Welcome to another author interview here on Afire Pages. Today, I interviewed an author who debuted last year 2016. She wrote Even If the Sky Falls that was published on May 10, 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books. If you haven’t read my review yet, click here.
So without further ado, here’s my interview with Mia Garcia.
Karina: Good day, Miss Mia Garcia! Welcome to Afire Pages. I am so glad to finally have you here. How are you feeling today?
MIA GARCIA: Hello! So happy to be here and a bit nervous J Interviews always make me nervous.
Karina: Before anything else, would you like to personally introduce yourself first to our readers?
MIA GARCIA: Sure. Lets see. My name is Mia García. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, but currently live in New York. I love books, comic books, probably too many movies and TV shows to name now. If I see a dog anywhere near me I will wave hello as if I knew the dog personally. Oh yeah, I wrote a book, it’s called Even If the Sky Falls, which is a 24-hour romance set in New Orleans.
Karina: So, let us first talk about you being a writer. When did you realize that you want to become a writer?
MIA GARCIA: I’ve always written. I was that person who would scribble short stories in her notebooks and my diaries were just giant dream journals (my dreams are very odd and plot filled), but I hesitated calling myself a writer, I’m not sure why. I think it wasn’t until my High School graduation when my Spanish Lit teacher took a moment to say something about each student and when he got to me he told me not to ignore my love of writing, and to explore a career in it. Perhaps I just needed someone to say “It’s OK. You CAN do this and it’s OK to want to.”
Karina: Who or what are your writing influences?
MIA GARCIA: I’m already worried I’m going to forget someone, but here I go. Growing up I read a lot of magical realism, a genre that is an intrinsic part of Latin American Lit, like Isabel Allende, Gabriel García Máquez, Jorge Luis Borges, & Rosario Ferré. I was, and still am, a sucker for folk tales, myths, legends, fairytales, cultural tales, and traditional stories. There is simply so much history in them. Over on the English side I count Diana Wynne Jones, J.K. Rowling, and Neil Gaiman as influences, and not to sound SUPER cheesy but I must include the ever-growing list of killer young adult authors writing today.
Karina: We all know that writing is pretty hard. Can you share some of the hard or bad things happened to you as a writer and how you managed to overcome it?
MIA GARCIA: Well, I think the biggest one might be working through the feeling of not being good enough. Each new book feels ridiculously hard, and no matter how many times I remind myself, “hey you did this before,” my mind simply won’t listen. But then again, each book is different and brings it’s own set of issues with it, but there’s always that doubt, that you simply aren’t good enough, that this person or that author would do a MUCH better job with this story than you would. I’m going to bring in a Gaiman quote here that helps me sometimes in case you go through this as well: “Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that – but you are the only you…There are better writers than me out there, there are smarter writers, there are people who can plot better – there are all those kinds of things, but there’s nobody who can write a Neil Gaiman story like I can.”
And that helps, because the story that I want to tell can only be told by me. So just keep going and don’t give up! Here’s another story (I’ll make it short) back when I was a baby writer, fresh out of my program, I had an editor from a big house interested in a graphic novel I had written. She loved it and we met in person, discussed people to send it to, illustrations, etc. I was walking on air! Note: I did not have an agent at this point and no contract. We discussed the decision of changing it from a graphic novel to a regular novel with heavy illustrations (something similar to A Monster Calls) and I went through a whole edit of this novel and turned it in. Again, super exciting, until weeks later, she said that the project was no longer a good fit for her. I was devastated. Hold on, let me put that in all-caps because it deserves an all-caps, I WAS DEVASTATED. I was sure this meant I was a horrible writer and no one would ever want my work. I wallowed. I ate chocolate. I spoke to fellow writers. Then I picked myself up, and kept going. I queried other stories and got rejected and repeated the same cycle until something clicked. Rejection stings a little less, but it still stings, but it doesn’t stop me forever.
Karina: Of course if there are hard or bad things there are also good things that you can only experience being a writer. What is the best thing you experienced being a writer so far?
MIA GARCIA: Holding your book in your hands is pretty awesome. Also people getting excited about your book and emailing/tweeting me about how much they love it is the best feeling in the world. Those notes and messages truly make my day. Finishing a story after years of writing and editing and finding moments within it where you’re surprised by your own writing, is something that never gets old.
