Interview and giveaway: Free Pizza, by G.C. McRae

Interview and giveaway:
Free Pizza, by G.C. McRae

Book Details:
Book Title: Free Pizza by G.C. McRae
Category: Middle-Grade Fiction, 360 pages
Genre: Humorous Fiction
Publisher: MacDonald Warne Media
Release date: May 1, 2019
Tour dates: May 1 to 17, 2019
Content Rating: PG (No sex or drugs, just mild expletives such as “hell” and “damn”.)

Book Description:

Brian McSpadden is always hungry. Does he have a disease? Worms? Does it have something to do with his being adopted? He spends his days at his crazy friend Danny’s house, hoping for snacks, but nothing seems to fill the void.

Then Brian receives a mysterious birthday card that says, Free Pizza. He soon discovers the card has nothing to do with food and everything to do with the big questions in his life: where did I come from, why did my mother give me up and is there anyone out there who will like me the way I am?

To read reviews, please visit G.C. McRae’s page on iRead Book Tours.

Buy the Book:
Meet the Author:
 

G.C. McRae is the bestselling author of two young adult novels, three illustrated children’s books and a collection of original fairy tales. His writing is fall-down funny, even when the theme is darker than a coal miner’s cough. McRae reads to anybody at any time, in person or online, for free, which probably explains why he meets so many people and sells so many books.

In his latest work, Free Pizza, McRae spins the highly emotional themes from his decidedly unfunny childhood into a brilliantly comic yarn. After being given up for adoption by his teenage mom back when single girls were forced to hide unplanned pregnancies, his adoptive parents didn’t exactly keep him under the stairs but, well, let’s just say, there were spiders.

A lot has changed since then. McRae’s own children have now grown and he runs a small farm with his wife, who is herself an award-winning writer.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ LibraryThing

Interview

Thanks for joining us. In Free Pizza, you integrated the whole arc of an adoption reunion into an urban adventure story. How did that come about?

Free Pizza was my first novel. It was too big and complex to be publishable at first and took years to whittle down to shape. Because it was my first novel, I was still learning and I did exactly as the experts advise: write what you know. I was 25 at the time I started writing the book. I had a new baby and was right in the midst of searching for my own birth mother. I think it all got stirred into the same pot while I was writing.

Did you end up finding your own birth mother?

I did. I talked to her for the first time on the phone on my 40th birthday.

So you’d been searching for 15 years.

Actual searching, yes. Phoning, travelling, visiting graveyards in little towns, interviewing people.

What was it like talking to her for the first time?

Amazing, obviously. Her laugh just slayed me – it sounded so familiar. That experience really informed the character of Brian in the book. He meets his birth mother when he’s 12. But I tell you, during the experience, I sure felt like I was 12 again.

In writing about something so sentimental, things could have gone horribly wrong.

I know! I didn’t want the story to devolve into a big sob-fest. I tried to approach the reunion from a lot of different sides. Happiness isn’t the only emotion involved. There’s also a huge fear of renewed rejection. I hope I captured a bit of the reality of it all.

Aside from Brian, are any of the characters modelled after anyone you know?

Brian’s adoptive mother is a tame version of my own mother. His adoptive father is a complete invention, as are Danny’s parents. Danny is drawn from my friends when I was a kid, mostly my friend Claude. We got up to so much mischief as kids that my father banned me from ever seeing him again. He even got the school to keep us in separate classes all through junior high. The book is dedicated to Claude.

I was amused to discover the double meaning of the title. Could you tell our readers a bit about that?

Sure. Being twelve, Brian is hungry all the time. So when he receives a birthday card from this weird aunt that says, ‘Free Pizza’, he thinks his aunt knows of his plight and is sending him a gift card. But when he opens it, he finds it’s not a gift card at all. Instead, his aunt has donated to a fund-raiser in his name. The fund-raiser is to improve the life of a young polar bear who lives in a small enclosure in a Chinese shopping mall. The bear’s name is Pizza. So the card literally means, Free the Polar Bear Named Pizza.

The birthday card becomes quite significant. The polar bear is symbolic.

It is. The polar bear becomes a symbol of being displaced, of being alienated from your place of origin. Brian’s father makes the point that the fundraiser is useless. The arctic is melting and the polar bear can never go home again. And that’s the thing I discovered after meeting my own birth mother. She had her own big life that had nothing to do with me. There was no going home.

What’s next for you?

I’m doing a sequel to my comedy/science fiction book, Kana and the Red Pilot. Then it’s right back to writing original fairy tales.

Enter the Giveaway!
Ends May 25, 2019

a Rafflecopter giveaway

#73 review: The Language of Flowers

The Language of Flowers

by

Vanessa DIFFENBAUGH

308 pages

Published in August 2011 by Ballantine Books

MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK

I was totally hooked from the start by this book, by the beauty of its style, its simplicity, and its originality.

