Interview: Ismée Williams
Today Alexandra Villasante is talking with the lovely and multi-talented Ismée Williams. In addition to being a pediatric cardiologist, Ismée finds time to write swoony, sweet, timely books, like her newest YA novel, THIS TRAIN IS BEING HELD.
About THIS TRAIN IS BEING HELD...
We are incredibly honored and thrilled to reveal the cover, along with an exclusive excerpt, of LUPE WONG WON’T DANCE by Donna Barba Higuera.
But first! Here is a little bit about this book:
Twelve year old Lupe Wong WILL be the first female pitcher in Major League Baseball. But the American past time of Square Dancing is P.E. curriculum, something a kid like Lupe can’t relate to culturally or otherwise. She vows to get the archaic tradition banned, and a comedy of disasters ensues.
The cover artist for LUPE WONG WON’T DANCE is Mason London, and the cover designer is Maeve Norton. This cover is absolutely powerful and phenomenal--go ahead, and see for yourself:
My gym shorts burrow into my butt crack like a frightened groundhog. Note to self: remember shorts from home so you don’t have to wear scratchy school loaners ever again. I can fix this. I pull up my kneepads, adjust my wristbands, and tighten my ponytail with a yank. Ready for battle, a.k.a. seventh-grade spring P.E.
Half a cheek hanging out, I glance around the locker room to make sure the coast is clear. I casually place one foot up on the bench and make a stealth grab, yanking my underwear down.
Samantha Pinkerton slams her locker so loud the entire room of girls looks in her direction. “Find anything good up there, Lupe?” She laughs and half the class snickers with her.
I almost respond with, “Yeah, your mom,” but stop myself at the last possible second.
Samantha takes a step toward me and puts her nose inches from mine.
“Oh, yeah?” I say instead. This time the words are out before I can help it.
Samantha scrunches her face and scratches her temple, my comeback obviously stunning her into confusion. My best friend, Andy, cringes behind Samantha. Smack talk is not one of my strong points.
Coach Solden’s whistle pierces the air. “Guadalupe Wong . . . Samantha Pinkerton!” Arms folded over her chest, she takes up the entire doorway of her office. “Anything you care to share with us?”
I clench my teeth and shake my head. I can’t risk getting points off. I need to ace this class.
Samantha’s voice is suddenly as sweet as her fruity body spray. “Just admiring Lupe’s shorts, Coach Solden.”
“Well, do it after class,” Coach says, motioning for Samantha to get in line.
Samantha squints her eyes toward mine in some sort of staring standoff, but I can only focus on the cartoon salmon on the front of her shirt giving a thumbs-up. Someone forgot to tell the kid who designed the school mascot that Sammy Sock- eye should have fins, not fingers. Samantha slithers into line behind me.
“Oh, yeah?” she says, mimicking me under her breath.
Thank God Andy is with me this quarter. “Ignore her,” she mutters calmly from the next spot in line, shooting me a glance.
“I can bring you my extra soccer shorts tomorrow.” Andy’s mom has probably made sure she has four pairs to “ensure her aca- demic success.” To go with her new laptop and private tutoring.
I crack my knuckles in front of me. “Nope. I got this. I won’t forget mine again.”
We wait in a row to shuffle into the gymnasium for basketball or volleyball or whatever unit we have now. Coach wheels a TV out from the equipment closet in the back of the locker room. “No one moves; no one talks.” She pushes the cart toward the swinging door.
“Wait, something’s wrong,” I say, watching Coach walk into the gym without a single ball.
Andy’s voice sounds like it’s rolling its eyes. “I know, I know . . .” She makes a mouth puppet with her hand, trying to imitate my voice. “Kids with long arms should be able to wear shorts to their wrists instead of fingertips . . . It shouldn’t be a girl’s responsibility to worry about how our clothing might dis- tract boys . . .” She moves her hand puppet to make its mouth extra wide. “Aaaaand there should be a separate bubble under race for people of Chinacan or Mexinese descent . . .”
