Hello friends and welcome to Color the Shelves!
I am here today with a post I’m so excited about I could pass out! I INTERVIEWED AIDEN THOMAS! *tries to collect self*. When we first set up this interview, I had no idea what their book would mean to me once I read it, but now I have and this opportunity is all the more exciting and humbling. I will try to keep the gushing at a minimum here (check out my review for ALL the gushing) but CEMETERY BOYS is a YA paranormal romance full of heart (and ghosts, and magic) that explores queerness, transness, identity and community in a brilliant way. And I had the pleasure to chat with Aiden all about it, just in time for Dia de Muertos too! so here’s how that went:
Hello Aiden and welcome to Color the Shelves! I’m so incredibly happy to have you joining me today for what I hope will be a fun chat! Let’s kick things off with a bit of an introductory question…with a twist. Can you summarize Cemetery Boys for us with out of context memes?
This was SO MUCH FUN! Here’s a few of my favorite memes that I feel sum up “Cemetery Boys”:
(Fadwa: I love all of these but the Vaporub one is just IT. It took me out lmfao.)
Onto more serious topics now, Cemetery Boys explores so many themes that I can’t possibly sum up here, but to cite a few: we got community, family, queerness and transness, belonging and so much more that I’m sure will resonate with many readers. Did you set off wanting to explore them from the start or did they fall into place as you wrote the book?
They were definitely in the plan from the very beginning! When I started plotting Cemetery Boys, I really wanted to explore all of those nuances of identity, especially how they function within the Latinx community. For trans and nonbinary kids, there’s so many more pitfalls when your family/community’s native language is gendered. I wanted Yadriel’s relationships to reflect more of my personal experience — a family that isn’t intrinsically transphobic, just uninformed. They’re not aggressively or purposefully trying to be hurtful. These aren’t bad people; they don’t hate Yadriel or those parts of him, they just don’t understand.
I tried my best to fit it all in because it’s all incredibly important — not just for trans kids to see their experiences reflected in a book, but to also provide allies with example with how they can be supportive, and what seemingly benign behavior is actually quite hurtful like deadnaming and misgendering.
The novel also does an amazing job at flipping concepts like the “troubled” bad boy and gendered binary systems on their heads, why was that subversion of tropes important for you to write about?
Gendered magic systems are fairly popular in YA fantasy, leaving no room for trans and nonbinary characters, so I immediately wanted to tear that down! In Cemetery Boys, the magic is gender-affirming, which is shown by Lady Death blessing Yadriel with the powers of the brujos. I wanted to show readers that society doesn’t get to decide who they are — who you are and who you know yourself to be is the truth, regardless of what anyone else says. You know, and the magic knows it, too.
When it comes to Julian and his label as a “School’s Bad Boy,” I wanted to present it and then kind of call out the reader and the assumptions they made when they actually get to know him. Julian has been labeled by people at his school as a troublemaker’s, but he’s not malicious by any means. He’s just got a short attention span and too much energy to be sitting in class all day. Boys of color are disproportionately labeled as “bad” just because their brains are made for traditional learning. Julian needs to be constantly engaged and using his hands and that just makes traditional school not for him. I wanted to explore and showcase that — how quick society is to write off kids like him instead of taking the time to get to know them or figure out what kind of learning works for them
Are there any interesting facts about the world, the characters, or anything else in the book that didn’t make it into the final draft but that you’d like to share with your readers?
Ugh, YES! THERE WAS SO MUCH MORE I WANTED TO ADD BUT JUST DIDN’T HAVE THE ROOM/TIME FOR! I get asked pretty often what the powers of nonbinary/agender/bigender brujx would have, and the answer is BOTH! Again, the magic is affirming, so if they want to do both, they can, or they can switch back and forth, and of course they have the option to practice neither (like Maritza).
We don’t really get to see Yadriel and Julian go on dates in the book but I am curious, what sorts of dates would they go on and where would they go?
It would be the typical dates teenagers with no allowance and living in East LA do — hanging out and playing video games, hitting up food carts and if they’re feeling especially romantic, drive down to Malibu and eat Takis on the roof of the car while watching the sunset!
And to finish off, my favorite question to ask authors: What is something you’d like your readers to take away from your book or something you’d like to tell them?
I really hope readers will find connection and feel seen when they read Cemetery Boys. I wanted to create a story for readers to connect with Yadriel on universal truths that are basic to the human experience, things like struggling to fit in, feeling accepted for who you are, and being loved. A lot of queer teens experience their first sense of belonging or affirmation with queer bloggers, YouTubers, Tiktokers and, of course, characters in books. Even if they can’t talk to them personally, seeing people with their identities — seeing themselves reflected in books — gives them a sense of community and comfort. I really hope Yadriel can be that for readers.
About the author
Aiden Thomas is a New York Times Bestselling Author with an MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College. Originally from Oakland, California, they now make their home in Portland, OR. As a queer, trans Latinx, Aiden advocates strongly for diverse representation in all media. Aiden’s special talents include: quoting The Office, useless trivia, Jenga, finishing sentences with “is my FAVORITE”, and killing spiders. Aiden is notorious for not being able to guess the endings of books and movies, and organizes their bookshelves by color.
Aiden’s debut novel, CEMETERY BOYS, is a Dia de Muertos paranormal romance about Yadriel (a gay, trans brujo) who accidentally summons the wrong ghost (Swoon Reads/Macmillan, September 1st, 2020).
About the book
Publication date : August 4th, 2020
Publisher : Swoon Reads | Macmillan
Genre : Young Adult | Fantasy
Synopsis : Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.
When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.
That’s it until next time.
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.