Sunday, June 7, 2009

Guest Blogger: Marisa de los Santos & Giveaway

I am just so happy that Marisa de los Santos, author of BELONG TO ME, is stopping by today with a fantastic guest post. I absolutely loved her latest novel (my review), and I really thought it was interesting to learn how she developed the character of Lyssa. I hope you'll enjoy this post as much as I did!

While I’ve been a writer of some sort for years and years, I still feel like a relative newcomer to the novel writing gig, a little wide-eyed and wet behind the ears. I just haven’t been doing it for very long. Until early in 2004, when I wrote the first sentence of what would become my first novel Love Walked In, I hadn’t written a word of fiction, at least not in my adult life. A lot of poems, some book reviews, a couple of screenplays that will never see the light of day, a few personal essays, but no short stories and, certainly, no novels.

Naturally, the process has been, and continues to be, richly surprising, and one of the most startling surprises—and one I never quite get used to—is how little I get to be in charge. Of course, intellectually, I know that writing is a process of decision-making and that since I’m the only person in the room while the writing happens (well, occasionally, there are other people in the room, sometimes loud, jumpy people, but while they might be asking for snacks or telling me stories or showing me caterpillars or art projects, they’re not actually helping me write), I must be the one making the decisions. But, much of the time, that’s not how I experience it.

For instance, sometimes, characters just show up, out of nowhere and completely uninvited. In Belong to Me, there is a character named Lyssa Sorensen. She is sixteen-years old, blonde, and when we first meet her, she is sitting next to my character Dev in his Advanced Biology class. I knew from the beginning that Dev would have friends. I planned for him to have friends, but I planned for him to have just one friend who would be a full-fledged, fleshed-out character, and that friend, Aidan Weeks, a loquacious, biracial, high school soccer star and entrepreneur, was already in the book. I didn’t plan on two full-fledged character friends, and I certainly didn’t plan on Lyssa because, upon meeting her, what became immediately clear to me was that she has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

I know quite a bit about certain psychological disorders. Manic-depression, for example. Depression. Anorexia. Bulemia. Body dysmorphic disorder. ADD. ADHD. But while I had bits and pieces of information about OCD, I hadn’t read much about it and didn’t have a close friend or family member who had been diagnosed with it. Definitely, I didn’t know enough to write a character with OCD, and I was on a roll with the writing. I had no plans to stop and do research. So I looked at the character of Lyssa and said, “OK, you’re here. Fine. Stay. But no OCD.”

After all, the OCD was not all that defined Lyssa. She is bossy, judgmental, funny, sarcastic, lonely. I could see some reasons for her having a psychological disorder of some sort because so many such disorders involve secret keeping, and I understood that what would bind her to Dev was the fact that he would figure out her secret and would keep it to himself. But anorexia fit the bill. Bulimia, too. It didn’t have to be OCD.

Except that, somehow, it did. Nothing else seemed to work. Lyssa was who she was, insisted on being who she was, no matter how difficult on inconvenient, so I sighed and went with it. I did the research. I read through books; I went to online chat rooms to read what people with OCD or parents of children with OCD said about their lives. At the time, I could not have articulated why it needed to be that particular disorder, but I decided to listen to my character, to put aside my own plans and put my faith in the demands of my story.

It’s something I had done before, would do again, and expect to have to do as long as I’m writing novels, which I hope will be a very long time: to acknowledge that the novel writing process is organic, with its own inner, inscrutable logic; to go on instinct; to trust my book, and to hope that it will all make sense in the end.

In Lyssa’s case, it did. After I finished writing Belong to Me, I realized how Lyssa’s OCD fits in. Lyssa’s rituals are complicated, fueled by fear, and they interfere with her ability to live a healthy, happy life. But what I came to understand, as I looked back at my book as a whole, is that in her own extreme way, she is doing exactly the same thing that all of the characters are doing: trying to keep the universe in order, to keep bad things from happening, to keep chaos at bay, trying and, very often, failing. She fits. The book, the process knew this, even when I had no idea. Lyssa knew it.

Thanks, Lyssa.

A big thanks to Marisa de los Santos for writing this guest post!

As you can see, Marisa de los Santos is a beautiful writer; and I think BELONG TO ME is just a great book. I just happen to have three copies courtesy of
Harper Collins to giveaway.

There are lots of ways to gain entries:

1) Leave a comment with your e-mail address telling me why you want to read this book.

2) Blog about this giveaway with a link back to this post.

3) Tweet about this giveaway with a link back to this post.

