Today we are celebrating the book birthday of Lupe Lopez: Rock Star Rules, a rockin’ new picture book co-created by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo and Pat Zietlow Miller, with illustrations by Joe Cepeda. Before we jump in to an interview between e.E. and Musa Anika Denise, here’s a blurb about the book:
Anika Denise: It’s my pleasure to welcome e.E. Charlton-Trujillo to Las Musas Blog!
I was so excited to get a sneak peek at Lupe Lopez: Rockstar Rules! Lupe is a great character. I love how she really seems to know who she is—and she’s only in kindergarten! She's got confidence (and a little sass). Where did the inspiration for Lupe come from?
e.E. Charlton-Trujillo: Lupe Lopez’s origins are from the playbook of my rambunctious childhood growing up in small-town south Texas. Like Lupe, I strutted into kindergarten in mirrored sunglasses, but I had a metal KISS lunchbox, belt buckle, T-Shirt and necklace. Fully convinced I was destined to be the drummer for KISS. I remember being told, “Take off those sunglasses” by a teacher. I said, “Can’t do it. I’m a rock star.” As you might imagine, this didn’t go over well.
AD: So, you were not a rule follower growing up?
e.E.: Absolutely not! But, in time, I did learn the balance between my rock star aspirations and respecting the rules of school. And I genuinely believe it’s important for kids to be able to honor who they are and know the importance of co-existing in their community.
AD: What about Lupe’s music taste? Which bands/ songs would be on her playlist?
e.E.: Oooo. I’d say bands such as The Warning, Foo Fighters, and La Perla. Of course, the goddess Selena (because, you know, it’s Selena), Yoyoka, anything Nandi Bushell does, Hannah Ford-Welton and Olivia Rodrigo. Plus, Bomba Estereo’s Soy Yo video would be on regular repeat.
AD: Nice. Who doesn’t love a playlist with both Selena and the Foos?! This book was co-written by bestselling picture book author Pat Zietlow Miller. Can you talk a little bit about how the project came about and what your collaborative writing process was like?
e.E.: So, I wrote the original draft but hadn’t really studied the picture book form in a way that felt necessary. Because Pat and I had been friends for years and she was skilled at the craft, I asked her for a minimum of 20 picture books to read. Books where I could study structure, character, tonality, and overall approaches to narrative. She was surprised by how fast I checked them out the library, and the analysis I was willing to do. But it mattered to me.
As we talked about those picture books and then other ones, I felt we needed to write Lupe together. But neither of us had collaborated as writers before. Plus, could we collaborate and still be friends? And there was no question that Pat would be up to the task, but privately, I wondered if I could I hold up my end of the partnership.
We began passing the draft back and forth. Soon our collective strengths emerged. Our love of picture books and story buoyed our process. In the end, it has been one of the best creative partnerships of my life. And it has given me the opportunity to connect with a completely different level of reader which I’m so excited about!
AD: Sounds like an amazing experience. Do y’all have more co-authored projects planned?
e.E.: With Candlewick Press, we have Lupe Lopez: Reading Rock Star also illustrated by Joe Cepeda. At Viking Press, we have A Girl Can Build Anything, illustrated by Keisha Morris and a to-be-announced sequel also with Keisha as illustrator.
AD: Wow! How exciting! That’s great that you’ve teamed up again for a second Lupe book. Joe Cepeda’s illustrations are perfect for the story. How did you feel when you first saw his artwork?
e.E.: I had dreams of an iconic, confident, music-loving Latinx character that could rival someone such as Junie B. Jones but in picture book form. Joe has embodied Lupe with all of that and so much more. The illustrations are rich, textured, and culturally authentic. Paying homage to his mother’s image in Lupe, he’s created a girl that almost leaps from the page. It’s not hard to imagine her on television. With Netflix producing Ada Twist, Scientist and Silvergate Media producing Raul the Third’s ¡Vamos! Series, I’m hopeful that we can transition her story. Because Lupe Lopez has a lot of story in her. Just wait!
AD: A Lupe Lopez animated series would totally rock! Joe Cepeda’s illustrations are so fun and vibrant. How much input did you have into the illustration process? Are you someone who gives art notes?
e.E.: It’s really important to respect and honor what happens on both sides of the picture book process. Historically, artists work independently from the author(s) to visually elevate the narrative. Often creating something the author never may have envisioned. With that, if an art note can assist the illustrator toward a nuance that they might otherwise miss, then a note might be helpful.
AD: In what ways was the process of writing a picture book different from your novel-writing?
e.E.: Coming from a background in poetry and flash fiction, compression of language isn’t foreign to me. But writing middle grade and young adult novels kind of spoiled me because there’s the freedom of subplots, multiple character arcs, settings – movements in time. Picture book writing challenged me to make every word be a conscious decision in revision. To know what story I was telling and not stray. I would read the story aloud over and over. Listening for the musicality or lack thereof. There is no doubt in my mind that picture book writing has made me a stronger novelist and filmmaker.
AD: I love that. Okay, shifting gears… if Lupe Lopez could rock out with three other picture book characters, who would they be?
e.E.: This is such a hard question because there are many good picture books! But if I’m picking three (did I mention this is hard), I’d say: the community in Boogie, Boogie, Y’all written and illustrated by C. G. Esperanza, Millo who inspired Drum Dream Girl: How One Girls Courage Changed Music written by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael Lopez and Aretha in RESPECT: Aretha Franklin The Queen of Soul written by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Frank Morrison.
AD: The next question is for young readers. What would you say to kids who might not aspire to be in the spotlight?
e.E.: I’d say that there are so many ways to shine. In the classroom, during recess, after school. See, being a rock star isn’t always about being in the spotlight. Often, it’s about being comfortable with who you are. Whether a kid is outgoing or shy. Tall, not so tall, or somewhere in between. Whether they play music, watch Paw Patrol, finger paint, build Lego cities, snap photos, tell oral stories, the rock star component is in the celebration of that passion and all that makes up who they are. Lupe isn’t a rock star just because she wears sunglasses and is confident. What makes her a rock star is her willingness to listen, learn, and grow. May we all achieve that.
AD: Well said. Now, a question for writers. Do you have any advice for novelists who want to jump into picture books—or vice versa?
e.E.: Know the kind of picture book you’re writing. Is it lyrical, rhyme, character-based, or dialogue-driven? Is it nonfiction, realistic, or wildly whimsical? Knowing this creates structure. And if you’re new to the form: read. Here’s a quick starter list of books. And always remember. Books for the youngest readers ask us to change our perspective in such a special way. Celebrate that in your story if you can.
AD: That’s great advice. So, what's next? What are you currently working on?
e.E.: I’m currently writing a YA and a middle grade novel, co-authoring a YA mystery novel with a brilliant human, a duology with another brilliant human and a fifth picture book. It’s a lot, and with the state of the world, it’s hard somedays. Truly. But I keep thinking about all the hope that comes from writing for young people. With Lupe Lopez: Rock Star Rules rolling onto shelves and into kid’s hearts, I can’t wait to be in schools and libraries celebrating Lupe’s and their own stories!
AD: Last question. Did you ever become a rock star?
e.E.: Every time I speak or workshop with kids, that’s how I shine. So yeah, I guess, I did. Just not in the way I expected.
AD: You’re a rockstar, e.E. For kids and for other writers. Thank you for chatting with me!
Order Lupe Lopez: Rock Star Rules today!
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