We are so excited to bring you an interview with Reina Luz Alegre, author of THE DREAM WEAVER!
First, here is a little bit about the book:
Twelve-year-old Zoey navigates the tricky waters of friendship while looking for a way to save her grandfather’s struggling business in this heartwarming, coming-of-age debut novel perfect for fans of Kristi Wientge, Donna Gephart, and Meg Medina.
Zoey comes from a family of dreamers. From start-up companies to selling motorcycles, her dad is constantly chasing jobs that never seem to work out. As for Zoey, she’s willing to go along with whatever grand plans her dad dreams up—even if it means never staying in one place long enough to make real friends. Her family being together is all that matters to her.
So Zoey’s world is turned upside down when Dad announces that he’s heading to a new job in New York City without her. Instead, Zoey and her older brother, José, will stay with their Poppy at the Jersey Shore. At first, Zoey feels as lost and alone as she did after her mami died. But soon she’s distracted by an even bigger problem: the bowling alley that Poppy has owned for decades is in danger of closing!
After befriending a group of kids practicing for a summer bowling tournament, Zoey hatches a grand plan of her own to save the bowling alley. It seems like she’s found the perfect way to weave everyone’s dreams together...until unexpected events turn Zoey’s plan into one giant nightmare. Now, with her new friends counting on her and her family’s happiness hanging in the balance, Zoey will have to decide what her dream is—and how hard she’s willing to fight for it.
Raquel Vasquez Gilliland: How did the concept of The Dream Weaver come to you?
Reina Luz Alegre: My focus while drafting The Dream Weaver (and almost everything I write!) was on the relationships. Main character Zoey's relationships with her relatives and her friends, and ultimately with herself. I love writing about relationships--the highs, the lows, the nuances, the evolutions.
How does the title tie into the story?
At twelve years old, with her brother going off to college soon, Zoey is starting to think seriously for the first time about how she may want her own life to unfold. She looks to her loved ones for examples, and finds her brother single-mindedly following his dream of becoming an engineer, while her irresponsible dad changes dreams almost as often as he changes socks, and her grandfather is on the verge of losing his life's work, his bowling alley business. But Zoey remembers her late mom and late abuela's determination, how hard they worked to weave their dreams into reality, and tries to channel their resourcefulness.
As a multiracial person, I really related to Zoey's feelings of being stuck between cultural identities, and not quite belonging to one or the other completely. I believe so many young adults and children will relate to this as well. How did you construct this part of Zoey's character and arc?
My mom and grandparents were born in Cuba, and I drew a lot on my own Cuban heritage in writing Zoey's. All the Spanish sayings in the book are drawn from my childhood, as well as little details peppered throughout--from the manzanilla tea Poppy drinks before bed to how hard he has always worked.
In The Dream Weaver, Zoey is second-generation Cuban and hasn't seen her grandpa very often since her mom passed away years before the book starts. She has felt disconnected for a long time from her Cuban heritage, which she associates with her mom's memory. She wants to connect more with her Cuban side through her maternal grandfather when she goes to live with him for the summer.
The awkwardness and wonderful-ness of making new friends as an adolescent were so on point! Did anyone in particular inspire Zoey's relationship with her new friend group-- Isa, Lacey, Patrick, and Tyler?
No one person specifically inspired any of the friends' characters, but I drew from various sources of inspiration to draft each one. For example, Patrick takes bowling so seriously, and I was inspired by the focused intensity of the kids in the youth bowling championships I watched for research when I was writing Patrick's character. With Lacey, I've personally had the experience so many times over where my first impression of a person's character is wrong or incomplete for some reason, and I wanted Zoey's first impression of Lacey to prove wrong too. I love it when clashing personalities form an unlikely friendship.
Zoey spends a large part of the book trying to save her abuelo's bowling alley. The alley setting was so vivid, I swear I could hear the squeaks of bowling shoes and the pins falling! What inspired this setting? Were you ever in a bowling league?
Thank you! I enjoyed bowling for fun with friends as a student, and was inspired by those bowling alleys and arcades and their retro charm. I was never in a bowling league, but I did watch a ton of professional and youth bowling tournaments for research and tried hard to incorporate as many multi-sensory details as possible so the reader would feel they were right there at Gonzo's bowling with Zoey and her pals!
I think it's so important to show menstruation on-page in Middle Grade novels. What inspired you to include this part of Zoey's journey to adulthood?
Menstruation is such a big part of many middle schoolers' experience. My favorite part of writing about Zoey's first period was when she asked Isa if she looked like she was wearing a diaper, because I'd definitely feared that when I put on my first pad for my first period! I was convinced everyone could see and would know and it would be awful (though like Zoey, thankfully they couldn't and didn't and it wasn't.) I think it's important for kids to find those kinds of insecurities and concerns reflected in books and know it's okay, you're not the only one worrying about that particular thing, whatever it is.
How did you choose the names of the characters? Do you look up meanings and histories of names, or do names just come to you?
I worked with my editor on most of the characters' names in The Dream Weaver. In general, my approach to naming characters varies. Sometimes I simply love a particular name. Sometimes the character just pops into my head already named, like "Hi, I'm Kevin!" Sometimes I use baby naming websites to look up name meanings, and often I'll look through what names were popular in the year I imagine a character would have been born.
Zoey moves around a lot, and so has never really felt at home anywhere in particular. Where do you feel most at home?
With my family in Florida and a gigantic cup of coffee.
How was the drafting and editing process of The Dream Weaver?
It was fun--I really enjoyed getting to know these characters and developing them further with each draft.
What is next for Reina Luz Alegre?
I have a few middle grade ideas, but right now I'm working on a YA romcom and trying not to let myself get distracted by other ideas until I'm done!
THE DREAM WEAVER is available from Indiebound, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon. THE DREAM WEAVER can also be added to Goodreads here!
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