The entire Las Musas crew is proud to wish Diamond City by Francesca Flores a happy book birthday! Keep reading for an interview with Francesca!
About Diamond City:
Good things don't happen to girls who come from nothing...unless they risk everything.
Fierce and ambitious, Aina Solís as sharp as her blade and as mysterious as the blood magic she protects. After the murder of her parents, Aina takes a job as an assassin to survive and finds a new family in those like her: the unwanted and forgotten.
Her boss is brutal and cold, with a questionable sense of morality, but he provides a place for people with nowhere else to go. And makes sure they stay there.
DIAMOND CITY: built by magic, ruled by tyrants, and in desperate need of saving. It is a world full of dark forces and hidden agendas, old rivalries and lethal new enemies.
To claim a future for herself in a world that doesn't want her to survive, Aina will have to win a game of murder and conspiracy—and risk losing everything.
Laura Taylor Namey got a chance to chat with Francesca and learn a bit more about her characters and her inspiration for writing her thrilling debut.
1. When we first meet main character Aina Solís, she’s gotten herself into quite a conundrum, which rarely lets up as the story unfolds. Tell us about your Aina and what it was like to create such a complex, strong character.
Aina, along with the setting of the story, were the first things that came to me when I was initially inspired to write this book. I pictured a confident girl who was a bit mysterious and kept mostly to herself. I heard her voice in my head as the setting of the story came together, and first started to collect little bits of dialogue for a few months before writing. I was working on other projects prior to this and I thought this would just end up being a fun side project that wouldn’t ever end up ‘serious,’ and maybe that’s why I felt more freedom while writing it.
These bits of dialogue for Aina were often witty jokes she came up with on the spot, insightful thoughts, and bold opinions that she's not afraid to share. In pretty much every chapter, I discovered some deeper layer of her that she’s had to hide from the world to survive. The prime, defining part of her character is that her determination is endless. Despite her experiences with violence, poverty and substance abuse, she hasn’t given up hope in herself or for a future. It was a great experience to create her because of how flawed she is and how much she has to learn. She’s become accustomed to a twisted set of morals, the shields she’s built up to protect herself have actually made her more susceptible to being manipulated, while her pride and self-isolation have made it harder for her to make friends who care about her safety. In many ways, she’s similar to the antagonist of her story, and only her choices will make her different from this antagonist. So I’d say it was really fun to write her because of her flaws, her strong voice, and her determination.
2. The world of Kosín is marked by classic fantasy elements as well as some fun steampunk attributes! What was your process for building this world and what were your influences?
I think the first development of the world was the era: I knew I wanted it to be a gritty, industrial world with 1800s inspired technology. That lends itself to a steampunk feel, even though the fantasy elements aren’t related to the technology. They’re more in a feud with each other. Since I studied international relations in school and I’ve always loved socio political dynamics, I wanted to weave that in as well. Huge changes in technology affect every level of society, as well as do shifts in religious belief and power. So pitting them against each other felt like a natural way to stir up conflict even more.
I like focusing on the world first, before really developing the characters, because people are influenced in every way by where they’re from, the environment they grow up in, and where they fit into society now. So creating a world with social hierarchies and power imbalances will create people affected by that world with plenty of opinions and stories about it. Also, while I love fantasy in any time period, I felt like this technological era isn’t often explored, especially in second-world fantasies that tend to lean more toward ancient or medieval worlds. I wanted it to feel like Les Misérables, but with magic and a diverse cast of characters with immigrant backgrounds.
3. Were there any ways you incorporated elements from your own history or culture when building this story and its characters?
I was born in Pittsburgh, and that comes through here in all the rivers that surround the setting of my book and and plenty of bridges, as well as the steel mills near the water. Pittsburgh has a long history of industrial and steel work, and that definitely came into play here. I’ve also always lived in cities, and they’re my favorite kind of setting to write. My dad was also an immigrant, and most of the characters in my main cast are children of immigrants, and one of them is an immigrant herself. I tried to put as much of that experience in the book as I could. The book isn't about immigration, but it is about young people, who happen to be children of immigrants or immigrants themselves, doing great things in a damaged place
4. What was the editorial process like for Diamond City?
Hmm…I learned a lot! Haha. I wrote many manuscripts for years before deciding to query (I think the total is somewhere around 16, give or take), but I didn’t revise much. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I had so many ideas hopping around in my head and I wasn’t really thinking about publishing yet (that always seemed like a far-off dream). So I would just fix major plot holes and do line edits before jumping to the next story. Because of that, I can churn out a decent draft very quickly, but revising takes me a while, and I like it that way.
