The Leila Series: Reader Destiny Burnett

The Leila Series is a set of interviews I’ll be conducting with readers of Let’s Get Lost. I want to connect with my readers, pick their brains a little, the way Leila would. 

I’m in bold, Destiny’s answers are in normal font. You can find Destiny on her review blog.

1. First of all, thank you for accepting to be interviewed as part of The Leila Series! Reading and writing are all about connection, and I’m happy to have readers to connect with. So, to start, if you had to choose between being an orange and being a banana, which would you choose and why?
Despite the fact that I had a banana as a snack a few hours ago, I’d have to say I would be an orange. Oranges, by nature, come “pre-sliced,” and I like to think that I’m very similar to them in the sense that there are many different aspects of me that make up my personality—I play softball and volleyball, I’m active in academic clubs and clubs related to school spirit, I work a part-time job, I maintain an minimum 3.5 GPA. I try to be as well rounded as I can, but I also love exploring and learning about other cultures; being half Mexican, I have a love for (albeit not a fluency in) the Spanish language, and appreciate differences amongst Hispanic cultures and foods, but I also love Korean culture, and I love learning about Judaism and Islam. All of these aspects of my personality I consider my “slices”—and together, they make up me as a whole orange/person.
It’s also worth noting that when my mom was pregnant with me, she craved oranges nonstop.
2. Fantastic, well-rounded answer.

I love those moments in reading when you finish a particularly good book or passage or line and you look around at the world and you wonder how it is that everyone around you isn’t also blown away, even though you know you were the only one reading. What’s your favorite part about reading?
Reading the intro to this question, I found myself nodding along in complete agreement—but it’s not very fun of me to say that your favorite part of reading is also my favorite part. And, the more I think about it, it might not even be true. I determine a good book on how well I find myself able to relate to it. Even if the character is the polar opposite of who I am, if I can nod along to what they’re saying, or I can feel what they’re feeling, I consider it a good book. So I’d have to say that those moments—when you just get into a novel and you’re learning more about a character, that moment you have with them, the “aha! I understand you now!” moment—are my favorite part of reading, because it immediately makes me identify with them, to want them to prosper.
3. You wrote a lovely review of Let’s Get Lost on your blog, in which you talked a little about being a people watcher, and enjoying the fleetingness of it. I thought that was a great comparison to the book, especially because I’m a people watcher myself. Where’s your favorite place to people watch?
I mentioned earlier having a part-time job; I’m a barista in a restaurant. Over the past few weeks, my favorite place to people watch is at a restaurant—not necessarily at work, but any time I go out to eat. I love the little snippets of conversations I hear while I sweep—not at all because I want to be nosy, but because I can take the slightest bit of a conversation between two people (“I’m just telling you this as a friend.” or “We’re going to need to change all the plans.”) and suddenly build a world around them that entertains me. Restaurants are a good place to people watch because I think people forget they’re in public when they’re eating with others they are comfortable with. Loud people don’t care if they’re loud, happy people don’t care if their laughter rings across the restaurant, angry people don’t care if their hand slamming on a table stings the ears of the people sitting around them. It’s easy to see people at their most comfortable in a restaurant, which makes people watching a whole new ordeal. 
4. Great points. It sounds like you have a bit of a writer’s mentality. You ended that review saying you don’t know what I’m writing next (it’s okay, very few people do), but you can’t wait to read it. A) Thank you! B) Take a guess. What am I working on now?
This is such a hard question! In an ideal world (one where I can afford my dream school and writing is a profession I have an actual chance of making a career out of), you’re working on telling us (the readers) the rest of Leila’s story! I’m dying to know if …[I’m taking the liberty to censor a chunk of Destiny’s answer for spoilery reasons. If you’ve read the book and want to know how this thought plays, out, contact me and I’ll send privately!]…I like the Leila I know. But I would like to know how she’s changed.
But I don’t think you’re writing that, honestly. Maybe you’re writing something from only one person’s point of view. Maybe it’s from the perspective of three people and it follows how their lives are intertwined on a vacation in Mexico. Maybe you’re not even writing YA! [I really hope it’s not the last one, since I pretty much exclusively read YA.]
5. Not to worry, it is a YA! That’s about all the details I’ve given our so far, along with the fact that it does have multiple perspectives. In Bree’s section, she and Leila go out for celebratory ice cream. The last ice cream flavor I had was a lemon popsicle, which I think counts as ice cream. What was the last ice cream flavor you had?
Fun fact about ice cream in my household: it’s a bargaining tool. Don’t want to do the dishes? Go get ice cream for the family. You need gas? Go get ice cream and request money for half a tank in exchange. But anyway:
The last ice cream flavor I had was Cookies N’ Cream. Admittedly it’s pretty boring, but I don’t think you can ever go wrong with it.
6. The orange/banana question that I started this interview with is one of my favorite questions to ask new people. It’s a glimpse at how their mind works, and it’s incredible how many different explanations I’ve heard for either side. What’s your favorite question?
Assuming that the asker actually listens to my answers, (this is a pretty weird response to your question, honestly) my favorite question asks what tattoos I want. Some of them I can explain easily—but there’s one in particular I love explaining, because it means so much to me. To Kill A Mockingbird is probably one of my favorite books of all time, and the line that has forever stuck out to me is “one does not love breathing,” which Scout [the main character—I’m working under the assumption you’ve never read the book, sorry if that’s offensive!] uses as a way to say, in short words, that you don’t love something you innately know how to do. For her, reading is something she never loved, because it was as natural as breathing, which something people don’t think twice about.I love the quote for two reasons: A) I just think it’s a super awesome way to make people realize how little they appreciate the small things and B) I think it makes readers realize how privileged they are to be literate. Also, that line was the “aha!” moment for me with Scout. I want the line tattoo’d on me somewhere, and I love explaining that to people, because I think it’s a line/explanation that makes people think—which is something I love to make people do.

