2021 Debut Author Interview: Crystal Maldonado!

In 2019, we made it our goal is to work with as many debut authors as possible and to spread the word about their debut novels. It was such a success last year that we decided to continue the fun for years to come! Follow us this year as we pick the minds of the 2021 debuts and chat with them about their writing process and what it's like to be a new author. Also stay tuned for news of giveaways, Twitter chats, and more!

At the end of 2020, we Tweeted about wanting to discover more debut authors and their books. We ended up finding Crystal Maldonado and her novel FAT CHANCE, CHARLIE VEGA, and we have been interested in it ever since! We are so excited to have Crystal on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 

Crystal Maldonado is a young adult author with a lot of feelings. Her debut novel, FAT CHANCE, CHARLIE VEGA (Holiday House), will be released on Feb. 2, 2021. By day, she is a social media manager working in higher ed, and by night, a writer who loves Beyoncé, shopping, the internet, and being extra. She lives in western Massachusetts with her husband, daughter, and dog.

Keep up with Crystal: Website / Twitter / Instagram / Goodreads

The Book Bratz: First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to be a debut author?

Crystal: Thank you so much! Being a debut author feels so surreal, especially right now. I’ve dreamt of this my entire life and hoped that someday I’d be able to hold a book I’ve written in my hands or walk into a store and see my book on the shelf. I’m still in disbelief that that’ll actually be happening soon! I’m genuinely so excited and grateful for everything—and a little tired. I would love to curl up with a good book from my very long TBR list and then take a nap.  

The Book Bratz: In your opinion, what's the best part of the writing process? What's the hardest?

Crystal: For me, the best part of the writing process is editing. I really love the chance to revisit my characters again and to make changes that’ll enhance the story and make it stronger. It’s incredibly rewarding to see your story go from a draft you’re constantly second-guessing to its final, polished version that you’re eager to share. It’s like watching a flower bloom in real time—so magical! The hardest part, hands down, is the drafting itself. It’s possible that this comes easy for some, but getting a completed first draft of a book, with a cohesive beginning, middle, and end is legitimate work for me! I always expect my stories to just write themselves and, rudely, they do not. It requires the right mix of time and planning and inspiration and diligence to get those words out onto the page. Of course, it’s well worth it in the end, but those first drafts can be tough! 

The Book Bratz: Where did you get the idea for FAT CHANCE, CHARLIE VEGA?

Crystal: The inspiration for FAT CHANCE, CHARLIE VEGA came from my own high school experience, my journey to self-acceptance, and my love story with my now-husband. Like Charlie, I grew up in a town where I felt like I really didn’t fit in: I was a Puerto Rican girl surrounded by mostly white classmates, I was fat, I had a unique family dynamic, I wore glasses. It just felt like I wasn’t what the world viewed as “normal” in any way at all. There were so few positive depictions of fat characters in media then, too. Though there are more now, it still feels like fat girls deserve more. I wanted to do what I could to change that and show that fat girls everywhere are worthy of a happily-ever-after. 

The Book Bratz: Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the most difficult?

Crystal: This is such a great question! I think Brian was my favorite character to write just because I think of him as so pure and wonderful. He’s definitely a cinnamon roll we need to protect at all costs. He’s super funny and kind and I loved being able to tap into that genuine, easygoing nature. I’d say Charlie’s mom, Jeanne, was the hardest for me. She is based on my own mother and that made it challenging at times to show the dynamic between her and Charlie and to relive some of that back and forth from my own teen years. 

The Book Bratz: Were there any other books or authors who gave you inspiration and ideas for your own writing? 

Crystal: I love to read, so I’m always drawing inspiration from other authors and books or trying to think about how I might have written a certain scene or how an idea might translate into one of my stories. For this book in particular, I was heavily inspired by DUMPLIN’ by Julie Murphy and TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE by Jenny Han. With DUMPLIN’, I was so moved to be reading a book that featured a nuanced, fat girl at its center. So often, fat girls don’t get to be the main character, so Julie Murphy really showed me that we can change that. With Jenny Han’s entire series, I was absolutely obsessed with her writing style. It was so dreamy, conversational, and easy to read. All three books made me feel like I was talking with my best friend. I devoured them right up and thought, “Ugh, I wish I’d written that,” and in that way, it inspired me to get moving on my own story! 

The Book Bratz: What do you hope that readers will take away from FAT CHANCE, CHARLIE VEGA? 

Crystal: I wrote this book for fat, brown girls who felt like they didn’t see themselves represented, as well as for anyone who has ever grappled with insecurity or struggled to love themselves. To those readers, I really hope they walk away from this book feeling seen and feeling hopeful. I also hope readers come away from this book knowing this: you are worthy of love, right now, exactly as you are.

The Book Bratz: Do you plan on returning to the world of FAT CHANCE, CHARLIE VEGA in the future, or do you have any other projects in mind? Can you tell us anything about them?

Crystal: I’m currently working on a second book that’s about a young (fat) girl who catfishes on Instagram… and hope I can share more soon! As for returning to FAT CHANCE, CHARLIE VEGA, I would genuinely love to come back to Charlie and Brian someday—whether that’s in a short story, a sequel, a book featuring another character, or in some other form. This is my first book, so it will always be a little bit like my baby in that way. I can’t wait for everyone to meet Charlie. I hope others root for her as much as I do! 

Title: Fat Chance, Charlie Vega
Author: Crystal Maldonado
Publisher: Holiday House
Publication Date: February 2nd, 2021

Summary: Charlie Vega is a lot of things. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat. People sometimes have a problem with that last one. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it's hard, and her mom leaving a billion weight loss shakes on her dresser doesn't help. The world and everyone in it have ideas about what she should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer-faced, straighter-haired. Be smaller. Be whiter. Be quieter. But there's one person who's always in Charlie's corner: her best friend Amelia. Slim. Popular. Athletic. Totally dope. So when Charlie starts a tentative relationship with cute classmate Brian, the first worthwhile guy to notice her, everything is perfect until she learns one thing--he asked Amelia out first. So is she his second choice or what? Does he even really see her? UGHHH. Everything is now officially a MESS.

Thank you so much to Crystal for stopping by and answering our questions! We are super excited about FAT CHANCE, CHARLIE VEGA and can't wait for it to be out in the world on February 2nd

Celebrate So Excited GIF by Hey Violet

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