Fifteen-year-old Mariana Ruiz has no desire to step foot outside her affluent Philadelphia suburb. BUT she may not have a choice.
With total disregard to the high-glam Sweet 16 her best friend is hosting, Mariana’s father ships her off to a tiny mountain town in Puerto Rico to stay with family she’s never met. The heat is merciless, the food is spicy, and only one of her relatives—her distant cousin Lilly—speaks English. Her consolation prize is Lilly’s homespun Puerto Rican Quinceãnera. Only the riotously festive party exposes Mariana to more than just her culture. She uncovers new friends, her first love, and a family secret that’s been buried on the island for more than 30 years.
Jenn: What would be the ideal spring break for some of your characters? The one they'd remember fondly for the rest of their lives?
Diana: Well, Amor and Summer Secrets is set in Puerto Rico. Mariana and her brother are shipped out of their luxurious home and forced to spend the summer with relatives they’ve never met (who also don’t speak English, or own an air conditioner). I wouldn’t say it’s her ideal vacation (more like the polar opposite), but by the end she’s having a good time in spite of herself. Probably because she meets her first love. What more can you ask for from a tropical vacation?
Jenn: Do your characters go on any road trips? What are they looking for?
Diana: In addition to the trip to Puerto Rico in Amor and Summer Secrets, Mariana and her friends take a road to Cornell University in the sequel Amigas and School Scandals. They go to visit Mariana’s brother Vince who is a freshman pledging a fraternity. The frat boy scenes were a lot of fun to write (there’s an incident with a goldfish, and another involving a keg stand). And ultimately, Mariana finds herself wrapped into some unexpected party drama. Namely, one of her best friends reveals the truth behind the dark moods that have been plaguing her for weeks. And the secret is huge.
Jenn: Describe your worst spring break ever.
Diana: Three out of the four years of college, I merely returned home to Philly for spring break. None of those break were particularly memorable, but they didn’t suck either. I mainly hung out with my high school friends and my long distance boyfriend (now my husband). Pretty low key, but at least I wasn’t studying.
Jenn: Describe your best spring break ever.
Diana: During my junior year of college, I study abroad in Madrid , Spain and my boyfriend (now husband, Jordan) was studying in Indonesia. During Spring Break, we split the cost of airfare to fly me from Madrid to Bali (24 hours) so we could spend the week together. It was amazing, partly because Jordan convinced some Cornell alums (his alma mater) who were working at the luxury resorts in Bali to give us a massively cheap rate on their gorgeous rooms. We felt like royalty.
My most memorable road trip was to Salem , Mass. when a psychic predicted I would one day go on to write children’s books. It wasn’t my plan at the time (I was then a reporter), but years later, the prediction came true. This is me in front of the psychic’s studio.
For more info about Diana and her books, visit her seriously adorable web site at www.dianarodriguezwallach.com.