Karina: Do you have some projects you are currently working on?
MIA GARCIA: I’m working on two projects! I’m editing my next book with Harper Collins/Katherine Tegen that’s tentatively called The Year of Everything. It comes out Fall 2018. It’s about four Latinx friends who decide that they will follow through on their New Year’s Resolutions. The second book I’m working on, which I’ve been working on for TOO long, is set in the 1920s and follows a young girl living with a curse.
Karina: Now, let us talk about your debut novel Even If the Sky Falls that was released last year 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books. Where did the idea of Even If the Sky Falls come from?
MIA GARCIA: Even If the Sky Falls was a collaboration between myself and my editor, Maria Barbo at Katherine Tegen Books. It came from a series of conversations, initial story ideas, and our eternal love for New Orleans, which we’d both visited several times.
Karina: What is your purpose in writing Even If the Sky Falls?
MIA GARCIA: Gosh, well I could tell you what I had in mind when I was writing it. Meaning, what I wanted you to feel when reading it, which was: Butterflies. The kind of swoony butterflies you get when someone you like is looking at you in a certain way. I also loved that it’s a fun romance starring a Puerto Rican girl, because we deserve those After Sunrise and 10 Things I hate About You type stories as well, you know? As a Latina I want the deep coming-of-age tales, the serious novels, the gorgeous lyrical ones, the horror stories, the thrillers, the comedies, and the swoony romances!
Karina: Can you tell us what inspired you to make Julie’s character the way she is?
MIA GARCIA: I was worried about Julie. About whether or not people would like her or care that she wasn’t happy and sunny all the time. That she was scared, needed to be selfish, and felt guilty about that need. When I wrote Julie I kept imagining the need to take a breath – to have one of those moments where everything that’s been screaming in your head is just silenced for a second, and you can hear your heartbeat. A moment that might make you reach out to a stranger and just run. I’ve had those moments so many times, and when I was editing EItSF I was going through one very big one and I channeled that into Julie.
Karina: How about Miles? Can you also tell us what inspired you to make Miles’ character the way he is?
MIA GARCIA: Miles – you can’t tell now, but I immediately smiled after I typed his name, which makes perfect sense for Miles. Despite the fact that he comes off as a bit cocky and aware of his good looks, Miles is a genuinely caring person who takes on a bit too much on himself (which is why he understands the guilt Julie is feeling). The bits I put of myself in Miles are what led to his issues in the novel, which was putting everyone else’s future before his own, from his relationship with Angie (his ex) to his family’s financial problems. It’s why he and Julie needed to meet, they both needed that moment to breathe, to forget everything and simply be happy.
Karina: Even If the Sky Falls definitely has an atmospheric setting. What made you decide to use New Orleans and the Mid-Summer Mardi Gras as settings?
MIA GARCIA: I feel like New Orleans was the first character that my editor and I agreed on in this novel, not that we disagreed on other characters, but we both love New Orleans so much that in essence the story was built around it. Maria was the one who told me about Mid-Summer and the idea of setting a romance around it, and I took it from there. And I was VERY happy to do it – I don’t think I needed to go back to New Orleans for more details for the book, but I totally did go back. I mean…more research never hurts! New Orleans feels like another home, and reminds me so much of Puerto Rico as well, so a part of me felt like I’d walked those streets forever.
Karina: If I still remember it right, the story of Julie and Miles happened for like only 24 hours or maybe less than 48 hours? Why did you decide to do so?
MIA GARCIA: It’s 24 hours! That was actually Maria’s idea, but I think it works perfectly with the story and the way Julie and Miles meet at Mid-Summer. It felt like this moment is a heartbeat in their long lives that came just at the right moment. Does that make sense? Because it was 24-hours I could also explore the aspect of attraction-at-first sight between two people (which is not the same as love but is often confused for it in novels) and the possible development into something more.
Karina: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was tackled in your book. What made you choose PTSD as a subject?
MIA GARCIA: It’s interesting because initially Adam’s storyline wasn’t that big in my discussions with Maria. Adam was always there but he was a line in a summary, a catalyst for Julie’s story, but the more I researched PTSD and the more I thought of Julie’s relationship with her brother the more his story grew. One of the first sentences I wrote for this novel was the beginning to Adam’s first chapter: “I loved my brother, Adam-no. No…I love my brother, Adam.” And the relationship came from there.
