Author website/social media: www.mbetancourt.com / @bmanuel on Twitter
· Tell me a little about yourself: Where to begin? I guess I always say that I’m a writer and a lapsed academic (that means I got my PhD but I’m not a professor; fun fact, the Cardboard Kingdom team is full of guys and gals who went to grad school for one thing or another!). I was born and raised in Colombia, went to school in Canada, and now live in New York City where I write mostly about movies and TV — like Miguel, I am a big big movie fan. I also read a lot and love to bake with my husband.
1. When you were my age (9), did you like to read?
I did. I was an avid reader both in English and in Spanish (that’s my first language). I was the kid always signing out extra books from the library and reading assigned texts way faster than my classmates. I just loved getting lost in different worlds unlike my own.
2. What was your favorite story?
I was obsessed with this British book series called The Demon Headmaster (less scary than it sounds, but only just). It was all about how a young girl realizes her new school is led by a demon that hypnotizes kids into submission and hopes to take over the world. Before I was obsessed with Harry Potter this was the school-driven series I was hooked on. I’m still amazed my school in Bogotá, Colombia had it in their library!
3. How do you get your ideas?
Everywhere! Everything I watch, I read, I see becomes fuel for ideas. I will say though that I’m a big movie fan (like Miguel is in “The Prince”) so I find a lot of inspiration from movies, both new and old. Animated films in particular make up a good chunk of my pop cultural world — everything from Beauty and the Beast to WALL-E. Chad only learned this after we’d worked on our story together but my mom runs an animation company at home so I was around cartoonists and animators all through my childhood!
4. Your book was done with multiple authors. Was that easy or hard?
I really expected it to be hard. Really hard. But I was so surprised — and glad! — that it was anything but. It was such a collaborative project, and from the beginning it was clear that we were all just eager to make each other’s work better and stronger. We all recognized that we each brought something different, something special to the table. Plus, Chad is a wonderful ringmaster. We couldn’t have asked for a better leader.
5. What author do you really like right now?
In terms of graphic novels, I’ve always been a fan of Brian K. Vaughan, whose Runaways and Paper Girls I just love, especially for the way he tackles teen angst. Then there are people like Marjane Sartrapi and Alison Bechdel whose works I return to time and time again (can you tell I like reading about teen girls?). But, honestly, the author I’ve always been in awe of is Gabriel García Márquez who remains a hero of mine — and not just because he’s the most famous Colombian writer ever 🙂
6. Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would suggest?
Here’s where I have to give a shoutout to Steven Rowley, who’s become a friend ever since I read and fell in love with Lily and the Octopus. But if we must skew younger, I love the kind of work that Jeffery Self (Drag Teen) and Adam Silvera (They Both Die At The End, History is All You Left Me) are doing when it comes to telling stories about boys like me when I was younger.
7. What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?
Write! It’s such a simple piece of advice but you only get better if you write. And if you share that work. If I’ve learned anything from working on The Cardboard Kingdom is that there’s nothing better than having a generous reader on the other end whose feedback will make your work stronger.
8. As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that?
I mostly write nonfiction essays (reviews, features, interviews) so I hear from readers quite a bit. But I’ll admit that hearing from Cardboard Kingdom readers has been the best part of this journey — I love knowing that something I made gave someone else joy. Also, every picture of a young kid playing dress-up with cardboard makes me tear up!
9. If you could portal into any book (yours or another person’s), what book would it be?
I gotta say, traveling into the Cardboard Kingdom and getting to meet all of our kids and their fantasy alter-egos would be pretty fun. It would also mean I’d have to come up with a costume myself, which I actually love doing. I’ll take any opportunity to dress up