Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Interview with debut author Patti Sheehy about her amazing based on a true story novel– The Boy Who Said No: An Escape to Freedom– "...The original idea was to write Frank’s story as part of his family’s history. By the third interview I realized this story was far too compelling not to share with a wider audience. Frank was a joy to work with, and I treasure his friendship."

 As a boy Frank Mederos’s grandfather teaches him to fish, to navigate the seas, and to think for himself, much needed skills under the new Castro regime. When Frank is drafted into the army, he is soon promoted to the Special Forces, where he is privy to top military secrets. But young Frank has no sympathy for Fidel. He thirsts for freedom and longs to join his girlfriend who has left Cuba for America.

Patti-welcome to my blog. 

Debbie-  Tell us about the new novel The Boy Who Said No: An Escape to Freedom.
Patti-   The Boy Who Said No is based on the life of Frank Mederos, who grew up in Cuba during the regime of Fidel Castro.  Due to the influence of his grandfather and various childhood experiences, he comes to hate his government.  He falls in love with Magda and is drafted into the army where he is promoted to Special Forces.  When his girlfriend leaves for America, Frank decides to risk his life to join her. He defects just before high-profile military exercises and is relentlessly pursued by his commanding officer.  This is the story of his escape, one filled with danger, treachery and hair-raising suspense.

 The man the story is based on became personal friends with you.
Did you find it more difficult or less to write about a friend?
  Frank and I were introduced by his daughter and became friends during the process of writing the book.  We did not know each other prior to that. The original idea was to write Frank’s story as part of his family’s history.  By the third interview I realized this story was far too compelling not to share with a wider audience.  Frank was a joy to work with, and I treasure his friendship. Occasionally I had difficulty understanding his accent.  Other than that, there was nothing difficult about working with him.

 What was most challenging about writing a “true-life novel”?
  The most challenging part was placing my novel into a suitable genre.  The Boy Who Said No is basically a memoir, but for various reasons it was necessary for me to fictionalize some elements of the story because the protagonist did not witness them firsthand.  There were also problems verifying events that happened more than four decades ago under a totalitarian regime.  I wanted to present the story in a way that was as true as possible to actual events, while making it accessible and engaging for the reader. The book also contains romantic elements and reads like a thriller.  All of which make it difficult to classify.
Fortunately, I came across a book by Jeanette Walls called Half-Broke Horses.  It is based on the life of the author’s deceased aunt and Ms. Walls faced similar classification issues. I decided to follow her lead and call my book a true-life novel.  Since this is not a well-recognized genre, you will also find it listed under historical fiction.

 What was your career background previously to becoming an author?
  I earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Rider University, and spent my career in public relations, marketing and communications, primarily in the healthcare industry.  I had my own business while my daughter was growing up and helped launch a magazine.  Writing, especially magazine writing, served me well while working on my novel.

 Since this novel was based on someone’s real life would you consider it more educational or entertaining?
  I hope my readers find my book to be both educational and entertaining.  Cuban history is integral to the plot and is woven organically throughout the book.  This is a story of love, loss and adventure, but it is the suspense that keeps readers riveted. As author Todd Buchholz, author of The Castro Gene said, “The Boy Who Said No will grab you by the lapels and won’t let you go until you finish the last sentence.”

 Were there any particular events that occurred during this experience that will change how you make your next writing project?
  I loved writing this book.  It was an exercise in discovery not only of Frank’s story but in my ability to write it.  The only thing I’d change would be how much I worried about getting it published.

 What is next for you?
 I just sent off the sequel to The Boy Who Said No to my publisher.  The working title is The Man Who Was Stalked: A Cuban Refugee’s Nightmare, and it is just as fast-paced and interesting as my first book.  While Frank works to establish a life for himself in the States, sinister forces in Cuba are plotting his demise.  I won’t say any more.
 I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the subject of my third book.

 How important is it to network either in person or virtually with your peers?
  It is very important to have a circle of writer friends who understand the process and provide you with encouragement and support.  It is equally important to have friends who will read and critique your manuscript from a layman’s perspective.  Virtual networking is an excellent marketing tool, but it is a poor substitute for personal relationships.

Did you give up your day job?
  I retired around the same time that I began writing The Boy Who Said No, so the timing was excellent.  It allowed me the freedom to work on my novel without the pressures of a full-time job.

 Where were you and what you were doing when you “sold your story”?
  I was painting my front porch when the call came in from Oceanview Publishing.  I was sure they were going to turn my book down because it didn’t exactly fit their genres.   With paintbrush in one hand and phone in the other, I told them it wasn’t a good time to talk.  To my surprise they requested to speak with me for at least a half hour later that day.  Hmmm… That was my first inkling that they might be interested in my book.  The rest is history.

 Will there be any signing events so fans can meet you in person? I am more than happy to sign books and to speak at various clubs and organizations, especially in the greater Philadelphia metropolitan region.  Contact me at and I will get back to you.  Check my web site, for book club discussion questions and other details.

Be sure and visit Patti's website here for further information on the novel, her blog and much more.

Enjoy a book trailer

My Review of The Boy Who Said No

The Boy Who Said No
Patti Sheehy
Oceanview Publishing
ISBN13: 9781608090908
330 pages

Frank Mederos was just a boy when the Batista reign ended and Fidel Castro took control of Cuba. He learned at the knee of his grandfather and his father and mother what was right and wrong and he could see with his own eyes and by his own experiences what was happening to his country and his people was not a good thing. He was a solider in Castro’s army as a young man without many choices until it became clear that there was only one clear choice to make. In a time when dissenting Cubans were disappearing at an alarming rate he along with the family of his beloved made the only decision they thought they could. Escape.

Ms. Sheehy brings us a true life adventure of one man’s journey to freedom. She takes us through his very personal experiences, his feelings, his gains and his losses. Her narrative style is diary-esque yet with an on the edge of your seat thriller novel feeling that gives the reader the feeling of being there on the front lines with Frank, his friends and his loved ones. She tells it in words that anyone at any age can understand and appreciate and she gives us a hint at the end that this is just the beginning.
Patti thank you for a wonderful, eye-opening look behind the Cuban curtain I can’t wait to see where you take us next. Brava on a great debut and a Must Read for this summer!!

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  1. This sounds absolutely fascinating! Just my kind of "can't put down" book. On the summer list!

    1. Oh I think you'll like this one Karen. it was very intense