Thursday, September 27, 2018

Mark Oshiro Author Interview

Photo Credit: Rakeem Cunningham

Mark Oshiro is the Hugo finalist (in the Fan Writer category) creator of the online Mark Does Stuff universe (Mark Reads and Mark Watches), where he analyzes book and television series unspoiled. He was the nonfiction editor of Queers Destroy Science Fiction! and the co-editor of Speculative Fiction 2015 with Foz Meadows. He is the President of the Con or BustBoard of Directors. His first novel, Anger is a Gift, is a YA contemporary about queer friendship, love, and fighting police brutality, out now with Tor Teen. When he is not writing, crying on camera about fictional characters, or ruining lives at conventions, he is busy trying to fulfill his lifelong goal: to pet every dog in the world.


Where were you born and where do you call home?
I was born in Los Angeles, three minutes after my twin brother. We moved around a bit as kids and spent time in foster care and Boise, Idaho, before we settled in Riverside, California. I don’t visit my hometown often and feel more at place in Los Angeles. These days, I live in New York City.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life in writing?
Develop a work ethic. Be able to turn down socializing or distractions to get work done every so often; it pays off in the long run. Don’t make that an obsessive habit, though. There’s no point in pursuing a life in writing if you can’t have fun along the way. Don’t stop writing, even if you’re writing things that do not directly contribute to a possible career. Don’t compare your journey to others as much as you can. Someone’s fifth book is not your first book. Someone’s first book isn’t your first book either. Appreciate your own journey. My writing from 15 years ago was awful when I read it now, but I had to learn to write that way to get to where I am now.

What were your inspirations for the character development?
ANGER IS A GIFT was my attempt to give kids hope, and a lot of the character development for Moss, the main character, is centered on his acceptance of himself. I was an anxious, depressed teenager who had a really rough upbringing; I wrote a book that someone like me needed at the time. So I wanted to show this kid dealing with mental illness and challenging circumstances but still finding a path through. I wanted his development to be tied to a journey like that.

In your new book; ANGER IS A GIFT, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
Sure! ANGER IS A GIFT is my love letter to queer teens, teens with mental illness, and the beautiful power that I discovered around that age to unite with others and change the world. It follows Moss Jeffries, Jr. as he and his best friends deal with his school deciding to install metal detectors on campus and the fallout that comes from it. It’s a book about self-discovery, as Moss learns how to date a boy for the first time and begins to understand the power of activism and community.

What was your unforgettable moment while writing Moss?
There’s a moment at the end of the first chapter and the beginning of the second that, in nearly every draft of ANGER, remained largely unchanged. One thing that was a challenge to do with this book was be honest about having anxiety and depression. I was always concerned with how much information I was putting on the page. Was it too much? Too personal? I decided that there was no way to represent every experience with anxiety, so I just wrote my own. The scene I am referencing involves Moss having a panic attack, and I wrote it as I experience them, and once I was done, I realized I’d never actually spoken about that at length. So it felt very liberating, and it’s one of the moments I get the most emails and comments on from other teen readers. I’m very proud of it.

Are there authors that you’re excited to engage/work with?
I have been lucky enough since I moved to New York to have made friends with some incredible people. Patrice Caldwell, who is an editor at Disney/Freeform and a writer herself, introduced me to a lot of people in the YA community when I met her in 2017, and I don’t know where I’d be without her. The same goes for Natalie C. Parker, who runs Madcap Retreats. Without her work, I would not have met Tiffany Jackson, Ashley Woodfolk, Justin Reynolds, Kaitlyn Sage Patterson, L.L. McKinney, and countless others. Shout out to my New York writing crew! You’re all lovely, and I would list all of you here, but that would be really weird.

What part of Javier did you enjoy writing the most?
Getting to write a soft, queer Latinx boy was my favorite part. There is very little representation of us in books, and I wanted to write a character who was just good, through and through.

What book would you recommend for others to read?
I just finished Anna-Marie McLemore’s Blanca y Roja and it DESTROYED me. Highly, highly recommended.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I can hint that I have about four short stories that I’m working on at the moment, all of which are planned for publication in different anthologies in 2019. I am in the midst of developmental edits with my editor, Miriam Weinberg at Tor Teen, for my second novel, which comes out next year. It’s a fantasy/magical realism adventure about a teenage girl who decides to defy her upbringing to find the one person in the world who understands her. I am so, so excited about this book, and I can’t wait until I can reveal more about it.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I would want Moss to meet Caroline in Kheryn Callendar’s Hurricane Child. It’s a middle grade book, but both characters are deeply emotional about their desire and their sense of belonging. I’m obsessed with the book, and you should be, too!

Any Camp stories you would like to share?
I had a very strict/religious upbringing, so I was not allowed to attend Camp in any traditional sense. However! I did Cross Country all four years of high school, and there was a big summer camp we went to down in San Diego’s Mission Bay. We’d spend a week waking up at the crack of dawn to go on extremely, extremely long runs. We’d work up to the last full day being the morning we ran a half marathon, and I’m very proud of accomplishing that. That being said, that’s not the actual best story. One night, we snuck out of our tents to go attack the girls’ camp with water balloons and, after a successful bombardment, we realized we had gone after complete strangers who were not very happy with our mistake. We never tried to pull that off again.

First concert?
It was a terrible local hardcore show in Riverside, and it was during the day on a Saturday in someone’s backyard. I technically lied about having a school function in order to go to it; I even had my mom drop me off in front of our middle school, gave her a time to pick me up, and went to the show in between it.

What are you most passionate about today?
Writing for teens. Really good music. Making connections with people in this messed-up world so we can survive it together. Finding excellent tacos. Petting every dog in the world.

