As a longtime journalist, Victoria Griffith has explored many diverse topics, including the Yanomami Indians, space exploration, and the human genome. Now she brings some of her life experience, including living in Brazil and exploring environmental issues, to present her first YA novel called Amazon Burning.
We got to ask Victoria a few interview questions, and she has also agreed to give TWO of our lucky readers AUTOGRAPHED COPIES of Amazon Burning, but first let’s check out what the book is about.
From the press release:
“When 22-year-old aspiring journalist, Emma Cohen, is forced to flee the comforts of her NYU student life, she maneuvers an internship from her father at his newspaper in Rio de Janeiro. There, Emma is immediately swept into a major news story–and a life-threatening situation–when a famous jungle environmentalist, Milton Silva, is mysteriously murdered.
“Emma must now enter the Amazon rainforest with her father to investigate; both awed by the enormity and beauty of the Amazon, and appalled by its reckless destruction. Not only will Emma have to brave the primal world of the Amazon, she must fight to survive the kidnappers, villains, corrupt activists, and indigenous tribes that lay in wait along the ever-twisting trail of the murder case. Stretched to the brink, it’s up to Emma, her father and the dreamy news photographer, Jimmy, to unravel the mystery and live to tell the tale.”
“Victoria Griffith’s debut novel is a triumph! Amazon Burning is a spellbinding tale of love, intrigue, and murder set in the imperiled Amazon rainforest. A young woman’s coming of age story is deftly woven into this vast ecological conflict, as indigenous tribes struggle to defend their land against the loggers, ranchers, and miners who are destroying it. A nonstop thrill ride that will leave you wanting more.”
—Courtney Farrell, author of Enhanced
Victoria’s previous book was the non-fiction picture book The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont (Abrams, 2011), which won numerous awards, including the prestigious Parents’ Choice.
Now, let’s get right to the interview and giveaway:
Nice to meet you, Victoria. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I feel like I’m an honorary Brazilian. My husband is from there, and we speak Portuguese with our three girls, ages six, fifteen and nineteen. I spent two years in the megacity of Sao Paulo as correspondent for a British newspaper. That’s when I got to know the Amazon region and the Yanomami tribe.
My book AMAZON BURNING shows that the wildest fiction really is based on fact. I actually rode in a cargo plane with a crazy pilot named Amoeba. I was threatened by a gun-toting Mafioso man in an outdoor café. And yes, the Yanomami women I met wanted to peek under my t-shirt to see if I looked like them beneath the clothes.
You have a new book called “Amazon Burning.” What’s it about?
When a celebrity environmental activist gets killed in the Brazilian Amazon, the main character, Emma, is thrown into a world of trigger-happy ranchers, wildlife smugglers and gold miners. There’s a romantic element, of course, with the photographer, Jimmy, who helps Emma in her quest to solve the murder mystery and make a name for herself at the same time.
Readers tell me they love the jungle setting, and that the book taught them a lot about the environmental battles being fought in the Amazon. The best compliment is when fans tell me they felt transported to Brazil. For me, that’s what reading is all about – getting lost in a fascinating new world.
Why should teens read this book?
For fun! But not mindless fun. AMAZON BURNING is an eco-thriller based on real life experiences and a ton of research. The murder in the novel was based on the actual assassination of one of my environmental heroes, the rubber-tapper turned activist Chico Mendes.
You have been involved in environmental issues for some time. Tell us why this is so important to you.
Until I was in my twenties, I didn’t care at all about the environment. I was the type who in winter would turn up the heat full blast, then open a window when I got too hot. But then I started noticing how places I loved were starting to change, different versions of the old song: “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”
My “aha!” moment came when I lived in Brazil. It’s a country of stunning natural beauty. Yet many areas feel like they’re under an environmental siege from pollution and overbuilding. Over the last decade, Brazilians themselves have become more vocal about saving their environment, and I think that’s starting to make a difference.
What do you think needs to happen for us to REALLY solve our environmental problems.
When you turn on the faucet and no water comes out, everyone suddenly becomes an environmentalist. Most of us wait until things get to a breaking point to really take a stand. We could be nearing that breaking point. Who hasn’t noticed the crazy weather patterns in recent years? I recently read about a woman who flushed her toilet in California and saw the basin fill with sand. Her well had run dry. It’s time to take action, and I think young people in particular today are ready to take on the challenge.
On your press release, it says you prepared lunch for super-chef Julia Child. What was that all about and what happened?
We used to run a feature at the paper I worked for where we lunched with famous people. I met so many fascinating people that way. I had a sandwich in NH with the documentary maker Ken Burns, who just had a big hit with his series on the Roosevelts.
Julia Child agreed to the interview, and I asked where she wanted to go for lunch. In true Julia style she said: “Surprise me!” So I did. I made her lunch myself. She was thrilled, because by that point most normal people like me wouldn’t dare make her a meal. So she mainly ate food she cooked herself or meals made by famous chefs. People told me I was brave to cook for her, but I knew Julia would be gracious, even if she hated my food.
What else do you have in the works?
So much that I think I have to narrow it down. I’m talking with my publisher about a possible sequel to AMAZON BURNING. I’m also working on a new ghost thriller based on THE TURN OF THE SCREW and JANE EYRE.
Anything else we should know?
Yes, that I’ve got a fabulous team behind me at Astor + Blue. I couldn’t do it myself!
And of course…we got her to send us a selfie! : )
Want to win an autographed copy of Amazon Burning? We will have TWO lucky winners this time, each who will receive a copy signed by the author sent directly by the publisher.
How to enter:
Simply follow @teenswannaknow on Twitter and tweet the following line from your account by 11/14/14:
I’ve entered to win an autographed copy of #AmazonBurning by Victoria Griffith from @teenswannaknow at http://bit.ly/1tSTtqD
Contest is open to U.S. addresses only. We will pick two (2) random winners on 11/15/14, who will each receive a signed copy of “Amazon Burning”. Winner will be notified by DM on Twitter, so must be following @teenswannaknow in order to be eligible to win. Books will be shipped directly from the publisher (Astor and Blue) to winner’s U.S. address.