An Indies Introduce Q&A With Aiden Thomas

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Cemetery Boys by Aiden ThomasAiden Thomas is the author of Cemetery Boys (Swoon Reads), a Summer/Fall 2020 Indies Introduce young adult debut and a Fall 2020 Kids’ Indie Next List pick.

Cemetery Boys is a ghost story, a mystery, and a swoon-worthy romance all at once, and I have fallen in love with it!” said Mariana Calderon of Second Star to the Right Children’s Books in Denver, Colorado, who identifies as a cisgender Latina. “The representation of transness feels genuine and respectful, and the portrayal of Latinx culture was beautifully done. I also really loved the representation of different Latinx cultures within the brujx world of the book. It was lovely to have acknowledged that for Día de los Muertos, different families from different parts of the brujx world of the book would have brought their own unique treats and decor to the rituals. It’s the first brujx-inspired world that I’ve seen do that and it made me very happy to not have all Latinx cultures lumped in together. Finally, the theme of ‘you’re not the first’ hit me hard and is so important. I love that young readers might continue to discover the long, long history of transness and queerness and feel less alone!”

Thomas grew up in Oakland, California. They received their MFA in creative writing from Mills College, and they currently live in Portland, Oregon. Here, Calderon and Thomas discuss the author’s debut.

Mariana Calderon: Cemetery Boys is so gorgeously spiritual and spooky! Can you talk about some of the influences in your life that inspired this spookiness?

Aiden Thomas (Photo by Elizabeth Stelle)
Aiden Thomas (Photo by Elizabeth Stelle)

Aiden Thomas: This is kind of an odd fun fact, but I grew up hanging out in a cemetery! I was born and raised in Oakland, California, and when I was a teen, we spent a lot of time hanging out in Mountain View Cemetery. It’s this huge, sprawling cemetery in the middle of the city that has great views of the bay. It’s a really popular spot and people love jogging there, too. I think that casual but fond relationship I had to cemeteries really sparked some of Yadriel’s story for me. The brujx cemetery, however, is deeply modeled after Panteón General in Oaxaca, which is stunning.

Honestly, I think all the beauty in Cemetery Boys is inspired by Día de Muertos and how we celebrate. I wanted to take all of those traditions and practices and just make them literal. We make ornate, colorful ofrendas and use marigolds to summon our ancestors, and in Cemetery Boys, that’s literally how it works. The magic of the culture is what really gives Cemetery Boys its special spark and was the main inspiration. 

MC: Paletas or pan dulce?

AT: This is SUCH A MEAN QUESTION! How do I decide?! I’m going to have to say pan dulce because I have never in my life turned it down. Pan de muerto is my favorite special occasion treat, but conchas are my absolute favorite (specifically the pink ones!). That being said, I absolutely make myself sick eating strawberry and cream helados paletas because I have zero self-control.

MC: What is your favorite Halloween costume you’ve ever had?

AT: In first grade, my mom really wanted me to be a unicorn, but I begged and pleaded to be a Power Ranger! She was definitely disappointed but I felt so cool in my costume! It came with these cool gloves that had buttons hidden inside, so when you did a gesture and pressed them, they made swishing noises. I was OBSESSED with those gloves and felt so cool in that costume!

MC: What was the hardest thing about writing Cemetery Boys? Why?

AT: Honestly, the hardest part was doing research. I wanted to incorporate historical and cultural facts into Cemetery Boys, but the Latinx diaspora made it really difficult to find definitive information. I wanted to incorporate a variety of Mesoamerican cultures to really establish that brujx were around before colonization and have ancient magic. Physical remnants of our history were widely destroyed, so we have to rely on oral tradition and try to decipher the few artifacts we do have access to, most of which have been stolen from us and put into museums. I was surprised by how difficult it really was to find research, but, if nothing else, it did give me room to be creative and make my own mythos for my brujx. And, luckily, there’s no shortage of death gods in Mesoamerican myths!

MC: Can we please get a book about Maritza?

AT: It makes me SO happy that so many readers love Maritza! And she is, obviously, very dear to me. However, since Maritza is Afro Latinx (she’s Haitian and Puerto Rican) I’m not equipped — and it honestly isn’t my place — to write a book with her as the main character. BUT, if there are any more stories to be told set in the world of Cemetery Boys, she will absolutely be front and center! I mean, she’s definitely the strongest and the smartest out of the trio, so Yadriel and Julian would be hopeless without her!

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas (Swoon Reads, 9781250250469, Hardcover Young Adult, $17.99) On Sale Date: 9/1/2020.

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