This giveaway is open until June 21st at 11:59 p.m. EST, and I will notify the winners the following day. Only those of you with U.S. or Canada mailing addresses are eligible -- no p.o. boxes please. Good Luck!


ANovelMenagerie said...

I'd like to give this one a whirl! Please enter me, your loyal fan and subsriber! (smile)


Anonymous said...

I would like to read this book because everyone I know who has read it, and every blog I read that reviewed it, can't stop talking about how great it is.

Please enter me in the giveeaway. Thanks!


Jen - Devourer of Books said...

Don't enter me, since I already have this, but I love this guest post! It is so neat hearing how characters assert themselves to their authors.

Pam said...

I've eyed this one up for a long, long time every time I browse the bookstore. The cover very much appeals to me (and although we shouldn't, I often find myself attracted to books first of all based on their covers). The review also sounds great so I'd love to read it.

melacan at hotmail dto com

Margay Leah Justice said...

I am intrigued by how authors come up with their stories, so this one immediately caught my attention with the arrival of the unexpected character, Lyssa. I would love to read it to see how it all unfolds.

I tweeted about it here:


Margay1122 (at) aol (dot) com

Beth F said...

I just want to say thanks for the terrific guest post. Funny how those characters sometimes demand your attention and a place in your book!

Please don't enter me. I've had this book on audio since it first came out. I have no clue why I haven't listened yet, but I will now.

I won a Sony Reader this week, and I think Love Walked In will be one of my first purchases.

Rebecca Cox said...

It is very interesting that the character just showed up. I have read other authors talking about the same thing. And I am an artist and have experience that happening in my art. I plan one thing,but elements, colors, just show up and the plan is out the window. I never know exactly where these things come from, but the more I trust that, the better the work. Anytime I try to fight it and stick with the plan, the art suffers.

Ashley said...

I would love to read this one because the ONE time I saw it in my bookstore, I had to put it back dur to my already overindulgent pile. Since then, I've gone back to find it several times, and it's not there. Anything always unavailable has to be good right? It'll also teach me to try practicing moderation in bookstores again.

I'm a subscriber :)
bellasnovella at

Molly said...

No need to enter me in the contest, I actually own both of her books, but just have not had the time to read them. Ah, for more hours in the day!

I just wanted to say how much I LOVED this guest post. I am fascinated to learn how writers write.

Belinda M said...

It sounds like an interesting book and I would love the opportunity to read it. Please enter my in your giveaway


"Canadian Contests, Freebies, Coupons, Deals, Games and Fun:"

cqueen2 said...

Sound like a great read...thanks

wadesherry@hotmail dot com

Karin said...

I would like to be entered please--thank you!

holdenj said...

I would like to read this book, because I liked your review and descriptions of Cornelia and Piper's relationship. A move to the burbs can be tough on anyone!

Thanks for entering me.

JHolden955 (at) gmail (dot) com

LoveMyCoffee said...

I've been a fan of Marisa de los Santos since her first book. I would love a chance to win this book. Thanks

Bridget said...

Just posted on Win A Book.

Karlie said...

I want to read this book because I love the cover!! So superficial of me but who can resist rain boots?

Unknown said...

I want to read this because I like reading about secrets.


Marie said...

I would love to read this since I've heard such wonderful things about it!

tetewa said...

Sounds good, count me in!

mindy said...

because it sounds like a wonderful read thanks for the giveaway minsthins at optonline dot net

Annie1 said...

I'd love to read this book. The characters sound complicated and flawed and unfortunately, I can relate!! lol

Sounds like a great book!


Annie1 said...


greeeneyedwhwom (twitter name)


throuthehaze said...

i would love to read this. ive heard nothing but good things about the book

throuthehaze at gmail dot com

KR said...

This sounds really interesting...not as light as some on my summer list!


Lindsey said...

Definitely intriguing - I loved reading Marisa's guest post, too! Finding out how the character and story came about and all the work put into writing it really makes me want to read it. Thanks for the great giveaway!

ladyufshalott at

CherylS22 said...

I'd like to read this book because the characters of Cornelia & Piper fascinate me. They're so different yet manage to forge a friendship of a sort.

Please count me in - Thanks!

bermudaonion said...

I've read a lot of great reviews of Marisa de los Santos work. I bought Love Walked In because I found a great deal on it. I'd love Belong to Me to complete the set. milou2ster(at)

Kat Bryan said...

I'd like to read this because I like books with interaction between women characters. I've also heard good things about Ms. Santos' writing.

