04 April 2014

First Line Fridays: Skila Brown

Hi everyone!

Today's First Line Friday guest is Skila Brown, author of CAMINAR.

Skila Brown is the author of Caminar, a story about a boy who survives the massacre of his village and must decide what being a man during a time of war really means. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She grew up in Kentucky and Tennessee, lived for a bit in Guatemala, and now resides with her family in Indiana.

Here's the blurb:

Set in 1981 Guatemala, a lyrical debut novel tells the powerful tale of a boy who must decide what it means to be a man during a time of war.

Carlos knows that when the soldiers arrive with warnings about the Communist rebels, it is time to be a man and defend the village, keep everyone safe. But Mama tells him not yet—he’s still her quiet moonfaced boy. The soldiers laugh at the villagers, and before they move on, a neighbor is found dangling from a tree, a sign on his neck: Communist.

Mama tells Carlos to run and hide, then try to find her. . . . Numb and alone, he must join a band of guerillas as they trek to the top of the mountain where Carlos’s abuela lives. Will he be in time, and brave enough, to warn them about the soldiers? What will he do then? A novel in verse inspired by actual events during Guatemala’s civil war, Caminar is the moving story of a boy who loses nearly everything before discovering who he really is.

Sounds wonderful, right? It gets better! CAMINAR is a novel in verse. Can't wait to hear the first lines!

What are the opening lines of your book?
Where I'm From

Our mountain stood tall,
like the finger that points.

Our corn plants grew in fields,
thick and wide as a thumb.

Our village sat in the folded-between,
in that spot where you pinch something sacred,

to keep it still.

Our mountain stood guard at our backs.
We slept at night in its bed.

Where these lines set from the first draft? And if not, how many times do you think you've changed them?
I write out of order, so it took me a few drafts to settle on which poem would be the opening poem. But the poem itself didn’t change a lot from draft to draft.

Why do you think this opening is perfect for your novel?
It sets the right tone—a tone that carries itself throughout the book and becomes especially strong in the ending.

Give us your favorite opening line(s) from a favorite book, and tell us why you love them:
Oh, at least five good ones come right to mind! Like, from Ruta Sepetys’s Out of the Easy, “My mother’s a prostitute.” But since I’m talking about setting a tone in a book, I’ll go with M.T. Anderson’s Feed which has such a memorable first line: “We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.” The grammar and structure of that sentence is perfect. Matches the novel’s tone to a T. 

Thanks so much for joining us! CAMINAR is out in stores now, so be sure to go buy yourself a copy!

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