“Well, there should be!” I say. “You have a bubble for Black. Why should I have to Choose One Bubble or Other? Why should anyone?”
LUPE WONG WON’T DANCE is being released September 8th, 2020 by Levine Querido. Please add Donna's book on Goodreads here, and preorder on Amazon, Indiebound, or Barnes and Noble.
We are so excited to host this insightful conversation with Alexandra Villasante interviewing Isabel Ibañez about her magical book, WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT.
WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT a stunning fantasy based on Bolivian myths and culture, about Ximena, a girl raised as a decoy for la Condesa, the heir of the Illustrians - a people who have been ousted from La Ciudad by the usurper, Atoc. It’s a wonderfully evocative tale of revenge, magic and revolution.
The world in WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT is so beautifully articulated and vivid. Can you explain a little about how you structured it and where the idea for the world of Inkasisa came from?
Thank you! The world of Inkasisa is heavily inspired by Bolivia! I wanted to pull in from my childhood, when I spent many months out of the year living in my grandparent’s home in Cochabamba. Inkasisa has all of the same lush quality to it—in the heavy greenery, the mountains, the delicious food. I brought in all of the vibrant color found in Bolivia, as well as the beautiful artisan crafts and traditions.
Ximena lives her life as a lie – a decoy for the real Condessa, Catalina. How does knowing she couldn’t be ‘herself’ inform how you created her character? You almost had to have her fight against her instincts.
This was an interesting tension to pull off. Because I don’t think Ximena has ever sat down and tried to figure out who she is. She’s mostly been pretending to be someone else, and on top of that she lived through a horrifying trauma. She’s lost her family, her home. Part of writing Ximena was also discovering what she would have been like if she’d never lived through a war. So in essence, when she leaves the fort for the first time, she’s learning things about herself and having to rely on her wits instead of turning to Catalina. That part was fun—because the further away she went from her old life, the more she learned about herself.
I love the details of weaving tapestries – the way you described it feels very tactile and lush. Do you know how to do this – or did you have to do lots of research? And where did the idea come from?
I’m a weaver!! Bolivia has this beautiful and rich tradition of weaving and I knew I wanted my main character to really relish in this craft. When Ximena sits down to weave, I pictured myself in that process of creating a tapestry. It was a fun part of the writing, tapping into that artistic well.
Can you talk a little bit about the world building you created? It’s a fantasy grounded in Bolivian culture - the food (the food! Oh man the food!!!) the clothing, the koka etc. what made you make that choice and what did you choose not to include?
I wanted to make sure that the reader experienced all of Bolivia and part of that is what happens around a dinner table. The dishes I grew up eating are some of my favorites to enjoy, and I wanted readers to have the chance to experience them! I included the foods my parents made me and what I ate everyday in Bolivia.
How did you come up with the moon magic? I have to admit, when I was a little girl, I thought La Luna was my friend, that she was shining for me and leaving me ‘gifts’ I felt that Ximena was acompañada in that way by Luna – it felt very real to me!
The moon magic felt like a natural extension of the Bolivian traditions and religions of the indigenous peoples in different regions of the country. There is a lot of respect and reverence for Pachamama, mom to the earth and to the sun god, Inti. So having the Illustrians worship the moon felt like I was pulling from familiar traditions.
Thank you Isabel, for your time and for your beautiful story!
WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT is available from IndieBound, Amazon and Barnes and Noble now!
Isabel Ibañez is the author of WOVEN IN MOONLIGHT (Page Street, 2019), an award winning designer, illustrator, mom to a golden-doodle named Piper, and a Pitch Wars class of ’15 alum. By day, she designs greeting cards and by night she writes YA fantasies featuring amazing food and strong Latina characters who are often running for their lives. Isabel is represented by the tenacious Mary Moore of Kimberly Cameron & Associates. This is her third year mentoring Pitch Wars.
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