On Pochos and Storytelling
with Monica Zepeda, author of 'Boys of the Beast'
#NuevasPaginasconLupita is a space that is both an archive and resource aimed to "spotlight" Hispanic/Latinx/e authors with newly published books. The goal is to connect readers to new and/or old favorite Hispanic/Latinx/e authors and their books! So give this & every post a share to help us reach more readers!
How does it work?!
Here’s the deal, I came up with a set of casual/random/funny questions to ask each Hispanic/Latinx/e author, I interview. For now, the questions will all be the same but maybe in the future I’ll launch this into more specific questions to the author or maybe I’ll turn this series into a mini-podcast, or maybe……well, you get it! The possibilities are endless.
If you are new here don’t forget to check out all the other amazing interviews! We also have a great line-up of guest authors coming up so make sure you don’t miss an issue by subscribing now!
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Hey Heyyy Book Franz!
Happy first day of Summer! I don’t know about you but I am finding it super hard to show up to work these days. All my brain and body want is a good beach with a good book in hand. Especially given all the amazing books we are learning about weekly!
My hope is to fit in more time to rest and read this summer, even if it isn’t at a beach or poolside because I have a very long list of books I am dying to read. How about you? Tell me in the comments book you are most excited to read this summer?! But before you answer that question make sure you read today’s interview because your answer might end up being different!
Without further ado, our special guest author today is….Monica Zepeda, author of Boys of the Beast!
Photo credit: Henry Reynolds
Could you tell me a bit about where this photo was taken? Is it special to your book in some way?
This corner of the couch is where I spent a lot of time during COVID lockdown working on revisions of BOYS OF THE BEAST. (Not shown – my cat Elwood, who often sat over my shoulder as I worked. I called him my supervisor.)
Tell me about your book without telling me about your book - share any literary inspirations behind your book! If there are none, the gap you wanted to fill in the literary canon with your book.
There are many important Latinx books about the immigrant experience, but the Latinx community is large and diverse beyond immigration stories. I’m a third-generation Mexican American. My heritage is an important cultural touchstone to me, and pochos have stories to tell, too. I was inspired by my nephews, who are all completely different but are bound together by their Mexican American family. It’s third, fourth, and even fifth (I have a grand-nephew who just turned one!) generation kids that I wanted to write for, so they can see themselves, too.
What are two central themes in your book that you connect with the most and why?
Family and grief are two central themes that are important to me. Family can be complicated and those you love can be flawed. It’s not always easy to talk to a family member about something that will cause disapproval or disappointment or even anger. I wanted the boys to be able to call out each other on their b.s. and also learn to support each other. It takes a willingness to be vulnerable to communicate honestly.
Grief is another theme that became more important the more I worked on the book. My mother died while I was working on the first draft and my father died in 2020 just before lockdown. I was working on revisions with my editor during that time and that process really let me focus on what grief meant not just to Oscar, but to me.
If a book was home, where would your home be?
A home isn’t just a house. In BOYS OF THE BEAST, there’s a sense of loneliness and neglect at Oscar’s house. Home ultimately becomes the people who care about you.
If your book was a famous musician who would it be?
Music plays an important part in BOYS OF THE BEAST. The boys have very different musical tastes, but I think all of them would agree on David Bowie. He was more interested in artistic expression than commercial success and not afraid to experiment and transform himself.
What comfort food could a reader pair with your book?
Waffles. Definitely waffles.
In what ways has access (or little to no access) to Hispanic/Latinx/e literature defined you as a writer?
There was nothing like the current excellent Latinx YA when I was growing up. I read a lot, sometimes a book a day since I had a long bus ride to and from school, (okay, I admit it, they were Harlequin Romances). I never saw smart Chicana girls in anything I read. So I read anything that had smart white girls, from Wonder Woman to Pride and Prejudice. I ended up an English major and studied the traditional canon. I learned the basics of writing from that. It took me a while to become confident in my own voice since it was not something that was publishable for a long time.
Where can readers keep up with your work?
A huge thank you to Monica Zepeda for taking the time to chat with me about her book! Please please make sure you purchase a copy (or request your local library carry a copy) of their book #SupportLatinxLit!
Author Bio from her website:
Monica Zepeda is a third generation Mexican American from Southern California who lives by the beach with her husband and their unbelievably cute cats. She earned an MFA in playwriting before working in the entertainment industry. The award-winning independent film she wrote, Collusions, is available on most video-on-demand platforms. Her jobs have included a bookseller in London, a researcher of miracles, and she is now a Teen Services librarian. She won Lee & Low’s New Visions Award for her debut YA novel, Boys of the Beast, the story of three strangers who also happen to be cousins and their road trip in their Grandma Lupe’s classic Thunderbird. In addition to writing, Monica collects cupcake recipes and loves to travel.
Synopsis for Boys of the Beast Bookshop website:
Three cousins. Four days. One car. This smart and fearless road-trip novel is perfect for fans of David Levithan, Benjamin Alire Saenz, or Meg Medina.
THE ROUTE. Seventeen hundred miles from Portland, Oregon, to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
THE BEAST. Grandma Lupe's 1988 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe.
THE BOYS.Three strangers who also happen to be cousins:
Matt. Evangelical Christian. Earnest. Film nerd. Carrying a dream to make movies--despite the future his father has planned for him.
Ethan. Jewish. Gay. Sci-fi nerd. Carrying a phone that contains his entire relationship with Levi--unless they finally get to meet IRL on this trip.
Oscar. Stoner. Smartass. Too cool to be a nerd. Carrying a letter that haunts him--no matter how hard he tries to escape it.
THE END ...just might be a new beginning.
This powerful voyage in three voices marks the brilliant debut of Monica Zepeda
The best way you can support Latinx/e authors and Latinx/e literature is by doing the following:
REQUEST that your local library carry a copy
PURCHASE a copy of a friend, family member, or your nemesis (hey! I’m sure they read too).
SHOUT about the book on any social media platform or to your friends and family!
SHARE this interview widely! Word of mouth does wonders for connecting readers to books.
REVIEW their books on any website that sells books!
The other day one of my cousins asked in our family group chat….” Hey! What kind of music does Lupita listen to?” and without even missing a beat my brother replied “AUDIOBOOKS”!
The moment audiobooks stepped into my life, they became my music. I listen to them on walks, while doing laundry and chores — basically any moment I have to myself. So if that is you too (or if you simply want to fit in more reading during your daily life) check out Libro.FM! If you use the code LupitaReads you’ll receive two audiobook credits for 14.99 USD with your first month of membership. These credits can be used on your choice of more than 250,00 audiobooks on Libro. FM.
And if you need some audiobook recommendations - I made a list just for you!