Monday’s here again, which means we have a new interview up! It also means we’re one week closer to PitchAmérica. By this time, you guys could be finishing your drafts or starting to polish them up. Don’t forget how important revisions are, as well as Critique Partners.
In this week, I’m interviewing Nina Moreno, who has been one of the first Latinas I followed on twitter and who’s absolutely amazing. You can follow her on twitter and check out her website for updates. I can’t wait until her book comes out!
1) What is your favorite part about being a writer?
Climbing into a world of my own making and finding something I wasn’t expecting. Every song, conversation, or shared glance might be a thread to a new character or story idea. That’s some serious magic.
2) How has your cultural background influenced your writing? Do you write many Latinx characters?
I come from storytellers. My dad and his family left Cuba when he was eleven, and all they were able to keep of Cuba were stories. My siblings, cousins, and I, as next-generation Cuban-Americans, were sustained by those memories. The joys and tragedies were told at the same table, and it’s how we connected as a family and as descendants of a place we never thought we’d be able to see.
My mother’s family are from Colombia, and my Abuela had books everywhere. There were always stories at their table too. When you leave home and an ocean or too many miles and mountains separate you from everything you knew, the stories you bring and share in your new home are as vital as the bread you’re breaking together.
As far as Latinas, I’ve always written them. I looked for them in books, and when I couldn’t find them in the ones I was reading, or got tired of painting them into someone else’s story, I started writing them into whatever worlds they wanted to go.
3) As someone who comes from a diverse background, did you have any experience in publishing that put that in a negative light?
The conversations can be incredibly frustrating sometimes. Realizing how difficult it still is for others to see that your characters’ (or your own) identity are as essential and nuanced as their own. Our cultures are fundamental to our American lives. When it comes to writing these characters it’s about so much more than simply painting them darker or giving them a grandmother who can’t speak English. These characters are not props or tokens. They are not trends. They are not here to only exist in certain stories or to be shoved to the sidelines in others. They get to be weird, romantic, and heroic, too.
Better yet, they get to be the lead.
4) How important do you think diversity is in publishing, especially regarding Latinx representation?
It’s incredibly important for everyone. The Latinx kids picking up that book with hope in their hearts, but also their friends. That book might give them a character they’ll get to keep forever. A reassuring line or relatable story they can hold onto when they feel out of place or all wrong. And their friends will continue to see how incredibly diverse life is on and off the page and it won’t be the end of their world. And they can go home and remind their parents.
5) As a young writer, what books influenced you? Did any come from your own background?
I think I cried the first time I read Sandra Cisneros. Walls fell down around me. I realized I could exist in this world of words as a smart, awkward, bilingual, brown girl. I was an English major in college, and it was so hard to connect to the literature sometimes. I wanted to be so literary cool with my smart glasses and piles of dusty books, but I struggled with the assigned readings.
And then I took an American Lit class focused on different cultures and the immigrant experience, and it was Piri Thomas, Junot Díaz, Nalo Hopkinson, Cristina Garcia and I was drunk on words. On stories and language. There were all these books that intimately knew the rhythm of home and what it meant to exist in-between worlds, languages and cultures. That class changed me as a reader, which fundamentally opened my world as a writer.
6) Where do you get inspiration for your books?
They’re the stories I wanted to read once upon a time. Cool Latinas doing stuff all the other girls get to do in contemporary YA. All those moments, struggles, terrible, awesome crushes while also balancing school, dreams, and the divine pressure of being seventeen and Latina. We are made of so many stories, and wanting to be a part of telling them inspires me.
7) Any good advice for Latinx and POC writers out there?
Raise each other up. Relish the richness of your cultures. Don’t apologize for your grandmother’s accent, because it was hard won. Never forget the lullabies, the rhythms, but if you do, go find them again. We come from the toughest of storytellers and survivors, and now we get to share their story as we write our own.
And always remember the words of the great Usnavi: “No pare. Sigue, sigue.”
Hogwarts house? Hufflepuff.
Favorite food? Croquetas.
Favorite movie? Jupiter Ascending (fight me)
Favorite TV series? The Office.
Favorite soap opera? I finally started Rebelde and can’t stop.
Favorite place in the world? The beach.
Favorite superhero? Commander Shepard. (N7 for life)
Thanks so much for the interview, Nina! I LOVED your answers and your advice, and I hope others do, too.
Nina Moreno is a YA writer whose writing is somewhere between Southern fiction and a telenovela. She graduated from the University of Florida and is a proud Gator. She’s a big fan of sweet coffee, curated playlists, thrift stores, videos games, and listing her favorite snacks. She’s also a bit of a sea witch, but hasn’t stolen any voices yet. She lives near a swamp in Florida with her high school sweetheart turned husband, and their two kids. She is represented by Laura Crockett of TriadaUs.