I thought the idea was rather original: a teen having been through tons of foster homes and centers, wounded, and thus reacting with violence, despair, and refusing to open up, for fear of more blows, that’s unfortunately common lot. BUT to have her communicate through the Victorian code of flowers, I thought that was a brilliant idea, and it worked really well with the plot.

It is simple in the sense of describing how Victoria is coming of age in that tough context, and how she may OR may not make it (I will NOT tell you). But this simplicity has a lot of impact, evoking her day to day surviving.The author knowing first hand the world of fostering homes, everything sounds so real and true to life.

I really appreciated the way the author connected the past and the present between chapters, by means of a key word, or key sentence, that was neat, and I don’t see this too often.  Cool writing technique.

I enjoyed the beauty of the style, devoid of useless extras, focused on feelings, flowers, communication, and beautiful hearts. I hope I don’t make it too much soap-opera-style, as it is absolutely not the case. This is a beautiful book, that I chose as my September favorite, and it may even be my 2011 favorite so far!

Incidentally, I learned a lot about this Victorian language of flowers. I knew nothing of it; through her heroine, the author shows  all the different possible  levels of understanding, a flower may have different meanings, as Diffenbaugh discovered when she studied this for herself.

This book is also a great illustration of how to successfully incorporate  familiar material (her life as a foster mother, her love for the Victorian language of flowers) in an interesting plot and make it a captivating book.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT

The Victorian language of flowers was used to express emotions: honeysuckle for devotion, azaleas for passion, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it has been more useful in communicating feelings like grief, mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen, Victoria has nowhere to go, and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. When her talent is discovered by a local florist, she discovers her gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But it takes meeting a mysterious vendor at the flower market for her to realise what’s been missing in her own life, and as she starts to fall for him, she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, and decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness. “The Language of Flowers” is a heartbreaking and redemptive novel about the meaning of flowers, the meaning of family, and the meaning of love. [Goodreads]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vanessa Diffenbaugh was born in San Francisco and raised in Chico, California. After studying creative writing and education at Stanford, she went on to teach art and writing to youth in low-income communities. She and her husband, PK, have three children: Tre’von, eighteen; Chela, four; and Miles, three. Tre’von, a former foster child, is attending New York University on a Gates Millennium Scholarship. Diffenbaugh and her family currently live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where her husband is studying urban school reform at Harvard.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh is also the founder of the Camellia Network. The mission of the Camellia Network is to create a nationwide movement to support youth transitioning from foster care. In The Language of Flowers, Camellia [kuh-meel-yuh] means “My Destiny is in Your Hands.” The network’s name emphasizes the belief in the interconnectedness of humanity: each gift a young person receives will be accompanied by a camellia, a reminder that the destiny of our nation lies in the hands of our youngest citizens. For more information visit www.camellianetwork.org  [Goodreads]

REVIEWS BY OTHERS

Sophisticated Dorkiness

I feel it’s only fair to warn you, dear reader, that Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s central character, Victoria Jones, is going to break your heart three ways from Sunday. She’s also going to make you want to pick her up, shake her and scream, why can’t you let yourself be happy? But for Victoria, the answer is as complex as the question is simple. She’s spent her childhood ricocheting through countless foster and group homes, and the experience has left her in pieces. Painfully isolated and deeply mistrustful, she cares only about flowers and their meanings. She herself is like a thistle, a wall of hard-earned thorns.

When we first encounter Victoria, it’s the day of her emancipation from foster care, her eighteenth birthday. “Emancipation” couldn’t be a more ironic word for this moment. For Victoria, as for most foster care survivors—-myself included—-freedom really means free fall. She has nowhere to go, no resources, no one who cares about her. She ends up sleeping in a public park, tending a garden of pilfered blossoms, and living on her wits. It’s only when a local florist sees Victoria’s special way with flowers that she is given a means to survive. But survival is just the beginning. The more critical question is will Victoria let herself love and be loved?

The storyline weaves skillfully between the heavy burden of Victoria’s childhood—-her time with Elizabeth, the foster mother who taught her the language of flowers and also wounded her more deeply than Victoria can bear to remember—-and the gauntlet of her present relationship with Grant, a flower vendor who’s irrevocably linked to the darkest secret of her past. At its core, The Language of Flowers is a meditation on redemption, and on how even the most profoundly damaged might learn to forgive and be forgiven. By opening up Victoria’s very difficult inner world to us, Vanessa Diffenbaugh shows us a corner of experience hidden to most, and with an astonishing degree of insight and compassion. So hold on, and keep the tissue box nearby. This is a book you won’t soon forget. –Paula McLain [Amazon]

There’s also a great Q & A with the author here.

HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK YET?
DO YOU FEEL LIKE READING THIS BOOK?
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS  IN A COMMENT PLEASE