Author Spotlight: Mariana Llanos
March 25, 2022
We are excited to feature author Mariana Llanos and her recent picture book, RUN LITTLE CHASKI: AN INKA TRAIL ADVENTURE, illustrated by Mariana Ruiz Johnson (Barefoot Books 2021). Enter to win a copy!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
Hi! I was born and raised in Lima, Peru. I moved to the United States 20 years ago. I've written since I was a kid, but I discovered writing for children in 2011 when I wrote a story called Tristan Wolf. I remember showing it to a friend and she said, "This is so cool! My kids would love to read it!" That's when it clicked. My voice is for children, and I came to embrace that.
Congrats on your recent picture book, Run Little Chaski: An Inka Trail Adventure! Tell us about the story and what inspired you
Thank you! I'm glad it has been received so well. Run Little Chaski is the story of a young messenger who has to deliver an urgent message to the Inka. But, on his way he'll run into a few animals who need help and he'll have to decide between doing what's right or sticking to his mission. As you can see, it is set in the Inka empire, in South America. I've always wanted to write more about Peruvian culture and history, this story allowed me to do so. My inspiration is my home country and the amazingly rich culture we have.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
I started by self-publishing my first nine titles. My first one was Tristan Wolf in 2013. I decided to try traditional publishing when I had just finished publishing my ninth title, Kutu, the Tiny Inka Princess. After submitting to several houses that take unagented writers, Penny Candy Books took a chance to publish Luca's Bridge in 2019. This book went on to become a ALSC Notable Book of 2020. I signed with an agent right after publishing Eunice and Kate again with Penny Candy Books. The road to publishing Run Little Chaski was long and winding though. It was rejected nineteen times! So I was pretty discouraged even though I had an agent who strongly believed in it. Luckily we ran into Barefoot Books who made wonders for this story. Right now I'm represented by Sera Rivers of Martin Literary Management, and we're working hard on several manuscripts.
What projects are you working on these days?
I'm working on more picture books that include Peruvian elements. I'm also working on a couple of chapter books and a middle grade. I should be announcing something new too. You know how it is, there are so many good secrets to keep!
What advice would you give your younger self? Is this the same that you'd give to aspiring authors?
I'd say stop comparing myself to other authors. I always loved writing but I wasted so much time being afraid my writing would never be as great as such and such authors. When I realized I didn't have to write like this person or the other, that I had to write like Mariana Llanos, I finally gave myself permission to find my own voice. And yes, I'd give this advice to aspiring authors as well.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I can dance Peruvian folkloric dances. I danced all through school and it kind of became part of my DNA. To this day I can remember the steps and choreographies, and if I hear the music I might stand up and dance.
Where can people find you online?
My Twitter handle is @marianallanos. My IG handle is @marianawritestheworld and my FB page @marianallanosbooks. I love connecting to people, so please come find me. And did you know we have a theme song for the Spanish version? (Soon one in English). You can hear it on YouTube: https://bit.ly/3ujbKSl or download on Spotify https://spoti.fi/3twJrR7
Mariana Llanos is a Peruvian-born writer of children’s literature. She began writing as a child in her native Lima. Later, she studied theater and moved to the United States. In 2013 she published her first book, Tristan Wolf. Her latest works include Luca’s Bridge/El Puente de Luca, Eunice and Kate, and Run Little Chaski! Mariana is an advocate for literacy. She visits schools to instill a lifelong love for reading in children. She’s the co-founder of LatinxPitch, a Twitter event that looks to boost the representation of Latino creators in literature. Mariana lives in Oklahoma with her family.