I’m thrilled to be Justina Chen Headley’s last stop on her blog tour for North of Beautiful today. Make sure to go and check out her other stops at Mitali’s Fire Escape, Shelf Elf, Archimedes Forgets, and Biblio File

One of the most interesting parts of North of Beautiful, to me, was the maps, of all sorts (the cartography, the geocaching, the collages that were maps of sorts), all through the book. How and why did you come up with this aspect of the story?

It’s ironic that I settled on maps because I truly am the most directionally challenged person I know.  Although I’m geographically dyslexic, I love antique maps-they’re beautiful works of art, part fact, part fantasy.  Maps seemed like the perfect metaphor for Terra, a girl who is boxed in 

by her father, her definition of beauty, her small town.  And at the same time, maps were her key to freedom.  In their very gridlines, the ones that bound her in, was the promise of adventure…if she dared to break the boundaries. 

 North of Beautiful is about finding what’s truly beautiful, not necessarily what we’re told is beautiful. What are five things that you find most beautiful? 

Five Most Beautiful Things a la Justina!  Here goes…

a.  My children:  every minute with them is an exquisite moment of beauty. I would never trade a minute of our lives together for anything.

b.  My mom:  I dedicated North of Beautiful to my mother because she is so authentically beautiful. I’d add as a codicil, my dad and my in-laws who are pure love.

c.  My friends:  there are no more beautiful women and men than my peeps who have circled around me during a recent crisis. Loyalty. Strength. Friendship.  Those are the expressions of True Beauty.

d.  Unbridled laughter.  Definitely, beautiful.  

e.  Hummingbirds.  I could watch them forever.

Travel (one of my favorite things!) is also important in this novel. What’s the best trip you’ve ever been on? What do you think makes travel an important experience, in general?

I hope that my best trip will be one I take in the future!  I would love to go to Bhutan.  Mustang.  Bali.  I want to take my kids to Greece and France.  And Italy.  I want to hike the Arches.  Write in the Hudson Valley.  I want to go on a safari.  I want to sit still and simply be in Angkor Wat.  In the meantime, I will read about all these place.  Reading about a place, of course, is the next best thing to traveling to a place.

Traveling is a crash course on life:  logistics (how do I get from here to there?), survival (are you going to starve or try the fish eyes?), resilience (can I can trek for another kilometer?), resourcefulness (okaaaay…so the train was canceled. Now what?), tolerance (got it…so when they tell me I’m fat, it’s actually a compliment!). 

Terra’s port-wine stain makes her stand out in a way that isn’t exactly easy for her. Almost all of us feel like we’re being judged for our flaws, obvious or not, at some point or another, especially, it seems, teen girls. What advice do you have for girls who don’t fit our society’s standards of beauty (which is most of us) and have trouble feeling beautiful sometimes because of it?

Strive to be phenomenal, not merely beautiful.  You’ll be stronger for it.  And in the end, when you’ve hit your potential as a person and as a woman, you’ll be much, much more beautiful than you ever imagined possible. 

Thanks, Justina! 

Want to win your very own signed copy of North of Beautiful? Be the first commenter to correctly answer the following question: What is the world’s leading online book community that Justina co-founded?

Also check out my review of the book and Justina’s blog. I’ll be posting a link to said online book community, too, but not right now–don’t want to give away the answer!