Featured KidLit LA MALA SUERTE IS FOLLOWING ME

KidLit TV is honored to share this exclusive interview!
• Creating LA MALA SUERTE IS FOLLOWING ME •
Author Ana Siqueira interviews illustrator Carlos Vélez Aquilera

ANA: Carlos, I am so happy to talk to you. I love your illustrations. I feel so lucky. Why did you accept illustrating La Mala Suerte?

CARLOS: Thank you very much, Ana, I love having this conversation with you. As soon as I read the synopsis of the book, I immediately connected and imagined my childhood. I knew it was going to be a very fun project and I immediately accepted.

ANA: I’m so lucky you accepted. Your illustrations are so funny. Tell me about your illustration process for La Mala Suerte?

CARLOS: Thank you very much, I love to draw, so my process is to draw a lot! As soon as I have the manuscript, I read it, and while I read, I draw. I make small sketches called thumbnails and that way I can imagine the entire book. I look for some things that inspire me and references and then I make more finished sketches. The publisher reviews the sketches, giving me great feedback. I adjust, then I look for a color palette that I think is the best for the story and I make the final illustrations. In this book, I focused a lot on the child’s expressions because I wanted him to be very expressive in his reactions, I was inspired by my nephew Mateo.ANA: Wow! Your nephew must be a funny child. I love all the facial expressions. I also love the shadow that follows the boy representing La Mala Suerte. How did you have that idea?

CARLOS: I imagined that Miguel felt that bad luck was something you couldn’t get rid of and that followed you everywhere, so I thought of a shadow that no matter how much we run, is always following us, hidden in the shadows. In any case, I wanted to give a friendly touch to bad luck as a mischievous shadow because it’s not a horror book, and I didn’t want it to be a scary character. 

ANA: Hahaha. Yes, it’s not a horror book. The shadow adds so much. What a clever idea! When I was a girl, I believed that thirteen was an unlucky number and it was my birthday (July 13th). Today the number 13 is my favorite number, just like Taylor Swift’s. Did you have a superstition when little? Do you have one now?

CARLOS: As a child I had many superstitions, I believed that going under a ladder was very bad luck. My grandmother told me many stories about superstitions. She also had many plants with red bows that she said were for good luck, so I tied many things with red bows as a child. My grandmother also told me that bad luck would go away with saliva, and I believed everything my grandmother told me. I also believed that passing salt on the table was bad luck. And even cats were bad luck too.

ANA: I believe that we can make our own suerte (luck) by having a positive attitude, getting prepared, trying hard, and not quitting. Of course, some things are out of our control. But as the philosopher Seneca said: “Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity.”  Do you believe you can make your own suerte? How?

CARLOS: Life is unpredictable, it is uncertain, and it is difficult to control everything that the future holds for us. We do not know if we will encounter good fortune or not. The past is also something that we do not control. The luck we had to be born in this or that place, or situations that happened to us that did not depend on us and that determined us for better or worse. But it depends on us what attitude we take in the face of difficulties or what we do with the time that is given to us and with our thoughts. Deep down it is a deep topic because the topic is freedom. I believe we are free. I have a book called Salón Destino where the story is told only with images and it is about dance; in that book, I share what I think about love, art, and in a certain way, freedom and destiny.

ANA: I love seeing Latine children represented in my books. How do you incorporate your culture into your books? How did you incorporate your culture in La Mala Suerte is Following Me? 

CARLOS: Well, it is part of observing context, of drawing real girls and boys and everything that is around me. It is something almost natural. The houses here in Mexico have many objects and the landscapes are very particular. I also illustrate from my childhood and things that I like. In this book I observed my nephew and his friends because they love soccer, and I also observed objects that were in my mother’s house, incorporating, for example, the plants with bows that they have in Mexico to bring good luck.

ANA: I love the bows. And I love all the spreads. Your art is so expressive and funny. Do you prefer illustrating serious books or funny ones?

CARLOS: I like to illustrate books with funny characters. Humor is something important in life, but I also love making books that are poetic or fantastic. I greatly respect the work of writers so really if the story or idea is good, I will be happy to create the images.

