Interview with Anna Meriano, author of LOVE SUGAR MAGIC

It’s Monday once more, and like always, we have a new interview up on the blog! This week I interviewed Anna Meriano, who’s the author of LOVE SUGAR MAGIC. The book is coming out on January 2., 2018 with Walden Pond Press/Harper Collins.

Here’s a little more about the book:

29918993Love baking? Love magic? Then get ready for A Dash of Trouble.

The first book in Anna Meriano’s Love Sugar Magic series revolves around the Legoño family, the owners of a bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, who produce an array of scrumptious baked goods. When young Leonora (or “Leo” for short) tries to participate in their preparations for the annual Dia de los Muertos festival, she’s told she’s too young.

So the young girl takes matters into her own hands as she sneaks out of school and back into the bakery, only to make a surprising discovery: Her mother, aunt, and four older sisters are witches. And their secret ingredient? Magic.

Armed with the knowledge that she has her own magical abilities, and determined to help with the family business, Leo decides to practice her gifts in secret by helping her best friend Caroline with a problem. But what the young bruja doesn’t know is that sometimes a little hint of magic can lead to a whole lot of trouble.

Pre-order it here.

And without any further ado, here’s the interview!

1) What is your favorite part about being a writer?

My favorite part is definitely getting to know my characters. I’m already the reader/fan who cries over how much I love fictional people, and then when I’m the one writing them it’s just a whole extra level of affection. I love figuring out the exact right thing that they would do or say, the thing that is so perfectly *them*. I was also the kid who imagined everything (spoons, crayons, toothpicks) as people for my games, so I’m delighted that making up imaginary people has become a career path.

 

2) How has your cultural background influenced your writing? Do you write many Latinx characters?

My cultural background has always left me a little nervous about my place. My Dad’s Mexican/Italian side of the family tends to downplay their Mexican heritage (out of insecurity or internalized issues), while my mom and her Irish family lived in Guadalajara for several years and are all super proud of it. I think my feeling of cultural confusion comes out in every character I write, and makes me especially drawn to bicultural and/or biracial characters, or characters who feel uncertain about being Latinx “enough.” So in my debut, my main character worries that she’s being left out of the family brujería because she doesn’t speak Spanish. I really liked looking at these issues through a middle grade lens, because I felt like I was writing for a younger version of myself, saying things I would have liked to hear.

 

3) As someone who comes from a diverse background, did you have any experience in publishing that put that in a negative light?

I’ve been extremely lucky to work with Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra at Cake Literary, where celebrating diversity is kind of the whole point, and with the wonderful people at Walden Pond Press, who have been so open and excited about my debut. I’m also operating with a lot of privileges that make it easier for me to navigate publishing things for sure. Still, I’ve heard “where are the good white characters?” from beta readers, and I’ve been accused of using my ethnicity to get ahead in school applications, publishing, etc. Since I am surrounded by such an amazing supportive community, I’m hoping that will stay the worst of it.

 

4) How important do you think diversity is in publishing, especially regarding Latinx representation?

So so so important! I live in Houston, the most diverse city in the US, and I get frustrated seeing vague, stereotyped, monolithic representation of Latinx characters. When I was younger my group of friends had this running joke arguing about who among us was the “most Mexican” (totally leaving out the two Ticas), and we would disqualify people for being biracial, for being born in the US, for being nerdy or gay or Jewish or vegetarian—obviously the whole premise was ridiculous and super flawed, but it reflected the way media erases all but one version of Mexican or Latinx people. We get to be all those things, and a bunch of other things, and still 100% Latinx. But until those experiences are commonly represented, it’s going to be easy for people to dismiss them as less true.

 

5) As a young writer, what books influenced you? Did any come from your own background?

I didn’t read many books with Latinx authors and characters as a kid, especially when my historical fiction phase ended and I got more into MG/YA fantasy. I remember getting very excited about the Josefina American Girl books, and then years later crying over Leo Valdez (a Latino Houstonian!). Matt de la Peña’s Mexican Whiteboy and Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Dante and Artistotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe are also very important to me, even though I didn’t discover them until recently.

 

6) Where do you get inspiration for your books?

