“A good old-fashioned Texas tale with a twist” was the first line of my Kirkus review. With that, the reviewer not only gifted me with a great review, but a great tagline that I haven’t hesitated to quote often in descriptions, interviews, and book marketing. When I read that line, I knew the reviewer got me as an author and got Juan Miguel as a protagonist. It was a great relief, and it quelled the natural fears of a first-time novelist.
I knew what I wanted to write about—a different type of Texas character but one who hearkened back to the past and was believable in the context of Texas mythology. Would anyone understand him? Would they understand what I was trying to say about identity and particularly the Texas identity? He had to be both old and new, brave and sensitive, genuine and remarkable. Instead of the silent and strong Marlboro Man/John Wayne iconic Texas superman, Juan Miguel is Hispanic, chimerical, and gifted with the ability to switch identities, all the while retaining his heroic essence.
The Kirkus reviewer understood what I had to say. That not only gave me a good review for all of the world to see, it also gave me the impetus to go on and write more. Juan Miguel has become a bit of a myth himself. In two sequels, he has gone on to many other adventures across America, Mexico, and even Europe. He’s taken on new identities, fought the forces of greed and evil, fallen in love with remarkable women, remained loyal to his South Texas home, his family and friends, and retained his essential goodness. You can’t get more Texan than that.
I never hesitate to tell people or write about the Kirkus review of my first novel. I think about the reviewer’s message to me—yes, I understand you, and I like what you write. Since then, I’ve filled in Juan Miguel’s future with two more novels and written four others, three about Texas history and one set in Britain in the seventh century. That review gave me the gift of confidence.
A former journalist who lives in Austin, Texas, Anna K. Sargent writes historical fiction set in Texas. All of her novels are about identity, who we are, and how we know who we are. She found her own identity through writing and studying the place where she lives, a place with an amazing history, full of characters and adventure and extremes of weather and landscape. She is the author of The Juan Miguel Series, which comprises The Legend of Juan Miguel, The Passion of Juan Miguel, and The Return of Juan Miguel.