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Suzanne Nelson is a former children’s book editor. She is the author of Serendipity’s Footsteps, published by Knopf BFYR in 2015, as well as many paperback originals, including Cake Pop Crush. She lives with her family in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Find out more about Suzanne at suzannenelson.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @snelsonbooks and @suzannenelsonbooks, respectively.
Name: Suzanne Nelson
Hometown: Morristown, New Jersey
Countries you have visited: Canada, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, France, England, Mexico, Costa Rica, and South Africa
Country you wrote about: Mexico
Destination you would most like to visit: Egypt and Greece are next on the list!
Why did you choose to write about Mexico? I grew up in Southern California and then went to college in Texas, so I had a lot of exposure to Mexican-American culture. Mexico is such a diverse country with so many different landscapes—from mountains to beaches and tropics to deserts, and I wanted to share some of that with readers.
What was your favorite food to eat while traveling in Mexico? The question is…what wasn’t my favorite food while I was there? I loved everything I ate in Mexico (and I ate just about everything.) One of the most delicious meals I had was stuffed sweet pepper filled with queso blanco. It makes my mouth water even now. I also tried flaming Mexican coffee, and that was a real treat too.
What was the most surprising/memorable cultural difference you noticed? Mexico was beautiful, but there was a lot of poverty there too. Stray dogs roamed the streets, even in touristy places, and once we left the larger cities, the landscape was filled with tin shacks that acted as people’s houses. Seeing poverty up close like that really puts things in perspective.
What was your funniest experience? We took a four-hour car drive one afternoon out to this tiny little artistic community north of where we were staying. All along the way, we encountered goat crossing signs on the roadside. I’d never seen anything like it, and every time I saw one, it made me giggle. I kept waiting for a herd of goats to just wander into the road, but we only saw them from a distance.
Have you traveled anywhere “off the beaten path”? If so, what brought you there? My husband and I traveled to South Africa for our honeymoon and went on a safari there, which was really “off the beaten path.” We had to be escorted back to our bungalow every night by a ranger with a gun, just in case a lion or leopard jumped out of the bushes at us! It was an incredible, unforgettable experience! We always thought a safari would be a wonderful adventure, and it was! Plus, it was fascinating to visit a country whose culture and tumultuous history were so different from what we’d grown up with.
Is your main character like you in any way? Are your characters based on anyone in your “real” life? Cat’s character was actually a combination of me and my sister, Christy. My sister was on the varsity diving team in high school and she was always a terrific athlete, so I used some of her sports experience when I was creating Cat. But, in some ways, Cat was a lot like I was in high school, too. I was intensely loyal to my best friends, and I was pretty frightened of dating for a while because of my own parents’ divorce. I have an amazing stepfather whom I love very much, but just last week I watched him cut up a pickle and eat it with a knife and fork. (So now you can guess where some my inspiration for Ted Starling came from…ha ha.)
What made you want to become a writer? When I was in second grade, I filled out a questionnaire for school asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up and my answer was, “a riter.” Sure, I couldn’t spell the word, but I knew it was what I wanted to be. When I was seven, I had a big blue spiral notebook that I carried around with me all the time and filled with poems like “Elmer Fudd, He Likes Mud” and “Why I Love My Little Sister” (This particular poem I’m pretty sure was written under parental duress after a fight with my sister). I started with one notebook, and since then have filled about a dozen journals and several computers with stories, brainstorms, and life experiences (although I’ve moved away from the Elmer Fudd poetry, thank goodness). Writing has always been and always will be a huge part of my life. I love it, and I need to write, just like I need to eat and breathe, so I’ll never give it up.
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