Tuesday, November 08, 2011

A Little Bit of.......Berta Platas

Ghost stories. Just the words make me shiver. Now that the skeletons and witches are packed away for another year, my sister and I have swapped the scary ghosts for side dish recipes as we prepare to gather our extended Cuban clan for Thanksgiving.  These days we have not just our kids, but their spouses and dates.  It’s fun to watch the newcomers slowly melt into our ways. Like Star Trek’s Borg, we’re invincible. Resistance is futile.

The stories told around the dining table are key to our takeover strategy (that, and my mom’s outstanding lechon asado, although we stick to turkey for Thanksgiving).  I smile as I hear ne of the old favorites repeated in a sweet southern drawl, assured that when my sister and I have grandchildren, the stories will go on. I remember hearing these family tales when I was little, stories of pirate treasure washed up on a Cuban beach, of a heroic ancestor who stopped a rape at a wedding in 18th century Galicia, and of the wolf that followed my grandfather through a forest when he walked to a neighboring village with only a box of matches to fend off the hungry beast. My kin have buckled some swash over the years.

Maybe the creativity that kept the oral tradition alive transferred to the written form. My father, his sisters and brothers, my sister, and my cousin are all authors. I’m the only one that writes for children.

I sort of fell into it when I had an idea for a YA fantasy that I didn’t have time to write, as I was under contract to write women’s fiction. I’d seen an ad for the local Renaissance Faire, and one of the young actors had realistic elf ears. I wondered, what if real elves, lived in plain sight at Renaissance Faires? The idea nagged at me,  and finally I asked one of my longtime critique partners, also a young adult lit fan, if she wanted to coauthor the story. She dug in, delighted, and we sold the idea. Five books later we’re nearing the end of our contract. Authors are asked all the time where we get our ideas, but when Michelle Roper and I show up at a book signing, people want to know how we write together. We have the real answer, or if we’re feeling mischievous, we say that we trade off on nouns and articles. Actually, we only said that once, and got such a blank look that we never teased anyone again.  That was an adult, though. Kids totally get it. They only want to know if we ever want to slug each other (yes) if we really see fairies (not yet, but fix me another martini…) and do fairy cats use a litter box (astonished silence is a good response here).

Will I keep writing for children when the next and last book of the Faire Folk series is out next June? Maybe. Michelle and I have other ideas we’d like to explore together, but we also have individual careers, and like most writers we know. we have long lists of projects just begging to be developed, or started, or finished.  On the other hand, the story of how my grandfather found the beach where he walked each day littered with old Spanish silver coins after a storm…I really think it would make a great kid’s book. And it needs a ghost. Definitely.


For more on Berta please visit: www.bertaplatas.com
Lucky Chica, St. Martins Press
Cinderella Lopez, St. Martins Press

As Gillian Summers:www.gilliansummers.com
The Quicksilver Faire, June 2011
The Goblin’s Curse, June 2012

Don't miss the beginning of the Faire Folk Saga!

Book One - Tree Shepherd's Daughter - National Reader's Choice Finalist
Book Two - Into the Wildewood
Book Three - The Dread Forest’s Secret
Book Four – Shadows of the Redwood


Laura said...

Loved your post, Berta! Thanksgiving Cuban-style is so fun:) Love our family - all of the new additions add spice and flavor to an already rich cocido! Looking forward to reading your story of a Platas finding silver treasure on a beach in Cuba....good stuff!

Berta said...

Thanks, Laura!

hotcha12 said...


Mila Ramos said...

Wepa Nena! I absolutely love what you said about newcomers to the family. Doesn't it just make you want to throw them a map as to how to navigate Latino families?

I had my husband when we were dating watch "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and "Home for Holidays". lol He said he was prepared for the craziest but still wasn't ready when it came! LOL

Berta Platas said...

I have GOT to see Home for the Holidays. How do I keep missing it on my NetFlix queue? MBFGW is a must-see for anyone marrying into our families! Crazy, but charming - that's us. Hope your husband settled in eventually. Mine still is a little shell-shocked.