A true romantic and extraordinary writer, YA author Anna-Marie McLemore talks about finding inspiration amidst her community as a queer Latina, and how magical realism fuses the magic with the tragic in her latest fairytale, Wild Beauty.
Wild Beauty debuts on bookstore shelves today Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017. Here’s what Anna-Marie McLemore had to tell us about her new book:
Give us your elevator pitch for ‘Wild Beauty’!
Wild Beauty is all about bisexual Latina girls and enchanted, murderous gardens. The Nomeolvides women have a gift for creating beautiful flowers, but their gift comes with a curse: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. When the five youngest Nomeolvides girls realize they’re all in love with the same woman, they’re desperate to protect her. But when they use a little of their magic to guard her, a strange boy appears in the gardens.
Where did the initial spark of your story stem from?
Wild Beauty grew from my love of flowers, and my obsession with the sometimes-frightening magic that fills fairy tales. I loved writing how the Nomeolvides girls interact with La Pradera — the flowers, the landscape, and the beautiful but frightening magic of this world.
How are you most like your main character? How are you most different?
Estrella and I are both queer Latina girls whose hearts are rooted in love and loyalty for their families. But Estrella also isn’t afraid to cross her family when it’s important to her, to object when she thinks they’re wrong; speaking up like that, trusting my own authority, that wasn’t something I knew how to do as a teen.
The Nomeolvides women are the backbone of this book. What inspired you to want to write about female family relationships?
I love exploring the communities that women make—how they lead and follow, how they push against each other, how they speak a common language, a shorthand, but how they also stay distinctly themselves.
How is your writing influenced by magical realism?
I grew up with magical realism in my blood. That sense of the extraordinary, and how it interacts with communities, has always been with me. In a culture of oppression, seeing the magical in the midst of the tragic, the unjust, the heartbreaking is a way of survival, for people, for communities, for cultures. We must find our magic where it lives, or we will lose it. That’s really I think why I write it, it’s how I express what I know, that the world is more brutal than so many people believe, and more beautiful than they imagine.
Love seems to be a revolving theme in your books. Do you consider yourself to be a romantic? What fascinates you about love?
Maybe it’s because I’m queer, maybe it’s because the world has often told me that the way I love is transgressive, or maybe it’s just because love in any form has the potential to be both beautiful and terrifying. But I’m endlessly drawn to how complicated love is, both romantic love and also love between friends, love within a family, and love within a community.
As a Latinx writer, how does your culture influence your writing?
The tradition of magical realism, the heritage of my main characters, the food they cook in their mothers’ kitchens, the bedtime stories they hear growing up—Latinx heritage runs deep in my books, and I’m grateful to be able to write stories from my communities.
What are some of your favorite YA reads and/or authors that you’d like to share with us?
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed; The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi; Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert. Kelly has a new one coming this spring, Picture Us In The Light, and I can’t wait.
As a YA writer, what do you hope young readers get out of your book?
This is a fairy tale about queer Latina girls, so I hope it can be one of many books that remind readers that everyone deserves their own story.
Finally: What makes you passionate about Estrella’s story?
Estrella’s fate is both intertwined with that of her four cousins, and uniquely her own. She has to make her own choices to navigate the enchanted, dangerous world of La Pradera, but to untangle the gardens’ secrets, she also has to work together with the girls she’s grown up alongside.
About ‘Wild Beauty’
Love grows such strange things.
For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.
The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.