Hi everyone! I’m so happy and excited and grateful to be writing this post. I’m part of the book tour for Each of Us a Desert by Mark Oshiro and I got to interview them! This is my first author interview, which makes it so special to me, and also Mark’s answers are great and I’m happy to be sharing them with you. My review of the book will be posted on Wednesday.
This tour was organized by Colored Pages and you can see the rest of the schedule for the tour here. Today is the first day of the tour, so make sure of checking out the other posts and support the release of this wonderful YA fantasy book that includes Latinx and Queer representation.
About the Book
Title: Each of Us a Desert
Author: Mark Oshiro
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: September 15th, 2020
Genres: YA Fantasy
From award-winning author Mark Oshiro comes a powerful coming-of-age fantasy novel about finding home and falling in love amidst the dangers of a desert where stories come to life. Xochitl is destined to wander the desert alone, speaking her troubled village’s stories into its arid winds. Her only companions are the blessed stars above and enigmatic lines of poetry magically strewn across dusty dunes.Her one desire: to share her heart with a kindred spirit.One night, Xo’s wish is granted—in the form of Emilia, the cold and beautiful daughter of the town’s murderous conqueror. But when the two set out on a magical journey across the desert, they find their hearts could be a match… if only they can survive the nightmare-like terrors that arise when the sun goes down.
1. What should readers expect out of Each of Us a Desert?
Firstly: the book is almost unrecognizable compared to my debut, Anger is a Gift. I deliberately wanted to write a book that was, in every way possible, nothing like my first one. That was partly so that my readers—I have actual readers now, THIS IS SO EXCITING—would come to expect that every novel of mine is going to be a curveball. Even as I’m now working on YA #3, it’s nothing like my first two novels.
I also wrote a book that was very ambitious to complete. So on a craft level, it was a challenge in a way Anger was not. Desert is told with a unique framing device (the entire book is a single prayer); it’s technically in first and second person; it’s got a bunch of poems in Spanish; and there are short stories embedded within the text, too. Expect a very different experience reading a book!
2. How is your process different when you are writing a contemporary book like Anger is a Gift and a fantasy book like Each of Us a Desert?
Ooooh, this is a lovely question. There’s logistical stuff that’s different. I had to do way more planning before I ever wrote a word of the actual manuscript. You also have to put a lot of thought and care into the world you’re constructing so that it makes sense. With fantasy, you can’t assume the reader knows what you’re referring to, especially if it’s a detail or a worldbuilding tenet that hasn’t appeared on the page before. It forced me to consider how exposition would work, too! How was I to convey information about the world of Empalme and Solís to the reader without overwhelming them or making them feel cheated?
I only have the answer to that relative to this book. The framing device of the book helped me immensely because it actually meant I could skip over things! Xochitl didn’t need to narrate certain things because they weren’t relevant to the story she was telling her god. On top of that, because the book has poetry, prose, and short stories, I had to plot out where those all landed in the structure. So, the most general answer to this question is: Literally every part of this was harder, hahaha.
3. What was your favorite part about writing this book?
Yo, writing fantasy means you can do WHATEVER YOU WANT! I know that probably seems obvious, but this is my first secondary fantasy story ever, and now I get why people spend their whole lives in the genre. You get to let your imagination run wild in a way that feels so beautifully freeing.
On specific thing I had so much joy writing was the pesadillas—the physical manifestations of sins. In this world, the longer a person goes without seeking a cuentista (like Xochitl, for example), the more likely it is that your sin comes alive and takes physical form. The book is creepier and more visceral because of that, but it also meant I could pull emotional threads in the cast of characters in really satisfying ways. For example: What does guilt look like if it comes alive? What about unprocessed grief? How can these appear as a threat while also allowing the reader to empathize or understand a character? So I got to lean heavily on horror tropes and techniques, and I’m a huge horror fan. It was a DELIGHT to write.
4. Is there a message you would like readers to take away from the book?
Generally, I love letting a work speak for itself, and I believe a story always takes a life of its own once it’s out in the world. It’s been really fascinating to see people’s interpretation of the book so far because they’re far more varied than the ones for Anger. Which makes sense! Anger was a remarkably straightforward novel, both in terms of the storytelling and the themes explored. This one has far more ambiguity and mystery to it.
That being said, if I was to assign any one intentional message, it’s that it’s okay to ask questions. The act of questioning the world around you is not how I was raised, and there’s some of that friction in the early part of the novel. I was very much in an environment where, as a kid, I was told things about the world and expected to believe them forever.
Xochitl believes certain things about herself and her powers because she doesn’t know to question them. And when the first domino falls and doubt enters her mind, it’s terrifying. So, I wanted to create a space where a teenager could question everything, where it was allowed, where it was rewarded.
5. What’s next for you? Any exciting new projects?
Oh, there are so many new things coming! I’m finishing up this interview the day after I turned in my first edit on The Insiders, which is my middle grade debut! It’s the story of a 12-year-old boy who discovers a magical closet while hiding from bullies, and it unites him with two other kids across the country who are dealing with similar issues. It’s my chance to really dig into some heavier themes (like bullying and who is complicit in it), but also just… fling myself into a wacky, chaotic adventure.
I’m working on my third YA book, which will see me returning to the contemporary world! But it’s also very, very dark, and what little I can tell you is that it’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to writing about my childhood. I am currently pitching it as—and I promise you, the end result makes sense!—if Hereditary had no supernatural elements and was thrown in a blender with Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.
And finally: I have short stories coming out in Vampires Never Get Old: Tales With Fresh Bite, From A Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back, A Universe of Wishes: A We Need Diverse Books Anthology, That Way Madness Lies, and This Is Our Rainbow.
About the author
Mark Oshiro is the author of Anger is a Gift (Tor Teen), winner of the 2019 Schneider Family Book Award and nominated for a 2019 Lammy Award (in the LGBTQ Children’s/Young Adult category). Upcoming novels include Each of Us a Desert (Tor Teen), a YA Fantasy novel out September 15, 2020, and The Insiders (Harper Collins), a MG Contemporary with magical elements out Fall 2021. When they are not writing, crying on camera about fictional characters for their online Mark Does Stuff universe, or traveling, Mark is busy trying to fulfill their lifelong goal: to pet every dog in the world.
I hope you liked this interview, please go a preorder the book and support it, it’s truly a great story. Also, keep your eye on my review that will be posted soon!