Ask the Author: Raquel Vasquez Gilliland

What would you like readers to know about you? 

Ah, that I love to garden, my background is in poetry, and my dream to be a writer began when I was in the fourth grade. 


What is your book about for those who haven’t read it? 

Here is the cover copy: 

It’s been three years since ICE raids and phone calls from Mexico and an ill-fated walk across the Sonoran. Three years since Sia Martinez’s mom disappeared. Sia wants to move on, but it’s hard in her tiny Arizona town where people refer to her mom’s deportation as “an unfortunate incident.”

Sia knows that her mom must be dead, but every new moon Sia drives into the desert and lights San Anthony and la Guadalupe candles to guide her mom home.

Then one night, under a million stars, Sia’s life and the world as we know it cracks wide open. Because a blue-lit spacecraft crashes in front of Sia’s car…and it’s carrying her mom, who’s very much alive.

As Sia races to save her mom from armed-quite-possibly-alien soldiers, she uncovers secrets as profound as they are dangerous in this stunning and inventive exploration of first love, family, immigration, and our vast, limitless universe.  


What has been your inspiration for writing it? 

I was taking a walk in Tallahassee, Florida. The sky was so vivid in color– pale indigo, few clouds, and it seemed so big, much bigger than usual for some reason. And the idea came to me: a woman crashing a UFO in the desert. I knew she was undocumented and I knew she was looking for her daughter. I spent the next few months plotting a story around this image. 


What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write? 

Actually, the scene I just described was the most fun. Sia, standing in the desert, watching a UFO crash right before her eyes. I think because I started with this scene as the idea for the whole book, it was incredibly satisfying to finally write it out. 


What books or authors inspired you to become a writer? 

When I was little, I loved The Baby-Sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin and tried to emulate the books when I wrote my own stories. I then read The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros and was floored. I’ll never forget the feeling of first encountering representation that looked like me. It inspired me to keep going. 


What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book? 

You don’t have to write every day, but you do have to be consistent with your writing. Set goals and reward yourself with each accomplishment (I often buy myself chocolate and plants!). Realize you may write many books before one gets published– this is normal! Find joy in the writing and that will sustain you throughout your whole career. 






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