STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
Author Marisa de los Santos doesn’t write autobiographical works, but the two dogs in her latest book, “The Precious One,” are based on her two Yorkies, paw for paw. It’s the first book of her growing list of New York Times bestsellers (including “Belong to Me,” “Love Walked In,” and “Falling Together”) that features dogs. She felt it was time to pay homage to them for all the support they provide.
“They sit with me for hours as I write,” she said.
They won’t be at the Author Event featuring de los Santos at the Free Library of Philadelphia on March 24, though. She’s hoping a lot of readers and writers will be. She loves speaking with people at events, especially at libraries.
“It’s the place where I feel most at home,” she said. “The whole point of libraries existing is books and readers. That is my heart’s home, my comfort place.”
She’s always excited when librarians choose to showcase her book or let her know they enjoyed it.
“It means so much. These are people who read and recommend books for a living,” she said. “These people have devoted their lives to reading and writers.”
She also enjoys interacting with the public. She never knows what they’ll ask, and that’s OK.
“The Q and A is always my favorite part,” she said. “It can be incredibly eye-opening. The questions can come seemingly out of nowhere and make you rethink your process or see your character differently.”
She’s eager to hear what people think of the characters in “The Precious One,” a novel about family secrets, lost love, obsession, and second chances.
“At the heart, it’s about two sisters who have never really known each other,” she said, and what happens when they come together. There are other plots and subplots, but that’s the book’s heart, de los Santos said.
The author’s life is reflected in some of the themes of the work, though she wasn’t fully aware of that during the writing process. The two sisters in the book are from their father’s first and second marriages and de los Santos can relate.
“What occurred to me when the book was finished was that I am my own father’s second chance family,” she said.
When de los Santos was a teenager, she found out she had two half-brothers she hadn’t known of previously.
“It’s hard for me to know how much of that was back there in my head when I wrote the book. It wasn’t a conscious thing. Our situations are totally different,” she said of her and her characters.
But things from life are wont to appear in any writer’s works, even if they’re not aware of it at the time.
“So much of it is unconscious, just below the surface,” she said.
Mostly, de los Santos, who’s from Baltimore, lived in Philly, and now is based in Wilmington, Del., lets the characters guide her.
“The thing I most want to get right is to create human characters and to be true to them,” she said. “The story needs to be true to who they are. I’m at the character’s mercy. That’s my job.”
And now, readers will get to visit the new world her characters have taken her through and experience it for themselves. It’s always a bittersweet moment when a new book is released.
“I know I wrote them and I created these characters. But my nervousness and excitement comes from the fact that they feel very real and human to me,” she said. “I am putting them out into the world. I’m dying for everybody to meet them, but also I feel protective of them.”
Like sending your kids off to school or some activity where they don’t know anybody, de los Santos hopes that “everybody likes them. I hope everybody’s nice to them,” she said.
She’s looking forward to connecting with people on her promotional stops, and especially hopes that people connect with the characters and their stories, but that’s out of her hands.
“It’s exciting to put something out there that takes its place in the universe of things instead of being a private project,” she said. “You write and love the process, and now, the book doesn’t belong to you anymore.” Now, it’s a ‘precious one’ for everyone.
IF YOU GO
What: Author event with Marisa de los Santos
When: Tuesday, March 24 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Free Library of Philadelphia, Central Library, 1901 Vine St., Philadelphia.
Admission: Free (no tickets required)
Info.: Call (215) 567-4341 or visit www.freelibrary.org/authorevents/