I’m thrilled to participate in my first blog tour with author Kereen Getten and her debut middle-grade book, When Life Gives You Mangoes! This lovely book is set on an island (which is close to my heart, because I lived in the Caribbean for five years). It’s such an honor to be the first stop in this month-long blog tour. We talk about her book, her journey as a writer, and some of her childhood memories from Jamaica. Please enjoy my interview with Kereen.
Author Interview with Kereen Getten
Hi Kereen! I enjoyed When Life Gives You Mangoes and loved meeting Clara and her island crew. This was such a different middle-grade reading experience for me, for several reasons. First, the setting. Why did you decide to set your story in Sycamore village?
Hi! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Sycamore is based off a fishing village I grew up in Jamaica. I have very fond memories of those times, mostly because of how free I felt to explore and be a child. It felt like the perfect backdrop for Clara’s story.
Clara and Gaynah have an interesting relationship, from the beginning of the story. Both girls are different, and there’s a constant push and pull between them. Did you have any close friendships like theirs as a child?
Yes, I did actually. I had a cousin who was very different from me. Sometimes we got on and other times we clashed, but there was always love there because we were family. I took the on again off again of that relationship and gave Clara and Gaynah something similar. I thought it was an interesting dynamic.
Religion and superstition play a significant role in this story. Why was it important for you to include both of those things?
The story is based in Jamaica where both religion and superstition are very prevalent. I was brought up going to church and at the same time I would hear constant rumours and stories about superstitions in my village. Both were as important as the other. I felt it was important to include not only because it was truthful to the island I grew up in but I also felt that it brought an interesting twist to the story.
This book reads a lot like an ode to an “island childhood,” with all the fun games (Pick Leaf!) and time spent at the beach. What was your favourite game to play as a child?
You’re right it is an ode to childhood! and because of that some things are true to real life. For instance, one of my favourite games to play as a child was pick leaf! The same game in the story. We also played a lot of ring games which I enjoyed.
Rudy is a bit of a whimsical character, and her backstory is intriguing (I would so read an entire book about her and her mom). What inspired you to create this character?
I’m glad you liked her!! I wanted someone to come into Clara’s life that was completely different from her or Gaynah. Someone who would really disrupt her norm and push her to be more playful and adventurous. I wanted Rudy to be as colourful in clothes as she was in character and like nothing Clara had seen before. I felt that this sudden explosion of colour and difference would really awaken something in her and be exactly what she needed to begin the journey of remembering who she was.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? Why did you decide to write books for children? Do you see yourself ever writing for a different age group?
From the moment I discovered books at eight, I pretty much wanted to write and started writing short stories straight away. I really loved this idea of escapism through words and I wanted to do the same and create my own worlds. Writing for children was never a decision, just an exploration of different genres that brought me here. I have written adult, YA and MG and love them all for different reasons. I have so many YA and adult ideas and I would love to explore in the near future.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I really love travelling and exploring new places and can’t wait to get back out there post Covid. I spend a lot of time in nature, particularly during writing or editing, going for walks really help de-stress me. I also love movies and am pretty obsessed with Netflix. I am quite a visual writer so movies help me a lot with inspiration.
Which books have you read and loved recently?
Currently reading The Girl With The Hazel Eyes By Callie Browning but really struggling with focus amid a pandemic. Past reads that I love were: The Disappearances By Emily Bain Murphy and surprising favourites because I don’t usual read that genre was Dread Nation By Justina Ireland and The Belles by Dhonelle Clayton.
Is there anything you wish I’d asked you in this interview?
I mean, favourite chocolate would be nice but we’ll save that for next time!
Thank you so much for doing this, Kereen! I can’t wait for readers to meet Clara, Gaynah, Rudy, and the rest of the crew!
Thank you so much for these wonderful questions! I really enjoyed answering them.
Buy When Life Gives You Mangoes
Read more author interviews
- Paula Chase on Dough Boys
- Janae Marks on From the Desk of Zoe Washington
- Hena Khan on More to the Story
About Kereen Getten
Kereen Getten grew up in Jamaica where she would climb fruit trees in the family garden and eat as much mango, guinep and pear as she could without being caught. She now lives in Birmingham with her family and writes stories about her childhood experiences. When Life Gives You Mangoes is her debut novel.