Debut Author Series: Jonny Garza Villa
Welcome to Scribbler’s new blog series, where we interview debut indie- and traditionally-published authors regarding their novel and writing processes.
We’re very excited to feature Jonny Garza Villa, the author of “Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun” in our debut author series. For Scribbler box subscribers, you’ll probably remember their book from it’s inclusion in one of our past boxes. If you haven’t heard about Jonny’s debut novel — about coming out, first love, and being your one and only best and true self — from Skyscape, we’ve included the description below:
Julián Luna has a plan for his life: Graduate. Get into UCLA. And have the chance to move away from Corpus Christi, Texas, and the suffocating expectations of others that have forced Jules into an inauthentic life.
Then in one reckless moment, with one impulsive tweet, his plans for a low-key nine months are thrown—literally—out the closet. The downside: the whole world knows, and Jules has to prepare for rejection. The upside: Jules now has the opportunity to be his real self. Then Mat, a cute, empathetic Twitter crush from Los Angeles, slides into Jules’s DMs. Jules can tell him anything. Mat makes the world seem conquerable. But when Jules’s fears about coming out come true, the person he needs most is fifteen hundred miles away. Jules has to face them alone.
Jules accidentally propelled himself into the life he’s always dreamed of. And now that he’s in control of it, what he does next is up to him.From Jonny’s website
Thank you for participating, Jonny! How did the story of FIFTEEN HUNDRED MILES FROM THE SUN come to you?
The idea of Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun was inspired, in part, by Becky Albertalli’s Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and the film adaptation, Love, Simon and what might Simon Spiers’ journey look like if he was a brown, Chicano kid living in a Catholic, machismo household in South Texas. And not just as a kid figuring himself out after coming out, but how then does that shape his friend group and the languages he speaks and, six years after Simon, what does social media look like, especially to young queer people, and how could that influence my own story.
Lastly, a lot of the story came from who I was at seventeen and eighteen; the hopes I had to find myself somewhere away from home as well as the fears and secrets that kept themselves close.
What was a moment during the writing or publishing process for FIFTEEN HUNDRED MILES FROM THE SUN you’ll never forget?
About two months after first drafting Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun (before it was even called that) and a few cycles of revisions, I was lucky enough to find a beta reader. I let her read the first, like, seven or so chapters of it just as a way for her to not have to make a commitment to read the whole thing and if she realized it wasn’t for her, she could dip out and I would’ve only wasted a minimal amount of her time. But her response, instead, was so nice and included the words reads like a book I’d find at a bookstore right now, which I’m sure was equally as complimentary as it was truthful because absolutely no way, but it gave me that boost of confidence to stick with figuring out what I might be able to accomplish with this story. It was the very first book I’d ever written, and I had very little knowledge on not only how to write a book but also what to do with it after it’s drafted, and that bit of validation was incredibly special.
When did you decide traditional publishing was right for you?
I think it was just something I knew I wanted (between that and self-publishing). I’m very much the type of person who, if I do something, I want it to be the best, which meant I wanted this book to be as good as possible, and I knew that I didn’t (and still don’t) have the knowledge to do that alone, nor did I have the resources to pay out of pocket for the incredible editors and cover artists out there that help with self-published authors. I also wanted to make sure Jules’ story reached the most amount of people possible, and my thinking at that time was that traditional publishing was going to be the avenue to do so, which is a decision I don’t regret whatsoever.
Can you share three tools you feel are essential to your writing process?
The Hemingway App (a website) is fantastic! It points out instances of passive voice and adverbs and it highlights sentence lengths and will give you a ratio of lengthy versus normal versus short sentences, along with a few other really cool things.
Spotify is another app I use daily. I know that music isn’t for everyone’s process, but even just some quiet lo-fi playing really helps me stay concentrated.
And the Notes app on my phone. A place to put thoughts late at night or when I’m somewhere without my laptop is necessary for someone like me who will forget them literally seconds afterwards.
Is there any writing or publishing advice you wish you knew five years ago?
This question is funny to me because I’ve actually only been doing this for three years. But if I could tell the Jonny from November 2018, trying their best to draft their first ever book-length-thing, something writing related, it would be that our story deserves to exist. That there is still space for us in the world and on bookshelves. It would be to write the story our heart needs us to tell and worry about the rest later.
Has there been an author or piece of work that inspired you to write this book — or to become an author?
I can reiterate Becky Albertalli’s importance, but I’d also like to add Adib Khorram and Darius the Great Is Not Okay as well as Kacen Callender’s This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story. Both of those stories really helped me find my voice, and I think they’re both just iconic pieces of queer contemporary YA literature. I also think it’s mandatory that I recognize Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe as the first young adult novel centering a gay Mexican American that I’d ever read and showing me that stories about us can exist.
Lightning Round: This or That?
Would you rather read fiction or nonfiction? Fiction.
Coffee, tea, or water? (Arizona green) tea.
Has a book ever made you cry? I canonically do not cry, but also They Both Die at the End and History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera, You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao, and Heartbreak Symphony by Laekan Zea Kemp.
Writing to music or silence? Music.
“Pantser” or “plotter?” Pantser-turned-reluctant-plotter.
Would you rather handwrite or type your books? Type.
A bit about Jonny
Jonny is a product of the Great State of Texas, born and raised near and along the Gulf Coast and currently living in San Antonio. They are a Sagittarius sun, Capricorn everything else; an Earth Bender; and a chaotic neutral.
They are an author of contemporary young adult literature inspired by their own Tejane & Chicane and queer identities. Whether they’re writing about coming out in a Mexican American household, immigration, mariachi, or being in a brand new place for the first time, Jonny ultimately hopes Latine young people feel seen and at home in their writing.
Scribblers can find FIFTEEN HUNDRED MILES FROM THE SUN anywhere books are sold. Jonny has partnered with their local indie bookstore, Nowhere Bookshop in San Antonio, Texas, to provide signed (and personalized) copies! Order one here.
Written by Katarina Betterton
Katarina Betterton is an aspiring adult fiction author. She works for an editorial content agency and specializes in SEO outlining writing and editing. She's also a part of Scribbler's editorial team. When not reading or writing her hobbies include cooking learning new languages and crafting. Follow her writing journey at @iamgirlofwords on Instagram.