Hello book nerds! I have a special treat for all of you today. For today, I’ll be featuring an interview with Aiden Thomas, author of Cemetery Boys!
Now, I cannot stress this enough, Cemetery Boys is one of my top reads this year. This debut novel starring a trans Latinx teen is well-crafted, lush and is absolutely thrilling. Click here to see my full review!
But now, onto the good stuff. I had the opportunity to as ask Aiden some questions as part of the Cemetery Boys Blog Tour hosted by Xpresso Tours. Aiden talked about character inspirations, the creation of the cover, the world-building, the need for queer stories, and more.
Hi Aiden! Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hello! I’m Aiden and I’m a queer, trans Latinx YA author. I’m a weeb jock and dog enthusiast. I was born and raised in Oakland, CA but moved to Portland, OR a few years ago. I’ve sold two books so far — CEMETERY BOYS, which comes out 9/1/20, and LOST IN THE NEVER WOODS, which is currently slated for 3/23/21!
Cemetery Boys is now out in the world! Congratulations! What can the readers expect?
Cemetery Boys is a contemporary paranormal fantasy about a trans boy named Yadriel who is trying to prove to his family he’s a brujo. He decides, in order to do that, he’s going to summon the spirit of his cousin, Miguel, who died under mysterious circumstances and release him to the afterlife. Unfortunately, he ends up summoning the spirit of Julian Diaz, the resident bad boy of his high school. The two have to work together to find out what happened to Yadriel’s cousin and Julian’s friends the night he was killed. As they go about trying to solve these mysteries, Yadriel develops feelings for Julian and that complicates everything.
I loved Yadriel, Julian, and Maritza! Did you have specific inspirations when you were creating/writing them?
Yadriel and I have a lot of the same identities and marginalizations — being queer, trans and Latinx. A lot of his experiences and struggles I pulled from challenges I’ve faced in my own life. I never saw myself in any book growing up, so writing Yadriel was me rectifying that!
As for Julian, a lot of how he acts is inspired by really chaotic Tik Toks created by teenage boys. I didn’t want him to be stoic and broody, I wanted him to be full of life (even though he’s a ghost!) and his excess of energy to help Yadriel break out of his shell.
Maritza was definitely wish fulfillment. She’s the best friend that I wish I had growing up, the champion and protector, really, that would’ve made my journey through youth easier. My hope is when folks read Cemetery Boys and meet Maritza, they’ll see the steps they can take to be a good ally!
Tell us about the creation of the cover (because it’s absolutely gorgeous)! Were you involved in the process of making it?
Typically, Swoon Reads books get their cover voted on and selected by readers via social media! But the Swoon team wanted to do things differently for “Cemetery Boys”. Way back before “Cemetery Boys” was even a completed draft, I had commissioned Mars to do some character art for me, which I loved and shared with my editorial team. When it was time to design the cover, they sent me a list of artists to pick from, ALL of which were either nonbinary, trans, and/or artists of color. They included Mars because we all loved their art so much, and I immediately asked that they use Mars. They also designed all of the cool swag that comes in the “Cemetery Boys” preorder campaign swag, so everything matches!
I loved the rich and lush world-building and seeing the Latinx culture in Cemetery Boys. Did you already have it down to the teeth when you were writing? Or did you still have to do a little research for it?
The first thing I came up with was the premise — “What would you do if you summoned a ghost and you couldn’t get rid of it?” Having a story about a Latinx boy who can see ghosts aligned perfectly with Día de Muertos! The whole magic system in “Cemetery Boys” is inspired by Dia 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. Latinx culture and mythos are so nuanced and vibrant, and I wanted to share that with readers, especially those who are completely unfamiliar. From marigolds, to food, even gritos, it was a pure joy to play with and give power to these little details from my own culture. It’s basically a love letter to my community.
The research part came in when I wanted to find out why we have certain traditions. I also wanted to use actual Mesoamerican mythos and deities for the brujx. A lot of our history was wiped out by colonization, so I wanted to pull those stories and artefacts out of where they’re locked up behind glass in museums.
I personally loved the way you left bits and pieces of foreshadowing and clues about the plot twists all throughout the book. Was that easy or challenging in your writing process?
Writing really surprising twists and expertly crafted mysteries is definitely not one of my strengths when it comes to writing! Even in Cemetery Boys, the Big Twist isn’t all that surprising if you’re looking closely. But, for me, Cemetery Boys isn’t about solving the mystery. It’s really about the characters and how they grow and change through the story!
You showed both queer pain and joy through Yadriel’s story. Do you think it’s important that we see more of that in YA?
I think we need more queer stories in general, including ones about queer pain and queer joy, which is why I included moments of both in “Cemetery Boys”! The queer YA market definitely has a lot of queer stories centering suffering, so I really want more stories about queer joy, especially when a character’s queerness is a source of said joy! It was really important for me to write Yadriel’s story because I wanted to write a book where queer, trans and Latinx kids could see themselves being powerful heroes. I wanted to write a fun book with good representation that they could escape into. I wanted them to see themselves being supported and loved for who they are, and I think that’s something readers need right now.
And there you have it! I loved Aiden’s responses and it just made me love and support this book more. How about you, what are you waiting for?! Cemetery Boys is out now!
Also, make sure to follow the blog tour to see more reviews and content by other bloggers!
Buy Cemetery Boys
A trans boy determined to prove his gender to his traditional Latinx family summons a ghost who refuses to leave in Aiden Thomas’s paranormal YA debut Cemetery Boys.
Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.
When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.
Join the Giveaway
One (1) US participant will receive a print copy of Cemetery Boys! Click here to join! This ends September 10th!
About the Author
Aiden Thomas is a YA author with an MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College. Originally from Oakland, California, they now make their home in Portland, OR. As a queer, trans Latinx, Aiden advocates strongly for diverse representation in all media. Aiden’s special talents include: quoting The Office, Harry Potter trivia, Jenga, finishing sentences with “is my FAVORITE”, and killing spiders. Aiden is notorious for not being able to guess the endings of books and movies, and organizes their bookshelves by color.