Thank you so much for taking part in The Leila Series, for your thoughtful answers, and for reading Let’s Get Lost

Have you read Let’s Get Lost? Are you interested in having me interview you? Email me at adi.alsaid@gmail.com.

02:10 pm, by adialsaid  Comments

Me, an ice bucket, you know the story.

Nominated by fellow author Julie Kagawa. I want other charities to benefit from the great word-of-mouth the ALS campaign has garnered, so please leave suggestions?

04:27 pm, by adialsaid 1  |  Comments

The Leila Series: Reader Ashley Gonzales

The Leila Series is a set of interviews I’ll be conducting with readers of Let’s Get Lost. I want to connect with my readers, pick their brains a little, the way Leila would. 

I’m in bold, Ashley’s answers are in normal font. You can find Ashley on Twitter or on her blog, Messy Milestones.

1. First of all, thanks for taking part in The Leila Series! I’m thrilled to get the opportunity to chat with readers. Like Leila, I usually prefer to pick other people’s brains, and who better to do that to than readers of Let’s Get Lost? So to start things off, how did you hear about Let’s Get Lost? What led you to read it?
I stumbled on Let’s Get Lost kind of accidentally (or maybe we were fated to meet) one day as I was walking through Target. I always make a point to drop in on the book aisle, just to see what’s up, and the cover was the first thing that jumped out at me. Intrigued, I picked it up and read through the first couple of pages and it was apparent that I had stumbled on a gem!
2. Are there any food stains in your copy? Any coffee stains? If no, how do you do it?
No stains! I’m not sure how I manage it but it only took me about a day and a half to finish Let’s Get Lost from start to finish so maybe I just didn’t have the time to inflict any stains on my copy? :)
3. Sounds like a superpower to me. Where’s your favorite place to read?
I can read anywhere, honestly. My preferred place is probably on long car rides or plane trips. So much uninterrupted time! I also listen to audio books in my car and I’ve even been known to squeeze in a few chapters of ebooks on my phone while my students are napping! (I’m a Pre-K teacher by day)
4. I just spent a weekend in a cabin with my family. There were six adults and two kids (my nephew and niece). Even at that ratio, I can tell the joy parents- or pre-K teachers- can find in nap times.

Pretend you’ve got a red car and a few months to road trip. Where would you go? Would you plan it all out, or wing it? I don’t want to give any spoilers out, but on her journey, Leila seems to have a goal of helping people out, even if it means prying a little into their lives. What would you want your interactions with strangers on this road trip to be like?
I would go everywhere I possibly could! One of my “bucket list” goals is to one day visit all 50 states. My friends and I are actually planning on taking a cross country road trip in the next year or two and our plan is to essentially make one big loop starting from our home state of North Carolina. I’m a bit of a planner (side effect of being a teacher!) so I probably would have a plan of where to go. 

