Friday, June 5, 2015

Author Interview with Lyn Miller-Lachmann, Surviving Santiago

Welcome to YA Friday, today I am doing an interview with Lyn Miller-Lachmann, the YA author of the new release, Surviving Santiago. Hope you enjoy!

When Love Turns Dangerous.... 

Returning to her homeland of Santiago, Chile, is the last thing that Tina Aguilar wants to do during the summer of her sixteenth birthday. It has taken eight years for her to feel comfort and security in the United States with her mother and her new stepfather. And it has been three years since she has last seen her father. Still damaged from the torture inflicted on him by the secret police during the Pinochet regime, Papá spends all his time with politics and alcohol rather than reconnecting with her. Fortunately, a handsome motorcycle-riding boy has taken an interest in Tina—though his presence turns out to be far from incidental or innocent. Tina’s heart is already in turmoil, but a threat to her family brings her to the edge of truth and discovery.

This tale of deadly deception and the redemptive power of love is set in the tense final months of the Pinochet dictatorship in 1989. Lyn Miller-Lachmann vividly describes Santiago, with its smog and palm trees, graffiti-covered shanties and modern apartment buildings and malls, inviting readers into a distinct, complex world not often seen in YA fiction in North America. But at its heart, SURVIVING SANTIAGO explores the familiar themes of family, young romance, and a perpetual outsider struggling to figure out where she belongs.

Interview with Lyn Miller-Lachmann

Author of Surviving Santiago

1. This book takes place in Chile during the Pinochet regime. For those of us who don't know, what was the Pinochet regime? What happened?

Like the United States and Canada, Chile had a long history of elected democratic governments. This ended on September 11, 1973, when a military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet ushered in 17 years of dictatorship. Thousands of people died at the hands of the government and tens of thousands were put in prison and tortured for their political beliefs.

Many dystopian novels present governments that take away people’s freedom and imprison or kill those who speak out. Under the Pinochet dictatorship, Chile was a real dystopia (as are too many other places throughout the world). However, the country’s people fought back through massive demonstrations and an international human rights campaign much like the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. in the 1960s. Their pressure forced Pinochet to hand over power to an elected government in 1990.

2. Please tell me about your main character Tina? What makes her tick? 

Tina has been profoundly affected by her father’s imprisonment and the experience of having to flee her home and move to another country with a different language and culture. Her older brother, Daniel—the protagonist of my earlier YA novel Gringolandia (Curbstone Books)—protected her in a way that made her feel incompetent and powerless. After her father’s release, Daniel developed more of a rapport with him, and now Tina believes her father prefers Daniel to her. There’s a lot of sibling rivalry going on!

Ever since Daniel left for college, Tina has come into her own, and she wants her father to know that. But her father ignores her, so she ends up in a relationship with Frankie, a local boy two years older than she is. Frankie has a motorcycle, likes the same music she does, and has an equally strained relationship with his father. For Tina, falling in love with Frankie is the worst thing she can do—along with him falling in love with her.

3. Can you tell me about We Need Diverse Books? How can we improve diversity in children's books?

We Need Diverse Books started a year ago as “a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.” Volunteers for the organization include writers, editors, agents, teachers, librarians, and students. Among the initiatives are programs to mentor diverse writers and to encourage more diversity among publishing industry professionals through internships. For more information, check out the WNDB website,

There are a lot of things that readers can do to increase diversity in children’s books. The best way is to buy books that represent a wider range of characters and settings. If a bookstore doesn’t carry those books, request they be ordered so the store knows there’s demand. If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on books, get to know the public library and check out the diverse books. Circulation drives what libraries purchase and make available to all their patrons. If you don’t see much diversity on the library shelves, ask the library to acquire specific books. Don’t take “we don’t have [fill in the diversity] in our community” as an excuse. Our young people will live in a world that is much more diverse and interconnected that it is even today. Do we want them to be unprepared for their future because they’ve only been exposed to people like themselves?

4. Any advice to aspiring writers?

It’s important to immerse readers in the setting of your story, but it’s easy to go overboard. Too many details slow down the pace and bore the reader. This is especially true for historical fiction because we history buffs revel in details and like to show off what we know.

Every detail of time and place—whether it’s historical fiction, speculative fiction, or even a contemporary realistic story—has to do more than describe the world surrounding the characters. It has to help us get to know them better, increase the tension, move the story forward, and/or contribute to the underlying theme. For instance, in Surviving Santiago, when Tina’s aunt drives her into Santiago from the airport, Tina notices buildings under construction. While construction cranes were certainly visible at that time, their presence in the story relates to the overall theme of repairing something that’s damaged (a person or a relationship), or tearing it down—walking away and moving on to something new.

5. For fun- favorite meal

Any meal that ends with ice cream. Bonus for starting with ice cream.

Thank you Lyn! For more information or to purchase the book, check out the links below.

Social Media Links – Lyn Miller-Lachmann:
IndieBound & Amazon Links – Surviving Santiago:

Book Info:
by Lyn Miller-Lachmann (
Running Press Teens
Available 6.2.15 // Ages 13+

$16.95-Hardcover // ISBN: 978-0-7624-5633-8


  1. Thank you for inviting me, Dorine! I enjoyed answering the questions!

  2. This sounds like a fascinating book. It's important for all of us, but perhaps more so for young readers, to know about this period of history. Thanks for telling me about it.