Interview: Pablo Cartaya on Jobs, Manatees & Musicals

Pablo Cartaya
Pablo Cartaya

Middle-grade author Pablo Cartaya isn’t just one thing: He’s an author, speaker, educator and actor. And in our interview, we discovered he’s got plenty of other sides too.

Booking Biz: What does your average day look like?

Pablo: My average day consists of looking for manatees in Biscayne Bay while the Miami skyline gleams in the humid sun. My afternoons consist of hanging with my six-year-old Marine Biologist son and ten-year-old dancer, actor, director, writer, producer, choreographer, fashion designer, president daughter. Most days we’re at the library. Some days we’re eating ice cream. Everyday we’re being awesome. The rest of the time I’m writing. Unless I’m travelling. Then my day is totally different. But that will require a much longer answer. NOTE: None of this happens without my morning cup(s) of coffee.

Booking Biz: When you’re not writing, what do you like to do best?

Pablo: See above. Other than that, I love to travel and really dig going on adventures/vacations with my kids. I’m a sports buff so I like to play and watch basketball and soccer. I also love the theater. Like, I’m a secret musical theater nerd. So now it’s not a secret anymore. Les Miserables is prob my fav. “One day more!” (Pablo stands on chair waving the French flag from side to side for the duration of this question.)

Booking Biz: Where do you get the inspiration for your books?

The Epic Fail of Arturo ZamoraPablo: I think of character first. Then I focus on what that character is trying to tell me about his or her world. From there a story plays out and I go from being an observer of this character’s world to an active participant in discovering the events that shape that character’s worldview. In The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora, I looked at a character that was deeply connected to his family, specifically his grandmother. His Abuela. From there I built a narrative that showed the deep connection he has for her and the fear he has of losing her. In Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish, Marcus isn’t defined by what he has but rather who he is. A brother. A son. A good kid (even though people don’t always see that). Ultimately, the characters that speak to me when I’m first putting pen to page inspire my stories.

Booking Biz: Did you always want to write books for children, or was there another career you wished for as a child?

Pablo: In Kindergarten I wanted to be president of the United States. In middle school I wanted to be a pediatric surgeon because I liked taking care of my brother when he was sick. I once tried to stitch his head when he got a laceration on his temple and, um, it did not go well. Throughout high school and college I found myself around the theater so I decided I would move to Los Angeles for college and become an actor. I was cast in plays and television shows and commercials. But I really didn’t love it. I had to change too much of my personality to fit what made me “sellable”. So after finishing college with a degree in English I decided to figure out what I really wanted to do in my life. After stints as a catering chef, busboy, server, bartender, general manager (not necessarily in that order), and many other jobs in and out of the food industry, I realized one constant: I was always writing stories. So I decided to go to graduate school to pursue one of the most secure jobs in the world. I decided to become a writer! 🙂

What I have learned is no matter what you set out to do–whether to be come president, a doctor, actor, or writer–do it with the full force of your determination and hard work. Go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning knowing what you want to do in this world. The journey then, no matter how hard or long, becomes totally worthwhile. There’s no point in doing something that doesn’t fulfill you in some meaningful way. Writing was the one thing I knew I could never live without. So I dove into it with every ounce of my soul.

Booking Biz: If you ruled the world, what would it look like?

Pablo: It would be a place where people could spontaneously burst into a musical number and anyone in the surrounding area would know the choreography and dance along with them. They wouldn’t mind because they’re singing and dancing together and that’s what happiness looks like. Conflicts would have deep resonant musical scores with the players walking towards each other singing angrily at one another but after the musical battle was over, they would hold hands and bow together knowing it’s just a musical theater battle and in the end they’re all just part of the same cast. There’s more I can say but I’ve got a manatee sighting and an ice cream date to attend. Thanks for the questions! Hasta luego, P 🙂

Booking Biz: All hail Jean Valjean!

Learn more about Pablo Cartaya on his speaker page.