One of the things that I’m looking forward to on our road trip is the opportunity to meet new people all along the way. Everyone has a story and unique circumstances and I would love to gather as many stories and new friends as possible. While I don’t know if I would have as much of an impact on these people as Leila had on those in Let’s Get Lost, I would hope that new connections and friendships would be made along the way :)
5. I kind of hate the rain. I’ve been trying to get better at finding beauty in it, but I still prefer sunshine. This, it seems, is an unpopular opinion, especially among fellow readers who love to hole up with a cup of tea. Do you have any unpopular opinions that might be at odds with others in the reading world? Do you, for example, hate tea?

I do! I’m from the South and I’m probably one of the few Southerners that does not drink sweet tea, or any kind of tea actually. 
Hmm, I’m not sure if I have too many opinions that would be deemed “unpopular” but I will say that I’m kind over dystopian/supernatural/sci-fi-ish YA books at the moment. Perhaps it’s the never-ending stream of movie adaptations that are popping up every other month, but I’m just more into contemporary fiction right now.
6. Well that was a good guess on my end. If you had to choose between being an orange and being a banana, which would you be and why?
Oh that’s a hard one! This is going to be super dorky but I’d probably have to say an orange just because they’re a little sassier than bananas, being citrus-y and all. Plus oranges are predominantly from Florida so that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad place to hang out. 
7. Did you have any sort of personal connection with Let’s Get Lost? Anything you might want to expand on? If you wanna just gush for a few paragraphs no one’s going to stop you.
Yes! I “suffer” from wanderlust myself and had just come back from a trip to California and dang if this book didn’t make me want to hop on the next plane to anywhere or hop in my car and drive off into the sunset.
But Let’s Get Lost is so much more than just a “road trip” story and what really stuck with me the most was Leila. Man oh man, where do I start with that girl? She’s exactly the kind of girl that I think anyone would want to be best friends with. I can only imagine the adventures she would bring into my own life! Without giving too much away on Leila, I absolutely love the way she was presented in the book. We learn a little bit about her through the eyes of Hudson, Bree, Elliot, and Sonia and finally at the end, we hear from Leila herself which was just the icing on a perfectly written cake. 
Each of the four initial POV’s could have easily been expanded into their own novellas, or even full length novels (*side eyes at you Mr. Author…let’s make that happen). You did a great job at setting up their worlds for the reader and provided an intriguing individual story in just a matter of pages. No small feat! 
Okay, gushing over :)
8. Yay. :) Thank you for gushing. Now gush about yourself. What’s the best thing you ever cooked?
I love to cook and I’m slightly addicted to the Food Network (it may or may not be on in the background as I type this). My dad’s side of the family is from Mexico and that style of food/cooking is one of my favorites. My mom and I make a mean chicken tinga that we use for our tostadas. I love to make our own salsa too. The spicier, the better!
9. I agree! Have you ever encountered anyone that’s a little like Leila, someone who’s a bottomless well of kindness? Or maybe you’ve simply been the recipient of a random act of kindness that you’d like to talk about?
Though I’ve been the recipient of many acts of kindness from the hands/mouths of my students (preschoolers are the best), my sister is honestly one of the kindest people that I know. She has this ability to connect with pretty much any one she meets and often goes out of her way to help or do something special for the people she cares about, not unlike Leila. I’m sure she has never met a stranger before in her life. But I’m also a bit biased :)
She sounds great! 
Thank you so much for taking part in The Leila Series, and for reading Let’s Get Lost
Have you read Let’s Get Lost? Are you interested in having me interview you? Email me at adi.alsaid@gmail.com.
10:30 am, by adialsaid 1  |  Comments

#LetsGetLost in @entertainmentweekly

  02:09 pm, by adialsaid 2  |  Comments

Another summer road trip. Helping my sister @tals0402 move to grad school in Cincinnati/kicking off the #LetsGetLost book tour. First stop: Denver.

