I met Jill Diamond at last year’s CLA conference, and was immediately struck by her imaginative writing and refreshing main characters. This book is the first in the Lou Lou and Pea series, and I look forward to many more. Readers (especially librarians!) should snatch this series up if they haven’t already.

1. Pea is proper, Lou Lou is not!
2. Lou Lou loves gardening, Pea prefers art.
3. But neither can turn down an adventure…

On Friday afternoons, the girls get together in Lou Lou’s backyard garden for their PSPP (post-school pre-parents) tea parties. They chat about the school week, discuss Pea’s latest fashions, and plot the weekend’s activities.

But all plans go out the window when a series of small crimes crop up around El Corazón, their quirky neighborhood, right before the Día de los Muertos procession. First, Pea’s cousin’s quinceañera dress is tragically ruined. Then Lou Lou’s beloved camellia bush, Pinky, suffers a serious blow. When clues start to appear in the painted murals around their community, these best friends must join forces – both floral expertise and artistic genius – to solve the mysteries.

In addition to your author career, you also practice law. In what ways, if any, do you find balance in these careers, and how do you refill your creative well?

In my law career, what I do most frequently – and the part of being an attorney that I enjoy the most – is legal writing. Middle grade fiction, at least the kind I write, and legal writing couldn’t be more different. One is creative and whimsical, the other is highly logical and subject to many rules (I think you can guess which is which). It’s really fun for me to be able to do both in an alternating left brain/right brain sort of way. When I’m maxed out on legal writing, middle grade feels like a mini vacation and, to a certain extent, vice versa.

One of the ways in which I refill my creative well is by reading. I read a lot of picture books to my son and I try to read as many other books as possible (though, I’m admittedly a slow reader). I also love being out and about in my city, San Francisco. Lou Lou and Pea’s neighborhood, El Corazón, is inspired by San Francisco’s Mission District, so spending time in the Mission – even if it just means going for a casual stroll – is always creativity-boosting!

Ooh, I love San Francisco’s Mission District, and the city is one of my favorite places to visit. I also love that Lou Lou and Pea have their meetings in a garden, and that they have a tea party. What inspired this, and if you could have tea with Lou Lou and Pea, what kind of food and drink would you prefer? 

I love mint tea! I’m also addicted to spicy chai with almond milk from a café in the Mission. For nibbles, I’d go for blueberry scones (because I’m originally a Maine girl). If we were branching out to cookies, I’d gobble up some gingersnaps or alfajores.

Just googled alfajores and I want to try them (and sugar skulls!) immediately. Speaking of sugar skulls, I love your website. What do you recommend to authors interested in building an online platform?

Thank you! I did it all on my own, so that’s great to hear. My advice about websites is to make it easy on yourself, particularly if you are the one building/designing it. Use an online platform like Wix or Squarespace (I used Wix) that does the behind-the-scenes work for you and makes the website easy to edit and manage. Second, make the website reflect who you are as an author. I was told that websites should have lots of white space in order to look professional and be user-friendly. I ignored that advice and used a lot of color instead because that’s more me and my books. Third, make sure your website includes basic relevant information – a summary and purchase links for your book(s), a contact form, author bio, events and news, etc. And fourth, a website is not the only component to building an online platform. It helps A LOT to be active on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Goodreads and probably other social media sites that I’ve never even heard of. A lot of authors are much better at this than I am, but I do what I can!

Wonderful advice–and I’m sure you’re doing more than you think! What are some of your current projects?

I’m working on the second LOU LOU AND PEA book. I can’t reveal too much, but it involves a two-hundredth birthday celebration, Pea’s Abuela Josie, who is also a stunt riding vaquera, gazebos, a plethora of hats, and a lot of argyle print! I’m also writing two other middle grade novels: a serious story about a boy and his family’s legacy and a not-so-serious story involving animals and magic!

Buy: BookPassage ~ Amazon.com Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

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