Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Interview With Author Jennifer Cervantes

Jennifer thanks for this interview for La Bloga. How would you present your middle grade novel Tortilla Sun to the audience? Tell us about it.
Tortilla Sun is a magical story filled with love, family, culture, friendship, life and death, and the need to belong. Izzy Roybal is sent to stay with her nana in a northern New Mexico village where she feels like a stranger in her own culture. Through story she discovers the truth about her father’s death and ultimately discovers who she is in the process.
How was the process from manuscript to publication for Tortilla Sun?

Long and sometimes quiet. I didn’t set out to write a novel, but after my daughter Juliana asked me to write her a story, I picked up the pen. This came at a time when I had the opportunity to spend a month in Santa Fe without the “outside” distractions that we all face, so I guess you can say the muse found me. As I wrote, I became addicted. More ideas sprouted and I needed a place to put them all. I began to think about the kinds of books I would love for my daughters to read, ones where they were reflected in the pages. Before I knew it, I started writing Tortilla Sun. I wrote the first draft in a few months, but boy, those revisions were tough. I joined a critique group and edited and revised over and over and over until I was confident enough to query agents. Once I signed with the amazing Laurie McLean, I realized that publishing really is a hurry-up and wait business and so I learned patience and accepted the waiting process. Through that challenging process, I decided I needed to rename “rejections” to “bow-outs.”  It just sounds better, doesn’t it? Laurie sold the manuscript in September of 2008 to Julie Romeis of Chronicle and I was so fortunate to work with such a talented editor. The entire team at Chronicle, from design and editing to publicity and marketing, has been a dream!

Tortilla Sun is a magical story but at the same time is very realistic. How did you manage both skills to write this amazing novel?
Thank you for such a lovely compliment. I write from a place deep inside that some might call instinct. When I’m writing, I’m not aware of both worlds—I see them as one. Our everyday world is filled with magic that we only need to take the time to notice.  While I wrote Tortilla Sun, I let the story unfold organically. This is the feeling I am always looking for when I create a story. If it feels forced, it just doesn’t’ work, not on the page, in my mind, or in my heart.

On the acknowledgments, you thanked Julie Bear for asking you to write her story. Can you tell us about the real Julie Bear?
My daughter, Juliana Sophia, is the original Julie Bear. I have always called her this and she too has a little brown stuffed bear that wears a proper black velvet hat and dress. Juliana liked her own nickname so much, she passed it on to this little bear. My daughter is eleven now and is light and joy. She is energetic and animated, and always gives me her opinion on my writing, even if I don’t ask for it.

Izzy, your protagonist, is a writer. How much of you can we find in Izzy?

Like Izzy, I can be unsure of myself and I can tread cautiously, but when I set my mind to something, I carry it through no matter what. But Izzy is all her own.

What do you like to do?

I love to spend time with my family talking and eating good food. I love to travel and learn about new people and places. I love to read and to write, and to spend time with other writers discussing our craft. 

Izzy is trying to figure out the missing words on the baseball, Because…magic. What do you think Izzy missing words will be in these prhases.
Because  running with the wind is fun

Tortillas are…
Tortillas are delicious no matter what shape they take

Mom can’t cook like Nana

Because stories need readers

What inspires you to write?
Like many writers, I write to understand the world around me. If I look outside of myself, I am inspired by people, places, the miracle and beauty of life. If I look inside, I am inspired by “What if” questions and the desire to bring stories to children, to elevate them in some way, if even for a small moment. 

What are you working on now?
I just finished a new ms titled Before You Leap (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

Thanks Jennifer, what are your final words for our readers at La Bloga?
Thank you for your interest in Tortilla Sun. I feel so grateful to share it with you. I hope you enjoy the magic between the pages. Please write me ( and tell me what you think of the book. I always write back!

Visit Jennifer Cervantes at

Jennifer Cervantes lives with her husband and three daughters in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where she enjoys sunsets, tortillas, and chiles fresh from the family farm. Tortilla Sun is her first novel for children, and she is currently working on her second. 

1 comment:

MissA said...

Thank you for the lovely interview!
I really enjoyed Tortilla Sun, baseball, magic, food, adventure with a little sadness, but ultimately hope. It was a wonderful read.

Before You Leap sounds good, a ghost cowboy! And I'm one of those people who has yet to discover my talent.