “the other side” of the journey towards publication? Or are you just riding the wave, and not psychoanalyzing it…

BR: The gratitude that I feel towards people who have helped me along the way. But, I can tell you this, I love writing and creating. Publicity is hard and sooooooo time consuming. I’ve had a lot to celebrate – good reviews, an excellent editorial relationship with Harper-Collins, a supportive agent. But, my celebrations are short… I always find more work to do.

TS: What’s one thing interesting factoid about the process of writing Illegal.

BR: Flora, who becomes Nora’s friend after she arrives to Houston, didn’t come into the book until almost the very end of revisions. She was always there – I called her ‘the girl with red lipstick.’ My agent asked me if there might be something more with her. She turned into Flora and an entire subplot appeared.

TS: Does having written a PB, help in the crafting of a Novel- or vice versa at all? I would imagine there are major differences in the development of each….any similarities?

BR: The similarity is that every word counts. The story arc is deeper in a novel. But, I also saw this story in my head like a movie. The pictures helped me to write into the core of the action.

TS: Do you have future plans for Nora and her family? Any new Picture Books in the works?

BR: As we speak, there is nothing more on Nora. She goes on to live her life. Perhaps something more from Flora, not sure. I would love to write another picture book. I have several floating around my drawer. A naughty raccoon, a mixed up snarky version of Noah’s Ark, and two kids who always misinterpret the rules to their own advantage.

TS: As an Apocalypsie, I feel compelled you ask you one question that is at least remotely related to the end of the world. And here it is: the end of the world is tomorrow. You’ve had zero time to prepare. You grab your handbag and run out the door. What’s inside? What do you wish was inside instead?

BR: Ahhh, I actually have prepared for this. Last year, I helped a friend whose apartment burned to the ground. It really affected me. I know exactly what I would get. The computer and my scrapbooks. That’s it. Except for my son, hubby and dog – everything else is just stuff.

As to my purse – with my ADHD (really, I take medication and everything) – I tend to have three purses going. I wouldn’t even be able to find the right purse.

For additional information on Bettina, Illegal, Moose and Magpie and a whole lot more, please visit Bettina’s website.

Thanks for chatting with us!
Tiffany Strelitz Haber


  1. Bettina is driven to write and create great books. I can't wait to read Illegal!

  2. Quick, it before it's too late! (a little Apocalypsie humor there) I couldn't resist.

  3. Great interview, Bettina and Tiffany!

  4. I can "hear" Bettina's voice as I read the interview. She's always looking forthe bright side. Cheers!

  5. Awwwww, thanks everybody! And thanks to Tiffany for hosting my at the acoplycasiesz.... i mean, acapulco... I mean.

    Gosh darnit... need to put aplcyp. into my spell check :-)

    (this is why I need to edit so much!)

  6. This book looks amazing. I can't wait to read it!