Book Nerd Interview
Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
There wasn’t so much a single moment as a series of moments. I’ve always loved stories, and I was raised by a family who loves books and encouraged my love of them, but it wasn’t until I realized there was room for the stories I wanted to write—Latinx stories, queer stories, stories of magical realism—that I thought I could be a writer.
Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Stories, however fictional, are how we become real to ourselves and how other people become real to us. They’re central to understanding, to empathy, and to learning how to treat each other.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Don’t be afraid to write something that scares you, embarrasses you, or even confuses you. Revision is for reigning in. Drafting is for finding out where the story wants to go.
In your new book; When the Moon was Ours, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it and why they should read your novel?
When the Moon Was Ours is the story of a boy who paints the moon and a girl who grows roses from her wrist who both find themselves up against a family of sisters rumored to be witches. Miel is a Latina girl, and Sam is a South Asian transgender boy, so readers looking for a magical realism story with LGBTQ characters and characters of color will find one In Moon.
For those who are unfamiliar with Sam, how would you introduce him?
Sam is a boy who, for reasons he shares with almost no one, paints the moon over and over, who’s falling in love with his best friend, and who’s doing the work of figuring out the kind of life he wants.
What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Miel?
Her history emerged slowly, so throughout revision I was constantly learning about her. For many drafts, she kept a lot of secrets from me.
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.
Embedded in the love story, the main character Sam faces how to claim his identity as a transgender boy, and Miel and Sam struggle with how to define their love, both to themselves and their community. McLemore tackles this relevant issue thoughtfully, coming from her own experience in her relationship with her husband, who is transgender. WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS conquers timely topics like race and gender while delivering an unforgettable, timeless love story.
Filled with roses, glass pumpkins, and magical moons, WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS will sweep you away with its fairy tale feel. Following her fantastic debut novel, WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS will thrill readers of McLemore’s debut novel and establish a whole new group of admirers for this immensely talented young writer.
Advanced praise for WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS:
“With luminous prose infused with Latino folklore and magical realism, this mixes fairytale ingredients with the elegance of a love story, with all of it rooted in a deeply real sense of humanity. Lovely, necessary, and true.” —Booklist, STARRED Review
“Luxurious language infused with Spanish phrases, Latin lunar geography, and Pakistani traditions is so rich it lingers on the tongue, and the presence of magic is effortlessly woven into a web of prose that languidly unfolds to reveal the complexities of gender, culture, family, and self. Readers will be ensnared in this ethereal narrative long before they even realize the net has been cast.” —Kirkus Reviews, STARRED Review
“A love story that is as endearingly old-fashioned as it is modern and as fantastical as it is real.” —School Library Journal, STARRED Review
"McLemore dances deftly across genres, uniquely weaving glistening strands of culture, myth, dream, mystery, love, and gender identity to create a tale that resonated to my core. It’s that rare kind of book that you want to read slowly, deliciously, savoring every exquisite sentence. I adored this book." — Laura Resau, Américas Award Winning Author of Red Glass and The Queen of Water
"Lushly written and surprisingly suspenseful, this magical tale is not just a love story, but a story of the secrets we keep and the lies we tell, and the courage it takes to reveal our authentic selves to each other and to the world." — Laura Ruby, Printz Award Winning-Author of Bone Gap