Friday, October 7, 2016

When the Moon Was Ours Blog Tour: Interview with Anna-Marie McLemore

Hi Everyone,
I'm really excited to be a part of the blog tour for When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore. I reviewed the book on Monday and in case you missed it, spoiler alert, I loved it. And because this review and interview came right at the end I thought I would ask Anna-Marie a few questions about magical realism in addition to learning a bit more about the book.

About the Author: 

ANNA-MARIE MCLEMORE was born in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and grew up in a Mexican-American family. She attended University of Southern California on a Trustee Scholarship. A Lambda Literary Fellow, she has had work featured by the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, CRATE Literary Magazine’s cratelit, Camera Obscura’s Bridge the Gap Series, and The Portland Review.

About the Book:
Anna-Marie McLemore’s debut novel The Weight of Feathers was heavily praised by critics, received a YALSA Morris Award nomination, and was a book club pick for Las Comadres & Friends National Latino Book Club. Her sophomore young adult novel, WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS (Thomas Dunne Books; October 4, 2016), a love story tinged with magical realism and filled with gorgeous prose, has already garnered three starred trade reviews praising the novel as “lovely, necessary, and true” (Booklist). McLemore’s newest novel grapples with tough questions of identity and cultural differences in a small town. Within the pages lies a story of a girl hiding the truth, a boy with secrets from his past, and four sisters who could ruin them both.

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

Embedded in the love story, Sam faces how to claim his identity as a transgender boy, and Miel and Sam struggle with how to define their love, both to themselves and their community. McLemore tackles this relevant issue thoughtfully, coming from her own experience in her relationship with her husband, who is transgender. McLemore’s recently told Publisher’s Weekly, “at the heart of this book is my belief that transgender characters, queer characters, characters of color, deserve fairy tales”, and WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS conquers timely topics like race and gender while delivering an unforgettable, timeless love story.

Filled with roses, glass pumpkins, and magical moons, WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS will sweep you away with its fairy tale feel. Following her fantastic debut novel, WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS will thrill readers of McLemore’s debut novel and establish a whole new group of admirers for this immensely talented young writer.

The Interview:

1. I'm so excited to be able to ask you a few questions Anna-Marie. I loved your debut The Weight of Feathers and I can't wait to read When the Moon Was Ours. Can you explain the book in ten words? 

Anna-Marie: Thank you so much for having me! I’d say my best ten words for Moon would be: Trans*boy who paints moons loves girl whose wrist grows roses. 

Sounds amazing!

 2. I'm doing a magical realism theme this month on my blog and you do a fantastic job at writing magical realism. Can you explain what magical realism is to those who might not be familiar?

Anna-Marie: My short answer is: Magical realism is a literary culture and tradition born out of histories of oppression, in which those histories influence how elements of magic are portrayed and received. But with your permission, I’ll also link here to my longer answer: I was thrilled to get to write about this for Diversity in YA. 

Oh, thanks. I know I have a hard time saying whether or not something is low fantasy or magical realism. This is really helpful. And yes, everyone go check out the longer answer and blog post from Anna-Marie.

3. What are some of your favorite magical realism books and/or authors? I'd love any recommendations.

Anna-Marie:Isabel Allende, Gioconda Belli, and if you’re a YA lover, I’d say start with Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, which isn’t technically YA, but has some of the themes I most love about YA. Also in YA: both Laura Ruby and Nova Ren Suma often label their own books as something other than magical realism (I love Laura’s description of Bone Gap as a Midwestern fairy tale), but there are elements of magical realism in their stories, and I adore their work, so I have to mention it. I’m also a fan of how the sisters in Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s Summer of the Mariposas interact with la llorona; it’s one of my favorite MR moments in YA. 

I totally second Nova Ren Suma. I loved The Walls Around Us. It was an amazing mysteries and had great subtle magical elements. I need to read more of her books. And thanks for the recs. I just added a ton of books to my TBR.

4. Can you tell us about the world of this book? Without giving anything away, what magical elements can we expect?

The magic is this story is sometimes romantic and sometimes terrifying. It often appears when the characters least expect it or are prepared for it. And so much of it comes from the secrets they’re trying to hide. 

Having read the book I can totally attest to this. There are so many secrets that come from the magic and I loved that. Thanks for the little sneak peek.

5. Can you explain your process of world building? Do you start with the setting, the characters, or the plot?

It’s some combination of setting and characters. The characters always have a close, complicated relationship with the setting. The plot often comes out of that relationship. 

Thanks! I always like knowing what comes first in the process. And learning a little more about magical realism from you, that totally makes sense that the plot would come from the characters and the setting interacting.

6. And finally a fun question, if you were trapped on a desserted island, what dessert would your island be made out of?

Haha, I love this question! I’m vegan and I just discovered the best vegan cheesecake, so can it be made out of that?

Oh man! I am a huge fan of cheesecake. And I have actually been surprised by how good vegan baked goods can be. I kind of want to try this now.

Awesome! Thank you again for answering my questions Anna-Marie. And if you all have not checked out When the Moon Was Ours, you absolutely should. It's a beautifully-written coming of age story with subtle magic and complex characters. It is on sale now so go buy it! And if you need more encouragement, here is my full review.

Thanks for stopping and I hope you enjoyed learning more about Anna-Marie and When the Moon Was Ours. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. LOL, I love that last question. Great interview, and I’m looking forward to reading the book.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. Haha, thanks. It's a really fantastic read. I hope you like it.

    2. Haha, thanks. It's a really fantastic read. I hope you like it.

  2. Fantastic interview! I must confess I wasn't entirely sure about magical realism, not only what it was but if I liked it, but after reading and loving When The Moon Was Ours, I totally need to read more magical realism books!

    1. I was not entirely sure either. It's really hard to know what is low fantasy and what is magical realism sometimes. I'm glad I got to ask Anna-Marie about it too because it definitely cleared some things up for me.