We are absolutely thrilled to celebrate Adrianna Cuevas’ book birthday for THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ! We have a great interview with the author!
But first, a little bit about the book…
In this magical middle-grade debut novel from Adrianna Cuevas, The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez, a Cuban American boy must use his secret ability to communicate with animals to save the inhabitants of his town when they are threatened by a tule vieja, a witch that transforms into animals.
Reina Luz Alegre has prepared a wondrous interview for us with Adrianna:
What was the inspiration behind The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez?
Nestor is definitely a family story. The animal trivia and Nestor's ability to communicate with animals stem from my son's overwhelming interest in biology and ecology. Nestor's relationship with his military father is based on what I experienced during the first four years of my marriage when my husband and I were separated due to his multiple deployments with the army. Most of all, though, it was important to me to show my son that Cuban-American kids, kids who feel vulnerable, and kids who feel out of place can still be the hero of a story.
Can you talk about what it meant to you as an #ownvoices author to incorporate your Cuban-American identity into the book?
The fact that Nestor is filled with Cuban food references, Spanish dialogue, and a feisty abuelita was not a deliberate choice. I was doing what any author does- writing what I know. Admittedly, I was nervous to put so much of my culture in my writing. I wasn't sure there was a place for it or that it would be accepted. But after reading and loving books by Celia C. Perez, Nina Moreno, Pablo Cartaya, Carlos Hernandez, and Margarita Engle, I realized how much I owed to authors before me who made sure there was a place for our stories in kidlit.
Tell us about the Tule Vieja. Who is she? What is her character based on? Is she a complete product of imagination?
The legend of the tule vieja originates from Panama and Costa Rica, two countries I lived in when I was younger. The bruja that terrorizes the town in my book is a little different from the traditional tule vieja. While the tule vieja that Nestor encounters can turn into various animals by biting them, the Panamanian and Costa Rican tule vieja takes on a permanent half-woman, half-bird form. She basically walks around waiting to snatch up wandering children. I thought a morphing witch that put the town's animals in danger was a better fit considering Nestor's secret ability.
Are you a big animal lover? Do you have any pets?
The hair on the couch in my living room reveals that a dog, a cat, and an axolotl also live there... not that the axolotl is on the couch since it's aquatic. It's more that I have to remind my son to get off the couch and feed it.
I would definitely say that I'm an animal lover. There's a slight chance I calculated how many goats I could buy when my advance for my debut arrived. Alas, my backyard is too small. And as an introvert with value-sized anxiety, animals are a safe place. They snuggle up to you while you're writing and always listen with interest when you read your manuscripts out loud. And if my cat judges me, I just push her off the couch.
I love your sense of humor—everything you write is so wonderfully witty. Any tips for writers trying to make their stories funny or funnier?
When attempting to incorporate humor in a manuscript, it's essential to spend a massive amount of time with your target audience. Listen to what they find funny and to what they don't find humorous. This will keep you from committing a 'hello, my fellow youths' sin in your story. I think it's important not to go against your personality either. I've fully accepted that sarcasm and snark are my third language and I manage to navigate the world with the mental age of a 12-year-old. This means it's practically impossible for me to craft a scene that doesn't have some measure of ridiculousness in it, no matter how serious the story. But if that's not your personality or you feel like you're forcing the humor in your manuscript, that's okay. Kids need all kinds of stories.
Please tell us about your next book!
My next book is the book of my heart. Cuba in My Pocket tells the story of a young boy escaping Cuba and adjusting to life in the United States in the 1960s. It's based on my father's experience and I'm so honored to tell his story. Readers will see that my propensity for silliness and sarcasm is genetic. But most of all, this book embodies my hope that the United States would be a place where all are welcome.
You can purchase THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ now from Indiebound, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.
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