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About Me

KNOW THY AUTHOR

One of the first things I tell people about myself is that I’m from San Diego, CA. I’ve lived other places since I left for college when I was 17 years old, but when someone asks me where I’m from, they can scarcely finish asking the question before I blurt out that fact. I do this because San Diego is the fifth member of my family. It shaped me into who I am, gave me a deep sense of optimism, and imbued me with a spirit of freedom and possibility that only a coastal border town can.

Some people say, “write what you know,” and in some ways (though not all) I’ve done that with Monroe’s Map. I didn’t place the story in San Diego, but I know what it is to be half-White and half-Mexican, so I made the protagonist of my first novel a mixed-race Latino with a Hispanic mother and White father—just like me. I wrote Monroe’s Map to delight astronomy enthusiasts and take readers on a 21st century adventure to the near future and ancient past.

I’ve always known that I wanted to be a writer, but it wasn't until my late twenties that I decided to make novels my chosen format. In college I was pre-law and studied politics in preparation for a career as an attorney. I took the LSAT my junior year and LSAT prep courses after I graduated. I spent several years aiming for a score that would get me into Stanford Law or a tier 1 law school. My plan was to write a compelling admissions essay that portrayed me as a do-gooder in want of a law degree to help military combat veterans with post-discharge challenges. Then I planned to complete a juris doctorate program, pass the bar exam, and join the U.S. Navy to become a JAG lawyer. I saw one of two things happening after that: either I’d stay true to my word and help veterans secure the benefits that were owed to them, or do an about-face (to put it in military-speak) and chase the prestige of intellectual property law and/or antitrust law.

Alas, neither of those scenarios came true. A new ambition had captured my attention, and I swiftly relinquished any rites of passage that would put “Esquire” after my name. The chance to travel the country whisked me away to a boutique events company that ended up teaching me two very important things for storytelling: the importance of research and knowing your audience.

 

Soon after I was at one of the lowest points in my life, wayward and injured, when I got an idea for a novel. I doubt I’ll ever write that book—it’s not a story I’m interested in telling anymore—but it was the spark that turned on a light bulb I didn’t know was there. 

Every writer has an origin story, and what I’ve learned from mine is that life is long if we make time for it. It may feel like it’s short if we fill it with noise and preoccupations, but I believe life itself can be lived in chapters, and each chapter introduces the next. I don’t think my Spanish ancestors had any idea what they’d find when they made the trip from Spain to the Americas in the 16th century, but I’m a direct descendant of the Bernal and Sahagún families that climbed aboard the conquistador crusade. One family was led by a peaceful anthropologist (Bernadino de Sahagún) and the other by a battle-hungry soldier (Bernal Díaz de Castillo). Life was definitely short back then—when infectious diseases were more common than chronic diseases, and few people lived past the age of 40—but I am the sequel to their stories.

Monroe’s Map is about a teenage astronomy junkie who is on a quest to prove something important lurks in the Lacandon Jungle, beyond the reach of conventional archeologists and explorers. I may not be an astronomer myself, but I must thank my sister’s fascination with astronomy for opening my eyes to the cosmos. Because of her I grew up watching Robert Zemeckis’ film Contact (1997) over and over, and was forced to listen to Art Bell’s radio segments about paranormal phenomena—things like alien abductions, UFO/UAP sightings, and chupacabra attacks. That was my introduction to the world of outer space and folklore, and though I didn’t realize it at the time, it made a lasting impression on me and inspired the themes in my first novel.

Copyright © 2023 by Kristina León Cuvée

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