Sandra Alonzo grew up in a mountainous region near Los Angeles with two younger brothers. As a child and teen she loved exploring the local trails on horseback, reading, and experimenting with photography. Ms. Alonzo, her three small dogs, and her horse currently reside in central California not far from the Sierra National Forest and Yosemite National Park.
Alonzo is the author of Gallop-O-Gallop, a poetry collection/picture book about horses. Riding Invisible, with cool graphics by Nathan Huang, is her first novel for young adults. For more info, visit her website.
Let the conversation begin!
Where do you get your ideas?
My first novel, RIDING INVISIBLE, is based on events from my life. The novel is about mental illness, and how it affects relationships in the contemporary family. I grew up with a younger brother who has childhood onset schizophrenia, and have firsthand information about living with a severely disturbed sibling. Not only was I able to write from the heart about Yancy and his brother Will, I was able to relate to Yancy’s harrowing adventures when he runs away on horseback, because I’ve owned horses most of my life.
What advice would you give young writers?
Keep writing, keep trying, work to improve your craft, and submit your work whenever possible. Believe in yourself. Do not give up!!!
Editorial Review for Riding Invisible from Booklist
Alonzo’s first novel features the sort of likable, embattled narrator that brings to mind Arnold Spirit from Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (2007), but instead of being tormented by negative stereotypes and poverty, 15-year-old Yancy’s primary source of misery comes from his nearly sociopathic older brother, Will. The story is told entirely in diary form, complete with a handwriting-styled font and plenty of cartoony drawings (again reminiscent of Alexie’s book). After Will, who suffers from conduct disorder, violently threatens Yancy’s horse, teen and horse take off into the California desert. There, they encounter a kind Mexican worker, who helps Yancy begin to size up the challenges of living with his brother and the toll that it is taking upon the entire family. Alonzo skillfully handles teetering family dynamics, equestrian details, and the undertones of immigration and class, which add realistic depth. The resolution leaves a bevy of challenges and plenty of food for thought about family dysfunction. Grades 7-10. –Ian Chipman