Publishers' Preview: Debut Authors: Five Questions for Aiden Thomas

This interview originally appeared in the July/August 2020 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Debut Authors, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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In Cemetery Boys, Yadriel is a brujo in contemporary Los Angeles, but can he get the brujx to accept him as the trans boy he is? Plus: ghosts.

1. Enjoy hanging out in cemeteries? What’s your favorite?

When I was younger, my friends and I spent a lot of time at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California. I took inspiration from it for the brujx cemetery in Cemetery Boys. You’re surrounded by graves, but it isn’t inherently spooky or morbid, it’s a social gathering place. Not being sad at The End is a big theme in Cemetery Boys because it ties into how Latinx culture feels about death and even how we celebrate it. The magical, spiritual, and religious often blend together with little or no distinction.

2. Why did you want to write Cemetery Boys?

Queer, trans, and Latinx kids are living in a world where a lot of hate and suffering is zeroed in on them. I wanted to write a book where these kids could see themselves being powerful heroes — a fun book with good representation in which they could see themselves being supported and loved for who they are.

3. What do you hope readers will take away from this story?

Yadriel’s story explores identities and struggles we don’t see in mainstream media, especially when it comes to transgender folks. Representation can be lifesaving for trans kids. Isolation is a killer among the queer community, and it’s important to find connections to keep you afloat. I also wanted Yadriel’s story to have a positive impact on people who aren’t like him, so they can connect with Yadriel on universal truths.

4. Did you have a Maritza, Yadriel’s cousin and best friend, growing up?

I had best friends who were my partners in crime, but not someone I trusted enough to open up to about my identity. Today my sister is my personal version of Maritza. She’s unwaveringly supportive and has taken a lot of the emotional weight and labor of teaching the rest of our family. Maritza was wish fulfillment. She’s the best friend I wish I had growing up, the champion and protector who would’ve made my journey easier.

5. What book is on your nightstand?

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender — and I can’t wait to dive in.

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Photo: Elizabeth Stelle.

Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton

Editor Emeritus Roger Sutton was editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc., from 1996-2021. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his MA in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a BA from Pitzer College in 1978.

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