Thursday, November 16, 2023

Q&A with Mikki Hernandez


Photo by Bettina Niedermann



Mikki Hernandez is the author of the new children's picture book Cake Mix. Also an actress and voiceover artist, she is based in Los Angeles.


Q: What inspired you to write Cake Mix, and how did you create your character Remy?


A: I was inspired to write Cake Mix after spending time as a volunteer reader in LA public schools. Every week I would bring in different picture books to read to kids and it was a fun way to experience the magic of children’s books as an adult.


However, I had a hard time finding enough books that featured characters of diverse backgrounds. After reading so many books and continuing to see the gap in representation, I decided to channel my storytelling core from acting, and apply it to the children’s book genre. 


Since this was my first book, I dialed into the age-old advice of “write what you know” as a starting point.


I am mixed – black, Latina, Native American and white – so I wanted to touch on a situation that I’ve experienced my whole life that I know other mixed people experience as well: being asked “What are you?”


This was the original title of the book and Remy is based on me as a child. I was a very confident kid growing up; however, questions about my racial and ethnic identity have challenged my sense of self in difficult ways that I continue to grapple with.


So Remy is an alternate version of myself in that she goes through this journey of self-discovery at a much younger age than I did. I also had a knack for baking as a kid (Easy Bake Oven, go ‘90s!) so it was a natural pairing to use as a central theme for Remy’s story. 


Q: What do you think Victoria Lewis’s illustrations add to the book?


A: Victoria did such a lovely job! I am so happy she was down to collaborate because she was my top illustrator pick.


Her style is very unique and has an energy that really brings characters to life, drawing in the reader right away. Her use of color adds a whimsical element that suits the baking theme perfectly.


I love how she captures Remy’s wide range of emotions in her facial expressions, which makes the story easier for kids to relate to and understand.


Overall, Victoria’s drawings are inviting, fun and memorable, highlighting the message of the story in such a complementary way.


Q: As an actress, voiceover artist, and writer, how do the disciplines coexist for you?


A: I’ve always been someone who likes to juggle different projects at the same time. So pursuing multiple disciplines allows me to remain engaged and motivated to grow in each craft.


For screen acting, there’s a lot that is out of my control in terms of breaking into the mainstream industry so having voiceover and writing to turn to, is a healthy way for me to manage the ups and downs of Hollywood.


I’m really grateful to call voiceover my day job, because it allows me to work mostly from home and is a style of acting that I enjoy and continue to expand and improve in.


Writing is newer for me and offers such a different experience in that I get to have direct interactions with readers that really warms my heart.


Since the book came out, I’ve been doing pop up events and it’s so cool to see kids’ faces light up when they look at the cover of the book or when I hear how excited an educator is to add the book to their library. There’s a sense that I am making a positive contribution that is absolutely fulfilling.


I feel very lucky to have these three areas to create, express and share with others that I definitely don’t take for granted. 


Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?


A: I hope kids feel encouraged to ask their parents or guardians about their own ethnic background and feel pride in their “cake mix.” I hope they not only learn more about their family but also learn about their friends and classmates’ backgrounds as well and celebrate them.


I hope mixed kids feel more equipped to answer any questions about their ethnic or racial identity in the future. For non-mixed kids, I wish for them to be exposed to a different perspective and build their empathy muscle.


And of course, I hope kids will hop into their kitchens and bake the most delicious cakes ever! 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am currently working on expanding Remy’s story in a second book! That’s all I’ll share for now :) 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Stories by diverse voices are essential for the growth and health of our nation and communities. I am an advocate for reversing book bans we are seeing happening at a growing rate and I encourage people to support Pen America and other trusted organizations in their effort to combat the unnecessary censorship.


Learn more:


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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