English & Spanish
Donna Barba Higuera
Cover by Raxenne Maniquiz
Latinx Heritage Month may be coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean that our reading lists should be any less packed with amazing Hispanic & Latinx creators. Today I have an awesome sci-fi read for ages 10 and up for you, The Last Cuentista! First of all, the cover. It’s so spooky and alluring, and just wait until you hear about the plot!
12 year old Petra Peña and her family are put on a ship to rebuild humanity on another planet (just low stakes survival of humanity stuff, nbd) and is put into stasis for the journey. Except Petra wakes up to find out that all memories have been purged during the journey by the Collective, and she’s the only one who remembers anything.
The Last Cuentista is a delightful mix of fantasy, interplanetary travel, humor, and a beautiful relationship with her Abuela. Collective human memory is intertwined with family memories, Petra longs for he stories and life that she’s used to. Telling stories is what connected Petra to her beloved grandmother, and it could be what saves her.
I’m thrilled to have been able to do a Q&A with Donna Barba Higuera, the author of brand new sci-fi release, The Last Cuentista!
TTA: Tell me how you got into writing Sci-Fi!
Donna Barba Higuera: I’ve always had a love of Sci-Fi. I was a huge reader but A Wrinkle in Time took my love of books to another level. From the time I was very young, holiday family gatherings were spent around the TV, not with football, but with a Twilight Zone marathon. So, Science Fiction feels like home to me.
The ideas for stories most often enter my mind like a movie. I see the people and scenes playing out in my mind. The strange and fantastical are the types of ideas that always seem to enter my mind. It’s not unusual for my mind to wander and take a normal everyday occurrence or an unanswered question and transform it in my mind to something in the realm of Science Fiction because that’s how I process things. That’s the place these stories come from.
TTA: What’s most exciting to you about the writing process?
DBH: This is easy. The most exciting part is the discovery phase. That part of the story where I get to make stuff up, and daydream something new that I’ve never read or seen before.
TTA: Are any of the characters based on those you know in real life?
DBH: I think most writers draw bits and pieces of their stories and characters from real life experience. We can’t help but do that. While parts of Petra’s journey are things I’ve experienced, the people are not. I will say Petra’s relationship and love she shares with her grandmother are very much like mine was with my own grandmother. My grandmother would tell stories around the tiny kitchen table while she prepared food or drank coffee. Those memories and stories are packed with the smells, music and love of her house. I drew from those memories and emotions to create Petra’s relationship with her grandmother.
TTA: If you could be any character in The Last Cuentista, which would you be?
DBH: If I could choose to be any character, I’d want to be Voxy. He’s a little boy who has only known life on a ship. How mind-blowing and fascinating would it be to suddenly be able to explore a planet? He’s never heard a story. How amazing would it be to and suddenly have a lifetime of folklore, mythology, and tales to hear? I can’t imagine the astonished happiness he must feel.
TTA: Anything exciting on the horizon that you can share with us?
DBH: I have a picture book, The Yellow Handkerchief (El Pañeulo Amarillo) coming in 2023 with Abrams Kids. And I hope to have more exciting news soon.
Donna grew up in central California surrounded by agricultural and oil fields. As a child, rather than dealing with the regular dust devils, she preferred spending recess squirreled away in the janitor’s closet with a good book. Her favorite hobbies were calling dial-a-story over and over again, and sneaking into a restricted cemetery to weave her own spooky tales using the crumbling headstones as inspiration.
Donna’s Young Adult and Middle Grade books feature characters drawn into creepy, situations, melding history, folklore, and or her own life experience into reinvented storylines. She still dreams in Spanglish.
Donna lives in Washington State with her family, three dogs and two frogs. Donna’s backyard is a haunted 19th century logging camp. (The haunted part may or may not be true—she makes stuff up.) She is a Critique-Group-Coordinator for SCBWI-Western Washington and teaches “The Hero’s Journey for Young Authors” to future writers.
Follow Donna on Twitter at @dbhiguera.
Donna Barba Higuera creció evadiendo los molestosos polvos en los campos de petrolio del centro de California. Ha pasado toda su vida mezclando fábulas con sus experiencias para crear historias que llenan su imaginación. Ahora los combina escribiendo libros para niños y jovenes. Finalmente, Donna cambió el polvo del centro de California por las nieblas del Noreste del Pacífico. Ella vive ahí con su esposo, cuatro hijos, tres perros, y dos ranas. Actualmente, ella esta trabajando en el debut de su libro para niños y su próximo libro para jovenes en la secundaria. dbhiguera.com.