Meet the author of the young adult novel Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas. Aiden shares more about their inspiration for this book, their most memorable teachers and librarians, their favorite childhood books, and more!
When describing Cemetery Boys, what’s your elevator pitch?
Aiden: Cemetery Boys is a queer, Latinx Ghost-Story-Turned-Rom-Com about Yadriel — a trans boy who is trying to prove to his family and brujx community that he is a real brujo. Because he’s trans, they’re not convinced the traditional rights of passage will work for him. Determined to prove them wrong, Yadriel goes through the ceremony on his own and decides the best way to prove himself is to summon the spirit of his recently deceased cousin. However, things go wrong when he, instead, accidentally summons Julian Diaz, the resident Bad Boy of his school. Now, Yadriel and Julian are stuck together until they find out what happened to Julian and he lets Yadriel release his spirit to the afterlife.
What inspired you to write Cemetery Boys?
Aiden: Cemetery Boys was inspired by a writing prompt I saw on Tumblr — “What happened if you summoned a ghost and couldn’t get rid of it?” and my immediate thought was, “Yeah, and what if he was cute?!” My main character, Yadriel came to life first. He’s transgender, Cuban/Mexican, and gay. I really wanted to explore and showcase Latinx culture, and the plot aligned perfectly with Día de Muertos!
Tell us about a librarian or educator who made an impact on you.
Aiden: When I was a junior in High School, I did college visits and went to Mills College in Oakland, CA where I sat in on a Children and Young Adult fiction course taught by Professor Kathryn Reiss. I was so excited by it and ended up going to Mills and Kathryn became my advisor. I also attended Mills for my MFA in Creative Writing, where Kathryn was again my advisor, and I actually wrote my first book, Lost in the Never Woods, in her class as my thesis! Kathryn has had a profound effect on me as a writer and a person, and to have her guidance all those years was so important and inspirational.
Is there a book that you wish you wrote?
Aiden: Not really — I love a lot of books, but every book I want to write I fully plan on writing myself! My feelings about my favorite books and authors are those of admiration, rather than envy.
What is the first step in your creative process?
Aiden: The first thing I always do when I get an idea for a new story is make a “Brain Dump”! It’s just a Word Doc on my Google Drive where I throw down ideas, references, Wikipedia articles or art that I’ve come across to help inspire the story. From there, I use what I’ve gathered to start piecing together a plot.
What was your favorite book when you were 10 years old?
Aiden: I honestly wasn’t much of a reader as a kid! I had very little interest in books until Middle School, but one of the first books to really convince me to get into reading was The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Aiden Thomas, author of Cemetery Boys and Lost in the Never Woods, received their MFA in Creative Writing from Mills College. Born in Oakland, California, Aiden often haunted Mountain View Cemetery like a second home during their misspent youth. As a queer, trans Latinx, Aiden advocates strongly for diverse representation in all media. Aiden is notorious among their friends for always being surprised by twist endings to books/movies and organizing their bookshelves by color. When not writing, Aiden enjoys exploring the outdoors with their dog, Ronan. Their cat, Figaro, prefers to support their indoor hobbies, like reading and drinking too much coffee.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
A trans boy determined to prove his gender to his traditional Latinx family summons a ghost who refuses to leave in Aiden Thomas’s New York Times-bestselling paranormal YA debut Cemetery Boys, described by Entertainment Weekly as “groundbreaking.”
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.
Praise for Cemetery Boys:
Longlisted for the 2020 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature
★”Aiden Thomas’ debut novel can’t help but charm and captivate readers of all ages, though teen readers will invariably identify with and appreciate the high jinks and emotional vulnerability that make each character and scenario deliciously enchanting.” —Booklist, starred review
★”Thomas marries concept and execution in a romantic mystery as poignant as it is spellbinding, weaved in a mosaic of culture, acceptance, and identity, where intricately crafted characters are the pieces and love—platonic, romantic, familial, and communal—is the glue.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“This stunning debut novel from Thomas is detailed, heart-rending, and immensely romantic. I was bawling by the end of it, but not from sadness: I just felt so incredibly happy that this queer Latinx adventure will get to be read by other kids. Cemetery Boys is necessary: for trans kids, for queer kids, for those in the Latinx community who need to see themselves on the page. Don’t miss this book.” —Mark Oshiro, author of Anger is a Gift