COLOR THE SHELVES: Interview with Raquel Vasquez Gilliland, author of Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything

Hello friends and welcome to Color the Shelves!

Today I’m here to talk to you about SIA MARTINEZ AND THE MOONLIT BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING and to talk *with* the author, Raquel Vasquez Gilliland, about her book, which is a mix of magical realism and science fiction. A mix I am very intrigued by and drawn too and I’m sure will make many readers happy. Hearing the author talk about her book made me so much more excited about reading it and I’m sure it’ll do the same to you, or put it on your radar if it’s not already. This sounds like a gem, so let me vacate the premises and let you discover what it is all about.

Hi Raquel and welcome to Color the Shelves! To kick things off, tell us a little bit more about SIA MARTINEZ AND THE MOONLIT BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING. What is it about? what should readers expect out of it?

Fadwa, thank you so much for having me. I’m so honored and excited to be here. 

The formal pitch for SIA MARTINEZ is that it’s a genre-bending exploration of immigration, Mexican folklore, and extraterrestrial life. But when people informally ask me what it’s about, I always say, “Sia’s mother was deported, and thought dead, until one day, while Sia is in the desert, a spacecraft crashes right in front of her—and inside is her mom.”

From the feedback I have received from the beginning, I can say readers can expect SIA MARTINEZ to be unlike any book they’ve ever read. 

What elements or themes in the book you knew you wanted to incorporate in the story before it was even fully formed?

Some elements and themes I knew I wanted in SIA before it was fully formed included romance, dancing, and folkloric and mythic stories inspired by the tales my mother and grandmother tell. I also knew I wanted to show a Mexican American teen with superpower-like abilities. I called Sia a Mexican American teenaged Jessica Jones in my query pitch. As a teenager, it would have been so powerful for me to see a girl who looked like me doing things like kicking alien ass. I have always loved sci-fi—my favorite movie since the age of thirteen is Contact—but I never saw me in these stories. That was the most important element I knew would be in the story, even if I didn’t know how.

SIA is an improbable blend of science fiction and Magical Realism, how did you come to mix the two genres together? Does one come to you more naturally than the other?

Sia’s spirituality is enormously influenced by the pre-Columbian rituals and beliefs practiced by my maternal lineage. Just like my mother and grandmother speak to ghosts, Sia speaks to the ghost of her grandmother. There is no explanation for this, just like there has been no explanation for it in my life. These things just are. When I applied to grad school, I started my essay with, “I was raised with magic.” I was raised by a mother who cut clouds out of the sky, on stories like my uncle whose hair turned white with grief in minutes. I was named for a bisabuela who covered mirrors during lightning storms, lest the bolts go into the house to gaze at themselves. 

The science fiction in my book, to me, go naturally with this. The story of SIA MARTINEZ dives into questions especially on extraterrestrials. I have always been captured with the idea of sentient life elsewhere in the universe, and that may have come with my upbringing, having been taught that there are many intelligences among us that most people don’t recognize (like ghosts). 

As the published author of two poetry books, how did that background influence your writing for your YA debut?

When I wrote SIA MARTINEZ, I had read, studied, and wrote almost nothing but poetry for four years. This totally fed into the form of my work. Many of the chapters in SIA are written just like my style of prose poetry—narrative and cosmological. There are many poetic devises that just come naturally to a poet, no matter what she is writing. For me, I tend to focus on assonance, alliteration, rhythm, and repetition. I think all of these can be seen in SIA. 

And before we go, my favorite question to ask authors: what’s something you’d like to tell your readers or something you’d like them to take away from the book?

I would love it if people read my book and felt more wonder at our universe, more respect with our place in it, and more compassion into how we treat the people and environment around us.

About the author


Raquel Vasquez Gilliland is a Mexican American poet, novelist, painter, mother and aspiring micro-farmer. In her work, she explore myths and folklore as well as motherhood, plants and the lineages of all things. 

She was born in West Palm Beach, Florida and grew up there with her parents, brother and sister. Raquel studied fine art for many years, specializing in painting, both in high school and college. She has a B.A. in cultural anthropology from the University of West Florida and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Alaska, Anchorage.

Her first poetry collection is Dirt and Honey and her second is Tales From the House of Vasquez. Her debut YA novel, Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything, will be published on August 11, 2020 by Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

She is represented by Elizabeth Bewley of Sterling Lord Literistic

About the book

Raquel Vasquez Gilliland - Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of EverythingPublication date : August 11th, 2020

Publisher : Simon Pulse| Simon & Schuster

Genre : Young Adult |Science Fiction / Magical Realism

Page Count: 432

Synopsis :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.


The gorgeous banner template was created by Skye @shuurens on Twitter. Here’s her website and portfolio.

That’s it until next time.

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.


3 thoughts on “COLOR THE SHELVES: Interview with Raquel Vasquez Gilliland, author of Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything

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  3. Pingback: Book Bloggers Appreciation | July 2020 💻 – A Book. A Thought.

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