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Five Questions for Michelle Cuevas

Publishers' Previews

This interview originally appeared in the September/October 2017 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Fall Publishers’ Preview, a semiannual advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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Photo: Dial 2017

Having a black hole named Larry for a pet definitely presents challenges for Stella, narrator of The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole.

1. Body humor, parental death, and physics — how did you find a balance?

I once read that a book is a lesson in how to respond to an unfair world. When we watch a fictional character’s responses, it gives us a chance to rehearse for facing such things ourselves. Stella’s response to the loss of her father combines sadness with humor, light with dark, and fear with a curiosity about the universe.

2. What would be in your black-hole survival kit?

Larry is not merely a space phenomenon. He is also a manifestation of Stella’s grief. What would I put in a black-hole-of-grief survival kit? I’d start with good friends, trees, books; add some photos, some memories, a companionable dog. I’d pack the understanding that nothing is ever truly lost, and that people you love live on in your memories. And a flashlight.

3. Were you a kid who would have gone down the rabbit/black hole?

Stella goes inside the black hole because it (accidentally) swallows her puppy. My dog, Indy, is afraid of stairs. But every day he braves the journey to my second-floor office just to say keep going. So Indy, if you see this: congrats on learning to read! And if you are ever swallowed by a black hole, I’ll be brave, too, and rescue you.

4. Do you find fart jokes funny?

Disclaimer: there aren’t any fart jokes in this book. There is a hamster that gets swallowed by the black hole and because of space-time physics is transformed into a giant Wookie-like monster, and he does burp a lot…

5. What would you have added to Voyager’s Golden Record?

The record contains everything that’s good and beautiful about life on Earth. I would have added more of the messy parts. Fear, loneliness, grief — those are common to all humans, and I believe they would be truly universal. I don’t think sadness would frighten aliens. Instead it would make them say, Oh. You, too? I thought I was the only one.

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