January 2, 2013

Three Times A Charm with Janel Rodriguez Ferrer


Happy New Year Everybody! Welcome to the 2013 version of Three Times A Charm. I’m happy to say I’ve decided to continue my weekly feature – at least for now. I love meeting new authors, illustrators, bloggers, agents, editors or promoters from the children’s publishing industry and sharing their careers with you. As long as the guests keep coming, I’ll keep Charming. However, I’ll be out of town next week, but rest assured the feature will continue after that.
 
This week children’s author, Janel Rodriguez Ferrer, is visiting with us. Jane, tell us about yourself, please.

I am a Native New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent (AKA: a "Nuyorican") and the product of loving parents, a living, breathing city, and lots of cafe con leche.  

Like my main character, Gina Santiago, I was an art major at a High School of the Arts in Manhattan, but unlike Gina, I'm not much of a guitarist (but want to go back to taking lesson.).

For fun I like to read, listen to music, lounge on the couch, hang out with my twin, watch Doctor Who, and eat chocolate (I can do some of these at the same time, but not all of these at the same time).

I always wanted to go to an performing arts school. Heck, I still do!

Tell us about your book.

The Arts-Angels, Track 1: Drawn to You, is about Gina Santiago, a fourteen year-old "Nuyorican" with rock star dreams, who is accepted into the prestigious New York Academy of Arts and Talents but is completely bummed about it.

Why? Gina got in for art--not music, like she really wanted.  Plus, the school is on Manhattan's Upper East Side (in other words, filled with rich kids) and Gina doesn't think rice and beans mixes too well with caviar!

It's Gina's mother who's all excited.  She's an artist, too, and wants her daughter to follow in her footsteps, instead of those of her father, Michael, who also had rock star dreams but died before ever achieving them.  

But it's the footsteps of her guitar hero, Angel "Wings" Dominguez, that Gina really wants to walk in. And wearing a medal of St. Michael the Archangel in honor of both her father and her idol, Gina decides to chase after that dream--even if it means battling her mother, rival guitarists, mean teachers, and snobby frenemies do it.

Sounds great! Adding to my to-read list!

Now, for the Threes. Share with us your top 3’s to help us know you a little better.

Top 3 super heroes and why they are your favorites.

Okay, so I don't think people need to have superpowers in order to be a superhero (cough, cough, *Batman* cough, cough).  Of these three, one has superpowers (or mutant ability, anyway) and the other two live extraordinary lives of unlikely adventure and uncommon luck...

1) Shadowcat AKA Kitty Pryde of the New Mutants, Uncanny X-Men and Excalibur comic books.

When I was teenager in the 80s, I read a lot of Marvel comics.  These were the years of the Chris Claremont story lines and the great artwork by Alan Davis, Bill Sienkiewicz and John Byrne. And while of course, like most little girls, I loved Wonder Woman (because of the television show from the 70s) and Superman (probably because of the movies in the 80s) the first superhero I really glommed on to from the comic book world (besides Wolverine) was Kitty Pryde. 

She's still top favorite comic book character.  I think I first liked her because she was a teenager like I was at the time I began reading about her, and I identified with her.  She also had big hair like I did!  Haha! Although, most superhero women do, truth be told.

She was tiny, though, and I was tall, and she was Jewish, and I'm Catholic.  But I identified with her nevertheless and loved that she was a teen (the first one, really) who ended up joining the X-Men--the group of superheroes to beat all other groups!  But I also loved the storylines in the New Mutants and Excalibur titles, with Excalibur eventually becoming my favorite comic, because they read like good YA fantasy  fiction and had great artwork! 

2) Yu Shu Lien (especially played by Michelle Yeoh in the movie), in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. 

Okay, I've only seen the movie, and have not read the comic books other books associated with her.  But I loved her in the movie.  She had it all together.  She was a businesswoman, a spiritual advisor, had perfect manners, and most of all, was an incredible warrior.  She had skillz, yo.  Michelle Yeoh did a great job bringing her to life.

And now my current favorite:

 3) Sarah Jane Smith of Doctor Who and the Sarah Jane Adventures as played by the lovely Elisabeth Sladen. 

