Adrianna Cuevas is a first-generation Cuban-American originally from Miami, Florida. A former Spanish, ESOL, and TOEFL teacher, Adrianna currently resides in Austin, Texas with her husband and son. When not working with TOEFL students, wrangling multiple pets including an axolotl, and practicing fencing with her son, she is writing her next middle grade novel.
Claire Swinarski: In THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ, a young boy has the ability to communicate with animals. Are you an animal lover?
Adrianna Cuevas: I’m compelled to shout “Hi, puppy!” to all dogs I meet, I point out every single cow and horse to my husband and son whenever we’re driving, and it’s my life goal to own a llama. So I guess you could say I’m an animal lover. But the animals in NESTOR were inspired by my son’s obsession with zoology and how he used to read to me out of an animal encyclopedia every night. He also loved to ask me hypothetical questions like what animal I would want to be or what I thought our cat would say if it could talk. There’s a lot of my son in Nestor.
CS: What inspired you to write about a boy dealing with his father’s deployment?
AC: My husband was deployed overseas during the first four years of our marriage. Not an ideal way to start a life together but we’ve been married for 19 years now. I drew from my experiences and feelings during that time to show Nestor’s relationship with his dad, both the positive and negative feelings that Nestor has regarding his dad’s job. I wanted to give a voice to kids who are proud of their parents but also dealing with the tough emotions that come with being separated and having to move a lot.
CS: Who is your favorite character in the book?
AC: Of the human variety, I think Talib is my favorite. He’s a caring friend to Nestor and doesn’t pass judgement as Nestor struggles to accept his new living situation. He also embraces silliness and isn’t afraid to admit his weaknesses. Of the animal variety, Nestor’s raven friend Cuervito is easily my favorite. Even though he’s always quick with a sarcastic comment, in the end he wants to help Nestor and make him feel at home. It was more than a little easy to write Talib’s silliness and Cuervito’s snark since my mental age never progressed past thirteen.
CS: What do you hope readers take away from THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ?
AC: I hope young readers find Nestor’s story as a way to escape, to laugh, and to spark their imagination. In accompanying Nestor on his adventure to defeat the tule vieja and accept New Haven as his home, I hope they see that it’s okay to be vulnerable and ask for help. Most of all, I hope they see that no matter how much the world tells them to grow up, it’s still okay to be silly.
Congrats on the release of your debut middle grade novel, Adrianna! You can visit Adrianna’s website to learn more and follow her on Twitter and Instagram, as well as order THE TOTAL ECLIPSE OF NESTOR LOPEZ on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Indiebound. And don’t forget to add it on Goodreads!