Amber said...

I would love to win because I think I have borderline OCD myself and Marisa seems to write such strong women leads.
Thank you for the giveaway :)

suzie townsend said...

I'd love to read this book because I read and enjoyed the first one, Love Walked In and I've heard good things about this one.


Suburban prep said...

I read a previous book Love walked in and I have put my name in at the library but the waiting list is rather long.
I'd love to read.
msgb245 at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

zenrei57 (at) hotmail (dot) com

Your review hooked me right in, I'm intrigued by the depth and true - to - life developement of her characters, sounds like a book worth reading and I would love the chance to do so :)

catsnbooks12 said...

Enter me into the giveaway. I read Marisa's first book and have become an instant fan so this new book is what's next for me. Thanks for allowing her to share some of her writing process with your blog.

rubymoonstone at gmail dot com

Book Escape said...

That was a really interesting post. I always find I can appreciate a book a little more after I hear some background from the author. She has me interested. Please enter me!

nbbaker1102 AT optonline DOT net

Natalie said...

wow, what an interesting take from the author! i read and loved Love Walked In so I'm so eager to read this one! thanks for the giveaway!

teabird said...

I'd love to read this - several people in my husband's family have serious ocd, and I'm always interested in different takes on the illness + ways of coping. (We all know that fiction is much more reliable than statistics...)

teabird 17 AT yahoo DOT com

wendy wallach said...

I work with people who have mental illness, OCD being one of many types of diagnosis and the author is right; there is not alot really written about it for the mainstream to even get a grasp on the nature of this disease. Would love to read it.

madamerkf at aol dot com

Kitten22 said...

This looks so good! Please enter me!

I've seen this around and I'd love to try it. It looks like a great summer read!


The Giveaway Diva said...

by reading the review i am really interested!!


a real librarian said...

I have read so many awesome reviews for this book, and I am dying to read it! Thanks so much!


mrsshukra said...

I'm proud of author Marisa de los Santos' Filipino heritage and have always wanted to read her books! Thanks, I subscribe:
delilah0180 AT yahoo DOT com

deedee said...

Have heard awesome reviews for Marisa de los Santos' books and would like to read this, thanks!
I subscribe:
plusmore678 (at) yahoo DOT com

Unknown said...

I thoroughly enjoyed Love Walked In and would love to read Belong To Me, since the two do go hand in hand :-)

Please enter me! Thank you!


Mom of 5 Boys said...

I read Love Walked In and LOVED it. I love the way the author uses words. Sometimes sentences were so beautiful that I had to reread them just for the sounds. I'm sure Belong to Me will be just as wonderful. Thanks for the giveaway!

A Reader said...

Linked under my current giveaways here


Annmarie Weeks said...

I would love to win a copy of this book! I took it out of the library, but only had a chance to get part-way through (I loved what I read so far!) before it was due back. And now I'm back on the waiting list to get it out again! If I had my own copy, it would be so much easier!

Annmarie Weeks said...

I tweeted!

Marjorie/cenya2 said...

I am a new subscriber and would
love to be a follower of your books. It sounds great, and I would
to thank you for the great giveaway.

Patti said...

This sounds like an interesting book - I have always fantasized about moving away from the city.


Sarah Z said...

I love finding new authors to read and this book sounds amazing!
believedreamcourage (at)

Mishia said...

Sounds like a great read! Thanks

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great book to read...something that i can relate to.

LittleEagle said...

Thank you for the interesting interview. Based on the answers I am interested in reading this book.

Sue W. said...

I have read a number of reviews for this book and it looks to me as though it is one everybody likes. So I would also like to read it.


Sue W. said...

I tweeted this giveaway. Tweeting name is kona15hilo


RecoveringCoffeeholic said...

I know that this may seem like a silly reason to some people, but I am hispanic and it always excites me to see a hispanic woman author! It is the ice breaker sometimes to peaking my interest in a book. Is that dumb?
Anyway, I'd love to win this!
mariadelgado32302 at yahoo dot com

Misusedinnocence said...

Sounds great! Would love to win! :)

nomadreader said...

I want to read this book because I've heard so many great things about it. Also, the cover is lovely.

Susan said...

"Love Walked In" was a fantastic book, and I'd love to have "Belong to Me". Thanks for the giveaway!


silverneon2000 said...

It sounds like a great read and that i had heard quite a bit about it. Thank you for the giveaway.
silverneon2000 at yahoo dot com

silverneon2000 said...
follow and subscribe