I LOVE Sarah Jane Smith.  I want to be her when I "grow up"!  Sarah Jane always manages to be sweet, ladylike, fearless and independent all at the same time.  She is a news reporter in the Lois Lane-vein, but her REAL work is guarding the planet Earth from alien invasions with the help of neighborhood teenagers, her adopted mutant teen son, her robot dog, and a supercomputer (that is powered by alien entity). She has other snazzy gadgets, too, like a great watch that double-duties as a scanner for alien life and a sonic lipstick that it part lock pick, part zappy-weapon-thingie.  All this, and she always manages to look adorable, dress in cute outfits, drive a cool car, and live in a great house! 

Her character started off as a companion of the Doctor on the classic episodes of Doctor Who, and was spun off into her own series decades later when Doctor Who was revamped into what fans have dubbed "New Who". 

I'm terribly sorry that the actress who played her passed away last year and so no new adventures can be filmed.  But this is understandable as Elisabeth Sladen glowed with an inner light, and as she is the one companion to have worked with the most incarnations of the Doctor and the only one to get her own show (2x, actually) she is completely irreplaceable as an actress.  RIP, Lis!

Top 3 hit songs from when you were in the age range of your target audience.

1) Our Lips Are Sealed by the Go-Go's

Beauty and the Beat was the first album I ever bought myself.  I think I was ten years old!  It was just so exciting to see an all-girl band, playing their own instruments and writing their own songs.  Our Lips are Sealed was their first hit (see the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3kQlzOi27 ) and although We Got the Beat was just as popular or more so, and I like a lot of their other songs as well, this first song captures best for me what it was like when they burst upon the scene.  I think their having five members in their band (and in Duran Duran as well) is one of the reasons I have five members in the Arts-Angels (the band in my book series)!

2) Take On Me- a-ha

Here we have another band (albeit a small one, with only 3 members).  They are from Norway.  They happen to have an incredibly cute lead singer (not unlike Craig in the Arts-Angels) and how classic and irresistible is this video?: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djV11Xbc914  There's art, adventure, romance and great storytelling.  Ahhhh.

3) The Queen and the Soldier -- Suzanne Vega

My big sister brought Suzanne Vega into the house and soon the whole family became fans. What a talent!  I didn't know until years later that she had graduated from the High School of Performing Arts and that she was Half-Puerto Rican.  She grew up in Manhattan and played guitar and wrote her own songs since she was young (shades of Gina Santiago, my main character). I haven't found a good video for this song, so I chose this one because it shows the lyrics of this beautiful, poetic, and ultimately *devastating*  song.  What teenage girl who heard this once didn't play it again and again afterwards?  Haunting.  And listen to that guitar work.  Gorgeous.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-I_7M_JeSoc

Top 3 snacks to munch on while working.

I have celiac disease, so I must avoid products that contain gluten (wheat, barley, or malt) ingredients.  But my favorite snacks are what they've always been:

1) Chocolate chip cookies!  Since I only eat gluten-free ones now, I am partial to Pamela's brand products. 

2) Coffee con leche (y azucar).  I've had coffee since I was probably something like five years old! Coffee is in my blood.

3) Tea. Either peppermint (good with cookies) or twig tea (which is made from..well...twigs... as opposed to leaves) and is also good with cookies.

Janel, where can our readers go to keep up with you and your writing? 

For more information about The Arts-Angels series of books, please visit:


My blog can be found here: http://janelrodriguezferrer.wordpress.com/



The book is available on Amazon (in paperback and Kindle form) and Barnes and Noble (it will be in Nook form soon) and other booksellers online.



Thanks for charming us on this week’s Three Times A Charm, Janel. After all these years of seeing you all over the place online, it has been a pleasure to learn more about you and your work. I hope you’ll come back when the next book is out. Best of luck with your writing!

THANKS!

GUESTS WANTED! I am always looking for guests for Three Times A Charm. If you are an author, illustrator or book reviewer, an agent or an editor. If you have something related to children’s publishing that you’d like people to know about, feel free to contact me about a future appearance.

7 comments:

  1. It's such a great book! Congrats, Janel!

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    1. Great to see you, Stephanie. Thanks for stopping in.

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  2. Thanks, Stephanie! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

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  3. Replies
    1. It really does, huh? I've put it on my to read list. Thanks for visiting, Rena.

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  4. Thank you, Rena (and your little cat, too!) And thank you, Kai, for the opportunity to be on your Three Times A Charm feature!

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