Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Amazing Jennifer Cervantes

Author Jennifer Cervantes is a woman to envy: she has beauty, talent, kindness, and a house ghost named Gus. The trifecta plus a spirit from beyond? How much luckier could a woman get?! 

Well, even luckier - Jen’s first book, Tortilla Sun, will be release by Chronicle Books on May 5th. This is one book my daughter and I are both anxious to read, and I'm sure you  will be too once your read the intriguing summary.

Recently Jen stopped by to answer some questions about her road to publication. 

Welcome, Jen. Can you tell us how you met your agent? I found Laurie through, sent her a e-query and signed with her within a week.

Can you tell us how your book deal happened? After my lightning fast agent deal, I thought the publication process would be the same way. WRONG! I waited over a year to sell TS, but it was so worth the wait, because I got to work with editor-extraordinaire Julie Romeis. Once Julie had the ms, the deal went pretty quickly, although I think I remember biting my nails through the weeks of editorial meetings.

What was the inspiration for your 2010 debut book and how long did it take you to write?  My youngest daughter Jules asked me to write her a short story about her favorite bear (who still sleeps in her bed). So I started writing an adventurous tale. 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. The first draft went rather quickly, but oh those revisions were often painful. All in all, it took about eight months to be submission ready.

What's your publication date and where in the process are you now? May 5, 2010. Everything has been finalized and the ms is ready to go to print. So right now I am in the promotional part of it which is fun too :) 

Many readers have said they got hungry reading Tortilla Sun. Was that your intention and did you get hungry while writing about all that food?  It was not my intention to make readers hungry, although I did want them to feel present in the novel, as if they were tasting the earthy tortillas along with Izzy. I’m always hungry, so that might have contributed to those yummy scenes. But really, Mexican food is such a comfort food in my life and so central to the culture that I couldn’t imagine Tortilla Sun without it!

What are you working on now? I am working on a new middle-grade novel, BLESSING NEMA about a girl who believes she is talentless. It’s a story of true friendship, self-discovery, and learning what matters most.

Do you have any words of wisdom for writers trying to get published? Other than read widely? Definitely surround yourself with positive people who will lift your spirits and inspire you to new heights. I can’t say enough about the power of positive relationships and their effect on our lives and dreams.

Where can we find out more about you on the web?

Thanks for the interview, Jen. It was a pleasure to meet you at the SCBWI conference in LA, and it's a delight to share the same release week! Yay for May!

Tortilla Sun is a tender, magical story about 12 year old Izzy Roybal who is sent to spend the summer in her nana’s New Mexico village where she is soon caught up in the foreign world of her own culture, from patron saints and soulful food to the curious and magical blessings Nana gives her tortillas. In Nana’s village she meets Mateo, the adventurous, treasure seeking thirteen year old boy who lives on the other side of the bolted door in Izzy’s bedroom and six year old Maggie who is raising her cat, Frida, as a dog and sees marshmallow ghosts float out windows. When the wind begins to whisper to Izzy, she is soon led on an adventure to learn about her father’s mysterious death, who she really is, and to connect the hidden pieces of her past.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Kepler’s Forever!

One of the highlights of my book journey so far: finding that Kepler’s, one of my favorite indie bookstores in the world, posted my book on their blog! Pinch me!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

No Wonder I'm So Weird - Sid & Marty Krofft Made Me That Way

I watch cartoons these days with wonder and amazement. Shows like Flapjack and Chowder that captivate kids make me scratch my head. They’re random and weird and disturbing all at once. But who am I to judge? I grew up devouring anything produced by Sid & Marty Krofft. I remember these programs as being pretty normal but now when I show clips to my kids they think they are completely random and weird and disturbing.

Was anyone else a huge fan of big puppets and Billy Barty? Is this why my generation is a bit twisted?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Cougar Pride

This past weekend I went to the beach with a small group of friends from college, women I have known now for 25 years. That's a hard number to swallow, especially considering that in my mind I am still 33. The weekend could not have come at a worse time—Book 2 is due on the 15th and I still have loads of work to do on it. But I’d purchased the plane ticket long ago, and knew that breaking my commitment to this group would mean never hearing the end of it. These women can be brutal!

So I went. And instead of bringing my computer, I just printed out all the pages of the manuscript and put them in a binder. If I couldn’t write, at least I’d have time to read what I had so far. And you know what? I liked it! Writing this while working full time has been really hard, far harder than writing the first book, and as I’d slogged on writing all I thought about was how impossibly arcane it was all getting. But stepping back, I saw that it made sense. It was the oddest sensation to finish reading last night and think, wow, I might have pulled off a first draft after all! I guess I needed some distance from the project; I’d been so close up all I saw were the flaws in the brick instead of the building I was creating.

So it was a great weekend. And I'm not just talking about the Salty Dogs and Cajun tater tots. These are smart and beautiful women, but above all else they are funny. I laughed more and laughed harder than I had in months—at one point we literally laughed Molly into an asthma attack. It just doesn't get better than that.

However, my favorite part of the weekend was when we had to run to Safeway for reinforcement snacks. As we were walking in, about five twentysomething boys were walking out. While I peeled off to grab a cart, they looked my friends up and down and said, “There’s a fine pack of Cougars!”

Had I not been doubled over laughing, I would have told them it’s not a pack, it’s a pride. A pride of Cougars.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


I got some great news from my agent late last night – foreign rights have been sold to Poland! Well, not to the Republic of Poland, but to Polish publisher Vik Grazyna Piekutowska. Foreign Rights are so fun because you get to feel the excitement of selling your book over and over and over again! Then comes the delight of seeing a totally different cover. Most excellent!

Thank you, Poland, for being my first foreign rights offer. To be published in the country that brought the world Copernicus, Chopin, Skłodowska-Curie, and the pierogi is a great thrill. Na zdrowie!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Oh how I love Wednesdays...

Especially when I get a Waiting on Wednesday mention. Thanks Nicole, over at Who, What, When! I'm thrilled to be your WoW book.