If you had to go back in time and change one thing, if you HAD to, even if you had “no regrets” what would it be?
I would have come out in high school and been myself. I know I would have been happier.

Can you define love in your own way?
Ah, there are so many different kinds! But for me, love is about acceptance, which doesn’t mean that people who love one another can’t change and grow. It means that you recognize the innately complicated layers that make up a person, and you accept that they are all those parts.

What is your favorite holiday and why?
Halloween, now and forever. Because it’s the spookiest and I am a spooky person at heart.

What did you do for your last birthday?
I had an uneventful birthday last year because three days after it, I left for a writing retreat in Stanislaus National Forest, followed by a convention in Texas. Meaning: I had to work my entire birthday so I could go on this trip. However, my 33rd birthday the year prior was INCREDIBLE. I flew out to NYC (I was still in LA at the time), saw a matinee of Hamilton, then went and saw Gojira at Terminal 5. All in all, one of the best birthdays imaginable.

Where can readers find you?
I am best found on Twitter and Instagram at @MarkDoesStuff, or on my website: My book reviews are on, and my TV reviews are on

1) I used to live in Oakland, where ANGER IS A GIFT is set. I was there from 2010 through 2015, and many of the scenes in it are based on real places and real events.

2) Brown Sugar Kitchen, where one of the date scenes happens, is a real place, though I just found out that the location in the book closed down and moved from West Oakland to downtown Oakland. (I would not have known if it weren’t for this interview!)

3) The scene where Moss and his friends meet to begin planning action against his high school is set in Farley’s, a real coffee shop that I love. The same loft that the teens use is where I held the very first Mark Does Stuff event ever. Setting a scene there was my way of paying tribute to it.

4) ANGER IS A GIFT used to have a different title (AN INSIDIOUS THING, which was taken from a line of dialogue that is still in the book) and was initially planned as the first book in a science fiction/dystopian trilogy. I still have the outline for that trilogy. It’s kind of a mess, but I’m proud of it.

5) The version of ANGER IS A GIFT that is in the book you read is—and I counted!—draft 37 of the manuscript. That’s how many times the full thing was edited.

6) I had to cut a LOT of characters over the course of all those edits. Once I realized (with the help of an agent I was querying) that I needed to make the change from a sci-fi trilogy to a standalone contemporary novel, about ten characters were completely excised because there was no need for them. I most miss Garvey, a homeless character who Moss and his mom were friends with, and my attempt to talk about homelessness in a YA novel. I’ve decided I’ll just write a whole book about that instead one day.

7) When I signed with my agent, DongWon Song (the very agent who provided the motivation for #6!), in January of 2017, he told me that we had to change the title before we sent the book out. I only suggested three titles to him, all of which I came up with while on a plane: ANGER IS A GIFT, A RAGE SUPREME, and I WILL WEAR MY RAGE. The first one stuck, and I’m so happy it did.

8) There used to be a different epigraph that opened the book. Currently, two quotes—one from James Baldwin, one from Dolores Huerta—open ANGER IS A GIFT. Up until spring of 2017, it used to be the opening lines of “Good Mourning, America” by one of my favorite bands, letlive. However, when I reached out to them for permission to use their lyrics, I discovered that THEY HAD BROKEN UP. I was gutted.

For the record, those lyrics are:

“We ain’t so different now are we?”

Said the cop to the killer inside of me.

“I’ve heard your story, boy, and that shit gets old.

We’ve got the right to take your life, so do just what you’re told”

9) The original sketches for the cover of ANGER IS A GIFT were all red/pink and yellow, and the first cover (that was eventually changed) had a much, much different vibe than the one I eventually ended up with.

10) I cried the first time I held my book. Unfortunately, this was in public, as my editor decided to surprise me with a bound manuscript copy of it while I was at the launch for Shadowhouse Fall. She tends to surprise me with things at events, it is a very disturbing pattern.

A story of resilience and loss, love and family, Mark Oshiro's Anger is a Gift testifies to the vulnerability and strength of a community living within a system of oppression.

Six years ago, Moss Jefferies' father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media's vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.

Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals by their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

Praise for ANGER IS A GIFT

"Anger is a Gift is an explosion of fury and revolution. Mark Oshiro's beautiful and brutal debut proves that not only can anyone be a hero, but great change comes when the heroes work together." ―Adam Silvera, New York Times bestselling author of They Both Die at the End

"Raw, unflinching, and full of heart. Anger is a Gift is a masterpiece." ―Marieke Nijkamp, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before I Let Go

“This debut novel provides a riveting, devastatingly realistic portrayal of the criminalization of marginalized groups and an unwavering examination of the lasting impact of bigotry. His teenage characters have authentic intersectional depth and are developed beyond the various ways society labels them: black, Latinx, disabled, Muslim, asexual, nonbinary, gay, lesbian…the narrative is compelling, providing a new and noteworthy account that continues the conversation and depiction of society's opposition to otherness. This is not to be missed and should be placed in a prominent position in every library serving teens.” ―Voya, Jewel Davis.

"An emotional roller-coaster." ―Publishers Weekly

“A masterful debut rich with intersectional nuance and grass-roots clarity, Anger is a Gift is hella precious, hella dope.” ―Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"A strong addition to the current wave of excellent social justice–themed contemporary realistic titles. Give this to fans of Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give.” ―School Library Journal (starred review)

“Oshiro’s novel asks both its characters and its readers what to do next.” ―The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
You can purchase Anger Is a Gift at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you MARK OSHIRO for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro. 


  1. "What was the last thing you said to someone?" Something about the mail.

  2. The last thing I said to someone is "OK, thanks." Thanks for the giveaway!