  01:40 pm, by adialsaid 1  |  Comments

The Leila Series: Q&A with reader Ayden Foster

I’ve been filling out a lot of Q&As lately. It’s one of the strange, wonderful things about being an author; people are interested in what you have to say. The other day, I had an idea. I want to interview my readers. I want to see why readers connect with Let’s Get Lost, pick their brains a little. Like Leila would.
So, this is the first in what I will call The Leila Series. I’m interviewing Ayden Foster, a reader from Las Vegas, NV. You can follow Ayden on Twitter (@AydenjFoster). 
First of all, thank you again for reading Let’s Get Lost. Writing is less enjoyable without the readers. My first question, you’ll see, is completely and totally relevant to the book. If you had to choose between being an orange and being a banana, which would you choose?
Thank you for asking me to do this and thank you for writing Let’s Get Lost!  I agree with you on writing being less enjoyable without the readers, but I also think reading is less enjoyable when there aren’t any writers to write stories for readers to read.So, write more stories! 
To answer your question: BANANA!!!  I love bananas, they’re my favorite fruit. And they’re super good if you want to grow your hair out—which I am—so, I’ve eating a lot of them lately. Fun fact: bananas are technically berries. I learned that on a road trip of my own. 

Okay, I lied. This one is more LGL-y. In our correspondence, you mentioned connecting on a personal level with the book. Could you elaborate a bit?
Yeah, while reading Let’s Get Lost  I found myself really connected to the story and to the characters, especially Leila. A couple of years ago (five to be exact), I took a road trip…kind of.  What originally started as a 3 month vacation in Mexico, turned into an 18 month prison sentence. Okay, not really. My sister and I just saw Mexico as a giant metaphorical prison we couldn’t escape. But, we were there for 18 months, not the 3 months that were originally planned. I should probably mention why we left to Mexico in the first place, shouldn’t I? Well, my sister, who was eighteen at the time, was told that in order for her to become a U.S. citizen she would have to serve a “punishment” usually consisting of 3 months out of the country. Although my sister would be staying with my family, my mom thought it would be a great idea to bring along. (The real reason I was brought along was later revealed to me. It’s an entire Hamlet-esque story of its own.) In those 3 months she would have to wait until she received a letter, in which an appointment date would be given for her to become a U.S. citizen. The letter didn’t arrive in the mail until 18 months after our departure. When the date of the appointment was given, we travel to the destination of hopes and dreams: Ciudad Juárez, the most dangerous city in the world. After all the boring legal stuff, we returned home. Both, my sister and I, finally feeling as though we belonged in the U.S. Funny thing, we later learn that my sister never had to leave the country. Lawyer error. Literally, all of this could have been avoided if someone manage to double check paper work. But, I’m glad it happened. 
Anyways, in that year-and-a-half, we traveled what parts of the west coast of Mexico. We took road trips with my cousin and his family and we met the most amazing people that I will never forget. People who you would never imagine would exist. Everyone has a story, like this one guy who always came buy my Uncle’s taco shop. His name is Popeye and he used to always play the trumpet for pedestrians. He was the worst trumpet player ever, but, he did it every day because that’s what made him happy. He stopped coming by couple of weeks before we return to the states. I hope he’s still playing the trumpet wherever he is.  
In what I thought would be the most horrible part of my life, I found out who I was and who I wanted to be. I got to learn so much about my family and the Mexican culture and I also saw my first dead body! How cool is that? I mean, it wasn’t cool for the dead guy, but it was such a life changing moment for me. I learn that sometimes bad things happen, but that doesn’t mean you stop living. Wait…I should rephrase that. 
What I mean, is that things don’t just get better on their own, you have to make them better. Those 18 months in the humid port city of Manzanillo, Mexico were one of the best moments of my ongoing life. I wouldn’t trade the pain, the countless tears, and especially not the happiness for anything. 
P.S. I also got to learn how to run a taco shop and make a mouth salivating badass taco. Can I say badass?
You can say anything you want. So you cook? I’m a huge fan of cooking, too. Without giving away any secret recipes, how do you prepare your badass taco?
Yeah, I love to cook! Besides reading, cooking was the greatest thing my mom ever thought me how to do.
The secret to a badass taco is pineapple. Slices of pineapple between the tortilla and the shredded beef, with a bit guacamole, will always make everything taste delicious. It might just be me though. I love pineapple. 
