It’s Tuesday, and you know what that means: there’s another author in this world YOU need to meet. Say hello to Erika S. Castiglione, author of The Hopper-Hill Family. Her book is perfect for middle-grade readers, and looks at what happens when tragedy brings a (blended) family together, including the love and faith that come with it! Keep reading to hear the story behind Erika’s story, then, leave a comment to win a copy of the book!
Tell us a bit about yourself, will you? My name is Erika Castiglione and I’m currently putting down roots in Raleigh, North Carolina, but I have also lived in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, Massachusetts, and China. I just celebrated sixteen years of marriage and I have a teenage daughter and two sons who are getting close (thankfully, I enjoy teenagers and tweens, and these three in particular). My husband and I work with a ministry to international students at Duke University and I also work as a teacher’s assistant at a local school. I love to read and I bring books with me almost everywhere I go. I wish I had more time to write, but I try to take what I can get.
Let’s talk about your book: what, in a nutshell, is your book about anyway? Piper Hill always dreamed about what it would be like to have a brother or sister, but when tragedy abruptly brings three estranged cousins (and a dog) into her home, she realizes becoming a blended family will take a lot more work than she ever imagined. Through the first year as a new family, the Hopper-Hills share grief, laughter, misunderstanding, and, finally, hope, discovering that healing and family come in many forms.
Do tell, what was the inspiration behind it? Our family has always lived far from extended family (Including 4 years overseas). I have wondered from time to time what life would be like for them if something happened to my husband and me, but I didn’t plan on writing a story about blending families. A couple of years ago, I I had a friend read a rough draft to a novel that I had written with an adult audience in mind. I knew it wasn’t coming together, but I couldn’t figure out what was missing. She commented that the voice of the teenager in the story was the strongest and most compelling. I nixed the novel and started over with Piper and her desire for siblings. The rest of the story took shape from there.
How do you hope readers will be changed by your words? I try not to write fiction with an agenda in mind, but instead start with a few characters and their desires, and let the rest unfold. However, I do hope that readers will be struck with the beauty of family, even in the midst of all its messiness. I hope I have provided middle grade readers with a book that they can enjoy, that also respects their intellect, emotions, and experiences. It is an amazing gift when someone tells me they connected with the story in a way that made them laugh or cry.
Lest we forget to ask, how have YOU been changed by writing the book? I have learned to take myself less seriously. Before publishing HHF, I had so many fears: Will people feel weird around me if they didn’t read it or if they read it and didn’t like it? Was I dooming all of my relationships to awkwardness and was putting a book out there worth the risk? If it failed, would I ever have the courage to write and attempt publication again?
It has been two years since it was released, and it hasn’t taken off like I dared to hope in my boldest dreams, but it has resonated with some very encouraging readers and my desire to write hasn’t diminished. I’m stealing time whenever I can to work on another middle grade novel that I both love and hate (depending on the day). Life goes on and life is a gift with or without a big book deal.
What about Erika’s words struck you? If you’re a huge fan of middle grade literature or the parent of a middle grade reader, leave a comment to win a copy of The Hopper-Hill Family. Contest ends Monday, August 6th. Good luck!
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