My debut was inspired by Cake Literary’s idea, but I generally get inspiration for my writing by putting my favorite stories, dreams, and real life experiences in a blender and seeing what comes out.

 

7) Any good advice for Latinx and POC writers out there?

Umm I feel like you’ve probably all heard “find your people” but like it’s so true that I want to say it again? There are so many people who won’t get you or won’t value you or just won’t care that much, but then there are the people who will and they are the ones you want to spend your time on.

 

  • Food: Junior Mints
  • Book: Kendra by Coe Booth
  • Movie: Tangled and Moana
  • Place in the World: Rice University, Martel College
  • Superhero: Daisy Johnson
  • Harry Potter House: I’M A HUFFLEPUFF

 

Exibindo Anna Meriano author photo.jpgAnna Meriano grew up in Houston, Texas, with two brothers and a lot of cousins. She graduated from Rice University and earned her MFA in creative writing with an emphasis in writing for children from the New School in New York. She works as a tutor and part time teacher, and in her free time she knits, studies ASL, and plays quidditch.

Her debut, LOVE SUGAR MAGIC: A DASH OF TROUBLE comes out with HarperCollins in 2018.

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Interview with Kristina Perez, author of SWEET BLACK WAVES

Hey everyone! Welcome back to interview monday. This week we have the amazing Kristina Perez, author of the upcoming SWEET BLACK WAVES with us.

Her book is a retelling of the Tristan and Isolde tale, coming from Imprint/Macmillan in 2018. You can add it to Goodreads here.

And without further ado, here’s the interview with Kristina!

1) What is your favorite part about being a writer?

When the words are flowing, there is no better rush. Listening to my music, being swept up in my own world, is the best feeling in the world.

 

2) How has your cultural background influenced your writing? Do you write many Latinx characters?

My father is from Argentina and my mother is a second generation Norwegian immigrant. I grew up speaking both languages with my family and being steeped in both cultures. As a white Latina, I have had my identity questioned so many times I’ve lost count and I felt nervous about writing Latinx characters for a long time. My current WIP has my first Latinx MC and her internal thoughts are in Spanish, as mine often are, and I’m really excited about it!

 

3) As someone who comes from a diverse background, did you have any experience in publishing that put that in a negative light?

Publishing, like any industry, has people who are willing to listen and learn and people who aren’t. It can be frustrating when decision-makers fall into the latter category, but I am hopeful that, overall, the needle is beginning to move in the right direction.

 

4) How important do you think diversity is in publishing, especially regarding Latinx representation?

Books are a big part of the overall cultural production––including movies, TV shows, music etc.––and they should therefore reflect the diversity of the society in which we live. Right now, that’s not the case. Rather than being true reflections, the images that we are presented with in all forms of media are often refracted through the expectations of the dominant culture. When these images are harmful we can’t help but internalize them. The representation of Latinx characters, for the most part, still relies on stock tropes and stereotypes, which is particularly insidious in products (books or movies) marketed to kids and teens. There are some wonderful counterexamples, of course, but we have a long way to go until the representation of the Latinx community in English-language media reflects the diversity of the community itself.

 

5) As a young writer, what books influenced you? Did any come from your own background?

In high school, I took AP Spanish Literature and was exposed for the first time in a real way to Latin American authors. I felt an affinity for magical realism that I didn’t realize I’d been missing and also developed a new understanding of my father’s experiences in Argentina. In particular, I love Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez. The poetry of Federico García Lorca and his play Yerma had a big impact on me. Also, Como agua para chocolate by Laura Esquivel and Arráncame la vida by Ángeles Mastretta are two books which I periodically reread.

 

6) Where do you get inspiration for your books?

I did a PhD in medieval literature, specifically Arthurian literature, so a lot of my story ideas stem from that in one way or another. I love myths and legends and I love retellings. I grew up in New York City but I’ve spent the past twenty years in Europe and Asia so a lot of my work draws on the traditions and folklore of the places I’ve lived, as well as both my heritages. It can also be a photograph or a song lyric or people-watching in cafes.

 

7) Any good advice for Latinx and POC writers out there?

