Middle Grade Author Interview with Adrianna Cuevas about her Debut Novel The Total Eclipse of Nestor, a 2021 Pura Belpré Honoree

Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,

We have an extra special treat today, we get to chat with an amazing debut middle writer about her story that has everything (and more!) that you could ask for in novel: humor, heart, friendship, and a little bit of fantasy! Please help me welcome, the amazing: Adrianna Cuevas, author of The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez, which just named as a 2021 Pura Belpré Honoree for Children’s Text this week!

Kaitlyn: Hi Adrianna, thanks for stopping by the math is everywhere blog to chat!

Adrianna: *slowly enters room, waiting to be scared by numbers* Hi Kaitlyn! I’m excited to be here!

Kaitlyn: Hahaha, math is everywhere, but we don’t always have to focus on it, I’ll try going easy on you 😉 First of all, I just adored your book launch last year, especially how it was a beautiful conversation. How did you plan your launch and please share anything you think might be helpful for authors launching on these digital-focused times.

Adrianna: I originally planned an in-person launch at my local indie bookstore in Austin, BookPeople. But that had to switch to an online event when the pandemic hit. My publicist and the head of events for the bookstore arranged everything for me. I contacted an author friend, Chantel Acevedo (Muse Squad), and asked if she’d like to do my launch with me. For authors planning a digital launch, I strongly suggest finding other authors to join you that you can be in conversation with since that tends to be more interesting than just solo launches.

Kaitlyn: I totally agree, it was so awesome being in on your conversation. Nestor is such a well-rounded character, can you share how he came about, what you did to make his character so full, and any advice about character-building you have?

Adrianna: Nestor is a combination of my personality as well as my son’s. He gets his sarcasm and cynicism from me, his obsession with animals from my son, and his silliness from both of us. 

For writers who are interested in expanding their character building, my recommendation would be to write a sample of their character’s day. Do they jump out of bed or hit the snooze as long as possible? When they swing their legs out of bed, what do they step on? Books? Candy wrappers? A hamster? Going through an exercise like this will help you to fully understand who your character is and make them multi-dimensional.

Kaitlyn: I love that Nestor is a mix of you and your son, and this is fantastic advice for all writers because you really get to know your character. Can you share what inspired this book?

Adrianna: This book came about because I wanted my son to see a Cuban-American character having an adventure and saving the day. I wanted the character’s latinx identity to be showcased and celebrated throughout the story rather than something that was a source of struggle or had to be ‘overcome.’

Kaitlyn: Oh, I love that! And Nestor is just the kind of character I love seeing save the day, the underdog who is hilarious and just looking to belong. Can you share who your agent is, how you connected with this agent, and why you love working with this agent?

Adrianna: My agent is Stefanie Von Borstel of Full Circle Literary. I pitched the manuscript for Nestor in-person to her at the 2017 Austin SCBWI conference… and the rest is history! I love that she is passionate about uplifting latinx authors and illustrators. She works tirelessly for me and makes my job as an author so much easier because she does all the icky extrovert things for me. 😉

Kaitlyn: That’s such an extra inspiring reason to attend conferences! Can you share who your editor is, how you connected, and what you love most about working with this editor?

Adrianna: My editor is Trisha de Guzman at FSG/Macmillan. My agent sent her my manuscript, and I’m so glad she connected with the story. She truly understood what I was trying to accomplish by weaving in magical cultural elements into a contemporary story.

Kaitlyn: That’s the best! Can you share some advice for up-and-coming writers?

Adrianna: My biggest advice is to find your people! I would not have survived launching my debut in the middle of a pandemic if I hadn’t had fellow writers to lean on. Find your people by joining writing groups, participating in conferences, being active on social media… it all makes a big difference!

Kaitlyn: Yes yes yes! Having your support group is sooo important in this wonderful (but difficult) industry. Can you share a bit about your next book and what you’re working on now?

Adrianna: My next book is a middle grade historical fiction, Cuba in My Pocket, which will publish September 21. I’m excited for this story because it tells my dad’s experiences emigrating from Cuba to the US in the 1960s. Currently, I’m working on another middle grade contemporary fantasy which currently doesn’t have a title… because I’m terrible at titles and only come up with them when forced to do so by my publisher. 

Kaitlyn: Haha, I’m SO glad to know that I’m not the only one who’s super bad with titles. My critique partners ALWAYS help me find the best title, without them, I’m not sure how I’d ever have a decent title. Finally, if you could spend a day with your favorite author or illustrator, would you sit by a fireside and chat or go out on an adventure together?

Adrianna: As an extreme introvert with Costco-sized anxiety, the thought of sitting with someone or going on an adventure with them is only slightly more appealing than visiting a blind-folded dentist for a root canal. So I think I will choose someone to awkwardly wave at and maybe occasionally text memes to. And currently the person who occupies that role in my life is Amparo Ortiz, the fabulous author of Blazewrath Games. 

