Raquel Vasquez Gilliland tackles citizenship & sci-fi in novel

Raquel Vasquez Gilliland is the author of the new novel “Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything.” The book is a genre-bending novel about a Mexican American teen who discovers profound connections between immigration and folklore. Several are praising the new book by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland, about a young Sia whose mom has disappeared. And this is the debut novel from Raquel Vasquez Gilliland. YEM spoke with Raquel Vasquez Gilliland about the meaning behind “Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything.”

Young Entertainment Mag: When did you first start writing “Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything”?

Raquel Vasquez Gilliland: I started writing Sia Martinez in late summer of 2017. I’d just graduated with my MFA in poetry and I was living in an AirBnB in Albany, one that had a single room for the bed, office, and living room. Its kitchen was the size of a closet and got really hot during the day. We ate a lot of grilled cheese and quesadillas, since they’re quick. I wrote longhand in a notebook as my son nursed and napped.

YEM: And what was your writing process like?

Raquel: I have found that each book requires a different process, but in general, I write longhand first. I like to buy these spiral-bound notebooks from places like Home Goods. They’re about five by eight inches. I like that I can fill the small pages quickly—it makes me feel very productive. Then I transcribe it to Word, and then it’s off to my agent!

YEM: Who was the first person you let read the book and why?

Raquel: The first person who read the first draft was my sister, Jessica. She’s read a lot of drafts for me before and I trust her to be honest with me. Her feedback was mainly about the places where she got confused, so I took notes and filled them in on my next revision. Also she’s a hopeless romantic, like me, so she really loved the romance part of the novel from the beginning.

YEM: So, what is “Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything” about?

Raquel: Sia Martinez is about a girl, Sia, whose mom was deported three years ago. Her mom tried to walk the Sonoran back home, but got lost, and was presumed dead—until one night, a blue-lit spacecraft crashes in front of Sia’s car. Inside? Is her mom. It’s a book that touches on immigration, extraterrestrial life, folklore, first love, and family.

YEM: Who is your favorite character in the book? And do you have a favorite line?

Raquel: I love so many of the characters that I keep changing my mind about my favorites. I think right now, my favorite is River. He’s the moon-eyed man Sia and her friends meet who may or may not be an alien. There’s a lot of mysteriousness to River and as an author I wish I’d gotten to spend more time with him to figure him out. My favorite line with River: “I pinch the flame, and we are all dark, all except for River’s pale moon eyes.”

YEM: Do you have someone in mind to play the movie version?

Raquel: Sia Martinez is optioned to be a television series by Annapurna TV—so I’ve thought a lot about who would play the characters! Unfortunately, I am not hip and with it and don’t know of many actors who are young enough to play teenagers. But for her parents, I’ve imagined Oscar Isaac as Luis, Sia’s dad, and Ana de la Reguera as Lena, her mom.

YEM: What are you hoping audience members take away from the book?

Raquel: 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. 

“I pinch the flame, and we are all dark, all except for River’s pale moon eyes.”

YEM: What was the first book that inspired you to write?

Raquel: The Baby-Sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin! When I was a kid I checked all of them out from the library. It was a dream come true because there are so many. I loved the description of the character’s outfits and personalities so much that I started writing my own version of those stories when I was around nine years old.