Book Birthday: Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland
We are SO THRILLED to celebrate the much-anticipated release of: Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland. It has received so many wonderful reviews and praise:
“Luminous, genre-bending, and out of this world.”-starred review, Kirkus
“…a genre-defying read that is certain to keep readers engaged.” -starred review, Publishers Weekly
“Her language exhibits a stunning fluidity, depicting time and space and even mortality as a sort of continuum.” -New York Times
“… a story that blends science fiction with Mexican folklore, all within a contemporary young adult novel that explores grief, friendship, immigration, consent, and the powerful bond between mother and daughter.” -School Library Journal
Here’s a little bit about the book:
Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe meets Roswell by way of Laurie Halse Anderson in this astonishing, genre-bending novel about a Mexican American teen who discovers profound connections between immigration, folklore, and alien life.
It’s been three years since ICE raids and phone calls from Mexico and an ill-fated walk across the Sonoran. Three years since Sia Martinez’s mom disappeared. Sia wants to move on, but it’s hard in her tiny Arizona town where people refer to her mom’s deportation as “an unfortunate incident.”
Sia knows that her mom must be dead, but every new moon Sia drives into the desert and lights San Anthony and la Guadalupe candles to guide her mom home.
Then one night, under a million stars, Sia’s life and the world as we know it cracks wide open. Because a blue-lit spacecraft crashes in front of Sia’s car…and it’s carrying her mom, who’s very much alive.
As Sia races to save her mom from armed-quite-possibly-alien soldiers, she uncovers secrets as profound as they are dangerous in this stunning and inventive exploration of first love, family, immigration, and our vast, limitless universe.
What inspired you to write SIA? What was that initial spark of an idea? I wrote about this very spark in depth in the acknowledgements of the book, so I’ll excerpt that here: “Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything arrived in my life one evening in Tallahassee, Florida. I was taking a walk among the magnolias, the hibiscus, the wisteria. Everything smelling soft, sweet, sticky like honey. The sky was sealike in color. And there, as I took a step on the sidewalk, the idea came: a UFO crash in the desert. I knew the only occupant was Mexican, I knew she was an undocumented immigrant, and I knew she was looking for her daughter. The second image of the book arrived soon after: that daughter, in class, reading a letter to a boy who’d been hateful to her. These were the two scenes that began this whole adventure.”
One review has called SIA “genre-bending”. It is a mix of sci-fi, contemporary and speculative fiction. (Did I miss any?) This meld is what makes it so unique and unlike anything I’ve read. How did you choose the genres? Was it organic or did you plan it out?Romance! There’s romance, too (my absolute favorite genre). I didn’t begin planning or writing the book with any thought to its genre, except that I knew it would be YA (which I realize is a category rather than a genre). This is probably one of the reasons why it is genre-bending in a way many readers find strange and unexpected. I hadn’t researched any ‘rules’ or traditions on what a certain genre was supposed to do or look like, so I made my favorites meld together in a way I found fascinating enough to write a whole book around.
(From Nikki) What was your path to publication like? Were there any bumps along the way? If so, how did you press on?Sia Martinez is the third book I queried, so yes, there were lots of road bumps, lots of weeping in the bath, and lots of chocolate almonds consumed for comfort along the way! One thing I always told myself was: No matter what, I’m going to write another book. And so even before going into the querying process, or the submission process, with my poetry books, I knew that I would do this again, and again, that I wouldn’t ever give up. From the beginning of querying Sia, things were looking a lot different than my earlier two novels—for one, I was getting full requests left and right. I want to say I had at least a dozen of those. And then three offers of representation. I remember when I got the first—I think I was cooking, and my mom was visiting, and when I saw the email, I screamed. I want to say that it was only two months later when I was signing my two-book deal with Simon Pulse. Never giving up on my dream has been one million percent worth it.
(From Laekan) How do the speculative elements illuminate the social justice issues in the book? If we were ever visited by aliens, and if those aliens expressed physical characteristics some folks in power would find desirable, in, say, soldiers, or spies, then it makes sense that those in power would be interested in discovering how to capture those characteristics, how to make them controllable, and how to make them serve their interests. This obviously isn’t a new trope—its variations have been explored in stories from The X-Files to Captain America. But one thing I considered, when writing, was the history of those in power performing unethical medical experiments on subjugated peoples. And what happens, then, if one of their experiments actually worked? What would that person do, the one who now found themselves with literal superpowers, as they faced their oppressor? How would Captain America’s story look different if he were an undocumented immigrant? So, I think the speculative elements illuminate social issues as many sci-fi stories have in the past, except I wanted to follow this trope from the perspective of a woman of color and a family of color.
I know a favorite question of yours to ask is where authors come up with character names…so…where did you come up with your character names?Ha! I actually recently found the list of names I’d written before I drafted the book. It was really cool to remember those early stages of preparation. When I was in ninth grade, an art teacher felt I had the ‘energy’ of Artemisia Gentileschi, and so she assigned the painter for a project. I’ve been enamored with her work since, and it felt right for Sia to have her namesake. I have always loved the name Rose, and St. Theresa has always been a favorite saint—the saint whose sign is the raining of roses. That seemed perfect for Sia’s best friend, Rose. Sia’s love interest, Noah, was originally Clay, but I changed it. I wanted him to represent a new path of her life. I thought Clay would be good because of the Abrahamic creation myth. But then I thought that was a bit too on the nose and switched it to Noah—from another sort of biblical (re)creation myth. Sia’s parents, Luis and Lena, (short for Magdalena), are names I have written over and over for parents in YA novels and short stories since I was about twenty years old. They’re a little sacred to me now and I am overjoyed that they have found their home.
What was your favorite scene to write? Definitely the UFO crash. It was the scene that first came to me, the scene that made me want to find out what the heck was going on in this story to begin with. It was so satisfying to write it, and when I was done, it felt like a whole moment.
Purchase the book! Bookshop.org
Available as audiobook! Audible
Find Raquel: https://www.raquelvasquezgilliland.com/
Leave a Reply.
Las Musas Speak
Welcome to our blog!