Friday, April 28, 2017

Andrea Montalbano Author Interview

Photo Credit: Evan Rich Photography

Andrea Montalbano is the voice and author of the Soccer Sisters. She grew up playing soccer in Miami, Florida, benefiting from the opportunities provided by Title IX. A star in high school, she was a four-year starter and co-captain at Harvard and in 2008 was inducted into the Harvard Varsity Club Hall of Fame.

After college, Andrea pursued a career in journalism. She was the English Anchor for Vatican Radio’s “Four Voices” program in Rome, and then received the David Jayne Fellowship from ABC News in London. She attended Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and enjoyed a long career at NBC News as a writer, producer and Supervising Producer for NBC News’ TODAY program.

Andrea left broadcast journalism to write books and authored “Breakaway” in 2010. Determined to create a series for girls, she spent the next few years writing the three “Soccer Sisters” novels as well as branching out into philanthropic efforts. She also continued her love of coaching by taking the helm of her daughter’s soccer team, and also coaching her son. She lives in New York with her husband and two children.


Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
No. I was never one of those people to keep diaries or dream of being a writer. My father, however, was a journalist, and also wrote fiction books, so I grew up around writers so imagine the idea of doing it was never too far away – or something that seemed impossible. I began to focus on writing when I was producing at the Today Show – and writing and editing scripts. When I decided to try novel writing, I read tons of books about writing dialog (I had no idea how to use the quotations and commas!), plot, characters, etc. The book that helped me the most was On Writing by Stephen King – it was so practical and relatable. I was so scared to actually start my first book, I did endless research and plotting on cards until one day my brother said, “Just write it already!” So, I did.

What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
That I grew up on a tropical island and never wore shoes. When I was born, my left foot was a little bit crooked and the doctors told my parents I could either wear special shoes or just run around barefoot. Well, since we lived on Key Biscayne, a small island off Biscayne Bay near Miami, they just said, “no shoes.” So for the first years of my life I did not wear shoes too much and to this day, I really don’t wear them unless I have to.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote my first book when I was 38 years-old. It is about a man who falls through the ice on a lake in the Adirondacks. He tries to get out but can’t – and slips under and into an metabolic coma. Basically, his heart is beating only one time a minute, and he’s brain is surviving on only the oxygen in his lungs because he’s hypothermic. Since he’s in the deepest of sleeps, I had him dream about the previous six months of his life and he realizes that someone had tried to kill him by cracking the ice by his ice fishing shack. His daughter and friend eventually rescue him from the ice and start to warm him up, but a storm traps him in a cabin and he’s left alone with the person who wants him dead! Pretty exciting, huh? It never sold! But it took me two years to write it and I’ll get back to it one day. It was an adult book, but when I tell this story to kids they want me to turn it into a YA thriller. Maybe one day!

What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
The greatest thing I learned in school was to treat grades as a competition with myself. I loved playing games and tried to treat tests and papers as puzzles to solve rather than chores to finish. If I got a 95, the next time I wanted to get a 100. I liked to challenge myself in that way. I also learned that the busier I was, the more productive I was at everything. I played on many soccer teams, had a job, coached and took like a zillion AP classes. It also kept me out of trouble (for the most part!).

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Telling stories is how we share our feelings, our history and our dreams. When my kids were very little I made up a story for them called “Bigger Bigger Bigger,” and basically every night, I would start the structure and they would fill in the details. “Once upon a time, there was a girl named ---------, and she was walking ---(beach, desert, city, etc.)---. All of a sudden, she heard a little voice say -----------, and she looked down and it was a -------. My daughter would fill in the blanks and together we would make up the story. In these moments, she could be anywhere, and meet anyone, who could say anything. In the Soccer Sisters series, each book is told from the perspective of a different girl on the team, which allows me to explore the feelings, hopes and dreams of each in totally different ways. Storytelling is so powerful and can bring us together in endless ways.

In your new book; OUT OF BOUNDS, can you tell my Book Nerd Kids Community a little about it and why they should read your novel?
Well, it’s fun and fast-paced. I played a lot of soccer in my life and really try to bring the action to life so that even if you aren’t sporty or a player, you can get excited about the action on the field. I also really think kids will relate to the importance that friendships play in our lives. The characters are funny and they aren’t perfect – they make a lot of mistakes and do some really dumb things, but that’s really what life is all about. Living and sometimes getting it wrong, but ultimately, finding your way and having fun along the way.

