Everyone, please welcome Nina Moreno to Rich in Color! Nina’s debut novel, DON’T DATE ROSA SANTOS, is out today, and we’re excited to chat with her about the ocean, family, and romance.
In honor of the occasion, we’re giving away three copies of DON’T DATE ROSA SANTOS to U.S. readers! Read through the interview, and you’ll find out how to enter the giveaway. Make sure you add DON’T DATE ROSA SANTOS to your TBR list.
Rosa Santos is cursed by the sea-at least, that’s what they say. Dating her is bad news, especially if you’re a boy with a boat. But Rosa feels more caught than cursed.
Caught between cultures and choices. Between her abuela, a beloved healer and pillar of their community, and her mother, an artist who crashes in and out of her life like a hurricane. Between Port Coral, the quirky South Florida town they call home, and Cuba, the island her abuela refuses to talk about.
As her college decision looms, Rosa collides-literally-with Alex Aquino, the mysterious boy with tattoos of the ocean whose family owns the marina. With her heart, her family, and her future on the line, can Rosa break a curse and find her place beyond the horizon?
This synopsis caught my eye immediately thanks to that curse by the sea. What can you tell me about Rosa and her relationship to the ocean?
That relationship is about the mystery of what physically, emotionally, and historically separates Rosa from where her family comes from. She’s fascinated and afraid. Her mother and abuela’s pain and legacies have taught her to stay away, and yet, she feels this intense pull. For her, it’s not only what keeps the two lands apart, but what connects them.
Rosa’s mother and abuela sound like they’re important (and opposite) influences in her life. What do they mean to Rosa? Are there any other people who are major influences in Rosa’s life?
They’re like three sides of the same story, each struggling with the past, present, and future in really specific ways. A lot of people will see Rosa’s mother as someone who simply abandons her, but her experience with the curse and weight of exile has been very different. She struggles with staying in their hometown, but Rosa has loved Port Coral from the very beginning. And it has loved her back. The seaside town is filled with individuals who have had big influences on her life.
Rosa is juggling a lot of things in this novel—family, school—including romance. Tell us more about her relationship with Alex!
Alex is introduced as a mysterious character, his arms tattooed with wild blue waves, so of course, Rosa can’t help but notice him. Alex has a bit of a Mr. Darcy moment and is assumed to be a grump, but is actually quite shy. He struggled with school and expectations, and has been gone for a year, but with his arrival back in Port Coral he’s dealing with trying to prove to his family that he’s got his act together.
DON’T DATE ROSA SANTOS is your debut novel. What was your publishing journey like as a Latinx author?
There has been so much incredible support from Latinx bloggers, librarians, and booksellers who were ready to go to bat for me and this book after only just hearing the announcement. But publishing is also this balance of hoping your story will get a chance to take up space in other conversations, too. It’s a really exciting moment for a lot of our stories and a huge deal to get to add to YA Latinx canon right now.
The group came together after realizing there were quite a few Latinx authors debuting with Middle Grade and Young Adult books at the same time. We didn’t want the conversation to turn us into each other’s competition, but instead wanted to show publishing that we had each other’s backs. We don’t want to fight for one seat at the table, we want to create more space. We hope the group is something that will continue to grow as more and more books gets published.
What 2019 YA books by or about people of color or people from First/Native Nations are you looking forward to reading?
I am so excited for DEAR HAITI, LOVE ALAINE by sisters (and fellow Las Musas!) Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite. I got a chance to meet them at a regional SCBWI conference and we hit it off immediately. They’re actually going to be part of my launch at Books & Books in Coral Gables! I can’t wait. It’s going to be a big YA Caribbean Latinx party.
And I’m hyped for COLOR ME IN by Natasha Diaz. She’s also part of Las Musas, and is one of my favorite new writers. Her writing voice is so good, and her book is going to be everywhere.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about DON’T DATE ROSA SANTOS?
Be prepared with food before you start the book. Honestly, I really should provide a reading list of snacks. Hit up your favorite bodega or bakery first, and then come to Port Coral. The trees are blooming, Spring Fest is coming up, and the viejitos have a ton of chisme to tell you.
Thank you for answering our questions, Nina. We wish you the best of luck with your debut!
Thanks to the publisher’s generosity, we are able to give away three copies of DON’T DATE ROSA SANTOS this week! The giveaway is open to U.S. readers and closes on May 17th. In order to enter, use the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!
Southern bruja and sleepy gemini, Nina Moreno was born and raised in Miami until a hurricane sent her family toward the pines of Georgia where she picked up an accent. She’s a proud University of Florida Gator who once had her dream job of shelving books at the library. Inspired by the folklore and stories passed down to her from her Cuban and Colombian family, she now writes about Latinas chasing their dreams, falling in love, and navigating life in the hyphen. She lives by a swamp outside of Orlando where she enjoys listening to carefully curated playlists, hunting through thrift stores, drinking too much Cuban coffee, and walking into the sea every chance she gets. DON’T DATE ROSA SANTOS is her first novel. She is represented by Laura Crockett of TriadaUs.