Welcome to Kicking Back with Kick-butt!
Today we’re chatting with Adrianna Cuevas, the author of
THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ
All Nestor Lopez wants is to live in one place for more than a few months and have dinner with his dad.
When he and his mother move to a Texas to live with his grandmother after his dad’s latest deployment, Nestor plans to lay low. He definitely doesn’t want anyone to find out his deepest secret: that he can talk to animals.
But when the animals in his new town start disappearing, Nestor’s grandmother becomes the prime suspect after she is spotted in the woods where they were last seen. As Nestor investigates the source of the disappearances, he learns that they are being seized by a tule vieja- a witch who can absorb an animal’s powers by biting it during a solar eclipse. And the next eclipse is just around the corner…
Now it’s up to Nestor’s extraordinary ability and his new friends to catch the tule vieja- and save a place he just might call home.
Let’s talk to this wonderful author about her fantastic book.
This is Adrianna. Everyone say, “Hi, Adrianna!”
Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Adrianna! Tell us about yourself!
Hola, mi gente! I’m Adrianna, a Cuban-American writer originally from Miami, Florida. I currently live in central Texas with my husband and son. I taught Spanish and ESOL for 16 years before becoming an author. I’m obsessed with attempting baking challenges, watching k-dramas, and plotting with my son new ways to annoy my husband.
Joining you with a newly acquired obsession for k-dramas over here!
What was the inspiration behind THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ?
Nestor is definitely a family story. It incorporates my son’s obsession with zoology, my husband’s military experiences, and my Cuban-American heritage… all wrapped up in our family love-language, sarcasm. I wanted to write a fast-paced, humorous story my son would enjoy and where a Cuban kiddo got to be the hero.
What were you doing when you found out there was an offer on your book?
My book sold in December of 2018. I don’t remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday so I don’t know that I can clearly convey what I was doing when I found out my book sold. I do remember that I proceeded to have an all-caps group text chat with my parents and my sister which included multilingual expletives. I wish I had screenshot it.
What were three interesting things you discovered while working on THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ?
First, I found out I absolutely love revision. In the early stages of Nestor, my agent wisely suggested a plot change that required me to rewrite two-thirds of the book. I’m so thankful that happened because it showed me that I could not only be ruthless with my stories, but I had the stamina to keep making them better.
I also learned a lot about my husband’s military experiences. Veterans can sometimes be reluctant to talk about their deployments, my husband included, so it was healing for both of us to have him be my expert while I wrote Nestor.
Finally, in researching this book, my son taught me more animal facts than my brain ever cared to know, the top being a type of frog that gives birth out of its mouth. That’s a huge nope from me.
Okay, that frog fact is MIND-BOGGLING.
If you could transport your characters across book dimensions, which book would you most like them to end up in and why?
I think that Nestor would be great friends with Pablo from Tanya Guerrero‘s excellent book, How to Make Friends with the Sea. Both Nestor and Pablo have had to move frequently, so they have that in common. They are coming to terms with changing family dynamics and I think Nestor’s silliness might help Pablo’s anxiety as well. And they would definitely have a blast sharing Cuban and Filipino food with each other.
Why were you drawn to writing middle grade?
During my teaching career, I taught kindergarten through 12th grade. Middle grade-aged students were my absolute favorite. They still embrace silliness but have a growing sense of justice as they figure out where they fit in the world. I also saw that middle school was when many students tended to grow away from reading as a pastime, so it was my desire to create stories that would continue to engage them.
Any hints about your next book project?
My next book is very different from Nestor since it’s historical fiction rather than contemporary fantasy. It is the story of my heart and I wrote it to honor my family history. It makes me cry every time I read it, a complete torture for someone like me who covers up emotions with snark!
Aw! Looking forward to reading it!
What has been the most surprising part of your publishing journey?
The best part of my publishing journey is easily the incredible people I’ve met. I always felt like an odd outsider with my overactive imagination, my drive to create, and my penchant for geeking out over stories. But then I happened upon the kidlit community and found a bunch of weirdos just like me. The opportunity to build up and cheer each other on has been amazing.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished reading The Stitchers by Lorien Lawrence and I absolutely loved it. I’m a huge horror fan and would love to see more creepy stories in middle grade. Lorien’s book was a perfect fit for me. I also read Any Day with You by Mae Respicio. Mae’s first book, The House That Lou Built, is one of my favorites and I loved this multi-generational, touching story. Next on my list to read is Keep it Together, Keiko Carter by Debbie Michiko Florence and Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland. Seriously, how much space do you have because screaming about books is my favorite thing to do behind eating too much Cuban food.
What’s your favourite piece of kick-butt advice?
Remember your audience! It’s easy to get caught up in stories and prose that your peers admire but keeping in mind that your real readers are middle grade-aged kiddos is important. Surrounding yourself with squirrely, snotty 12-year-olds will keep your voice authentic and ensure that your stories are engaging for their intended audience. Just keep some hand sanitizer ready. 😉
Truer words than ever!
Thank you so much for joining us, Adrianna!
Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out
THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ! It’s available now!
Click here to enter to win a copy of THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ!
Contest closes Wednesday, August 19th at 11:59 pm EST
Thanks for reading!