Writing The Spaniard’s Innocent Maiden was an emotional journey for me, as well as an education. When I was growing up, I never knew much about the Americas before Columbus. My school history textbooks said things like “[The story of Europeans in the New World] is the story of the creation of a civilization where none existed,”1 and I believed them.
As I got older, I learned that not only were the Americas not empty before the arrival of Columbus, they were absolutely full of people—and they lived in civilizations as rich and complex as those of Europe.
I wrote The Spaniard’s Innocent Maiden because I wanted to remember those people, and the vibrant societies they created. I suppose I also wanted to stage my own small rebellion against those erroneous textbooks.
As it happens, I now help create textbooks myself. Through my work with National Geographic Learning I get to write and edit content for the Language Arts. Though I don’t focus on history, I hope that I am able to infuse what I have learned about the past—and my sense of wonder—in everything I do.
Mostly, I hope that wonder comes through in the pages of The Spaniard’s Innocent Maiden. As I was writing, I tried to imagine what the Spaniards felt as they gazed out over the marvels of the Mexican Empire, and I wondered what the Mexica themselves might have thought when they met the bearded men from across the sea. In the end, that was my biggest inspiration: it was how the characters Benicio and Tula were born.
1(Quote taken from 1491 by Charles C. Mann)