Kaitlyn: I love your Costco-sized analogy and it’s so important to know ourselves, so I appreciate that you know yourself so well. Also, Amparo is awesome! We LOVED having her as our wonderful Fall Writing Frenzy prize donors this year and we adored having her. We may have to ask you next year 😉 Thanks so much again for joining us today, Adrianna!

Adrianna: Thank you so much for having me. I survived without being tackled by math! 

Kaitlyn: Hah! We aim to please here at the math is everywhere blog 😉

Book description and Links to Buy

2021 Pura Belpré Honoree for Children’s Text

NYPL Best Book of 2020

2020 Evanston Public Library Great Books for Kids

In this magical middle-grade debut novel from Adrianna Cuevas, The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez, a Cuban American boy must use his secret ability to communicate with animals to save the inhabitants of his town when they are threatened by a tule vieja, a witch that transforms into animals.

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 new town to live with his grandmother after his dad’s latest deployment, Nestor plans to lay low. He definitely doesn’t want anyone 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 might just call home.

Copies of THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ available here:
IndieBound      Amazon      Barnes & Noble
Signed copies available through BookPeople!

About the Author

Adrianna Cuevas is the author of The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez (FSG BYR, 2020). She is a first-generation Cuban-American originally from Miami, Florida. After teaching Spanish and ESOL for sixteen years, she decided to pursue her passion for storytelling. Adrianna currently resides outside of Austin, TX with her husband and son where they enjoy hiking, traveling, and cooking lots of Cuban food. 

https://adriannacuevas.com/

https://www.facebook.com/adrianna.c.henderson

https://twitter.com/acuevaswrites

Kaitlyn’s Review of The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez

This middle grade story has everything a kid could ask for: adventure, great friends, a heartfelt story and a kid who can TALK TO ANIMALS! Doesn’t every kid wish they could do that? Cuevas does an amazing job getting the reader into Nestor’s head with his thoughts as well as his letters to his dad who is abroad on military leave. The deep dive into belonging because Nestor is constantly moving and doesn’t often get to make real friends until this new town is underscored by the fact that the town they’ve settled in is his dad’s childhood home, where he gets to discover his belonging to his family. What’s more is that this story is also funny; I can’t count the number of times I laughed out loud while reading. Finally, the fantasy element of a witch doing bad things and Nestor being able to talk to animals is so well done that it almost feels natural, so even if a child isn’t usually into fantasy, they will still love it.

Giveaway 

Would you like to win a signed copy of The Total Eclipse of Nestor? (US only)

Here are all the ways to get into the giveaway (each one is an extra entry):

  1. Comment on this post
  2. Share in the comments below that you added The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist 
  3. Share in the comments that you ordered a copy of The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez or pre-ordered Cuba in My Pocket
  4. Share in the comments that you did a purchase request for The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez at your library
  5. Quote retweet my tweet about this blog post on Twitter and tag three friends.

Thank you all for joining us today and supporting wonderful authors. Also, watch out for a bonus blog post today because it’s Multicultural Children’s Book Day!

Sincerely,

Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez

25 thoughts on “Middle Grade Author Interview with Adrianna Cuevas about her Debut Novel The Total Eclipse of Nestor, a 2021 Pura Belpré Honoree

      1. I’m currently reading When You Trap a Tiger, the Newbery winner, and A Wish in the Dark is sitting here waiting it’s turn. All of the other big winners are on my library queue.

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  1. This book is already on my Goodreads list and also on my wishlist–I would love to read and review this exciting novel. Thank you for the interview–I can tell from the author’s answers that her writing is infused with humor. My library already has a copy on it’s shelves, but having a signed keeper copy is the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “As an extreme introvert with Costco-sized anxiety” –> I feel seen! LOL.

    As a kid, I would’ve loved to talk with animals. (As an adult, I spend a lot of time having one-sided conversations with my dog & cat. So maybe it’s not so much talking with animals as having them talk back.) My interest is definitely piqued in this magical middle grade. I’ve marked it as “want to read” on Goodreads.

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  3. OMG I just finished listening to the audiobook and it was wonderful! I’m so sad that it’s finished; I wanted to keep hanging out with Nestor and his friends. And can I just say I met Adrianna at an Austin writers’ event before her book was out and she was completely lovely and delightful. I detected no signs of Costco-sized anxiety! I highly recommend the audio version–the narrator was spot on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww I bet she’ll love to hear that! It can be so hard to deal with social anxiety, and so wonderful to know when it went well, thanks so much for sharing, and I hope we’ll get to see Nestor and his friends again because I feel the same, they’re so awesome!

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