City of Saints and Thieves
Author: Natalie C. Anderson
Publication Date: January 24th, 2017
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young
Synopsis: In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn’t exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill’s personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.
With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.
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About the Author and Q&A
1. Where did you come up with the idea for City of Saints and Thieves?
For about three years my job was to travel around Africa and interview refugees who were being considered for resettlement to the US. The stories, as you might imagine, were pretty intense – basically I sat down and asked someone to tell me all the bad things that had ever happened to them to make them flee their country. Murder, torture, persecution, all of it. But as horrific as the stories were, there were also parts within them of prison guards freeing captives, strangers picking up children on the side of the road, people standing up against men with guns with nothing more than their bare hands. It took me a long time to process all that I’d heard and I didn’t start writing City until I was back in Nairobi a few years later. I knew I wanted to write something that touched on the refugee experience, but I didn’t want that to be the focus of the book. I didn’t want to sensationalize the horrible. So I started with the idea of a tough, strong, competent girl who’s basically on her own. A thief. And in figuring out what made her so tough, I was able to fill in her background with a refugee history.
2. What was the writing process like for you while you were writing the book?
I was super-lucky to be chosen by the Associates of the Boston Public Library to be the 2014-2015 Children’s Writer in Residence. It was the most incredible experience, and I owe so much to the Library! They gave me a stipend, and a Hogwarts-esque office to write in, and the deal was that I had to be there at least 20 hours a week. So I holed up in that office and lived the dream!
I’m definitely a plotter. So I wrote out the whole book on nice little index cards and put them on my board, sat down and wrote a whole book… and then scrapped half of it and started over again. Because I’m a masochist. No, because I needed to, and because I have an amazing agent who read it and asked good questions and pushed me to do better. That’s the thing you never see with the books you love – the editorial process is – in my case at least – 50% of the work! I wish I could say that this book came out fully cooked, but it’s just not true. You’re never really done with that book. You put the bones down, and then you flesh it out, carve it away, flesh it out again, carve, etc until your Franken-book is as done as it’s ever going to be. I think writing really is, after the first draft, something that becomes a group project. It’s always your decision at the end of the day what goes down on paper, but I really appreciate having some amazing critique partners and an amazing editor. They help ask the questions and point out problems that you’re too deep in the weeds to see. If you’re a writer, find those people and treasure them!
3. Which of the characters are your favorites, and why?
Oh that’s easy. I love Boyboy. I can just see him so clearly- how he dresses, how he’s quiet but probably has a running commentary and snappy retort for everything that is happening around him. He’s definitely the unsung hero in this book. Tiny sort-of takes him for granted, but he’s big enough to know that she really does need him – not just his IT skills, but his friendship. He’s definitely the most emotionally mature of the trio. I hated letting him go! He lives on in the City of Saints & Thieves Pintrest page I keep with all of the fashion I think he’d be obsessed with. At some point I really want to write some scenes from his perspective. It would be so much fun!
4. The book is full of twists and turns that will leave readers on the edge of their seats – did you come up with them as you went along, or did you have then all planned out before you started writing?
Well, as I mentioned, I aspire to be a plotter. But I think most writers would agree that sometimes the story just goes where it wants to go, and you can’t force it to stick to the program. So some of the twists were planned, some came about organically. And some were part of the editorial process! I’m probably ruining the mystique a bit, but I went back through and edited so that chapters would end on cliff-hangers. (I’m a sucker for a good cliff-hanger – I blame reading hundreds of Nancy Drew mysteries as a kid).
5. What books are currently on your nightstand?
My TBR pile would kill me if it fell over. I’m in that lucky position of getting to read a lot of advanced reader copies of books that are coming out in 2017, and folks, there are some fabulous ones coming our way! I just finished Tiffany D. Jackson’s amazing Allegedly, about a girl who’s in state custody because she allegedly killed a baby. Fabulous, smart, twisty! And Nic Stone’s Dear Martin just gobbled my heart up. It’s about this genius kid who is trying to deal with being racially profiled, navigating his way through a posh school where his white friends think racism is a thing of the past; it’s just such a brilliant and absorbing read. I have Alwyn Hamilton’s Traitor to the Throne and The Valiant by Lesley Livingstone that I can’t wait to dig into. And I’m looking forward to Ali Standish’s The Ethan I Was Before (MG) and This Beats Perfect by Rebecca Denton. Ana and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit, We Love You Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge… There are so many more, but I’ll stop there. I basically need a clone who can full-time read all these books. It’s a pretty awesome problem to have.
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