It is an absolute honor to present to the readers of Mojito with a Twist with an engaging tête-à-tête with Charmeljun Gallardo, the author of Ready for the World young adult book series.
Tell us something about yourself, your life.
I grew up mostly in San Diego, California but since my dad was in the US Navy, I also lived in Japan and Guam for a time. I went to college in San Francisco where I earned my degree in English and later became a Radiologist.
Seven years ago, I suffered a stroke that severely limited the use of my right arm and right leg. I can walk, albeit slowly, and do need to use a cane at times. But I have to do everything one-handed, including write.
What inspires you to write?
I’ve always loved stories. Whether it’s a book, movie, or play, I love it. But growing up, there weren’t many stories about characters that looked like me or told stories about my heritage.
When I was in college, I took a class that discussed Filipino books and authors. It was great to read those stories and learn about their experiences. Everyone’s got a story. So I decided to tell my own.
How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
I came up with my story when I was still in high school. It started as a diary where I’d just write about my day and what was going with me at the time. It was just a way for me to get my thoughts out of my head. And then, I thought those events would make a good book one day.
Years later, through college, marriage, raising a son, and I still felt it could be a good book and always wanted to revisit it. So here we are.
Are there some stories tucked away in some drawer that was written before and never saw the light of the day?
Before I started this series, I had a project that I started and never finished. I got to a point where the story turned and I didn’t know where to take it. Also, the idea for my current series gnawed at the back of my mind which made it easy to abandon it for now. A few of those elements did make it in my book.
What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?
For the first book, it has to be Brandon and Ally’s first dance. I wanted to capture that excitement and uncertainty that we’ve all had about first love. And since they are such great friends, I wanted to emphasize the change in their dynamic. How do you handle a romantic relationship with someone that you’ve been friends with your whole life?
My favorite scene in the second book is another one between Brandon and Ally when she is performing on stage. Brandon grows in that scene. He’s able to see the world through someone else’s eyes.
Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks?
Definitely. There is a lot of me in Brandon, but bits of me in all the other characters too. My friends and I have been friends for decades now and we believe that a great friend will tease you to your face and praise you to others behind your back.
A lot of my interests are scattered throughout the series (sports, movies, rock music, photography) and I spread them among the different characters.
What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer, to date?
My college professor once told me to be true to my story. Whatever I wrote, I needed to make it in my own voice. I didn’t have to write like Hemingway, Shakespeare, Stephen King, or whoever. And it didn’t matter what it was about or if you’d read something like it before. What will make it unique is how you tell it.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?
Art inspires art. Read and learn from other writers. I still do this. Whenever I get stuck (and that’s often,) I read. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the same genre or completely different. I read to get a feel for the story. How did they describe things? How did they set the tone with dialogue and setting? What made me laugh or cry? When a book isn’t helping, I look at a painting, sculpture, or photograph for another source of inspiration.
What would be the Dream Cast for your book if it was to be turned into a movie?
I’ve always seen my book as a television series since that fits the expansive nature of my stories.
Since my book has Filipino and Filipino-American characters, I’d like the cast to reflect that. Asians in general aren’t a big part of American film and television, but I hope that is changing. There are signs of progress. If I had my way, I’d make sure that the cast had faces and skin tones similar to mine.
How do you spend your free time? Do you have a favorite place to go and unwind?
I loved writing at my neighborhood coffee shop. I’d take my son to school and park myself there until it was time to pick him up again. I got to know the staff and the owner very well. It was where I did the bulk of my writing.
These days, I unwind at home with a nice cup of coffee and bagel in the morning. My wife has been working from home so I tend to hide out in the master bedroom to read, write, or listen to podcasts. Once my wife is done, we all get together and hang out. Usually with something funny on YouTube…
My hobbies are cooking, reading, movies, and photography. I’m a huge foodie and love to try and cook new dishes.
I, on behalf of the readers of Mojito with a Twist, thank Charmeljun Gallardo for sharing his wisdom and significant aspects of his personal life with us. I wish you great success with Ready for the World series. Here are the synopses and purchase links of his books. Enjoy!
Ready For The World – Driver’s Education:
All Brandon Delacruz is asking out of his young life is popularity, riches, and the girl of his dreams. But what he does have are good grades, a ten-speed bicycle, and his two lifelong friends, Josh and Ally, at his side. And together, they’ll navigate their way through the rigors of high school life.
But unlike high school, real life doesn’t come with study guides. Brandon realizes that the girl he’s always dreamed about has been there all along. And as he untangles his feelings for Ally, something tragic happens to her family that changes everything. Now, Brandon will spend the rest of the year balancing his romantic feelings for Ally and his life-long friendship with her while also dealing with tough teachers, classes, and toughest of all, meeting the Filipino parental standards.
Brandon will learn that the world moves pretty fast, whether he’s ready or not.
Ready For The World – Superstar:
Brandon Delacruz is destined to write the next great novel. At least, that’s what he hopes what’s in those stacks of notebooks around him. And why shouldn’t he be full of confidence? He’s doing great in school and after a long hard road, he finally has the girl of his dreams, his best friend, Ally.
But before the year can even start, Brandon’s life is turned upside down. Nothing is what he thought and things don’t happen the way he hoped. And as he sifts through his feelings and tries to make sense of everything, he meets Rachel, a confident and self-assured girl that doesn’t suffer fools lightly.
Ally has been the love of Brandon’s life, but things between them have become complicated without explanation. While he and Rachel are seemingly a perfect fit. Which girl will he choose? And more importantly, which girl will choose him?
Ready For The World: Driver’s Education
Ready For The World: Superstar
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