Welcome, Adrianna Cuevas! Adrianna answered our interview request with a witty, “Alright, you asked for it. So here’s my nonsense. ;)” She is the author of recent middle grade book THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ
(FSG/Macmillan, 2020) about a boy who can talk to animals and must solve a mystery to save his family and new hometown. Keep an eye open for her upcoming CUBA IN MY POCKET, due out fall 2021.
Where did you grow up, and how did that place (or those places) shape your work?
I grew up in Miami, Florida surrounded by Cuban culture, food, and language. I completely took this for granted until I moved to the midwest for college and everything was … shall we say ‘more mayonnaise-esque?’ This made me realize how important it was to show my true self in my writing–all the characters chomping on pastelitos, speaking Spanglish, and making Celia Cruz references. I thought about the kids growing up now who haven’t seen themselves as the hero of the story and how much that would’ve meant to me when I was young.
Did you always want to be an author, or did that come later?
My fourth grade teacher was a published author. She would have us draw pictures as she did read-alouds, encouraged me to perform poems in class, and helped me write my own stories. For a child with a completely overactive and distracting imagination, she was perfect. Not long after having her as a teacher, I started a family newspaper where I would write scathing reviews of the books I’d been assigned for summer reading. Basically, she’d created a monster.
If someone were to follow you around for 24 hours, what would they see?
In this age of pandemic-induced self-isolation, you would be riveted as you watched the dent in my couch cushions grow larger and larger under my weight. Most likely, you’d start a drinking game as you asked yourself, “Is she getting up for a snack … again?”
How does your everyday life feed your work?
My 12-year-old son and I can typically be found trying to outdo each other with sarcastic quips as we plot more elaborate ways to annoy my husband. I’m not sure I’d be writing middle grade without him. My characters certainly wouldn’t be farting as much as they do …
Tell us about some accomplishments that make you proud.
I’m proud of all my fellow authors who released books this year, particularly debut authors. This certainly wasn’t the environment we expected to send our stories out into the world, but the way the creative community rallied around us makes me very thankful for my profession.
I’m also proud my son remembered to put deodorant on this morning.
What surprises you about the creative life?
There’s no wrong way to live it! I used to think I had to approach my writing projects a certain way, I had to read the right craft books, and I had to write every day. Never mind that reading craft books severely tortures my miniscule attention span or that focusing on writing every day would cause my house to eventually be condemned; I’ve learned that doing whatever works for you is best! Even if that’s listening to the same k-pop playlist over and over as you scrub the millionth instance of your characters shrugging from your manuscript. I’ve also learned the importance of pursuing creative endeavors that have nothing to do with writing. Trying and failing at something new makes you braver in your writing. Never mind if that means I set the fire alarm off in my house on a weekly basis as I attempt ambitious baking recipes.
When a reader discovers your work, what do you hope they find?
I’d like them to find an escape filled with lots of laughter and adventure. I hope they see characters that look like them, speak like them, and live like them. For young readers, I want them to see that even when the world seems overwhelming, it’s still okay to be silly.
What would you like to retrieve from the universe, if you could reach through time and space?
All. The. Coffee.
Since you enjoy cooking lots of Cuban food, what’s one of your favorite Cuban recipes?
Would you rather swim with the salamanders or fly with the finches?
I’m tired, y’all. So I elect to lounge with the lizards… since ‘sleep with the sloths’ sounds decidedly non-middle grade.