Beyond the Gardens by Sandra C. Lopez ~ Genre: Teen Fiction
At the age of 18, Esperanza Ignacio begins her college years at an upscale Los Angeles art school, where she studies to fulfill her long-term dream in Animation. But she soon learns the truth to the old folktale: “you can take the girl out of the barrio, but you can’t take the barrio out of the girl.” Even though she’s getting financial aid, Esperanza works a part-time job during her break from classes just to make ends meet. Her roommate, Anna, is what she calls a “chicana from Beverly Hills” because of the rich daddy and the new car she got for her quinceañera.
Things get a little confusing for Esperanza when an old friend comes looking for her, hoping to start a meaningful relationship. But is Carlos the right guy for her? She never even considered him to be anything more than a friend since high school. Then comes Jake, a gorgeous mechanic, who shares her passion for books and loves her for who she is. What’s a girl to do?
Strength and determination help pave the way for the future. And, as she approaches her graduation, she is faced with a difficult decision: should she leave Los Angeles and leave behind her family, her home, and everything she’s known? Ever since she was born in the California barrio of Hawaiian Gardens, she’s always had to look over the fence, wondering what she’s been missing. Now she’s taking a flying leap over to see what’s beyond the little barrio. What’s beyond her family, her friends, and her past? What’s beyond the little nothing town, where dreams don’t exist? What’s beyond The Gardens? Is it life, love, a future? The story of Esperanza is finally concluded in this wildly entertaining and heart-warming sequel.
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Sandra C. López is one of today’s influential Latina authors in Young Adult literature. Her first novel, Esperanza: A Latina Story, was published in March 2008 WHILE she was still in college. Since then she has published several other books, including the Single Chicas series. She was named as one of “2011 Top Ten New Latino Authors to Watch” by Latino Stories, and her book, Beyond the Gardens, was a Silver Medal winner of the 2016 Global Ebook Awards in Multicultural Fiction and won first place in the Int’l Latino Book Awards. She also works as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer. Art, literature, and travel are her passions, and she aims to keep doing them as long as she can. For inquiries regarding events and projects, please contact her directly.
Q: First, tell us how you came to be a published author and how you came up with the idea to provide reviews to authors.
A: I wrote my first novel, Esperanza: A Latina Story, WHILE I was still in college. The book follows the story of a 14-year old Mexican-American girl trying to get out of the barrio and make something of her life. Full of humor and refreshing dialogue, this book was voted as an inspirational favorite by teen readers. Shortly after that, I wrote the sequel entitled Beyond the Gardens, published in October 2009.
In the second book, the lead heroine gains new confidence and strength as she learns the hard way that “you can take the girl out of the barrio, but you can’t take the barrio out of the girl.”
I write stories with strong and independent female characters that I, myself, would like to read about. When I’m not writing, I get my fill on reading for the enjoyment as well as to improve my craft. Like every published author, I was emailing book bloggers, asking them to please review my book. But, like querying to a publisher, most of them were unresponsive and some weren’t interested. And, of course, I used paid services that would list my book in their newsletters, reaching potential readers that may or may not review my book. That worked out okay. But let’s face it: getting reviews is tough. It’s hard when your book isn’t well publicized and no one is willing to give it chance. That’s what started my book blog. Initially, it started as just a blog for my own personal reviews on books that I read. At that point, I started taking requests from authors and publishers. My own personal review would be free, but, of course, like every other blogger, I only chose the ones that I wanted and rejected those that I didn’t. Yes, my readings tastes are pretty open in a wide variety of genres, but there are some that just don’t really interest me (i.e. westerns, politics sports, etc.) So how do I help those rejected authors get reviews? After all, I couldn’t possibly review them all. That’s when I came up with the idea of starting a book club of readers and a review program to supply authors with more reviews besides the one that I give them. Readers can sign up to get free books from authors, and authors can get reviews for their books. It’s a simple, easy, and convenient program. And it’s working!
Q: How can this review program benefit writers?
A: The review program allows authors to list their books and reach a wide range of readers. It’s been a hit so far! About 85% of participating authors get at least 1 – 2 reviews on Amazon, and we receive over 50 reviews a month from readers. And the best part about it is that we offer free ways for authors to list their book in our program. As an author, I totally understand that budgets can be tight, which makes it harder (maybe even impossible) to promote your books. Most authors shy away to any promo service when there’s a price. What better price is there than FREE?
Q: What do you think is the most important aspect of a book to make it sell?
A: The story itself along with a fabulous cover is definitely important. But probably the most important would have to be reviews. Let’s face it: reviews are the life blood of any book. More reviews equal a greater online exposure and a higher sales ranking, which, could result in sales. My book, Single Chicas, has over 70 reviews, and that has given me more royalties on Kindle sales. The reviews made the difference because before I got no royalties, and now I’m surprised to actually see one come through knowing that I didn’t do any promotion. Book reviews are definitely the key thing here.
Q: How is your author review program unique?
A: My review program is unique because I offer a free option for authors, and I do that because I want authors of all kinds to get a fair chance at getting reviews for their books. Every book deserves a review. These are HONEST and LEGIT reviews. There is no buying reviews here. Readers are free to choose any book and reserve the right in whether or not a review gets posted. It’s all strictly voluntary and 100% honest.
Q: Are you working on any projects at the moment?
A: I am currently working on Book 2 of the Single Chicas series, which is a series of short stories focusing on funny, zany, and wildly entertaining chicas.
Q: How can authors and readers sign up to your review program?
For authors interested in submitting their book to get reviews, please go to: https://sandrasbookclub.blogspot.com/2015/02/submission-guidelines.html
For readers interested in signing up to read free books, please go to: https://sandrasbookclub.blogspot.com/2019/09/read-review-program.html