- Tell us about the featured book. What is it about, and why did you choose to write this story?
In The Arctic Quest, the Martinez family is driving to Mexico to visit family for Christmas. Along the way, the kids are transported to the Arctic and turned into animals through special "virtual reality" sunglasses that allow them to fly, swim, and communicate with other animals. Through new challenges and friendships, they learn important lessons through their adventures. Upon arriving in Mexico, they experience a rich, warm Navidad celebration that they will never forget.
The Martinez family is modeled after my own cross-cultural family. This book is a tribute to the beauty of language, culture, food, and family. Spanish words are scattered throughout the story in context, offering an opportunity for readers to learn.
I want these stories to draw families together with intriguing stories that activate the imagination and inspire meaningful conversations. It is also a goal that my readers will grow in their appreciation for their own traditions and those of their neighbors.
- Tell us a little about your writing process. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
There are several different layers to my research process. In the case of this book, I researched the location and different animals, wanting to be as accurate as possible, even with the fantasy aspect. I weave facts into the story in a way that readers don't even realize they are learning.
The story is based on my family's experiences in Mexico. My husband and mother-in-law were both extremely helpful as I worked to make sure that I was describing the foods and traditions accurately. While I did not grow up celebrating Mexican traditions, over the years they have begun to feel like they are mine as well. I feel honored to have been embraced by my Mexican family in such a beautiful way and am so happy that my children are now falling in love with these special foods and customs.
- Are there any writers or authors who have influenced your writing? If not, who are some of your favorite writers?
I love the characters and whimsy of Gordon Korman, the cultural aspects of Monica Brown, the fantasy and storytelling of C.S. Lewis, and the life lessons of Stan and Jan Berenstain. All of these authors have left their mark on the Martinez Kids Adventures.
- What inspired you to start writing? What is your favorite place to go for inspiration and/or your favorite place to write?
Writing and illustrating books was my childhood dream, and it is thrilling to now be able to call myself an author/illustrator. With my own children reading more advanced books, I was really inspired to write stories that would entertain and speak to them. Not only are the characters based on my family members, but my kids are my ideal readers.
In addition, as a teacher of multilingual learners at an elementary school, it is my goal to provide my students with more models of characters who are bilingual, just as they are. I have enjoyed reading the books with my students.
I do a lot of my writing at home on the couch after my kids are in bed. When I have a night to escape, I have decided that a local restaurant or coffee shop is often where I can find the most focus.
- When you’re not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I spend most of my time with my family when I am not working. We often go for walks around the neighborhood and explore local parks in the summer. I got a kayak last summer and hope to become proficient enough to call it my hobby by next summer. We love to spend time with relatives and friends and have been doing more traveling as the kids get older.
- Favorite place to visit in Minnesota?
There are so many beautiful parks to enjoy in Minnesota. My family often goes for walks at Springbrook Nature Center, Silverwood Park, and the Coon Rapids Dam.
- Where can readers find you online?