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:
Love 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.
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
Anna 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.