Author Crush Friday: Cristina Moracho
We love asking questions and we love the answers from some of our favorite authors. Today we’re talking to Cristina Moracho, author of the YA dark contemporary, A Good Idea (February 28, 2017; Viking Books for Young Readers). Thank you for talking to us today, Cristina! We’re honored!
GLITTER: Tell us 5 random facts about yourself.
CRISTINA: When I was 23 I took a Greyhound bus across the country to Idaho, where I lived and worked on a dude ranch for a year and a half.
I’m a triple Scorpio.
The first story I remember writing as a kid was a fully illustrated tale about a cat that defends its human family by fighting off a would-be burglar. It was part of an ongoing campaign on my part to get my parents to adopt a pet. It was not successful.
One of the best gifts I’ve ever received was a taxidermied scorpion from Thailand, which I keep on prominent display in my living room.
I love being near the water. I find it extremely comforting. One of my favorite things about my apartment in Brooklyn is that it’s just two blocks from a park that’s right on the river. My favorite cities—New York, New Orleans, Venice—are all surrounded by the water.
GLITTER: How would you describe your writing to someone who hasn’t read your work yet?
CRISTINA:“Teenagers with an underdeveloped sense of self-preservation making bad decisions.” That’s maybe a bit of an oversimplification. Another way I like to look at it is that they’re origin stories—Althea & Oliver and A Good Idea are both books about these pivotal experiences occurring at a defining time of a young person’s life. The reader is basically watching these characters become the people they are going to be. AGI is a mystery, but it’s just as much a character study of a young woman struggling to cope with loss and grief and anger, because her best friend’s murder ends up redefining the way she sees the world; she’s realizing that it’s not an inherently just place, and that adults can’t necessarily be counted on to whisk in and right wrongs when they happen.
GLITTER: Where did the idea of A Good Idea come from?
CRISTINA: I have a voracious appetite for true crime stories, and one of my favorite journalists is Pamela Colloff, who writes for Texas Monthly magazine. Years ago she wrote a piece about an old case from 1960; a popular high school football player murdered his ex-girlfriend. There was never any question about whether or not he did it. He admitted to shooting her in the face with a shotgun. The case went to trial, and he was acquitted. He was seen by the community as a good boy, and she was seen as a loose girl, and there was a really nasty undercurrent to the whole thing, like the town wasn’t going to let this golden boy’s life be destroyed by some slut. This all happened back in 1960, but as far as I’m concerned it might as well have happened yesterday—there is so much violence committed by men against women, and accountability is so much rarer than it should be. And it really haunts me. So I wanted to write a novel that tackled that idea, that if you’re a woman and you’re a victim of violence, the deck is stacked against you, and if you can be painted as someone with sketchy morals or character, the odds get even worse. In A Good Idea the victim isn’t around to tell her story, so that task falls to her best friend, Finley, who has to grapple with her grief and her anger and her need to see some sort of justice come to pass.
GLITTER: In A Good Idea, what was your favorite chapter/scene to write and why?
CRISTINA: There are a couple of scenes with one particular character, Silas, that were really fun to write. I had been working on the manuscript for a little while and it felt like something was missing, and when I mentioned that to my best friend she suggested I add a filthy hippie drug dealer, and things just sort of fell into place after that. I went to a liberal arts college, I had known plenty of white dudes with dreadlocks who were way too into appropriating Native American culture, and turning a guy like that into this sinister character who is both scary and ridiculous was just a blast. There’s one particular confrontation between Silas and Finley, where on the one hand he’s going on about all this faux-profound metaphysical nonsense, the sort of stuff she would normally be rolling her eyes at, but on the other hand he’s threatening her and she’s actually terrified. It was an unusual juxtaposition but I had a lot of fun with it.
GLITTER: How much research went into writing A Good Idea?
CRISTINA: I have never lived in a small town in Maine, so right away I was starting with this huge deficit of knowledge when it came to where I was setting my story. Lucky for me, I have a good friend who grew up there and patiently answered all my questions; I supplemented that information with my personal experiences from the few times that I’ve been there and a lot of time looking at Google Earth.
GLITTER: Any weird writing rituals?
CRISTINA: I used to have a number of extremely specific writing rituals that involved certain beverages, time of day, and a precise level of background noise. For years I could only write in my apartment between eight pm and four am. The first time I went to a writer’s residency I was actually worried about whether or not I could be productive in a completely different environment. Fortunately I’ve become a lot more flexible, although one weird habit that has stuck is this: I write with the television on. I have a hard time working in complete silence and music is often too distracting for me, so I’ll put on a movie or show that I’ve already seen a million times and turn the volume down low and that creates the right amount of background noise. Something about the flickering of the screen is comforting too. And I think I’ll always prefer writing at night—it’s something ingrained in me from years of writing after getting home from work.
GLITTER: What advice do you have for new writers?
CRISTINA: It’s very weird to think of myself as being in a position to give anybody any kind of advice, and I certainly don’t think I have anything particularly unique to say on the subject, but I do know for sure that persistence is absolutely key. The patience and tenacity required to get Althea & Oliver published were unbelievable; I’m lucky to have had the support and encouragement of my family and friends, because there were plenty of times when I was ready to chuck the whole thing, but people would not let me. The writers who get published are the ones who don’t give up.
GLITTER: What one book do you wish you would’ve had growing up, and why?
CRISTINA: “So Much Pretty,” by Cara Hoffman. She’s one of my favorite novelists and that book in particular blew my head off. It’s also about the epidemic of violence against women and how elusive justice can be, and how we’re supposed to move forward in the face of that. When I was a teenager a lot of these ideas were kicking around in my head but I had a hard time articulating them properly, and I think if I’d had that book it would have helped me put it all together sooner.
GLITTER: What are you working on now?
CRISTINA: I have a couple of new books in the works; I really enjoyed writing a novel with the noir-ish, suspenseful quality of A Good Idea, so I’m pursuing more of that in my current projects. One is another YA novel and one is actually adult, but with both of them I’m exploring characters who are sort of on the margins of society and end up in dangerous situations that require some resourcefulness and ingenuity to navigate.
Photo credit: Craig LaCourt
Cristina Moracho is a native New Yorker who received her M.F.A in fiction from Brooklyn College, where the first chapter of Althea & Oliver was awarded the Carole and Irwin Lainoff Award by acclaimed author Jim Shepard. She’s been a fellow at the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos, New Mexico, where she did not hear the Taos Hum but did attend a party at a solar-powered radio station. She writes about bad decisions and does all her own research.
She lives in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where she works as a freelance writer and editor, is teaching herself to play the guitar and writing her next novel. You can find her on Twitter as @cherielecrivain.