Interview with Xavier Garza, Part 4

by Janine M. Schall, University of Texas-Pan American, Edinburg, TX

This is the last of a four part interview with author and illustrator Xavier Garza, 2005 América’s Award Honor Book winner. This interview was conducted electronically by Janine Schall.

The luchador "El Toro" from Lucha Libre-The Man in the Silver Mask

The luchador "El Toro" from Lucha Libre-The Man in the Silver Mask

Janine: The illustrations in your books are striking and attractive to kids. Juan and the Chupacabras was illustrated by someone else. Was that a publisher’s decision? Were you able to collaborate with April Ward or was she given your text to work with on her own?

Xavier:That was strictly the publisher’s decision. At the time that I got the contract for Juan and the Chupacabras, my book Lucha Libre still hadn’t come out. I was viewed as not having any experience in the field of children’s book illustrations, which I have to admit is very different from just being able to draw and paint. A lot of work goes into producing these illustrations, and you have to learn to work with art editors. Making illustrations for a book isn’t a one person show. After Lucha Libre came out and received very favorable reviews for the art as well as the story, it opened the door for me to ask to illustrate all of my own books. Zulema and the Witch Owl was also done with Arte Público, and featured my own illustrations. I love my book Juan and the Chupacabras, but I would be lying if I said that I don’t wish that I had done the illustrations myself. I however must say that April Ward did a wonderful job working on the book. Her art alongside the sketches done by Felipe Davalos who was the original illustrator of the book, but who had to drop out of the project due to scheduling complications, were truly beautiful. I have never met April Ward, and this isn’t uncommon when it comes to an author and an illustrator working on a book. They are often kept apart so as to give the illustrator more freedom to turn the writer’s vision into his or her own.

Janine: You are a teacher. Does that help when writing for children? Are you able to try out your ideas on your students?

Xavier: I’ve been a teacher for 15 years at the junior high level for the most part. I do try my stories on them, and they tend to give very honest opinions on what they think of the stories.

Janine: Finally, what’s next in terms of writing/illustrating for you?

Xavier: As far as young adult books I have a new book coming out soon from Arte Público Press titled, Kid Cyclone versus the Devil and other Creepy Stories. It is a sequel of sorts to Creepy Creatures and other Cucuys. I envision my scary stories being done as a three book set, similar to the series put out by Alvin Schwartz who wrote the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I have already begun to work on the third collection of scary stories which I have tentatively titled, La Llorona Can’t Hurt Me and Other Stories. I am also working on what will be my first young adult novel which I have titled Adventures in Mexican Wrestling: A Lucha Libre Novela. It is based on an 11-year-old boy living in a border town. The book touches on the themes of adolescence, family, border life, cucuys and of course, lucha libre. As far as picture books I am working on two projects, a scary but funny story titled, La Llorona Versus the Donkey Lady, and a story about bullies at school titled, A Boy Named Rooster. I have also become very interested in the idea of doing a graphic novel, so I am definitely looking into that possibility.

Janine: Thank you for talking with me!

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11 thoughts on “Interview with Xavier Garza, Part 4

  1. Mandy says:

    I think it is great what he is planning to do. reaching all ages is very important eventhough all ages read his published books already.

  2. Ismael Perez Jr says:

    I would like to thank you for your hard work. I would like to ask is it hard to get into the publishing business for a first time writer. What do recommend the person do first before starting to get or find a publisher. Thanks

  3. Sarah S. says:

    I really liked Creepy Creatures and other Cucuys. I bought a copy for our school library and one for my classroom. It never stays on the shelf long! I really enjoyed reading these “scary” stories and I am really looking forward to more. I am so excited to hear you’ll be writing more like CCC!

  4. Maria Alma Briones-Sarmiento says:

    I am very impressed with your talent. I know how the duties of being a teacher can be very demanding, and you still have the time to write books. I really admire you. I think that you are a source of inspiration for many of us who wish we could be able to write children and adolescent literature. Your topics and your illustrations are intriguing to many of us who have read your books. You help bring more knowledge about our culture, especially when there can be so many wrong misconceptions about who really are. I think the power of books and writing is simply phenomenal. It brings a sense of pride as we read your books and relate to the topics.

  5. Nataly says:

    I admire the work you have created especially because your books reflect part of who you are and your experiences as a child living in the border between Mexico and the United States. I also have a question. have you ever considered writing about current events that relate to our Mexican American culture and may have an impact on children or adolescent readers, such as the barrier that is being built along the border???

  6. Chris Mayne says:

    I was surprised to learn about about how you were unable to illustrate Juan and the Chupacabras and that you did not work with April Ward. I am interested in seeing your version of the chupacabras.
    Also, my students and I truly enjoyed the illustrations in Lucha Libre. They were inspired to create their own masks for their own identities. I look forward to your picture books coming out. The titles alone are intriguing!

  7. Natalia Ibarra says:

    Being a teacher is a very demanding job, but your determination makes us realize that everything is possible. All these stories bring back memories of my grandparents and their rich culture. These stories are a heritage from one generation to the other and you are keeping them alive. Thank You for enthusiasm and keep writing.

  8. Claudia Peña says:

    You are truly a talented individual. There is something about your books that truly captivates readers. I’m looking forward to your new book, A Boy Named Rooster. Bullying is an issue that we as educators must sometimes deal with in our classrooms.

  9. Yadira says:

    I really enjoy the wonderful books you write, epecially, when I have the opportunity to share it with my students. I will await your book titled, A Boy Named Rooster, it will benefit both my bullies and those that are bullied.

  10. Luz Maria Cantu says:

    I really enjoyed reading about the interactions that Mr.Garza has with his students about his writings. It’s great that his students are able to participate and influence his work in the way that they do.

  11. Janine Schall says:

    It always amazes me that authors and illustrators usually don’t talk to each other. It must be difficult for authors to give their text over to someone they don’t know–almost like giving their baby up for adoption. Good illustrations really deepen and extend the story, and sometimes surely push the story in ways the author didn’t envision.

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