YEM Author Interview: Gabriela Martins chats about how it feels to be able to bring Brazilian representation through her book Bad At Love

Gabriela Martins is the author of Bad At Love. Bad At Love follows Daniel, a Brazilian rock star,  and Sasha, an Afro-Latina aspiring journalist. The book touches on topics like immigration, white/passing as white privilege, financial inequality & its effect on opportunities in life. YEM was able to speak with Gabriela about her characters, her writing process, and any advice she has for those who also want to be an author.

Young Entertainment Mag: When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

Gabriela Martins: I don’t remember a time when I actually didn’t. I remember writing stories when I was little, reciting poems to my family, and then when I became a teenager I decided I’d write my first novel before I turned eighteen. Which actually did happen… once I adjusted the goal. My goal was actually to be published, but then I realized how difficult that was, and settled for finishing a manuscript that (fortunately!) has never seen the light of day. Seven manuscripts and ten years later, I had my first book published!

YEM: How does it feel to have your book Bad At Love out?

Gabriela: Surreal in the best of ways. A lot of heart went into this book, so it means a lot to me on a personal level, but also just the fact that I get to keep doing this is really cool. After debuting during the high of the pandemic, everything just felt weird for a while. I feel like I would’ve enjoyed my debut experience more if it’d been this year instead. However, luckily, I had BAD AT LOVE coming out this year, and got to have a lot of great experiences!

YEM: Are your characters Daniel and Sasha inspired by anyone in your personal life?

Gabriela: To some extent, I think they’re both inspired by me and everyone I know. I wanted to channel my inner Daniel and my inner Sasha into this book. Every story we write is half a biography, so I was definitely inspired by my own financial struggles during teenage years and my relationship with my mom for Sasha, and Daniel’s feelings of being an outsider, as well as his insecurity over having English as his second language.

YEM: Your stories feature Brazilian characters, how does it feel to be able to bring that type of representation into the world?

Gabriela: Bittersweet. On the one hand, it’s so incredible to help populate the world of Young Adult tradpub with my characters and the plurality I grew up around. On the other, we’re far too few and far between. As of today, myself included, there are only four Brazilians publishing YA traditionally, and we all come from fairly similar backgrounds. In the United States, the Brazilian population is a little under 2 million. That’s just in the U.S., not counting the 212.6 million Brazilians in Brazil. We have the fifth biggest population in the world, and a fair amount of immigrants in the U.S., but our stories are still severely under-told. As grateful as I am to be able to write characters similar to me, I hope sometime soon I can guest-post listicles with my top 10 favorite Indigenous Brazilian authors, Afro Brazilian authors, Asian Brazilian authors, Physically Disabled Brazilian authors, Trans Brazilian authors, and so many more.

YEM: What is your writing process like?

Gabriela: Usually a concept will come to me in an underdeveloped stage, like I’ll know I’ll want to write a story that’s friends-to-lovers, or that it’s set in a certain town, or focused on a family angle, but that’s about it. I only really understand what my story will look like once I work on the outline. Personally, I love the Save the Cat beats. After I have my beats, I start writing!

YEM: Is there a part of the writing process that is your favorite?

Gabriela: I love outlining. It’s the part where I get to choose everything that happens, the moral of the story, the obstacles, the type of characters I’ll have, and there’s no limits to what I can do. Once I start writing, I’ll inevitably hit writer’s block at some point (the middle of the book is usually the worst for me), will doubt myself, etc., but when I’m outlining? Nope! When I’m outlining, I love everything. It’s a joyous moment. lol

YEM: Is there a book that made you fall in love with literature?

Gabriela: I’ve always liked reading, but the first series that made me obsessed were Meg Cabot’s THE PRINCESS DIARIES. I fell in love with the fast-paced storytelling, and it was the first time I’d read a teen girl as a protagonist. 

YEM: What advice do you have for someone who also wants to be an author?

Gabriela: Keep going! It can be extremely discouraging to have your manuscript rejected a thousand times (I think I may have had around that: a thousand rejections), but please keep going. We need your voice, and the stories only you can tell.

YEM: What is something that you would like to have your readers take away from reading Bad At Love?

Gabriela: I hope readers take away that there is a place for them in the world, and they have earned it. It’s okay to take up space, and in fact, we should. Our space is deserved. 

YEM: Who is an author that inspires you?

Gabriela: Meg Cabot’s career is seriously inspiring! I appreciate how prolific she is, and how she manages to write across age groups and genres. In the same vein, Kelley Armstrong is also someone whose career I absolutely admire.

YEM: What do you enjoy most about writing for a young adult audience?

Gabriela: Being a tenager was the hardest time of my life. If I had had books with people who looked and felt like me, it would’ve made me feel less isolated. Queerness, for example, is something that I grew up thinking made me abnormal; I didn’t have any kind of model, real or fictional. Representation has the power to make us feel seen, and for YA, it’s at a time when we need it most.

YEM: Do you have any other books or work coming in the future?

Gabriela: I can’t say much yet, but hopefully it’ll be announced soon!

YEM: What’s your favorite quote from the book?

Gabriela: Not much a quote, but a conversation: I love when Daniel tells Sasha about his faux pas back in Brazil, when he had a crush on a girl in the volleyball team. I don’t want to spoil the scene, but I will say that the secondhand embarrassment was great. 

Follow YEM on Twitter to see Gabriela Martins take over our account!