The Victoria in My Head
1- Which library is your favorite and why?
The New York Public Library! It makes me feel like I'm in a church that worships reading. I'm particularly into the Rose Main Reading Room. My husband likes it because of the iconic Ghostbusters scene filmed there. I like it because it's pretty...
2- What five words represent your most notable characteristic or values? #In5Words
Loyalty, kindness, humor, creativity, family.
3- Would you elaborate on rolled ice-cream? Does it taste different or just photograph well?
The sad thing is, it looks more interesting than it tastes! I was slightly disappointed when I tried it after taking the picture, because the ice cream tasted like...well, ice cream. But it is pretty absorbing to watch it being made in front of you!
4- What ignited your passion for writing?
Reading. I have been an obsessive reader for most of my life. It made me want to create content to put out into the world. Even now, if I'm lacking inspiration, I'll read a book and I get a burst of energy to write. The first book that inspired my reading obsession was the Baby-Sitters Club in fourth grade. I always wish I could point to a more literary classic, but I have to be honest. I desperately wanted to be Stacey, but I was completely Mary Anne.
That's funny, because I had a crush on Mary Anne. I'm loving the new graphix version of the books.
5- Would you share a picture with us of your book with your cats?
6- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?
My short term goal is to finish my revisions for my second book, which comes out next year. I'm due to give birth in a month, so I'll need to shift my focus from book baby to human baby for a little while. My long term goals are, honestly, to keep writing. Writing is really, really hard and time-consuming and it's easy to toss it aside when life gets busy.
7- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?
My family, including my husband, will kill me if I single any one of them out. I can't choose so I'll just say that together, they make an enthusiastic fan club. They really loved the humor in the book and the family dynamic.
8- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?
I hope my book will make readers feel hopeful and inspired. The book ends on an uncertain note, but it's about seeing the beauty in the unknown and embracing the present.
9- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?
The actual act of writing! The more you do it, the better you'll become. I always like each subsequent book I write more than the previous one. My first book was this terrible sci-fi novel riddled with plot holes. It taught me that a) sci-fi isn't really my thing at this point in life and b) I should probably write scenes in the order they occur. I was skipping around so much in that book that it became a headache to finish. I learned a lot from Victoria through the revision process as well. I liked to ramble quite a bit in the beginning, which slowed down the pacing of the novel's plot. I grew attached to that rambling, but it had to get chopped for the good of the story.
10- Could you share a Cuban-American recipe, bit of culture, or little-known fact with us?
Ropa vieja is my favorite Cuban dish. It literally translates to "old clothes," which sounds incredibly unappealing, but the food is delicious. Shredded beef with onions, peppers, and tomato sauce. I recommend eating it with maduros (sweet plantains), beans, and rice!
Another bit of culture I have to mention is not specific to Cubans--it's a quinceanera, which is similar to an extravagant Sweet 16 party. Picture poofy dresses, salsa dancing, and dramatic video montages. I didn't have a quinceanera for myself, but like Victoria in the book, I participated in one. This is a throwback pic of me, on the right, with my sister and my parents. Unfortunately, the poofy bottom part of the dress is not shown! But I vividly remember having to dance a salsa routine in a hoop skirt.
11- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?
Okay. So. In my book, I had jokingly written about the love interest, Strand, and his "midwinter sky" eyes. Victoria hates herself for thinking of this metaphor, comparing it to a cheesy saying in a harlequin romance novel. Well, almost every outlet that's reviewed the book has quoted this characteristic with complete sincerity. I'm not sure that's a good look for my writing skills.
12- #DiversityBingo2017 Which squares does your book cover on the card?
Own Voices Latinx MC, Own Voices. Some of the other squares do relate to the supporting characters, but not the MC!
13- What's one way you've contributed to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement?
The only way I know to contribute is to keep writing diverse characters and buying the work of marginalized authors! I've also tried reaching out to diverse schools and getting the books into the hands of their students. I would love for more Latinx kids to see themselves represented through Victoria.
14- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?
Oh, they're all loaded with contradictions, but I would have to go with the obvious choice of Victoria. The entire book consists of her grappling with these contradictions--she's shy but outspoken, terrified but brave, insecure but confident. It goes on and on.
15- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?
The MC's voice. I'm always attracted to stories written in first-person, especially if the character is honest, funny, and has a unique point of view.
16- How will you measure your publishing performance?
I'm actively trying NOT to measure my publishing performance (which is nearly impossible.) What's most important to me is that someone connects to my story. That said, it's difficult not to get caught up in things like sales and reviews. I have a history of anxiety, so I try my best to focus on improving as a writer and staying unaffected by the things that are out of my control.
17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?
I considered each form of publication, but I ultimately decided to at least try the traditional route. I was excited to work with a team that could help make my book the best it could be and to have the book distributed more widely.
18- What is one question (or discussion topic) which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?
I would love to know their favorite and least favorite tropes in YA. I'm personally a huge sucker for the hate-to-love relationships, which is why I write them all the time. My least favorite trope is parents who just don't understand. Can you talk to your kids, please?
That reminds me of:
19- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?
Janelle Milanes is originally from Miami, FL and received her BA in English Literature from Davidson College. A lifelong YA addict, she moved to New York for her first job as a children’s literature associate at Simon & Schuster.
For the past five years, Janelle has worked as a teacher and librarian throughout the New York City area. Her first novel reflects many of her own experiences growing up as a second-generation Latina in America. Janelle currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their two cats. Her favorite Disney princess is Belle, since she was also a big book nerd.
The Victoria in My Head