For Diamond City, I did one big revision and one small revision before querying, and then did a LOT of revising before going on submission with my agent. I learned much more about craft, made a solemn vow to plot better so I would never have to rewrite that much ever again in my life (ha!), and rewrote…a lot. I have a document saved somewhere with about 120k cut words from multiple drafts, and the word count went up and down so much before finally setting on 88k for the submission draft. Now it’s at a nice round 100k, and I feel quite proud of it!
5. Most of all, what feeling do you want readers to come away with after they read your book?
I want them to feel like they went on a heart-pounding adventure in a living, dynamic world, but also a bit like they’ve just made new friends in the characters. I want them to see Aina’s flaws and how she’s grown. I hope that readers in toxic relationships will be able to examine them more critically, or at least be able to see themselves in this book somehow and feel less alone. And I hope people who’ve experienced a lot of poverty or homelessness in their lives can feel like their voices matter, and that they have wonderful futures ahead of them.
6. Can you share what’s coming up next for you, or what you’re working on now?
I’m working on my sequel (Diamond City is a duology!). I’m in the first round of revisions for it, and it’s finally coming together! I can’t wait to share it with readers 😊
The holidays are upon us and Las Musas are here to help you find (hopefully) that perfect read for the reader in your life. Don’t see what you’re looking for? Or looking for a read outside of the picture book, middle grade, and young adult range?
Ask us for a recommendation in the comments and we will happily get back to you!
Note: We’ve placed content warnings on our young adult books (when we could find them), and we recommend researching further to make informed decisions before you purchase. Every reader is different and we hope this blog is just a starting point to finding a next read!
We are so excited to reveal the cover of Yamile's upcoming book: ON THESE MAGIC SHORES!
But first... a little bit about the book:
Twelve-year-old Minerva Soledad Miranda is determined to reach her goals, despite shouldering more responsibility than the other kids at school--like caring for her two sisters while her mom works two jobs. But one night, Minerva's mom doesn't come home, and Minerva has to figure out what to do. Was Mamá snapped up by ICE? Will the girls be sent to foster homes or holding centers for migrant kids? Minerva and her sisters can't let anyone know Mamá has disappeared. They'll just pretend everything is normal until she comes back.
Minerva's plan falls apart the first afternoon, when her baby sister throws a tantrum during Minerva's audition for Peter Pan. But as the days pass and Minerva grows ever more worried about her mother, something magical seems to be watching out for them: leaving them cupcakes, helping her find money, even steering them to friends and distant family who can help. Eventually, Minerva must make the hardest choice of her life. And when she does, she'll be prepared to face life's challenges--with friendship, hope, and a little bit of fairy magic.
ON THESE MAGIC SHORES is coming from Lee and Low/Tu Books on April 21, 2020.
As our first year of Las Musas comes to a close we are thrilled to announce the expansion of our family tree with Las Musas Picture Books!
We are thrilled to launch this branch with the incredible talents of Alexandra Alessandri, Donna Barba Higuera, Zara González Hoang, Adriana Hernández Bergstrom, Joana Pastro, Yamile Saied MéndYamile Saied Mendezez, and NoNieqa Ramos all of whom will publish their debut picture books in 2019 and 2020 and beyond.
Perhaps you wonder why we didn't include picture books during our founding year. Believe us, it wasn't out of neglect. It was simply a matter of logistics. As debut MG & PB writers, we were overwhelmed with forming this group and trying to launch our books and careers and taking on this endeavor was more than we could do. Also, there was the concern that picture books are so different than MG & YA novels, we couldn't consolidate how to market us all together.