For those who are unfamiliar with Makena, how would you introduce her?
Makena is crazy about playing soccer and crazy about her soccer team. She has a fun family, but she is also a bit impressionable. When a new kid joins the team, she doesn’t know how to stand up for what she knows is right and she gets sucked into some pretty silly stuff and bad decisions. She can’t seem to find her way out of trouble, but deep down Makena is the girl you not only want on your team, but you really want to have your back. She’ll dive in the mud after a ball, but more important, she’ll do anything for her friends, especially Val.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Well, I think Makena should really meet Harry Potter. I think she’d be awesome at Quidditch, and he’d be a pretty good soccer player. He’s smart and well, has magical powers, so that would be handy in a tight game and I think Makena would appreciate that!

What part of Skylar did you enjoy writing the most?
Writing the villan is always fun. It’s sort of like the little snickering side of me getting to do all the things I didn’t really do as a kid (don’t check that with my mother though!). I went on a lot of soccer trips as a kid and know that we often got into a lot of trouble. So no, she isn’t based on me, but I really just liked letting her be pretty rotten.

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Treasure your friends. You don’t need a lot of them, just a few really true ones.

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a kid?
Probably in the 1990’s – the latest one I could pick – because I think the technological advancements in the last 20 years are mind blowing. When I was a kid we didn’t have the internet! And, there were only four channels on television. Can you believe that?

What scares you the most and why?
I used to be afraid of failure, but I gotten over that. I’ve failed many times, and see that when you fail other doors open. I do have an irrational fear of sharks. I saw the movie Jaws when I was eight years old and it scared me so much that I really can’t relax in the water. I know all the facts about sharks and that they don’t really want to eat me, but honestly, I find that thought super scary!

What is your greatest adventure?
I love to travel and I also love to take my kids to cool places. They have great attitudes about trying new foods and meeting new people. Last year, we went to the landing beaches at Normandy and that was awesome. We also went to Armenia to encourage girls to play soccer there. We made so many friends and while it was a crazy road trip it was my greatest adventure recently.

When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper?
Well, I’m not sure if a thank you letter counts, but I do that quite often. I think there is something old-fashioned and really nice about getting a card in the mail. Truthfully, I find it difficult to write letters now. I am left-handed, and I’m not sure about any lefties out there, but I have terrible penmanship. Also, I type so much all day, my handwriting has gotten so bad it’s hard to read and I’m really slow. I recently typed a long email letter to my grandmother-in-law because she would get it faster and would be able to actually read what I wrote. She lives very far away and can’t hear that well and comes from a generation that loves to write and read letters. I do like the art of writing letters, but I guess I just wish my handwriting wasn’t so awful!

Where did you go on your first airplane ride?
I believe my first airplane ride was from Miami to Boston when I was very little. My parents had moved to Cambridge so my father could be a Nieman Fellow, which is a program for journalists at Harvard. The first big international trip I ever remember taking was to Argentina in 1978. I went to the World Cup and it was a trip that I will never forget and is probably one of the reasons I fell in love with soccer. Argentina won the tournament and I remember driving around in the middle of the night in a small town in Patagonia on top of a car!! Don’t do that, kids.

Where would you bury hidden treasure if you had some?
Why would I tell anyone that!?

When was the last time you cried?
I cried this past weekend the movies. I saw The Promise, which is about the Armenian Genocide at the start of World War I. I cried because the movie was so sad, but also because I was with my children, whose father is of Armenian descent. If his family hadn’t escaped from Turkey, my own kids would not be here today and that was a pretty good reason to cry!

What was your favorite book as a child and why?
I loved Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. I read it on my own and loved it when others read it to me. There was just something about Wilbur and the funny characters in the story that I adored. I went on to read more of his books, like the Trumpet of the Swan and think they really sparked a love of reading in me. I also loved the Bobbsey Twins series and was thrilled when my grandfather gave me the entire set. I was always a really big and fast reader. I used to get in trouble in AP English for reading other novels during class!

Makena Walsh absolutely loves soccer. She knows it's the best sport around and she feels lucky that the teammates on her super competitive and super skilled team, the Brookville Breakers, feel the same way. The girls always have and always will be Soccer Sisters.
But when a new person joins the Breakers, everything changes. Skylar is a great player and really cool-but she also doesn't always play by the rules. Makena, hoping to impress Skylar, starts acting out and running wild, off and on the field.

But with a huge tournament looming, Mac's got tough choices ahead. Choices that will affect her family, her friends, and the game she loves. Can she stay true to what the Soccer Sisters believe in and win the big game?

Praise for OUT OF BOUNDS

“This is exactly the kind of book I wish I’d had the chance to read as a girl.” —Brandi Chastain

“The Soccer Sisters series isn’t just about soccer. It’s about friendships, family, and the awesome thrill that comes from winning. It’s also fun.” —Carl Hiassen, New York Times bestselling author

You can purchase Out of Bounds (Soccer Sisters #1) at the following Retailers:


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