Author Spotlight: Anna Meriano talks Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble
I'm thrilled to be featuring Anna Meriano on the blog today! Anna's middle grade fantasy, Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble came out back in January and I just love the premise so much, I had to track her down for an interview! This fun and sweet debut has received starred reviews from both Kirkus and the School Library Journal, and has been described as perfect for fans of Wizards of Waverly Place and The Book of Life.
And now, here's my chat with Anna!
Hi, Anna! Welcome and congrats on the publication of Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble. Can you tell us a little about the story and what inspired it?
Hi Megan, thanks so much for having me! The book is about Leo Logroño, an 11-year-old girl who lives in a small town in Texas. By snooping around and spying on her older sisters, she discovers that her family bakery, Amor y Azúcar Panadería, was founded as a way to pass down the family’s baking magic. Determined to become a bruja without waiting for her fifteenth birthday and official initiation, Leo steals the family spell book and ends up making a magical mess when she tries to resolve a conflict between her two friends. With the help of her older sisters, Leo attempts to put everything right—before Mamá figures out what she’s up to.
The story was written with Cake Literary, so the inspiration comes from founders Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra. Cake’s mission is to create more diverse books that are full of fun and fantasy, and this story really centers around celebrating the traditions and culture passed down in a family.
I love how Leo’s story centers around her family. Which Logroño was your favorite to write, and who gave you the most trouble?
[I’m laughing because I didn’t purposely mirror the wording of this question at the end of my last answer but it makes a nice segue]
The Logroños are such a fun bunch to write, so I always have trouble with this type of question! I think Marisol is my favorite, just because she has such a big personality, and a totally different outlook on life and magic than most of her sisters. I also write a lot of YA in first person, so it’s refreshing and sometimes hilarious to write what the teen angst looks and sounds like to a younger narrator. My current troublesome family member to write is Tía Paloma, who has so much life and backstory beyond just being an absent-minded aunt, but most of that isn’t stuff that Leo would necessarily notice or know about. So I’m working on that for the sequel.
Children see the world through a different lens than adults do. What are your tips for writing an authentic middle grade POV?
I think this is really hard to do! I was lucky to take a middle grade lit course with Caron Levis when I was getting my MFA, right around the time I was writing Love Sugar Magic, so I had great role models like Louis Sachar, Rita Williams Garcia, and Adam Gidwitz to look up to. I also watched a lot of Steven Universe. I admire how all these authors and screenwriters don’t shy away from showing real-world problems and complex emotions, but they guide the reader through those emotions along with the characters.
One thing that helped me with writing Leo was to follow her train of thought into the future. What does she think is the worst possible consequence of her actions? What does she hope will happen if everything goes right? I’m pretty sure my favorite example of this made it into the book, when Leo worries that if her family refuses to teach her their traditions, she’ll grow up to have a boring job like writing the labels for canned vegetables! Her answers usually turned out very different from what mine would be, but they helped me understand and write how she ended up making the (sometimes very misguided) choices she makes.
Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble is the first in a series. What’s your advice for writers looking to expand an idea across multiple books?
Haha, right now I feel more in a position to be seeking advice rather than offering it, but I’m finding with book two (and as I imagine the possibility of a book three) that I have to open the world and the magic up to be bigger than I originally realized. I think it also helps to not listen *too much* to your readers, which is why I’m glad I drafted book two before book one came out! Otherwise there’s too much pressure!
What part of the writing process do you find most challenging and how do you tackle it?
I always find whichever part I’m currently on to be the hardest! Honestly, I think that’s because my biggest challenge is just sitting down to get the work done. There are always a million excuses and distractions, so I have to be strict with myself or else I would never finish anything. Depending on what’s going on with my day job and general life, this might mean that I need to give myself a specific daily wordcount, force myself to spend a certain amount of time in a coffee shop, or reward myself with snacks and Netflix only after I’ve had a productive writing session.
What has been your most rewarding experience as an author?
There have been so many that it’s definitely hard to choose. It’s amazing every time I see a reader having an emotional reaction to my book, but I think the most rewarding times are when someone says that the book gave them something they needed. I’ve heard several people say that they saw themselves and their families reflected in the Logroños, which makes me so happy, and I heard about a child reader who used the book to talk about their grief after the death of a relative, which is so bittersweet and reminds me that the book has the power to influence people so far outside of what I ever imagined.
Of course, the time my grandpa said that the book reminded him of Harry Potter was pretty rewarding as well. :)
What are you reading, or otherwise currently infatuated with?
Middle grade! I’ve been reading so much great middle grade lately that I can’t stop talking about. I’ve mentioned The First Rule of Punk, The Inquisitor’s Tale, and The Gauntlet in several places already, but I also just finished Stella Díaz Has Something to Say and loved it so much, and I’m starting The Unicorn Quest now. I’m also taking breaks from my middle grade cocoon to make my way through The Belles, which is the most beautiful book!
And finally, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in your publishing career?
I feel like we’re all broken records with this one but… find your people. This industry is a dark forest full of brambles and beasts, and it’s dangerous to go alone. If you have friends who are doing the work, it’s extra motivation for you to keep going, plus it helps when your non-writer friends and family members don’t understand your neuroses.
Many thanks go out to Anna for taking the time to tell us more about Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble, as well as sharing some truly valuable tips on how to approach crafting authentic middle grade POVs. Be sure to add Anna's magical debut to your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) order your copy RIGHT NOW from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, or request it at your library (or local independent bookstore!).
And, as always,