Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?
Nina: I was inspired by the teenager who spent so many hours in her bedroom dreaming up funny, romantic stories in cute small towns, and wishing one would welcome her. I loved contemporary young adult novels by authors like Sarah Dessen, and wished for stories like those, but where my Latinx culture, southern influences, and love for romances could all just fit together. And to be totally honest, it took me until now to start figuring out how to find that balance.
What character do you most relate to and why?
Ooh, no one has asked me this yet! Rosa and I are so different in surface ways (you’ll rarely ever catch me in a dress) but the questions and curiosity that drive her absolutely came from my personal life. Life is so short, and like Rosa, I wanted to understand everything I could about Cuba and my family’s story, too. The last chapters especially were really personal, and in writing them I actually found myself connecting with Rosa’s mother, Liliana, the most.
Why do you feel young adult books are so popular and have such a voice right now?
I think Young Adult is such a powerful category because as authors we have to understand who we’re writing for. Yes, I wrote this book for the teenager I once was, but I’m giving it to teenagers now. It’s not about nostalgia. You have to constantly unpack your intentions and bias and have those difficult conversations with yourself and your inspirations, always remembering your audience. And I think because of that hard work, YA continues to be the thoughtful, exciting, progressive place that it is.
Please describe the content of your latest book and what can readers expect from the read.
Don’t Date Rosa Santos is a YA contemporary about a Cuban-American teenager who’s been told her entire life she’s cursed by the sea after her abuelo died escaping Cuba, and her young father also died at sea before she was born. And now the three generations of Santos women are dealing with the curse very differently—her abuela is the town healer who refuses to talk about the past, Rosa’s mother is an artist crashing in and out of her life, unable to stay in the present, and Rosa is doing everything she can to heal the divide, but as her carefully made plans fall apart, she wonders if she can break the family curse of doomed love just as she meets a tall, quiet, tattooed boy by the docks who feels the same pull to the ocean she does.
What’s next for you in the book world?
I’m excited to see my book hit shelves! I have a few events coming up, but first I’ll be in Miami on May 19th to celebrate the launch at the amazing Books & Books in Coral Gables along with fellow YA authors Maika and Maritza Moulite. Their debut novel, Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is out this September!
But I’m also writing another YA rom-com with all the small town, loud family, and funny beats I love and I’m really excited about it!
What’s your favorite young adult author and book?
How do you even choose a favorite? I’m honestly just so thrilled to be writing right now. I’ve loved YA contemporary for so long, and now I get to write these stories alongside authors like Maurene Goo, Sandhya Menon, Gloria Chao, Lily Anderson, and Sarah Dessen, I’m a grateful writer and happy reader.