You mentioned you also write. What are you working on now?
One of the things I did in Mexico was read…a lot! That abundance of reading really helped me grow as a writer. Another thing I have Mexico to thank for.  
I am currently working on my first YA novel! Its of the SciFi genre and it’s about a seventeen year-old boy who wins a lottery, where the prize is a one-way ticket to humanity’s new home that resides in a colonized solar system. Think, Avatar meets Ender’s Game. It’s out of this world… (Shameless pun). 
Awesome! Good luck. In Let’s Get Lost, Leila acts as a bottomless well of kindness for strangers, helping others and asking for nothing in return. Have you ever been the recipient of a random act of kindness?
After reading LGL, I really wanted to take a road trip with a Leila of my own. She’s so nice and awesome!  In high school, I was a part of Best Buddies, which helps mentally challenged students and everyday I would receive a random act of kindness from one of the students. But, I guess, at some point the acts were no longer random… Does that count?  To me, a random act of kindness can be just someone asking how my day is going or just a simple smile flashed in my direction. I’m starting to have Let’s Get Lost withdrawals. I miss Leila.
Any specific memory from your time at Best Buddies stand out?
There was this girl name Kalei who was always managed to make me smile, no matter what mood I was in. She was a part of the cheerleading squad so, she was really good at cheering people up. And just like everyone one else, Kalei didn’t let anything get her down. Her smile was always an act of kindness to me. 
I never underline or take notes in books. The most I do is dog-ear pages that hold quotations or passages I want to copy down later. What’s your reading process like? Do you highlight? Scribble in the margins? Google every reference you don’t catch?
My reading process consist of sticky notes, sticky notes and Nutella. When I find a scene or quote I like, I prop a sticky note to the side of the page so I can easily relive it later. The Nutella is just for a snack. (I recently read Ready Player One by Earnest Cline and I had Google open at all times. So many awesome 80’s references.) 
If that were me, there’d be Nutella stains on my books. There are stains on my books. In Bree’s section, Leila takes Bree out for celebratory ice cream. The last time I had ice cream it was a medium cup, one scoop of Burgundy Cherry, one scoop of Bavarian Mint. What was the last ice cream flavor you had?
 I may or may not be currently eating two scoops of Red Velvet and one scoop of Birthday Cake ice cream…
What’s the longest road trip you’ve ever been on?
The longest road trip I’ve ever been on was from Oregon to Idaho to Wyoming to the entire South West and California, ending in Nevada, my current home. It was one of the many road trips my family took when I was younger. (Unless the whole Mexico thing counts as an epic road trip, if not, than the first one mentioned.) I remember one time during a road trip we were driving through Utah during a terrifying lighting storm and all for some reason all I could think about was why the lighting wasn’t hitting us. I was jealous of the fields for being struck. 
Mexico, of course, counts! I’ve been embarrassed about how little traveling I’ve done within Mexico since I grew up there, but I’ve started to explore more the past year or so. Where in Mexico did you go?
The majority of our time was spent in the city of Manzanillo, which is like a smaller Santa Monica. When we went out on road trips, we would drive up the Guadalajara, a very populated metropolitan city. If you ever want to have a shopping day, go to Guadalajara. One of the places we went to during a trip was to a water park located in Acapulco. It’s in the middle of a dense jungle and there are water slides coming down from trees into rivers and zip-lines in mountains, it was incredible. 
Pretend you know absolutely nothing about the Northern Lights or astronomy. You’re living five thousand years or so ago, and you look up at the sky, knowing very little about how the world really operates, and you see the Northern Lights. What’s your theory? What do you think they are?
I like this question! Have you ever thought about being a writer? I like how your mind works.  
If I knew nothing about the Northern Lights or astronomy and I saw these beautiful lights up in the night sky, I would think it was aliens. They’re here for me and I need to find a way to touch these lights in the sky. 
Aliens, that’s my theory.  
Wait, am I aware of aliens in this scenario?
Nope.
I guess if I wasn’t aware about the concept of aliens, I would believe that the lights were some sort of sign that meant the end of the world was near. I would’ve been a paranoid Neanderthal.
I think anyone would be. Thanks for taking the time to answer, and again for reading Let’s Get Lost!
Have you read Let’s Get Lost? Are you interested in having me interview you? Email me at adi.alsaid@gmail.com.
12:57 pm, by adialsaid 2  |  Comments