American author Matt de la Peña, writer of Ball Don’t Lie, Mexican White Boy, We Were Here, I Will Save You, A Nation’s Hope-The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis, Infinity Ring: Curse of the Ancients, Eternity, The Living, The Hunted and Last Stop on Market Street, visited ISB last week on his attempt to broaden the minds of the students. His visit was short but sweet when he came to share his ideas and stories with the students and it sadly came to an end on the 17th of March.
During his lessons with students in the school Matt de la Peña talked about many things to do with his life, one of the main things he talked about was his book Mexican White Boy which was about him growing up not being able to fit in.
The title Mexican White Boy comes from the fact that the author’s father was Mexican and his mother was American. He told the students that he never fit in with the white kids because he seemed too Mexican but he could also never fit in with the Mexicans because he was too white. This is just one of the struggles described in one of his ten published books.
PantherNation was able to interview the author about his writing and his life during his short stay in Bangkok. The first question we asked him was about Mexican White Boy, we asked him how his childhood and how it affected how he is today. “I think growing up in a working class environment and struggling in school a little bit actually benefited me in the long run.”
Matt de la Peña later talked about his difficulty with growing up in a lower class but how it may have made him a better person overall, “I think I am actually lucky to have grown up with less because it made me learn how to fight for the things I want to achieve.”
Inspiration can be found in the most random places and in the most random people for writers; it can be found in your life, family, friends and individual struggles. Peña told us where he gets his inspiration from. “I am always inspired by real people and real situations. I don’t write about vampires, I don’t write about goblins or ghosts, I write about real people because I find real people fascinating.”
We asked Peña if he ever took inspiration from other authors or books and he replied with, “All the time, writers are the slowest readers in the world because they are always looking for something to steal. I think I am inspired by so many books and authors.”
He continued to tell us how he sometimes takes inspiration from students he meets in his travels when going to schools. “This happens all the time especially lately, probably the last four years. Sometimes I meet kids who end up being characters in my books, it’s like something they share with me, or there’s something physical about them that’s interesting.”
Peña has ten books out so far and he shared with us the feeling he gets when one of his books is published. “The first book is different because it’s the first time and you’re just shocked, you can’t believe you have a book on the shelf.” He explained with excitement. “And by now it’s like I have over 10 books and now it’s a bit different, but every single time I finish a book or see a book come out, it’s still just like wow this doesn’t happen everyday. So at this time it’s only happened 10 times in my life so it’s still pretty rare.”
One of the major things that all authors struggle with is writer’s block, so we asked Peña how he is able to overcome this and continue writing. “I read other people’s work, I watch movies, I listen to music, I am inspired by other art.”
Peña talked about focusing on small details and not the entire story too quickly. “I also try not to focus on the big picture too soon, because I think that’s what writer’s block really is, so I try to focus on little tiny parts of the book like getting a character into the kitchen, and opening the fridge.”
The last question PantherNation asked Peña was what he would say to aspiring authors. He simply replied with. “Talk less and listen more. Watch everything and read as much as you can. Especially books outside of your chosen genre, so if you write fantasy, read realistic fiction, if you write realistic fiction, you should read romance. Just read out of what your reading comfort zone is.”
If you are an aspiring author, take it from a professional. Use different ideas to inspire your ideas and put it on paper. No idea is a bad idea unless you become tired of it. So expand your mind, think as much as you can and express yourself through your writing and don’t ever give up.
Megan Black (9)