It’s Monday again, and time for another author interview! This time with the lovely Anna-Marie McLemore, author of “The Weight of Feathers” and the upcoming “When the Moon was Ours”. Please consider pre-ordering her new book!
When the Moon Was Ours follows two characters through a story that has multicultural elements and magical realism, but also has central LGBT themes—a transgender boy, the best friend he’s falling in love with, and both of them deciding how they want to define themselves.
To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.
But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.
And now, for the interview. I hope you guys enjoy her answers as much as I did.
1) What is your favorite part about being a writer?
The people I get to meet—publishing industry professionals, fellow authors, book bloggers, librarians, booksellers, readers… so many wonderful book lovers!
2) How has your cultural background influenced your writing? Do you write many Latinx characters?
Writers of color should never feel obligated to write their own heritage, but for me, my work doesn’t feel like mine without it. My debut, THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, features a Latina girl and a Romani boy, and my second novel, WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS, which comes out in October, is about the decade-long friendship Latina queer girl and a South Asian transgender boy. I’m not sharing too much about my 2017 novel WILD BEAUTY just yet, but I will say that centers on a Latinx family.
3) As someone who comes from a diverse background, did you have any experience in publishing that put that in a negative light?
Because of my last name, a lot of people don’t realize I’m Latina if they don’t know me, so I did have some people say some offensive things about my culture, probably because they didn’t realize they were talking to a Latina writer. But those experiences just make me appreciate the publishing professionals I work with now even more, because for the most part the diverse aspects of my book have been celebrated, or just treated as an organic part of the story. I’m very fortunate to have an agent, editor, and publisher who welcome the multicultural and queer aspects of my stories.
4) How important do you think diversity is in publishing, especially regarding Latinx representation?
Without diversity in publishing, bookshelves aren’t representing the wider world. We have a long way to go until the percentage of books by Latinx authors and about Latinx characters reflects our place in the world, but I’m incredibly grateful to We Need Diverse Books and all who’re fostering conversations about and efforts toward inclusion.
5) As a young writer, what books influenced you? Did any come from your own background?
If I name them all, we’ll be here all day, so I’ll narrow it down to a few of the authors whose work helped make me a reader. Isabel Allende, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Federico Garcia Lorca, Nella Larsen, Laura Esquivel, C.S. Lewis, Jean Rhys, Gioconda Belli. Esquivel is the only one of those I know of who shares my specific background (Mexican), but Allende is Chilean, Lorca is Spanish, and Belli is Nicaraguan, so voices with a connection to my heritage definitely spoke to me.
6) Where do you get inspiration for your books?
Inspiration usually comes to me in very odd ways, so for me the main thing is to be open to it. The inspiration for THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS came not at all once, but a little at a time. Years ago, my father told me about a mermaid show he’d seen when he was in his twenties. Ever since I’ve wanted to write a story about performing mermaids, but it wasn’t until a photographer friend had me out in the woods while wearing a set of wire and cloth wings that the idea for the book came to me. Women swimming in mermaid tails, and winged tree performers. The story grew from those two images coming together.
7) Any good advice for Latinx and POC writers out there?
Write what feels true to you. I’ve tried to write my Latina heritage and my queerness out of books, and those stories never came to life until I let those parts of me back in. Does that mean you have to write your own heritage? Absolutely not, not if you don’t want to. But go where your heart is.
- Hogwarts house? Ravenpuff! 😉
- Favorite food? All kinds of berries, mi madre’s secret-recipe rice, rainbow sprinkles.
- Favorite movie? I love sweeping, magical films, and I have a whole list of favorites, but my favorite movie is actually a quiet, black-and-white play adaptation from the 1960s called A Thousand Clowns.
- Favorite TV series? Right now I’m really into unReal.
- Favorite soap opera? I’m always onboard for my mother’s telenovelas. She has a new favorite every season.
- Favorite place in the world? Salzburg
- Favorite superhero? Rogue. That *might* have a little bit to do with the fact that, in X-Men canon, her real name is Anna-Marie.
Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview, Anna-Marie. I confess I laughed out loud with the superhero one.
Anna-Marie McLemore was born in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, raised in the same town as the world’s largest wisteria vine, and taught by her family to hear la llorona in the Santa Ana winds. Her debut novel, THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS (out now from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press), was a Junior Library Guild Selection, named to YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults, and a finalist for the William C. Morris Debut Award. Her second novel, WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS, will be released on October 4, 2016, and WILD BEAUTY is forthcoming in 2017. You can find Anna-Marie at annamariemclemore.com or on Twitter @LaAnnaMarie.