Ryan Calejo, author of The Castle of Bones

‘Charlie Hernandez and The Castle of Bones’ Interview With Ryan Calejo

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Ryan Calejo, author of The Castle of Bones
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Charlie Hernandez and The Castle of Bones by Ryan Calejo

“My goal for the books was to start a conversation between generations, and I believe that dialogue is the best way parents can bring the oral traditions back to life.”
~Ryan Calejo

Back in February, I reviewed an exciting new middle-grade book called Charlie Hernandez and The League of Shadows by Ryan Calejo. I met Charlie, a bi-lingual middle-schooler turned reluctant hero battling and befriending legends and creatures from Spanish speaking folklore, along with his adventure-seeking partner, Violet. Charlie is the last Morphling, a human with the ability to transform into various beasts. I was hoping it would become a series since the world and characters were so rich, and to my delight, the second book came out this fall! The Castle of Bones is another non-stop ride with Charlie and Violet, but this time they travel to South America in search of clues to find the missing Queen Joanna, leader of the good side in this mythology. With all-new friends and foes taken from the deep legacy of Spanish and Portuguese cultures, The Castle of Bones is a winner. Here is an interview with the author, Ryan Calejo:

GeekMom Rebecca Angel:
Hi Ryan! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions about The Castle of Bones for GeekMom. I am enjoying your series very much. You have mentioned previously that the lack of Spanish-speaking characters in the books you read growing up was the impetus for writing the Charlie Hernandez books. Do you feel there is a shift in children’s literature today towards more diversity?

Ryan Calejo:
That’s a great question, and I do feel like there’s been a big shift. I’ve heard so many amazing stories from teachers about what a tremendous impact diverse books are having in the classroom, especially on underrepresented and underserved youths. But I honestly feel like this is only the beginning.

Rebecca:
You have said that you use both oral family stories and written research to craft your books. Many families have lost their oral history traditions. Do you believe books like yours can fill that gap? How can parents bring oral traditions back to life?

Ryan:
I think so and that was actually one of my main reasons for starting this series. I wanted to do my small part to make sure these stories weren’t forgotten. I also wanted to write books that kids and parents could bond over, that could be a springboard to touch on topics of culture and ancestry. My goal for the books was to start a conversation between generations, and I believe that dialogue is the best way parents can bring the oral traditions back to life. Teach the stories to your children. But don’t stop there. Talk to them about the lessons in the myths, about the places and cultures that gave birth to them; ask them what they found interesting, what was relatable/what wasn’t, how the stories made them feel, what themes they noticed, and then—eventually—do that all over again with your grandkids, and maybe even with your great-grandkids!

Rebecca:
Many ancient myths that are the basis for The Castle of Bones can be violent, creepy, and frightening. How do you approach this aspect of your retellings for children?

Ryan:
Honestly, I’m not a big fan of anything overly violent or frightening, so I tend not to deal with those aspects of the myths. My abuelas filtered a lot of that out when they told me the stories, and I try to do the same, playing more with the creepy funny as opposed to creepy horror. There’s just so much culture and history wrapped up in those ancient myths and I try to focus on that.

Rebecca:
How do you select which creatures and manifestations of Charlie will make it into your books?

Ryan:
I picked the ones I remembered most from my childhood. The stories that made me laugh or had me checking under the kitchen table when I didn’t eat all my vegetables. I actually wanted to cram in a bunch more, but then both books would’ve been over half a million words and probably would’ve ended up collapsing someone’s shelf. For the manifestations, I tried to imagine which animal traits or abilities I would’ve wanted if I had been born a Morphling. That’s why one of Charlie’s very first manifestations was feathers—I’ve always wanted to sprout some . . . 🙂

Rebecca:
Charlie is a reluctant hero while Violet is always itching for more adventures. Will this dynamic ever change? How will their relationship evolve over time? (How old do you plan to take them?)

Ryan:
I do plan on aging them up a bit over the course of the series, at least three or four years. And I can certainly see that dynamic changing as Charlie grows into his powers, but I honestly can’t imagine Violet ever shying away from an adventure. As far as their relationship goes, I don’t want to give too much away (I can occasionally be a walking spoiler alert), but it’s definitely going to evolve some in the coming books (and sooner rather than later). But I think I’ll stop typing now since I can already feel the spoilers trying to burst through my fingertips!

Rebecca:
“Just stay positive. That’s the most important thing.” This quote from Violet in The Castle of Bones is when things are looking pretty bad and Charlie is getting discouraged. Violet’s home life does not seem very supportive or loving; how does she keep such an upbeat attitude?

Ryan:
I love that you noticed that because I actually based some of Violet’s personality/backstory off a friend of mine, who’s one of the most upbeat and positive people I know even though she didn’t exactly have a very supportive home life growing up. I think in both their cases it’s a sort of inner buoyancy, a hopefulness that things will eventually get better that keep them upbeat. I’ve always admired that kind of positivity in the face of adversity and it’s something I wanted to reflect in Violet as best I could.

Rebecca:
Saci is an exasperating, yet lovable character in The Castle of Bones. He also grows beyond his one-dimensional folk-lore self. What was it like bringing him to life as a real person?

Ryan:
I’m not going to lie—Saci has always been one of my absolute favorite myths, so it was basically like getting to live out a childhood fantasy! I really had a lot of fun trying to imagine what pranks he might think up, how he would interact with Charlie and Violet, and how he’d behave—or rather misbehave—on their adventure.

Rebecca:
Looking at only male to female speaking characters (not neutral creatures), you had 50% females speaking in The League of Shadows and 41% in The Castle of Bones. Do you keep track?

Ryan:
No, I don’t really keep track, but the biggest and most positive influences in my life have been female, which probably explains why I tend to give them the best characters.

Rebecca:
So what can we expect next in your creative world?

Ryan:
I’m working on a couple of different things at the moment, including the third book in the Charlie Hernandez series, which I’d love to tell you all about but unfortunately, I’ve been sworn to secrecy. What I can say, though, is that there’s a heaping serving of myths, laughs, and adventure on the way! Hopefully, readers will enjoy.

Rebecca:
Can’t wait to read more! Muchas gracias!

I highly recommend Charlie Hernandez and The League of Shadows and The Castle of Bones for ages 11 – 14.

 

 

 

GeekMom received a copy for review purposes.

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