However, thanks to the wonderful Alexandra Alessandri who has agreed to spearhead this new branch, we are beginning to grow and learn how to do it so that our marketing efforts are beneficial to all. More than anything, we understand how important it is to have a community like Las Musas in children's publishing and we would be remiss if we couldn't incorporate PB.
Please help me in welcoming our new group of Musas! Visit their pages and add their work to Goodreads!
With love and esperanza,
The Library of Lost Things is out in the world! It’s a gorgeously written YA coming-of-age debut by Las Musas’ Cuban-American author Laura Taylor Namey.
“One reader said that it’s a story ‘about love.’ I think that’s the best description,” Taylor Namey said.
The novel follows the life of high school senior and bibliophile Darcy Wells, who has spent most of her life hiding in other people’s stories. Books are her way of coping with her mother’s hoarding disorder. Darcy finds refuge in her best friend Marisol Robles’ family. Marisol’s big, loving Cuban-Mexican family take in Darcy as one of their own. While Darcy is struggling to survive her mother’s mental illness, Asher Fleet, a former teen pilot with a shattered future, walks into the bookstore where she works and straight into her heart.
“The idea of Darcy came because I’ve always been a little like she is. I’ve used books as a stress reliever,” said Taylor Namey from her home in San Diego. “When my own happy endings weren’t so happy, I would live vicariously through the characters in the books I was reading.”
“For the premise of the book, I thought about someone who wasn’t just escaping in books, but hiding in them. What would that look like?”
We have been blessed with beautiful Musa covers this month and this one is no exception. So happy to share the cover for Chantel Acevedo's MUSE SQUAD: THE CASSANDRA CURSE coming in 7.7.2020!
More about MUSE SQUAD...
Callie Martinez-Silva didn’t mean to turn her best friend into a pop star. But when a simple
pep talk leads to miraculous results, Callie learns she’s the newest muse of epic poetry, one of
the nine muses of Greek mythology, tasked with protecting humanity’s fate in secret.
Whisked away to muse headquarters, she joins three recruits her age, who call themselves the
Muse Squad. Together, the junior muses use their magic to inspire and empower—not an easy
feat when you’re eleven and still figuring out the goddess within.
When their first assignment turns out to be Callie’s exceptionally nerdy classmate Maya
Rivero, the squad comes to Miami to stay with Callie and her Cuban family. There, they discover
that Maya doesn’t just need inspiration, she needs saving from vicious Sirens out to unleash a
curse that will corrupt her destiny.
As chaos erupts, will the Muse Squad be able to master their newfound powers in time to
thwart the Cassandra Curse . . . or will it undo them all?
MUSE SQUAD is forthcoming from Balzer + Bray in 7.7.2020!
We are so excited to host the cover reveal for Anika Fajardo's WHAT IF A FISH! Check out the gorgeous cover below (designed by Paola Escobar) and read a little more about Anika's middle grade debut!
About WHAT IF A FISH...
Half-Colombian Eddie Aguado has never really felt Colombian. Especially after Papa died. And since Mama keeps her memories of Papa locked up where Eddie can’t get to them, he only has Papa’s third-place fishing tournament medal to remember him by. He’ll have to figure out how to be more Colombian on his own.
As if by magic, the perfect opportunity arises. Eddie – who’s never left Minnesota – is invited to spend the summer in Colombia with his older half-brother. But as his adventure unfolds, he feels more and more like a fish out of water. Figuring out how to be a true Colombiano might be more difficult than he thought.
Whimsical and unflinchingly honest, What if a Fish is a generational story of family and identity where hats turn into leeches, ghosts blow kisses from lemon trees, and the things you find at the end of your fishing line might not be a fish at all.
What if a Fish is coming Summer 2020!
At least once a year, I come to Buenos Aires to spend time with family—usually in October, to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday (this year she turns 90—there will be dancing until seven in the morning!). It is a magical city full of secret hideaways—I love that you can step through a door and be transported into the Buenos Aires of the past. I like to roam the streets and linger over long dinners with the women in my family (my grandmother calls us the matriarcado). We will usually cook together at home, making empanadas, ñoquis, or milanesas together, but some days, we will go out for a very special treat… Shall we go?
With her street smarts and dance floor heart, Afro-Latina Beatriz will have you rooting for her from page one!
