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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Karol Hernández

Karol Hernández is an award-winning marketing leader, a faculty fellow at Lipscomb University, a public speaker, a backyard astronomer, and an amateur photographer.

Author photo of Karol Hernández.

Karol was born in Colombia and immigrated to South Florida in 1998 with her family. She is passionate about her Colombian heritage and embraces the cultural mosaic of her life in the the United States. Karol resides in West Palm Beach with her husband, three kids, and two dogs.


Karol’s debut picture book, I Am La Chiva: The Colorful Bus of the Andes, releases July 9th.


Welcome Karol, thank you so much for stopping by to talk about your debut book and writing.  

 

Thank you for inviting me.


Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write? How long have you been writing? What is your favorite type of book to write?)


I wrote my first poem at the age of seven, it was about love, and as I recall the lines, it was influenced by telenovelas. I have written as a creative and emotional outlet ever since. As a marketer, I spend significant time channeling people and turning ideas into copy for ads, blogs, emails, etc., so I spend most of my days writing.

 

As far as writing for children goes, I Am La Chiva! is my first manuscript and book, so La Chiva, as I call it affectionately, has been my favorite type of book to write!

 

Congrats on your gorgeous and fun debut! What is one of the most fun or unusual places where you’ve written a manuscript?


While working on I Am La Chiva! most of my writing was done in my home office. One day, I was trying to crack a rhyme and ideas were not flowing. I lay on the floor with my feet up against the wall and what do you know? The world became clearer, and what took days to figure out started flowing in minutes. I guess I needed a new perspective.

 

I was once struck by inspiration at a Walmart, it was the longest grocery shopping trip of my life!

 

Ha! What was your inspiration or spark of interest for I Am La Chiva: The Colorful Bus of the Andes?

Book cover - a colorful community bus, packed with people and market goods, rumbling through the Andes.

During the pandemic, my son, Elliott, expressed interest in a little clay chiva bus I had on the mantle. I tried to explain the vital role chiva buses play as a means of transportation for people in the rugged Andes mountains. I wanted a book to reinforce the concept and couldn’t find one that was playful and age-appropriate, so I started writing the story as a gift for him. The first draft of the story surprised me, and after discussing it with my parents, my sister, and my husband, I decided to publish it as a picture book.

 

How long did it take from the first draft to publication for I Am La Chiva?


4 years! I wrote the very first draft of I Am La Chiva! in June 2020. By September of that year, I had hired an illustrator and was ready to self-publish an early edition of the book. My sister encouraged me to halt my plans and pursue traditional publishing, which I did reluctantly because I had heard that editors were rarely interested in verse manuscripts. I gave myself three months to try. That December, I sent my pitch to 12 agents and immediately got some rejections. I took them in stride, knowing I had a plan. Then, one of the most exciting emails I have ever received came in, Jennifer Mattson (my agent) wanted to talk. We sold the manuscript at auction in March 2021, and the rest of the journey has been an incredible learning and growing experience.

 

It sounds like everything aligned just right. Did anything surprise or amaze you when you first got to see Lorena Álvarez Gómez illustrations? What is your favorite spread?


I cried. I could not believe how well she translated reality into illustrations and how her art surpassed my imagination. I got lost in the details, the animals, the flowers, the depth of each spread. Seeing Lorena’s work helped me appreciate that the book is as much hers as it is mine. There is something wild about someone taking your ideas to a level you could not have imagined. I hope to experience that many more times in my life. 

Internal spread - line of people behind La Chiva passing items down the line and up onto the roof of the bus.

Text © Karol Hernández, 2024. Image © Lorena Álvarez Gómez, 2024.


My favorite spread is when the passengers are loading La Chiva at the end of the day. The background is white, so the unity of the characters, their teamwork, the rich detail on La Chiva, and Chanchito the pig all jump off the page. This is accompanied by one of my favorite stanzas in the book: “This land and its people are truly a gift. We count on each other for help or a lift.”

 

Her illustrations are so colorful and rich! What's something you want your readers to know about I Am La Chiva?


I want readers of I Am La Chiva! to know that while this story takes place in Colombia, the beautiful community depicted in La Chiva represents people all over Latin America. Chiva buses can be found in other countries and go by different names, but their purpose is the same, and the communities they serve are as strong and rich as the ones Lorena beautifully captured in her illustrations.

 

I hope I Am La Chiva! is a gateway to pique readers' curiosity about the incredible diversity of people, music, food, flora, fauna, and culture along the Andes Mountains and the seven countries they touch.

 

I hope so, too! What was the hardest, or most challenging, part of writing I Am La Chiva? What was the most fun?

 

I did not know writing in verse was so technically demanding. I have a natural tendency to rhyme, and I thought that if something rhymed in my head, it would also work on paper. Wow was I wrong! Early iterations of I Am La Chiva! make me blush now because the meter was all over the place, and I was forcing lines. I even tried rewriting the story in prose to overcome the challenges of writing in verse, but it lost its magic, so I went back and decided to make the most of this learning experience.

 

There were many fun highlights in writing this book. Cracking stanzas was exhilarating! When the avocados/varados rhyme came to light, I did a happy dance! Collaborating with our editor, Nancy Mercado, taught me the value of a trusted partner who wants the best for my story. This year has been fun. After three years of work behind the scenes, finally being able to show illustrations and talk about an almost tangible product is a dream come true!

 

Rhyme is so tricky. But it was worth all your hard work! Are there any new projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?


I have written a quiet story, sort of a meditative guide to snorkeling. I don’t feel the time is right for that one yet, but I revisit it from time to time. I recently started working on a new idea that may involve characters from La Chiva, we will see where that goes.

 

We wish you luck with all of your future projects. Last question, what is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park (anywhere in the world)? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?

Photo of a Glapagos Island © UNESCO World Heritage Centre 1992-2024

© UNESCO World Heritage Centre 1992-2024


I love the Galapagos and would go back in a heartbeat, what a magnificent place! I also love Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys. My parents took us camping there every year, and I have important memories from those getaways. I long to take a road trip through Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado, I think my kids will fall in love with the National Parks, and we will forge memories to talk about for the rest of our lives.


And I hope to visit the Galapagos one day! Thank you Karol for stopping by to share with us your debut picture book.


Thank you!


To find out more about Karol Hernández, or to contact her:

 

If you are in the area, be sure to stop by and meet Karol Hernández:

Photo of the logo of "Books & Books" on a bookmark lying across an open book page.

Storytime


 

Photo of the Parnassus Books, Nashville logo.

Storytime

3900 Hillsboro Pike Suite 14

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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