Interview with juvenile fiction author Janel Rodriguez

Today, Reviews and Interviews is a tour stop for the book The Arts – Angels
Track 1: Drawn to You
by Janel Rodriguez

will be awarding Winner’s Choice of a $25 gift card to iTunes (music) or,
Capezio (dance), or Utrecht (art supplies) to a randomly drawn commenter during
the tour. If you’d like a chance to win, leave an e-mail address with your comment below. And to increase you chances of winning, visit other tour stops and leave additional comments.

Like her main
character, Gina Santiago, Janel is a Nuyorican who attended a Manhattan high
school of the arts as an art major.
Unlike Gina,
she isn’t very good at guitar and doesn’t have a rock band to call her own.
Truth be
told, she never dreamed of becoming a guitarist. Instead, from the time she was
a tween, she dreamed of becoming a published author of a book series. And since
you’re reading this, you can see that her dream has come true!
Her first
hint of an idea for The Arts-Angels
series began way back when she received a pendant of St. Michael the
Archangel for her sixteenth birthday.
She lives with
her twin sister, Jennifer (who got a pendant of St. Joan of Arc on that same
birthday, but hasn’t written any books about it) in New York City.
Welcome, Janel. Please tell us about
your current release.
When Gina Santiago, a thirteen-year-old
“Nuyorican” with rock star dreams, is accepted into the prestigious New York
Academy of Arts and Talents, she’s completely and totally bummed. 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 mix 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.
What inspired you to write this book?
I wrote the
very first draft of this book when I was nineteen years old. I grew up loving
to read (and as a tween became particularly obsessed with the Trixie Belden
series) and I knew even from very early on that I wanted to be a writer of books
for young people. I was always writing stories in blank books or in loose-leaf
binders. Sometimes I wrote magical adventures, other times school-based stories,
etc. I also kept trying to write a whole book, but usually didn’t make it past
the first chapter. I became a rather prolific first-chapter writer.
What had
been a constant goal, though, was to write the kind of book (and series) that I
would have loved to have read and collected when I was a tween. I believe that The
Arts-Angels would have fit in very well with the other titles in my personal
library of kids’ books back then, and that it does so even today: I keep an extra
copy of my book just to literally sit on my bookshelf next to the other
paperback series currently out for tweens that I have collected for myself!
Here is an excerpt from Chapter 4:
I stomped into the dance studio in my combat boots, every dance student’s head
turned. As I looked at the sea of barely clad, pastel-colored bodies, I felt
like a snowman at the beach.
dance instructor, a dark African-American woman wearing a powder-blue leotard,
placed her hands on her hips like a superhero as she watched the artists stream
in. “Okay, class,” she announced. “Don’t let our visitors distract you from the
work you have to do today…
 “We are honored to have you as our visitors,”
Madame Martin continued. “However, I ask you to please find a nice corner where
you can have a good view of the action and yet not be in the way of any of my
dancers. Thank you!”
found a corner between two mirrored walls near the piano, and settled in. Soon,
the pianist was playing, the teacher was counting off steps, the dancers were
dancing, and I was drawing. There was a comfort in the mutual respect between the
dancers and the artists as we each did our own thing.
a little while, the teacher asked a student to demonstrate a particular dance
sequence to the rest of the class.
Harket, please come forward.”
ballet dancer who had been nice to me the day before! I sat up straighter. She
turned out to be a pretty amazing dancer. As I continued to watch, I heard
something to my right.
turned to look in the direction of the sound.
boy was bent over, looking at me through his legs. He looked Indian—the kind
from India, not the Native American kind. His dark hair was almost touching the
floor as he pointed off to the side and mouthed out two words.
shook my head. “What?” I mouthed back.
whispered. “Draaaaw herrrrrrr. Draaaaw herr—”
meant Sage . . .
What exciting story are you working on
I’m editing
the second book in The Arts-Angels series, which I plan to have out by April
22nd (which is Earth Day, but is also a specifically important date in the series).
It is exciting because The
Arts-Angels put out their first single and begin to promote themselves by using
a clever marketing ploy. Willa’s back, of course, and she wants them to perform
at her 14th birthday party. Much to Gina’s horror, all the other Arts-Angels want to do it! And on top of that,
Uncouth Youth, their rival band, gets a lot of its own publicity because their
lead guitarist, Julius Dubois (the son of a famous rock guitarist and Gina’s
nemesis), gets his own reality show, so he has cameras following him all around
school. And the book ends with a bang: a battle of the bands!
When did you first consider yourself a
When I was
in the fourth grade! I had written a short story about an obnoxious balloon for
a school creative writing assignment and the teacher chose to read it aloud to
the class. My fellow classmates laughed in all the right places and basically
responded as though listening to her read a legitimately published work. After
that I just knew writing was
something I was going to continue doing because it was fun, it felt right, and
other people enjoyed my work.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s
your workday like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find
time to write?
I still have
a day job to pay the rent. Maybe one day I’ll be able to support myself as a writer.
In the meantime, I have an office job Monday through Friday, and my busy days
are filled with paperwork, computer work, phone work, and customer service. There
was a time in my life when I was a nanny and I miss those days, sometimes! I
usually don’t get the time to write until late in the evening, when everything
else in my life is taken care of—at least to a certain extent. I’m a night owl,
anyway, so this works out for me.
What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?
I don’t
know that I have any interesting writing quirks. I do know I have the bad habit of using ellipses points all time . .
As a child, what did you want to be
when you grew up?
A writer.
🙂 As I said above, it was something I knew I wanted to be since I was in the
fourth grade.
But I also remember one time when I was in the first grade and we had an assignment to
draw ourselves in our future profession—and I drew myself as a firefighter! I
remember I drew myself in profile, in uniform, putting out a fire with a hose. My
first grade teacher flipped out and kept showing it to other teachers and
adults who entered the classroom. I am an artist, and my ability to draw had
already been noticed in kindergarten. But that wasn’t the whole reason why she
kept showing it to people. It was because there were no female firefighters at
the time. I guess I was a little first-grade feminist—and didn’t even know it!
Anything additional you want to share
with the readers?
I invite
them to come visit my website. The
cover of Track 2 will be posted there soon. Also, if they like, my readers can
submit artwork to add to the “gallery” there. Finally, I will be posting some
interesting interviews with fellow authors on my blog later this month as well.
Thank you!
You’re welcome, Janel. Happy touring! Readers, don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance at the gift card giveaway.

