Monday, May 3, 2010

Voices You Should Hear: Jennifer Cervantes

Some of my all-time favorite books are middle-grade novels that have a magical touch. Jennifer Cervantes has written just such a novel: lovely, intriguing, heart-warming, and tinged with just enough magic to feel right. Here, with more about her debut TORTILLA SUN, is Jennifer Cervantes.

Congratulations on the publication of your novel, TORTILLA SUN. Can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired it?

TORTILLA SUN is a touching story about Izzy Roybal who discovers a beat-up baseball marked with the words “because…magic.” She is determined to figure out what these words mean. What secrets does this ball have to tell? Her mom isn’t sharing any answers, especially when it comes to Izzy’s father who died before she was born. But when she spends the summer in her nana’s remote New Mexico village, Izzy discovers long buried secrets that come alive in an enchanted landscape of watermelon mountains, whispering winds, and tortilla suns.

My youngest daughter really inspired my writing when she asked me to write her a story. After I got hooked on writing, I knew I wanted to create a book where my daughters and other Hispanic children saw themselves reflected in the pages. Additionally, my love for New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment, is the perfect backdrop and served as further inspiration for this story.

The Land of Enchantment is indeed perfect! How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?

TORTILLA SUN is my first book.

Can you describe your path to the publication of TORTILLA SUN?

Long and sometimes quiet. I didn’t set out to write a novel, (I’d never written a word of fiction), but my youngest daughter, Juliana asked me to write her a story one day. I picked up a pen and was hooked! As I got to know the characters one idea lead to the next and I had to see what happened to them, so I wrote until I finished it. After, joining a critique group and editing over and over, I sent out queries to agents and was lucky to sign with Laurie McLean. It took over a year for TS to find a home with the right publisher, so the waiting was sometimes hard.

That's a fantastic story, especially given such a lovely debut. Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

I know this sounds simplistic, but read, read, read. Study the style, plotting, word choice, and literary elements used by authors you like and admire. And then join a supportive writing group who can share the journey with you. I think that kind of support is invaluable!

Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?

I am so grateful to be part of the children’s literature conversation and stay focused on that in whatever work I am pursuing, whether it be teaching children’s literature at the university, giving presentations at conferences, writing a new book, or just conversing with literary friends. I am ultimately inspired by sharing stories with children and touching their lives, even if in some small way.

Do you have any new writing ventures underway?

I am working on my third manuscript titled, BLESSING NEMA.

Do you have a website where readers can learn more about TORTILLA SUN?



Irene Latham said...

Love this book (and the author)! Can't wait for more magical stories. Thanks, Janet!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Irene...likewise!

And thanks,Janet for a fun interview :)

Anonymous said...


Janet Fox said...

Thanks Irene - and Jen!

jan godown annino said...


I'm delighted to meet Jen through your blog & Jen it's great to hear about Tortilla Sun. I enjoyed visiting your blog thru Janet's site link. It's lively, as I can tell you are. I totally laughed with the love expressed in the notes from your 3 daughters. A great family sharing.
Many more books to you!

Janet, I've got the book photo up now on the May 5 Q/A with you at
(Jan Godown Annino)
Many thanks for that sweet link about your debut blogging tour.