Karina: It must be pretty hard to write about something you haven’t experienced yourself. Can you share with us what you did or experienced writing about Adam and his mental condition?
MIA GARCIA: Absolutely. You want to portray something as accurately as possible in the little time you have to do it in, and you don’t want to be harmful in any way. PTSD like many other illnesses is not the same in every person, so I researched A LOT. I read article after article, but what really helped were videos; countless interviews with veterans speaking about their PTSD, or family members with loved ones that are going through this. There were many differences and many similarities between each person, but they were incredibly helpful in shaping Adam’s character.
Karina: There were some poems included inside of your book and I actually liked most of them. Did you write all of them?
MIA GARCIA: Yes! They are songs and give us a glimpse into Miles’s POV in the story.
Karina: Can you share some inspirations you had while writing those poems?
MIA GARCIA: I imagined Miles composing songs as he went through the night with Julie. Each song is a moment for him, either his feelings about his life at that moment in the book, or how he feels about Julie, and the way she just came into his life. We get most of the story from Julie’s POV so these are the quiet moments and beats into Miles’s thoughts.
Karina: My favorite among those poems is that poem entitled Here’s To Remembering. Tell me, what were you thinking while writing it?
MIA GARCIA: So, as mentioned above these are Miles’s songs and his way of processing his feelings. So essentially at this moment he’s had a great night with a girl he’s just met who will leave after tonight and they may exchange numbers, they may not, but he knows she doesn’t live in New Orleans and the probability of seeing her again is quite low, so he’s asking his mind to forget the fun, to forget her face, the way she danced and her smile. But towards the end he realizes he doesn’t want to, that he wants to keep the memories despite whatever sadness it might bring.
Karina: Even If the Sky Falls’ cover is just one of the loveliest and most eye-catching. I’m pretty sure there are already so many people who have told you that. But we cannot just not talk about this because we all want to know what is the story behind this cover and the making of it. Can you share it with us?
MIA GARCIA: I got very lucky with this cover and I must say I didn’t have a lot to do with it aside from letting my editor know what kind of covers drew my eye. For example, I’m not a huge fan of covers with people’s faces on it (with a few exceptions) and prefer covers with beautiful lettering front and center. I loved the colors and energy of this cover, and the fact they used silhouettes rather than an actual photo of people, because it works so well with the warmth of the background. I WISH I had more to do with it, but I just had a wonderful design team.
Karina: Did you ever have that Tavis-type-of-guy in your own life? If no, let’s just assume that you did. What do you think the teenager Mia would have felt and done?
MIA GARCIA: Oh gosh. I’ve had worse than Tavis-type-of-guys in my life and handled them about as well as I could for my age, which was run and leave the situation as quickly as possible. I think teenager me would start off by being a bit unsure about what to do, then move into asserting herself or removing herself from the situation.
Karina: If you were Julie, what would you do regarding your older brother Adam? Would you have done the same thing as Julie did? Will you help him? How?
MIA GARCIA: This is an excellent question and one that has a lot of layers of family history I could go in to, as well as the Latin American relationship to mental illness/health. But I think teenager-me would’ve also felt overwhelmed, scared, and confused at the fact that someone she loved very much wasn’t well. Teenager-me would’ve probably reacted just like Julie’s friends and googled the heck out of it before approaching her parents. Teenager-me would’ve pestered her brother until he knew she was there for him and that she wanted him to get help. Teenager-me would’ve made mistakes, but kept going because she loves her brother just like Julie.
Karina: And lastly, I know you have probably been asked this question for so many times but what advice could you give to all aspiring writers out there?
MIA GARCIA: Remember only you can write like you. I’m never going to be Neil Gaiman or Isabel Allende, but I can be me. And no one can write like me. Typos and all. It’s OK to feel down and rejection hurts, but KEEP GETTING UP. The writer you are now is not the writer you will be in one year, or two years, but in order to get there you need to keep going.
Karina: Yay! That’s it! It’s a pleasure talking with you and having you here on Afire Pages, Miss Garcia. Thank you so much!
MIA GARCIA: It was a pleasure, these questions were fantastic and thank you so much for having on your site!
Even If the Sky Falls – May 2016, Katherine Tegen Books
The Year of Everything – Expected on 2018, Katherine Tegen Books
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