13 thoughts on “Interview with juvenile fiction author Janel Rodriguez

  1. Gala says:

    I love journals but mostly do my writing on my computer. How about you, are you still using a paper notebook for notes or writing stories down?

    galaschick78 at gmail dot com

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi Gala,
    I'm like you. I love journals, too, but do most of my actual creative writing from keyboard to screen. I use journals for writing to-do lists, plot twist ideas, and for doodling (doodling helps me to think). I prefer unlined paper in my journals, too, as I tend to get sloppy, write slanted, and work from both ends of the book towards the middle of the journal– sometimes skipping pages altogether. I'm very free with my blank books! 🙂 Are you like that or more regimented?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hi Jibriel,

    I have too many favorite authors to list. I guess it depends on my mood and what type of fiction I want to read. Fantasy? Adventure? Mystery? Literary? Juvenile? Adult? And then there are times when I get hooked on reading one author's work for a streak, too. Do you ever do that?

  4. Anonymous says:

    And I don't want to forget to express my thanks to Lisa for asking me all those questions and giving me a guest spot on her blog.

    And of course, a special thank you to Goddess Fish for putting this all together.

  5. Lena says:

    I also chose my books according to my mood, so one month I might like sci-fi the other western romances 🙂

    lennascloud at gmail dot com

  6. Andra Lyn says:

    I like the cover! It's so cute and kind of like…the new Disney and Nikelodeon shows…I like it! Thanks for sharing!

    andralynn7 AT gmail DOT com

  7. Janel Rodriguez Ferrer says:

    Hi Andra Lyn!
    I loved your comment about the cover because that's the kind of vibe& audience I was shooting for when I designed it. My Brother-in-Law said something similar when I first showed it to him.
    So glad you liked it!

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