Author Spotlight: Claribel A. Ortega talks GHOST SQUAD
I'm so excited to welcome Claribel A. Ortega on today's blog! Claribel is a former reporter who writes Young Adult and Middle Grade fantasy inspired by her Dominican heritage. When she’s not busy turning her obsession with eighties pop culture, magic and video games into books, she’s filming videos for her YouTube channel or making GIFS for her small graphic design business, GIFGRRL.
Claribel’s debut middle grade novel GHOST SQUAD is out now from Scholastic! Check out the synopsis and full interview below.
Coco meets Stranger Things with a hint of Ghostbusters in this action-packed supernatural fantasy.
For Lucely Luna, ghosts are more than just the family business.
Shortly before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout St. Augustine. Together, they must join forces with Syd's witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse to save the town and Lucely's firefly spirits before it's too late.
"Dark humor, mystical vibes, and pop-culture references abound in this action-packed ghost hunt featuring... enchanted books, cryptic catacombs, and a coven of cats who are more than they appear. Shoutouts to Harry Potter, Ghostbusters, Hocus Pocus, The Goonies, and the like crop up continually as debut author Ortega expertly weaves a feel-good, phantasmagorical adventure that readers won't want to miss." -- Booklist
Hi, Claribel! Welcome and congrats on Ghost Squad. Can you tell us a little about the story and what inspired you to write it?
Thanks so much and thanks for having me! Ghost Squad is the story of 12 year old Lucely Luna who lives with the ghosts of her lost loved ones who live on as fireflies/ghosts in an enormous willow tree in her backyard. Lucely and her bff Syd accidentally awaken malicious spirits one night and in order to defeat them have to team up with Syd’s witchy grandma Babette and her fat cat Chunk to send them back to the underworld before the full moon on Halloween night! Ghost Squad was inspired by Dominican folklore, and my own love of spooky adventures.
What do you love most about Lucely and Syd’s friendship?
The way Syd and Lucely trust one another, even when they worry about their plans, and the way they lean on one another to get through difficult times. Also their banter! It was so much fun to write.
I'm a firm believer in the idea that every story teaches the writer something new, so what did writing Ghost Squad teach you?
Ghost Squad definitely taught me patience with myself and my own craft. Also, make a timeline! Haha. There were many times I mixed myself up with the dates and series of events but thankfully my editor was there to help me sort it all out. Now I keep a timeline to make sure things flow and make sense!
Children see the world through a much different lens than adults do. Did you ever find it difficult to keep your POV authentically middle grade? How did you tackle this?
I think kids would need to speak to this more so than me because I can only hope I’ve done a good job and honored their POV but I do my best to immerse myself in media meant for this age group, talk to kids who read MG and try hard to remember my sense of what it was like for me in the world at that age. Sometimes that doesn’t help since times and challenges shift and change, but there are some fundamental struggles for middle school aged kids that I like to pull from, like not being listened to or taken seriously! I remember that one being a huge annoyance for me haha.
And finally, what’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned so far in your publishing career?
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is things rarely unfold the way you expect or want them to, but that doesn’t mean they’re not unfolding in a way that is good for you and your career. Being flexible and being able to readjust your expectations and approach have been what keeps me afloat.
Many thanks go out to Claribel for taking the time to tell us more about the inspiration behind GHOST SQUAD, as well as for sharing some of the lessons she's learned so far in her publishing journey. Be to sure to add Claribel's spooky, heartfelt middle grade to your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) order your copy (WRITE) NOW from retail sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or request it at your library, or local independent bookstore!
And, as always,