Join us in celebrating Hispanic Star: Selena Gomez book birthday! We sat down with Karla Valenti to learn all about the inspiration behind the book!
But first, a little bit about this biography for young readers:
Meet Selena Gomez—actress, singer, producer, social media mogul, activist, and a powerful voice raising awareness on mental health struggles in young people. Launched into stardom at a very young age, Selena knows all to well the challenges of navigating the world’s expectations while staying true to who you are. In this biography, readers will gain insights into the often-turbulent life of this remarkable Hispanic star who not only found a way to face (and overcome) numerous personal and professional challenges, but became an inspiration to millions around the world. This book is part of the Hispanic Stars biography series, in collaboration with Claudia Romo Edelman and Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, featuring groundbreaking Hispanic and Latinx heroes who have made remarkable contributions to American culture and have been undeniable forces in shaping its future.
Spanish version translated by fellow Musa, Terry Catasús Jennings.
Can you share your path to publication for this book?
This book is a perfect example of the value of a great agent (who knows you better than you know yourself) and how pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone can lead to unexpected and wonderful opportunities. In this case, I was approached by my agent who had received a request from an editor looking for someone to write a chapter book biography about Selena Gomez as part of the Hispanic Star book series. My agent knew this was not a genre I typically write in, but she pitched it to me anyway.
We talked about the cons and pros of taking on the project. On the one hand, it was a rush request with a four week timeline (from draft to final), and it would require extensive research. Also, as a writer of magical realism and fiction, I wasn't sure I could actually pull off a compelling biography given how different the fiction and NF genres are. On the other hand, it was with an editor and publisher I had been pursuing for a while, and it would force me to flex my writing muscles in a very different way. My agent was also very supportive and confident in my writerly skills.
We decided to meet with the editors on the project and get a better sense for the scope and expectations. One of my main concerns was the short time frame and the amount of research that would be required just to be able to write a first draft. Fortunately, the publisher agreed to contribute resources to assist with the research. They were also committed to a quick turnaround on any drafts I submitted to ensure we could meet the deadline. I gave myself a weekend to dig into the research and get a sense for how this biography would come together. As it turned out, the more I dug into the life of Selena Gomez, the more I realized what a remarkable woman she is. By the end of the weekend, I was very excited to be a part of sharing her life and story with young readers. I accepted the project and began working with Luisa Beguiristain and Emily Feinberg to bring this book to life.
What was the most challenging part of the publication process with this story?
The short timeframe was a definite challenge, but the most difficult part of this process was resisting my instinct to invent and embellish; keeping instead to the facts, while also creating a story that is engaging and lively. I have great respect for writers of NF who can do this so seamlessly.
What is the most important lesson you have learned as a writer until now?
It is a long journey, full of many and varied unexpected twists and turns. The best tools you can bring with you on this journey are Patience, Adaptability, and Grace. It also helps to have a supportive group of writerly friends to cheer you on and keep you company throughout the good and the bad (shout out to Las Musas ❤).
Karla Valenti is the author of the highly-acclaimed middle grade novel, LOTERIA, as well as numerous picture books, chapter books, and other middle grade novels. Her storytelling is seeded in Mexican culture and lore, and often deals in explorations of philosophical and identity-based themes (inspiring the mind) while also taking readers on riveting magical realist adventures (inspiring the heart). She currently lives in the Chicagoland area with her husband, three kids, and hundreds of books.
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