We need your stories. Don’t give up. Being an author can be a very volatile career and you need to stick to your guns. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, however, so finding like-minded writer friends is invaluable.

  • Food – Grey’s Papaya hot dog with sauerkraut and ketchup 
  • Book – Gah! So hard. Two of the books that shaped a lot of my worldviews when I was a teen are The Awakening by Kate Chopin and Self-Reliance and Other Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson. 
  • Movie – Another tough one! Possibly The Usual Suspects. Even though I know who Keyser Söze is, the reveal gets me every time.
  • Place in the World – Borneo has the most untouched natural beauty I’ve ever seen. And lots of monkeys!
  •  Superhero – Technically, I guess she’s a supervillain but I’ve always had a thing for Catwoman. New faves would be X-23 from Logan or Eleven from Stranger Things.
  • Harry Potter house – Slytherin

 

Thanks so much for this lovely interview, Kristina! And we’ll see you next Monday.

7512686Kristina Pérez is a half-Argentine, half-Norwegian native New Yorker. She’s spent the past two decades living in Europe and Asia. She holds a PhD in Medieval Literature from the University of Cambridge and has taught at the National University of Singapore and the University of Hong Kong. As a journalist, her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal Asia, L’Officiel India, Condé Nast Traveler, CNN and the South China Morning Post, among others.

Her debut YA Fantasy, SWEET BLACK WAVES––a Tristan and Isolde retelling––will be published by Imprint/Macmillan in 2018.

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.

Interview with Zoraida Cordova

It’s Pitch América time, which means interview mondays are back!!!! How excited am I to be posting this again?

This week we’re interviewing Zoraida Cordova, the amazing author of LABYRINTH LOST. Labyrinth Lost was one of my favorite fantasy books last year, and the sequel CIRCLE UNBROKEN is just coming up.

27969081

The only way to get her family back is to travel to a land in between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic.

At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she’s not sure she can trust, but who may be Alex’s only chance at saving her family.

Order the book: Amazon | Indiebound | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble

And now, to the interview!

1) What is your favorite part about being a writer?

Meeting readers and writers online and in person. 

2) How has your cultural background influenced your writing? Do you write many Latinx characters?

I’ve always tried to include Latinx characters in my books. Labyrinth Lost is noticeably my books where 90% of the characters are Latinx. 

3) As someone who comes from a diverse background, did you have any experience in publishing that put that in a negative light?

My very first submission did get some unfortunate responses. The one that sticks in my head was “We already have a Latino book for the season.” I’m still a little bitter about it, even though I’m incredibly lucky to have had seven books published despite that. What bothers me is that there are still people who think that way. Thankfully, you won’t catch people making blanketed statements like that as easily as before without being dragged on the internet. 

4) How important do you think diversity is in publishing, especially regarding Latinx representation?

Publishing should reflect the real world. Not a portion of it. 

5) As a young writer, what books influenced you? Did any come from your own background?

I read and watched all things paranormal and fantasy. All of it was very cis and white. 

6) Where do you get inspiration for your books?

I still never know what to say to this because it’s always different. Sometimes it was a name that bore a character. Sometimes it’s daydreaming up an entire world. Sometimes it’s in the middle of the night when I wake up and can’t let go of an idea. 

7) Any good advice for Latinx and POC writers out there?

I don’t know if I have *good* advice. But here goes: Storm the gates. 

  • Hogwarts house? Gryffindor
  • Favorite food? Tacos
  • Favorite movie? Casper (with Christina Ricci)
  • Favorite TV series? Buffy
  • Favorite soap opera? Jane the Virgin
  • Favorite place in the world? The beach. Puerto Rico. 
  • Favorite superhero? Captain America

Thanks so much for this interview, Zoraida!

zoraida_vlc_photo2

I write YA Urban Fantasy about things that go bump in the night. I also write about 20-something-year-old-girls searching for love and the meaning of life. I often wish my life were a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sex and the City. I’m a contributing writer to Latinos in Kid Lit, Bustle, and B&N Teen Blog. I’ve always loved stories about magic and impossible worlds. Other things I love: Moon Prism Power. Five by five. Orlando Bloom’s Face. Daughter of Poseidon. I love you/I know.