Hello, readers! Today, we’re bringing you an exclusive interview with Cristina Salat, author of The Skin of Water: Defending the Dreamcatchers, a Gathering The Dreamcatchers novel.
Be sure to check out the promo code at the end of the interview for 50% off the ebook!
Q: How long have you been writing? What genres do you write?
A: I’ve been writing and reading all my life, since I was around six years old and discovered the enchantments of storytelling. At this point, I find myself exploring such enchantment in all genres: short and long fiction, non-fiction, movie scripts, children’s books, story poems. However words can be wielded.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about The Skin of Water: Defending the Dreamcatchers? It’s a pretty unusual novel for young people/new adults. Where did the idea for the book come from?
A: The way most of my fiction worlds are born are by some magical process of osmosis regarding aspects of reality that have caught my attention, and The Skin of Water was no exception. Over time — as I look back on the entire arc of the Gathering The Dreamcatchers series this book is part of — I see that it, like every novel in the series so far, deals with contemporary subject matter that I’m interested in. Contemporary issues that are pretty “up” for society, you might say. The funny thing is: when I first began drafting the initial two, foundational books of this series, the aspects of society they deal with (equal rights for non-traditional families in Living in Secret, and youth learning to protect themselves from sexual abuse in The Skin of Water) were still considered by the mainstream as somewhat fringe, avant-garde, even ‘taboo’… not topics most readers would ever need or want to spend much time thinking about.
Which of course we now know is quite the fallacy since ever larger numbers of people have been choosing to live in other than 1950s-style nuclear family configurations… and more and more people are also beginning to recognize that society has long been dealing with issues of sexual abuse, in the world in general — including Hollywood, politics, daycare, church environments — and even sadly within what should be the safe walls of people’s own homes. A fact the world has only recently become willing to acknowledge.
Q: Was it a conscious choice to feature a homeless pueblo girl originally from New Mexico in this story?
A: The world of runaway street kids moved front and center into my mind and my writing life back when I lived in San Francisco after spending time working with venues that offered services to homeless teens. At first I thought some of the issues I wanted to explore about why children wind up living on the streets would unfold as a sequel for Living in Secret (and eventually they did)… but other aspects of the Living in Secret story and those characters were not ready to be delved into again until beyond the turn of the millennium. Meanwhile, Lisel Martinez — a 16 year old poet/garden girl from the mesas of New Mexico — one day just appeared in my mind, needing escape… and that led to the unfolding of The Skin of Water: Defending the Dreamcatchers… a book which then entailed years of me taking my own mixed-race, part-First-Nation-but-also-very-urban self into the wilds of New Mexico for immersion in Lisel’s way of life. (And those adventures could be a book of their own!)
Q: How has the response been to The Skin of Water now that it’s published?
A: Amazing. 🙂 Well… I should backtrack. At first, it was amazing. Then it wasn’t. And now it thankfully is again. When the manuscript for the book was first done, it was presented to publishers who had previously brought other stories of mine to readers through those traditional channels, and an editor I loved accepted it so I was looking forward to working with her again. Unfortunately, she then moved on to new ventures as people in the world of publishing sometimes do, thus “orphaning” the books on her editorial slate including mine… and as many authors know, having one’s book orphaned is not a good thing. Especially in a climate which at that time included the industry folk wearing gatekeeper hats who described this novel as “quite realistic and powerful, and definitely different from your run of the mill YA…” while rejecting it because they claimed the notion of empowering young people to learn how to keep themselves safe from harm just wasn’t a significant enough theme to warrant delving into such “dark” subject matter.
A claim that has perhaps proven to be misguided as more and more statistics along with real life tales of just how many children (and adults) are affected by sexual predation come to light?
Calling out and putting an end to the reality of sexual abuse is luckily now being explored in various wonderful books like Laurie Halse Anderson’s Shout. Yet even before society in general (and the halls of mainstream publishing specifically) woke up, I knew there was a place for Lisel’s story about not only recognizing that sexual abuse occurs, but also learning how to keep oneself safe from it… along with learning how to heal when something not-good has already happened to you.
So, through the twists and turns of getting The Skin of Water: Defending the Dreamcatchers into the hands of readers, I am super glad I never gave up. Today it nourishes my soul to see reviews like: “You know when you finish reading an amazing book, and you just sit there for like a minute or two, trying to figure out what you just read? That’s exactly what this book did to me and let me tell you, this book has changed me in many ways. First, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book so mesmerizing, covering issues about poverty and homelessness…”
Luckily, our world as a whole is finally evolving… and I’m happy this book can be a part of that process.
Q: What can readers expect from you in the future? And where can readers follow you?
A: I make my home on a tropical island now, and in service to maintaining a life of balance that includes healthy time in nature, I limit time in front of lit electronic screens to when I’m actively researching and working on creative projects. Thus I don’t do much social media. But I do have a website: https://cristinasalat.wixsite.com/website where folks can see what I’m up to and sign up to receive the every-once-in-a-blue-moon aloha newsletter I send out to a worldwide collection of readers, writers, thinkers, and friends from the jungles of Hawaii, along with receiving a free sampling of my work.
As for the future…
The Skin of Water: Defending the Dreamcatchers is book #2 in the Gathering The Dreamcatchers companion novel series, and as we speak I’m working on book #5. So for readers who have enjoyed immersing in Lisel’s journey and want to find out what happens next, she reappears in subsequent Gathering The Dreamcatchers novels like Paradise Found (book #4)… and will appear again in Living in Light (book #5), which is hopefully due out sometime next year.
Is there anything one contemporary pueblo teen who no longer has a home can do to keep herself safe in a world that feels anything but? Empowerment is just a word… until you live it.
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