Today, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo interviews S.A. about Treasure Tracks which is a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection. Kirkus Reviews writes that Treasure Tracks is, “Lighthearted yet solid prose and quirky, delightful characters round out this swell tale of plucky fun under (and above) the sea.”
In Treasure Tracks, finding a long-lost treasure in the Florida Keys becomes the anchor for twelve-year-old Cuban and Puerto Rican American Fernando “Fin” Román in this under the sea and inside the heart family adventure.
e.E. Charlton-Trujillo: S.A., I have so many questions about Treasure Tracks. From Fin’s love of the ocean and his abuelo, to his relationship with his father, and of course, the race to find the treasure. But first, how does it feel to see your book come into publication?
S.A. Rodriguez: Thank you! It’s an amazing feeling. As you know, it’s no easy feat to get traditionally published, and perhaps even more challenging as a Latina creator. I have three sons, but this kind of feels like I’m bringing the fourth one into the world. I can’t wait for everyone to meet Fin! And of no coincidence, he has the same cultural background my sons' share—Cuban and Puerto Rican.
e.E.: From the first chapter, we are swept up into Fin’s thirst for adventure, love for Abuelo Kiki, and hint at the storms that are both outside and inside Fin’s world. Can you share more about juxtaposing the hurricane approaching the Florida Keys and the conflict between Fin and his father?
S.A.R: As a young teen, Fin is grappling to find his place in the world. He reveres Abuelo Kiki as a great adventurer and hero, and he can’t yet form a meaningful connection with his dad who he feels is the complete opposite. Indeed, there is turmoil and conflict brewing. Family drama and the anxiety it stirs up within us can overwhelm with the force of a hurricane, and it’s something many children contend with.
e.E.: You’ve created a nuanced excitement in Fin’s thrill-seeking character. Did your real-life experience as a certified diver spark Fin’s character and his passion for the sea and quest for treasure?
S.A.R: Absolutely! I am obsessed with the ocean and share an insatiable thirst for adventure. I grew up on an island surrounded by an endless sea and remember scouring the beach for treasure ever since I was a little girl. Diving offered a chance to explore the ocean from an intimate vantage point. There’s a sense of freedom and pure glee you get when you visit the underwater world. I hope this comes through in the story and encourages children to dive in, explore, and become stewards of the sea.
e.E.: While a thrilling story of adventure, Treasure Tracks explores the dynamics of three generations of Román men. What do you hope for young readers to glean from the human story of your book?
S.A.R: Beyond delivering an exciting adventure story, I wanted it to be full of heart. The interplay within the extended family, and often even a multigenerational home environment, is a central part of Latino culture. Back to your question, the answer is simple. I invite young readers to discover their true treasure. Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to appreciate what’s worth more than gold to you.
e.E.: I love that! Digging “deeper to appreciate what’s worth more than gold” can resonate with young readers on so many levels. Can I ask you what was one of the most exciting parts in writing Treasure Tracks, and one of the most challenging?
S.A.R: Writing the action and dive scenes was the easy part. I wrote them in the Florida Keys and was living the inspiration. I think the most challenging part was diving into the heart of the story and delivering an emotional punch. I wrote most of the book during the quarantine period of the pandemic when I was trying to repress my anxiety to manage my household. Perhaps the writing helped me escape the hurricane of emotions building inside.
e.E.: If Treasure Tracks were to be adapted into a film, what would be the three things you’d absolutely need to see in the final movie.
S.A.R: This would certainly be a dream! I think beyond delivering exciting action scenes, the film would need to capture the undercurrents of the family dynamics and get to the heart of the story. From a cinematographic standpoint and because there are few movies filmed in the Florida Keys, it would be important to capture the natural and truly majestic beauty our underwater treasures offer, to share them with the world on the big screen. And finally, it would be important for me to ensure authentic Latino representation.
e.E.: Thank you so much for sharing all of this. I cannot wait for middle grade readers to explore the physical and emotional depths of Treasure Tracks. In the meantime, are you working on something new? Maybe something on land?
S.A.R: Thank you for diving in deep (no pun intended) with your questions! Hmm ... I’ve always got a few adventures cooking, and the ocean seems to be a common thread in all of them. However, I am working on another middle grade novel that is more land dominant. I’m happy to share this one is based in Puerto Rico!
e.E. I can’t wait (but I get that I have to for now)! Can you share where people can find you online?
S.A.R.: You can visit my site: sarodriguezbooks.com and check out the Discussion and Activity Guide for Treasure Tracks.
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