Interview with Katrina Carrasco, author of CIPHER

It was interview Monday yesterday, and with the latest rush I forgot to post the interview. Yiikes!
This week the featured Latinx author is Katrina Carrasco, whose debut CIPHER will be out in 2018.

Here’s what we know about the book so far:

The debut novel centers on a detective named Alma who infiltrates a Washington Territory opium smuggling ring while disguised as a man.

Once she’s insinuated herself, Alma must create an ever-more-elaborate series of alibis while sending coded dispatches to the Pinkertons as well as managing her physical attraction to Delphine, the head of the smuggling ring, and Wheeler, the local boss.

The book is set to be published in summer 2018.

You can add it on Goodreads by clicking here.
Ready for some Latinx goodness? Below is the interview with the lovely Katrina.
1) What is your favorite part about being a writer?
What I love most about writing is being able to create the books and stories I want to see in the world. As a queer Latinx writer who grew up in the ’90s, I rarely — if ever — encountered characters like me in mainstream novels, not to mention the classics studied in school. And if there were queer characters, or Latinx characters, they were the outcasts, the sidekicks, the antagonists. I want to disrupt that status quo by centering the voices that speak to me. Creating an alternative to the default of “straight white male” narrator is a crucial part of my work.

2) How has your cultural background influenced your writing? Do you write many Latinx characters?
My mother is Ecuadorian-American and my father is white. So I have a special interest in stories about characters who feel suspended between cultures and identities, trying to understand who they are and where they came from. The idea of passing and being “Latinx enough” or “white enough” to enter certain spaces also interests me. My writing focuses on Latinx characters and exploring these concepts through their stories: the main character of my debut novel is Mexican-American, and I’m working on a new project with a lesbian Latinx couple as the main characters.

3) As someone who comes from a diverse background, did you have any experience in publishing that put that in a negative light?
I am extremely fortunate to work with an agent and an editor who understand and champion my work. They’re as as excited as I am to bring my characters to a larger audience, and I’m so grateful for their support!

4) How important do you think diversity is in publishing, especially regarding Latinx representation?
I think diversity is a crucial issue in the publishing world — we need diverse voices to reflect a diverse readership. It’s so important for young people especially to be excited about reading, and stories that reflect them will help engage them. Reading about characters that are unlike you can build empathy and broaden your worldview, but reading about characters who *are* like you can be so comforting and validating. With the success of writers like Gabby Rivera, Junot Díaz, and Benjamin Alire Sáenz, I hope the road is being paved for more Latinx writers to find success in mainstream publishing.

5) As a young writer, what books influenced you? Did any come from your own background?
As a young writer and reader, I loved science fiction and historical mysteries. Some early favorites were Connie Willis’s DOOMSDAY BOOK, Monica Hughes’s INVITATION TO THE GAME, and Philip Pullman’s THE RUBY IN THE SMOKE. Whenever I found a book with queer characters, or characters who spoke Spanish, it was a small miracle. I remember Sandra Cisneros’s THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET and WOMAN HOLLERING CREEK as the first books I encountered in high school that centered the Latinx experience, and I loved them. It wasn’t until I got older that I started to find more explicitly queer books, like Yukio Mishima’s CONFESSIONS OF A MASK and Sarah Waters’s TIPPING THE VELVET.

6) Where do you get inspiration for your books?
I usually start a new book with a character or setting that fascinates me, and that feels like it has the depth to grow into a novel-length project. I often read historical accounts and look for promising situations. My debut novel, CIPHER, was inspired by two elements: I wanted to write about a queer woman who played with gender presentation, and I found an old newspaper article about opium smuggling in the Pacific Northwest. Combining the two gave me my main character Alma Rosales, an ex-Pinkerton detective who switches between female and male disguises to investigate a drug ring.

7) Any good advice for Latinx and POC writers out there?
Keep working on your craft; submit short pieces to magazines/websites/journals for exposure and to practice presenting your work; and be stubborn in the face of rejection. Also, if you speak Spanish (or any other language), don’t be afraid to include it in your writing. I love the texture of multilingual texts. I love how they are specifically legible to certain people, and ask those who can’t understand to do the work to decipher them. (Gloria E. Anzaldúa’s BORDERLANDS/LA FRONTERA is an excellent example and examination of this.)

  • Food? My mom’s Sunday chicken dinner
  • Book? Too many! I recently read LaShonda Katrice Barnett’s JAM ON THE VINE and loved it
  • Movie? Almodóvar’s “La Mala Educación”
  • Place in the World? Wellington, New Zealand



Thanks so much for being here, Katrina! It was a pleasure to have you on the blog.



KatrinaCarrascoKatrina Carrasco is a queer Latinx writer, born and raised in Southern California and now living in Seattle. In her novels and short stories she explores the ideas of passing, performance, and belonging: what is gained and what is lost by conforming to societal expectations of gender, race, class and sexuality. Katrina’s debut novel, CIPHER, will be released in Fall 2018 by MCD/Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

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