ANA: It’s hard for me to choose my favorite spread. I love the page where he fails the exam. His expression is so desperate. I love when he is looking for a clover and La Mala Suerte is ready to attack. So funny. I love when he practices with Abuelo because you illustrate a clothesline, so typical in our countries. I love it when he kicks La Mala Suerte away. And so many others. Which one is your favorite?
CARLOS: I really enjoyed the scenes where Miguel played soccer and was on the field. But my favorite is also the one of Miguel playing with his grandfather because I based it on my nephew and my father. My sister works and my parents were in charge of taking care of Mateo, so I think that image of the grandparents taking care of the grandchildren is very nice. My father recently passed away so that image has enormous sentimental value for me.

ANA: Awww, how beautiful. I try to include abuelos and abuelas in most of my stories now that I am also an abuela. Give some tips to new illustrators on how they can make their own luck in this tough publishing market. 

CARLOS: Well, they must illustrate a lot, draw, paint, just like Miguel. Practice, and practice and observe a lot, train their eyes and imagination. No matter the topic, no matter how well it turns out at first, always try to communicate through images without questioning too much or worrying about whether it is right or wrong. You learn to illustrate by illustrating; it is through actions, so just start drawing.

ABOUT the BOOK

In this fun picture book romp about superstitions, can Miguel learn to make his own luck—and be rid of La Mala Suerte—before it’s too late?

Miguel’s abuelita warned him that opening an umbrella in the house will bring La Mala Suerte (Mrs. Bad Luck) who will follow him wherever he goes, and now Miguel’s life is ruined! He trips, fails an exam, and he can’t block a shot to save his life at soccer practice. Nothing he tries works to get rid of Mrs. Bad Luck—looking for a four-leaf clover, his aunt’s “existential” oils… Now what? Using integrated Spanish words and playful language, La Mala Suerte Is Following Me takes a silly and heartfelt look at superstitions.

ABOUT Ana Siqueira

Ana Siqueira is a Spanish-language elementary teacher, and an award-winning Brazilian children’s author also published in the Foreign Language educational market – EL PATO QUIERE UVAS. Her picture books include BELLA’S RECIPE FOR DISASTER/SUCCESS (Beaming Books, 2021) and IF YOUR BABYSITTER IS A BRUJA/CUANDO TU NIÑERA ES UNA BRUJA (SimonKids, 2022), ABUELA’S SUPER CAPA/ LA SUPER CAPA DE ABUELA (HarperCollins, 2023), ROOM IN MAMI’S CORAZÓN (Harpercollins, 2024) and a few more books to be announced. Besides writing, Ana loves to read, teach, and play with her Cuban-Brazilian-American grandchildren.

A Sneak Peek at Ana’s future projects:
In 2025 I have three picture books coming out!
If Your Abuelo is an Astronauta – Simon&Schuster
Vera, La Valiente, is Scared – Beaming Books
Sticky Hermanas – Charlesbridge
In 2026 I have one picture book coming out!
Mami’s Heart , illustrated by Nomar Perez – HarperCollins
And I have three other books not announced. It’s a chapter book series!
My goals are to write a middle-grade novel and to sell my graphic novel plus other picture books since picture books are my passion!

ABOUT Carlos Vélez Aquilera

Carlos Vélez Aguilera is a professional illustrator based in Mexico City, Mexico. He graduated from the National School of Plastic Arts and has illustrated more than twenty children’s books including his graphic novel Salón Destino.

A Sneak Peek at some of Carlos’ future projects:
Soon I will release a series of books that have me very excited written by Felicia Cocotzin that talk about Mexican food and family. The trilogy will be called: “Nana Lupita and the Magic Sopita” from the Gibbs Smith publishing house. I am also illustrating an incredibly fun book called Ripening Time by Patrice Gopo which I am very excited about. My long-term goal is to write and illustrate some of my own stories and I would also like to paint a lot — large paintings for the pleasure of expressing all that is in me through drawing and painting.

Connect with Ana Siqueira
Instagram | Facebook | Website
Connect with Carlos Vélez Aquilera
Website

 

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