2020 Debut Interview: Cynthia Salaysay!

In 2019, we made it our goal is to work with as many debut authors as possible and spread the word about their debut novels. It was such a success last year that we decided to continue the fun this year as well! Follow us this year as we pick the minds of the 2020 debuts and chat with them. Also stay tuned for news of giveaways, Twitter chats and more!
At the end of 2019, we Tweeted about wanting to discover more debut authors and their books. We ended up finding Cynthia Salaysay and her novel PRIVATE LESSONS, and we have been interested in it ever since. We are so excited to have Cynthia on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 



Cynthia Salaysay

Cynthia Salaysay holds a bachelor’s degree in English from University of California, Berkeley, and has workshopped her fiction at Tin House. She has written food and culture articles for the San Francisco Examiner, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the East Bay Express, and Civil Eats. Currently, she works as a Reiki practitioner and an operating-room nurse in Oakland, California.

Keep up with Cynthia: Website / TwitterGoodreads


The Book Bratz: First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to be a debut author?
Cynthia: Thank you! I feel very proud and excited to have a book I spent eight years writing to come out into the world. Sometimes, it feels like going to a high school dance as a freshman! It looks like a lot of fun, but will it? Will it really be fun? Also, am I wearing the right thing? Saying the right thing? Am I standing right? (stands on right leg, thinks about it, then stands on left leg).
The Book Bratz: In your opinion, what's the best part of the writing process? What's the hardest?
Cynthia: The best part of the writing process is the imagining part. The part where ideas are flowing and I'm putting myself into the work. The hardest part is the self-doubt. 

The Book Bratz: Where did you get the inspiration for PRIVATE LESSONS?
Cynthia: The inspiration came from a friend who said, "Tell me a story in which your teacher betrayed you." The classical music elements came naturally, as I love writing about music. Some of the hardest scenes are inspired by my own life. By examining my main character, Claire, and what it means that she is Filipino-American. 

The Book Bratz: Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the most difficult? 
Cynthia: My favorite character to write was Tash, Claire's best friend. Tash is a solid, warm, good soul -- the sort of friend you would want to have all your life. The most difficult was the mother. She went through so much -- her husband's death, her bouts of depression. I want her to be happy.

The Book Bratz: How important was music to you during your own childhood?
Cynthia: It really was an important tool for survival. People put their most private, lonely, and vulnerable feelings into songs -- when I was a kid, it was important to feel kinship with others who feel lonely and vulnerable.

The Book Bratz: What do you hope that readers will take away from PRIVATE LESSONS?
Cynthia: I genuinely hope people will feel for Claire and what she goes through -- emotional and sexual abuse through the hands of a teacher -- and will feel for her and champion her and those like her. I also hope that people will see her healing process as something that can help with their healing processes as well, whether they are going through romantic difficulties, or difficulties feeling different at school.

The Book Bratz: Do you plan on returning to the world of PRIVATE LESSONS in the future, or do you have any other projects in mind? Can you tell us anything about them?
Cynthia: I don't currently plan to return to the world of PRIVATE LESSONS right now. I have a couple of other projects simmering in the backburner. I hope I can share more about these soon!

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Title: Private Lessons
Author: Cynthia Salaysay
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: May 12th, 2020

Summary: After seventeen-year-old Claire Alalay’s father's death, only music has helped her channel her grief. Claire likes herself best when she plays his old piano, a welcome escape from the sadness — and her traditional Filipino mother’s prayer groups. In the hopes of earning a college scholarship, Claire auditions for Paul Avon, a prominent piano teacher, who agrees to take Claire as a pupil. Soon Claire loses herself in Paul’s world and his way of digging into a composition’s emotional core. She practices constantly, foregoing a social life, but no matter how hard she works or how well she plays, it seems impossible to gain Paul’s approval, let alone his affection.

Thank you so much to Cynthia for stopping by and answering our questions! We are super excited about PRIVATE LESSONS and can't wait for it to be out in the world on May 12th

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