When we meet Beatriz, she’s simultaneously looking at a “wishmaker flower” and dodging bullets. That’s pretty much her life. Hope and violence entwined.
Beatriz is anchored by love for family, inspired by dancers on TV’s Fame, and stirred by music, but she’s also working out how to keep the cash flowing in the gang she joined at age twelve and how to follow in the footsteps of her big brother, who led the gang with distinction.
Her inner battle heats up when a clean-cut, book-smart kid flashes her a smile. ‘Hood-savy, she is; school-loving, she’s not. And yet these two young people have some things in common. Both have lived through adversity and violence. Both have a chance to make something of themselves. Both love to bust a move to the music of the day, which is the 1980’s.
In a world where her brother has been shot and her mother is slipping into a grief-inspired stupor, Beatriz finds the idea of romance both alluring and dangerous. How can she reveal her gang life to Mr. Straight-up Good Guy? How can she get involved with a guy who may have ties to the enemy? When they study together, Beatriz can be herself, but her ‘hood is part of herself, too. The fact is, she’s living in two worlds that must eventually collide.
With a dance mentor and contest that could put her in touch with her TV role model, Beatriz seems poised to break out of her old life, but her gang says, “Blood in, blood out.” Besides that, threats arrive in cryptic messages. Unfortunately, the past never stays past. It breaks into the present and threatens everything Beatriz is becoming. To become her best self, she’ll have to risk losing the only life she’s ever known.
With vivid scenes and page-turner tension, Tami Charles recreates the New Jersey of the 1980’s. She depicts the drug world without flinching, but also humanizes the people caught in its grip. The challenges of immigration, poverty, and gang violence are faced bravely by the characters here, and we find ourselves unable to judge anyone in a simplistic way. This is the strength of fiction, and Charles’s talent of portraying psychological depth leads the reader away from preconceived notions and toward an appreciation of the human struggle.
Though readers of Like Vanessa will recognize feisty Beatriz, this book stands alone. It stands, also, as a testament to the dignity and resilience so alive in this character. Treat yourself to this story of hard-won insights and embraced potential. The ending will make you want to dance!
By Rebecca Balcárcel
THE TRUTH IS by Nonieqa Ramos - A Novel About Learning & Unlearning - A conversation with book blogger Gabi Morataya
Today, it’s my pleasure to be in conversation with NoNieqa Ramos about her sophomore novel, The Truth Is. The author of The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary is back with an intense novel that explores identity, grief, prejudice, and so much more.
The Truth Is by NoNieqa Ramos stars Verdad, a fifteen-year-old girl with a lot on her plate. She lost her best friend in a very traumatic way and isn’t sure how to process it. She has a mother that loves her, but her love doesn’t come easy. Her father spends far more time with his step-daughter than he does with her. On top of it all, a new boy in school has caught her attention. A very cute trans boy.
An incident with a classmate and her relationship with Danny are catalysts for change in Verdad’s life. She begins to question everything she knows about herself and the world. She questions her sexuality, how she views gender, her Boricua identity, and all the beliefs that have been ingrained in her. The truth is, Verdad has a lot to figure out.
Thank you for speaking with me, NoNieqa. Without further ado, let’s get started!
There are many times in which Verdad puts her foot in her mouth, realizing she has a lot to learn about others. What do you want readers her age to take from these scenes?
We are living in a dystopia. Colonizers robbed indigenous people of this nation and now the forces of white supremacy cage them on the border. The school-to-prison pipeline is modern society’s underground plantation. Migrants are making our clothes, growing and packaging our food, but can’t afford clothes for their children or to put food on their own tables.
White supremacy is real, alive, healthy and has become socially acceptable. Racism, colorism, sexism, homophobia--the cockroaches that have been breeding under the wall--are now exposed to the light. I start out my novel with a shooting by a white supremacist to establish this as fact and reality from page 1. So why not just write a book about Verdad dealing with white supremacy? I do. Verdad’s grief over her loss of culture and language are a direct result of assimilation, colonization, and white supremacy. So are Verdad’s biases--and her mom’s.
Las Musas Speak
Welcome to our blog!