Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Author Interview: Jennifer Cervantes

Yesterday, I reviewed a fantastic MG novel called TORTILLA SUN by Jennifer Cervantes. I definitely think that Ms. Cervantes is a beautiful writer and I love how she incorporated so much magic into her story.

I am so grateful that Ms. Cervantes agreed to answer a few of my questions about her new book. I hope you'll enjoy getting to now this new author as much as I did.

Booking Mama: How did you come up with the idea for TORTILLA SUN?

Jennifer Cervantes: I start each manuscript with a seedling of an idea and then I let the writing take me from there. With TORTILLA SUN, I knew I wanted to write a middle grade story set in New Mexico that highlighted the magical elements of the culture and setting here. I think, too, that my childhood memories of spending time in New Mexico influenced this book. My grandmother made the absolute best homemade tortillas, and even homemade butter to slather on them. Yum!

Booking Mama: TORTILLA SUN is a beautiful story that's also filled with some elements of magic. What was the biggest challenge you faced while writing this story?

Jennifer Cervantes: Staying in a positive place where I didn’t judge my work in a harsh way. I think so many writers, or any artist for that matter, can view their work with way too critical of an eye. Aside from this, I had lots of challenges but one of the biggest was getting the magical elements just right. I wanted to create a story where readers could get completely lost in the possibility of magic in the everyday world of Nana’s village.

Booking Mama: I absolutely loved twelve-year-old Izzy, the main character and narrator of the story. Was it difficult to get inside the mind of a young girl and write in her voice?

Jennifer Cervantes: I’m glad because I love her too. It wasn’t hard at all.I still remember this age vividly and I’m still a kid at heart and hope I always will be. It helps too that I have three daughters. I pay very close attention to the way they talk and sometimes I interview their friends when they come over. I’ll ask them: “So, if such and such happened what would your exact words be?” Now, they ask me to refrain a bit more because their friends end of spending lots of time answering questions and not as much time hanging out with them. :)

Booking Mama: When did you realize that you wanted to be an author?
Jennifer Cervantes: This realization came to me much later in life. As a child I was an avid reader. I’d read anything I could get my hands on, but I could never have dreamed I would contribute my own voice to children’s literature. It wasn’t until I was much older that the muse came calling and now I can’t imagine NOT writing. I really don’t know how I went so many years without it.

Booking Mama: Why did you decide to write middle grade fiction as opposed to adult books or even young adult books?

Jennifer Cervantes: This is such an enchanting age when the world is filled with promise, hope, and possibility. I wanted to contribute in some way to this time in a child’s life.

Booking Mama: Besides writing books, you also are a mother to three daughters. How do you balance writing books and being a mom?

Jennifer Cervantes: I think like all mothers, I have to work hard to balance my professional life with my family life. I am fortunate to teach at the university which allows me a flexible schedule. I write at soccer practice, piano practice, etc. I carry a notebook and pen with me everywhere since I never know when inspiration will strike. :) Aside from making time to write, I really try to make time to take care of myself, too. If I am replenished then I have so much more to give.

Booking Mama: Are you currently working on another novel? If so, can you give us any hints?

Jennifer Cervantes: I just finished a new ms untitled as of this writing. It’s about a ten year old girl Named Nema Paz. She wonders where everyone gets their talents. They have to be something someone is born with, which means she should have found hers by now. This story is close to my heart for a couple of reasons. First, I think so many kids, and even adults, aren’t quite sure what their “talents” are and we spend too much time comparing ourselves to other people. Second, I wanted to write a story filled with humor and laced with the human elements I try to bring to all of my writing. And of course, I love the characters: Nema, Oscar, and Chit Chat Malone--a cowboy ghost. :)

Booking Mama: Who are some of your favorite authors who have inspired your writing?

Jennifer Cervantes: Wow! This is tough. I love so many authors, but those that first come to mind would include Pam Munoz Ryan, Shannon Hale, Sharon Creech, and Deborah Wiles. There are also some debut authors who are richly talented and whom I am lucky to know and to share this journey with.

A huge thanks to Ms. Cervantes for answering all of my questions!


bermudaonion said...

Nice interview! I always admire people who can write in the voice of a child and always suspected it was because they could remember being young better than I can.

Beth F said...

I agree that those middle reader years are a time when "the world is filled with promise, hope, and possibility." I too like the sound of the talent book! I remember that feeling.

Sandy Nawrot said...

There is just nothing better than a book that can take you back to that time where everything is innocent and magical. I love it that she found her literary muse later (most authors come out of the hatch writing!). Gives me inspiration!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much, Julie for a great interview. This was a lot of fun. And thanks to your readers for their wonderful comments.