In celebration of Hispanic and Latine Heritage Month, we interviewed Scholastic author Angela Cervantes, as part of a series highlighting stories that illuminate the diversity and breadth of Hispanic and Latine experiences. Her middle grade novel The Cursed Moon, is a chilling ghost story about family, facing your fears, and standing up for what matters most.
What inspired you to write The Cursed Moon?
Several things inspired me to write The Cursed Moon. First, when I was a kid growing up in Topeka, Kansas, I lived for summer nights when I could stay up late and make up scary stories for my friends. Growing up in a Mexican American community, creepy stories about La Llorona were common. For those who are not familiar with La Llorona she is a legendary ghost. Her name means “The weeping woman” and, at night she searches for her murdered children, crying out their names. Trust me, you don’t want to bump into her. She’ll think you’re one of her kids and drag you into the river. Anyway, it seemed like everyone in my neighborhood had a La Llorona story. It’s no wonder I was inspired to write one of my own! Other than that, my inspiration to write The Cursed Moon was triggered by school visits and talking to a bunch of kids. At every school visit, kids would ask me to write a scary story. At first, I worried that I couldn’t do it. Then, I remembered all those summer nights when one of my ghostly tales made my friends whimper and call for a ride rather than walk home alone. I decided that I had to give it a try.
Storytelling is so important in the book, and it’s a really powerful way for Rafa to express himself. What did you want to convey about the power of words?
My main character Rafa Fuentes and I are alike in how we use writing and storytelling to deal with the world around us. Rafa’s scary stories are a coping mechanism. He’s facing a tough time, and he feels confused. Since he has no control over his mom or her actions that affect him, he escapes into his notebook and writes about ghouls, monsters, and ghosts. I think for many kids reading or writing can be an escape. For Rafa, the power of words also relates to how he’s viewed by other kids and adults around him. Because of his mom being incarcerated, he’s often treated unfairly. Through the power of his words, he re-defines himself. He’s not the kid with the mom in prison. He’s not going to end up in prison too. With pen and paper, he’s a storyteller and only he gets to write his life.
Are any of the scary stories in the book based on real stories or legends?
There’s a part in the book where Rafael is in a bookstore, and he opens a book and reads about a ghost called The Bridge Bride. It’s a classic urban legend. There’s a bunch of variations of The Bridge Bride, but it always ends badly for whoever is driving over the bridge and picks up the bride. Other than that, the story about The Furry Toe, the ghostly jaguar, and the girl by the pond are from my very own notebook of screams.
In the book, you explore all kinds of family relationships, especially the evolution of Rafa’s relationship with his mom. What do you want readers to know about challenging relationships and the possibility of hope and forgiveness?
This part of Rafa’s story is personal for me. My own family has faced similar issues. I wanted to tackle it because I didn’t see a lot of books dealing with incarcerated parents or children being raised on the street or under the care of grandparents. I wanted to give a voice to children in these situations. Yes, it is a scary story, but there is always hope. I think that’s why children love scary stories. Ghost stories can be an escape and fun, but I believe young readers choose scary stories for the hope. They grab it from the bookshelf knowing it will be frightening, but they open it and keep reading because they’re hopeful that the story’s main protagonist will triumph against whatever ghost haunts them.
What do you hope readers will take away from reading The Cursed Moon?
My hope with all my novels, including The Cursed Moon, is that readers will keep reading. I also hope that if they know of a classmate going through a tough time, they’ll choose to be compassionate towards them.
Is there anything we haven’t asked that you’d like to talk about?
Some of my scary stories didn’t make it into The Cursed Moon. If readers would like to read some bonus scary stories, they should check out my website at angelacervantes.com and look for the “notebook of screams.” Bwahahaha!