Award-winning author Angela Cervantes joins us today to discuss her middle grade novel Allie, First at Last; a story that deftly uses an appealing voice to explore universal tween issues like making and keeping friends, dealing with family, and finding your place in the world.
What is Allie, First at Last about and what inspired you to write it?
Allie, First At Last is a story that exists in what I call the “Gaby, Lost and Found universe”. In this story, I took Secret, a black and white kitten featured in Gaby, Lost and Found, and tell the story about ten-year old girl, Alyssa, who adopted him from the Furry Friends Animal Shelter. Alyssa’s story is that she comes from a super ambitious family. Her family has a giant trophy shelf in their house and every member of the family has a trophy on it EXCEPT her. Because Allie is only in fifth grade, she is still figuring out her place in the world and because of her family’s trophy-winning-ways, she thinks that she must make her mark by winning something no matter the cost. In her determination to win, she scares away her closest friends. Allie soon realizes that winning and being first at something is not going to be as easy as she’d like.
Were you like Allie growing up? How important was winning to you during elementary school?
I was like Allie in that my friendships were important to me and I was always upset if there was a disagreement. I had a solid group of BFFs growing up, but we had our typical friendship drama. Whenever one of us would stop talking to another friend, I was always very distraught. I’m still sensitive that way. So for me, writing the story line about Allie’s strained relationship with her ex-best friend, Sara, was easy. As for winning, I’m not a super competitive person, but I do like to give out prizes. When I have school visits I always like to do contests and give out prizes to the students.
What do you want readers to take away after reading Allie, First at Last?
I hope readers take away that the real rewards in life don’t fit on a trophy shelf. ☺
What inspired you to become a writer?
I was inspired to write at a very young age because I loved to read. I believe that when you are a book lover, it’s only natural that you’d start thinking about writing your own stories. So I studied writing all through high school and college so that I could be the best writer possible.
What is your favorite thing about writing?
My favorite thing is creating something new. I love that none of the characters in Gaby, Lost and Found and Allie, First At Last ever existed until I brought them to life. Now, we have Feather, Cinder, Gaby and Allie, Secret and Victor Garcia in the world. Their stories live in the minds of children that read them. That is my favorite part of the writing and creative process.
What is your writing process like?
I like to start early in the morning. First, I sit down with a cup coffee and stare out at the clouds. The clouds get my creative juices going. Then I sit down in front of my computer and write for as long as I can. I need long uninterrupted stretches of 4 to 6 hours to write. I don’t keep a cell phone near me and I like silence when I write. I don’t mind the birds or dogs outside, but I can’t write with music or people talking around me. It distracts me too much.