Coral Gables resident and award winning young adult author Christina Diaz Gonzalez conducted a book reading and signing of her newest work, Moving Target, on Sept. 17, at the Barnes and Noble bookstore in West Kendall.
The first novel in a projected series of adventures featuring 12-year-old Cassie Arroyo, Moving Target begins in Rome with an ominous mystery and the disappearance of Cassie’s father, a history professor who is in fear for Cassie’s life. Dark forces and a web of intrigue quickly propel Cassie through a desperate search for her dad and the answer to why she is in danger.
It centers about the legendary “Spear of Destiny,” also known as the Holy Spear or the Lance of Longinus, the lance that pierced the side of Jesus as he hung on the cross, according to the Gospel of John.
The Vatican and a number of churches worldwide each claim to have it safely hidden away, for it is thought that in the hands of the right person the relic literally had the supernatural power to change destiny. Even Adolph Hitler reportedly sought it. The claim that it was hidden away inspired Gonzalez.
“That got me thinking,” she told her audience. “What if the Vatican really doesn’t have it? What if it really is missing?
Not just anyone can use it. It has to be a descendent of Longinus.”
When asked what early influences shaped her writing goals, Gonzalez reflected on her childhood.
“I remember always seeing my father reading books while I was growing up and I think that had a direct influence in my love of reading and writing,” she said. “It stirred my passion for books and conjured up the dream of one day being able to tell my own stories.”
She said she chose to write in the young adult field because she loves writing from the point of view of young people because it is such an incredible time in a person’s life.
“When you are young, everything seems possible and you can choose which path to follow,” Gonzalez said. “The choices made at this point in your life can determine so much of your future. It is an exciting and somewhat scary time.”
Her first novel, The Red Umbrella, was about a 14-year-old girl’s journey from Cuba to America as part of Operation Pedro Pan. The remarkable book garnered the Florida Book Award Gold Medal for Young Adult Literature, was an ALA-YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Book, an ABA New Voices Selection, a Latina Magazine Book of the Year, a Christian Science Monitor Book of the Year, a Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year and received other awards as well.
“It is thrilling and flattering to be recognized by prestigious organizations and associations,” Gonzalez said.
“However, as much as I appreciate and am honored by all the awards my books have received, receiving emails from readers, young and old alike, that tell me how the book has touched them, given them an understanding of the world around them, or simply entertained them…that is the most rewarding part of being an author.”
She assures her fans that besides the sequel to Moving Target there are still more books on the horizon.
“I’m always working on several projects or ideas,” she said. “Sometimes it’s difficult to put aside a new idea while I’m trying to finish a book, but I tell myself that it’s ‘marinating’ and that I will get to it soon enough.”
Moving Target is published by Scholastic Press and is available at bookstores everywhere.