Friday, December 16, 2016

An interview with author Margarita Engle

Today I'm delighted to welcome Margarita Engle to Middle Grade Minded. Margarita was kind enough to answer a few questions about her upcoming book, MORNING STAR HORSE -- an historical fantasy verse novel, forthcoming from HBE Publishing in January 2017. MORNING STAR HORSE will be available in a choice of English, Spanish, and bilingual formats.

"When Mamacita chose to call me Estrellita, / it was her way of imagining a little bit / of starlight, deep down in that cavern / where only rare streaks of day or night / could reach--now, Lucero and I will be / Morning Star and Little Star, / a lit-from-within racing team!"

A young girl stricken with rickets and her mother face the aftermath of the Spanish-American War, the challenges of a new century and innovative teachers. 
Dreams realized and dreams crushed exploring the freedoms only a magical horse can offer.
Award winning author Margarita Engle brings a tale of history mixed with a touch of fantasy.

Hi Margarita! Thanks for stopping by MG Minded. It seems to me both unusual and exciting to have a bilingual version of a story, in addition to the Spanish and English versions.  Were there any particular challenges in putting this together?

Yes, Morning Star Horse/El caballo Lucero is extremely unusual and exciting!  In fact, I’m not sure if it’s the first time this has been tried, with a simultaneous release of all three editions.  HBE Publishing is a new small press that offered me this choice of formats.  I didn’t have to beg!  They hired Alexis Romay, a brilliant translator, and also hired artists to do a beautiful cover and internal illustrations.  I’m thrilled with the result.  For the editor, I think the biggest challenge was fitting Spanish poems on facing pages in the bilingual edition.  For me, the greatest challenge was deciding when to stop writing the manuscript.  I went through so many drafts, and I was having so much fun, that I actually found myself thinking that I might write this book forever, and never do anything else.

What are the benefits of having a bilingual version?

They are essential for English language learners, Spanish immersion schools, and family literacy projects, where all the generations can read and discuss the same story.

I love that you’ve blended fantasy with historical fiction. Was this something that came naturally for you, or did you find it difficult to achieve a balance between the fantasy elements and the constraints of the historical events/setting?

I used to write magic realism for adults, inspired by the great “Boom” poets and novelists of Latin America.  Morning Star Horse is magic realism, not “world building” fantasy.  Everything occurs in ordinary places, with only one astonishing element.  In Spanish, magic realism is called lo real maravilloso (marvelous reality), a much more accurate term.

And just for fun...Without giving any spoilers, what did you love most about writing this story?

I was a horse-loving child, and a big fan of horse books.  This project fulfilled my lifelong dream of writing a horse story.  I decided to take it one step into lo real maravilloso, making it a story about a girl who needs a magical horse.

Thanks so much, Margarita! All the best with the launch of MORNING STAR HORSE.


Jeannine Atkins said...

I love that "marvelous reality." And look forward to reading Morning Star Horse!

Shari Green said...

Yes! Isn't that the most lovely way of explaining magic realism?!

Mou said...


cleemckenzie said...

We're a horse-loving family here, so this is a great book for us.