Adrianna Cuevas is the author of the Pura Belpre honor book The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez and Cuba in My Pocket. She is a first-generation Cuban-American originally from Miami, Florida. A former Spanish and ESOL teacher, Adrianna currently resides in Austin, Texas with her husband and son. She is represented by Stefanie Sanchez Von Borstel of Full Circle Literary.
What typically comes first for you: a character? An era? A story idea? How do you proceed from there?
I always begin my story brainstorming with a ‘what if’ question. The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez, the question was ‘What if you could talk to animals?’ and for Cuba in My Pocket, it was ‘What if you had to move to another country by yourself?’ From there, I think of what type of character would be the most interesting to place in that ‘what if’ situation and then what type of setting would make that hypothetical situation the most dramatic.
How do you conduct your research?
For Cuba in My Pocket, I interviewed several family members regarding their immigration to the US. I had a prepared set of questions and then contacted them to ask follow-up questions as I began writing. I also read several books by Cuban-American authors regarding their immigration experiences as well.
At what point do you feel comfortable beginning to draft? How does your research continue once you begin writing?
I completed a loose outline of Cuba in My Pocket before beginning research in earnest because I knew the broad details of my dad’s immigration story. After completing my outline, I could see what gaps in information existed and conducted the necessary research to fill in what I needed.
What’s your least favorite thing about research?
It’s too easy to waste time chasing information that really isn’t critical to your story. An author can also fall victim to spending a lot of time researching a particular topic, only to realize it won’t work in the story. Research, while critical to a story’s authenticity and accuracy, is time-consuming and can often keep an author from their favorite part of the process- actually writing the story.
What are some obstacles writing historical fiction brings?
Moment of honesty– I don’t like writing historical fiction. My mind deviates too often to the magical and ridiculous. Being constricted by true events stifles the story I really want to tell. The main reason I wrote Cuba in My Pocket was because I wanted to preserve my father’s immigration story, not because of some deep love for writing historical fiction. I have quickly returned to writing contemporary fantasy– my comfort zone.
Inspired by stories from her father’s childhood, Cuevas’ latest is a triumph of the heart…A compassionate, emotionally astute portrait of a young Cuban in exile.
― Kirkus, STARRED REVIEW
Cuevas’ intense and immersive account of a Cuban boy’s experience after the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion brings a specific point in history alive … Drawing from her father’s boyhood experiences, Cuevas does an outstanding job of eliciting the confusing array of emotions Cumba feels as he is thrown into life in a new country.
― Booklist, STARRED REVIEW
Cuevas packs this sophomore novel with palpable emotions and themes of friendship, love, longing, and trauma, attentively conveying tumultuous historical events from the lens of one young refugee.
― Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW