Interview with Jonny Garza Villa

Hello, tea party attendees! We’re so excited to have Jonny Garza Villa, author of Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun as a guest at our tea party today. Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun has the cutest cover (which was revealed just yesterday if you missed it, along with an excerpt), and has already stolen a place in our hearts!

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.

Links for Fifteen Hundred Miles from the SunGoodreads | TheStorygraph | Bookshop | IndieBound

Hi Jonny! Thank you so much for joining our tea party today! We’re so excited you’re here. For our friends who might be meeting you for the first time, would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself and Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun?

Of course! And thank you so much for having me! My name is Jonny Garza Villa. Texan, Chicane, author of contemporary-ish young adult books, and playing a noble half-elf bard in my current Dungeons & Dragons campaign. I like to say that Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun is one part my own teenage fears and traumas, one part Selena’s “Dreaming of You,” and all mixed together with a whole bottle of Patrón. It follows Corpus Christi, Texas high school senior Julián (aka Jules) Luna who accidentally comes out as gay on Twitter after getting outrageously drunk at a party and Mat, his long distance crush from Los Angeles, who slides into Jules’ DMs the next morning.

How does it feel to have written and published a book that has an integral part of you?

It’s been incredibly frightening in lots of different ways. Letting my friends read it and give them a glimpse into connecting parts of mine and Jules’ lives and things that I’d never really spoken about before. Letting beta readers and agents and editors read it, waiting to see if they’ll validate my own experiences present in there or if it won’t be Latinx enough or Chicanx enough or queer enough or if I’m not enough of any of those things to be writing this story.

Now, though, it’s exciting. I’ve had people tell me how excited they are about seeing South Texas representation, about a gay Tejano, with words and things that are familiar to us. There’s so much of this book that has been so incredibly special to write because of its closeness in proximity to my own life, and I hope that anyone else who might be able to fit into Jules’ shoes feels seen. This book is for them.

We saw that you’re a Dungeons and Dragons player (just like Mary!). Referring to Dungeons and Dragons 5e, what class would each of your characters play as?

Oh shit, this is such a cool question I’m SCREAMING.

Jules and Mat would be sorcerers, I think. Like, I see them both as big magic users, but I think that Jules would be more healer about it and Mat would be big on offensive magic. And their characters would definitely be boyfriends, of course.

Jordan and Piña, two of Jules’ friends and soccer teammates, would be fighters. Some backstory of how they were the best duo in the arena. Are probably a little gay about it.

Rolie would be a ranger. Would definitely want a horse. Everyone would make Itzel be a wizard because she’s the smartest.

Lou would be the bard. Like, without question she would be the bard. Would not play unless her character could have an accordion because everyone knows accordion players have the biggest of BDE.

Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun has been compared to Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda and One Day at a Time (both of which we love, here at teatimelit)! What similarities and differences do you think your book has to each of these works? Apart from these two works, what pieces of media, if any, did you draw from when writing your novel?

Those have been my OG comps since, like, I first drafted Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun, so for them to have been carried with me all the way through here has been so cool (also, fact: good comps will put in work for you). With Simon Vs, there’s definitely that aspect of social media and, even more so, how that (Tumblr for Simon, Twitter for Jules) can be a tool for socializing and connecting with like-minded people even when they aren’t open yet. It’s also got soccer and a Ferris wheel scene!

And One Day at a Time has been monumental, really, as this Latinx show with family so at the center of it all and a queer main character. Jules’ relationships with his güelo and his sister are foundational to how the story plays out and to his character. Even with his dad, and all the struggles they go through, family is something, whether good bad or indifferent, that is so integral to the Latinx experience. And Elena figuring out and learning to love who she is in the show, both in those moments of certainty and uncertainty, I think also resonate with Jules’ character.

Other media that definitely had a hand in what this book is is On My Block (Ruby was probably the first sort of inspiration for Jules) and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which was the first YA novel I’d ever read with Chicano main characters.

If Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun was a tea party, what would be the theme of the tea party?

I think it would be incredibly Mexican. OH. Maybe even Lotería themed! Conchas in every color, empanadas, marranitos, pan de polvo, like, literally every kind of pan dulce. Lotería cards at every chair. It’d be a cute time.

Finally, what’s the main thing you hope readers will take away from Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun?

I hope readers finish this book and know that they are enough for this world exactly as they are and with every hope, dream, and goal they have for their lives. Especially my queer and even more my QTBIPOC readers. I want them to know that they are strong and powerful and beautiful. And that we see them and are here for them.

Jonny (not pronoun particular) is a product of the Great State of Texas, born and raised near and along the Gulf Coast and currently living on unceded Jumanos and Tonkawa land. They are a Sagittarius sun, Capricorn moon, and Aquarius rising; an Earth Bender (but will also accept Fire Bender only if they can be a Sun Warrior); and a proud chaotic neutral.

They are an author of young adult literature, mostly within the contemporary genre and usually #OwnVoices, inspired by their own Tejanx & Chicanx 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 Latinx young people feel seen in their writing.

When not writing, Jonny enjoys reading, playing Dungeons and Dragons, bar hopping, listening to Selena, and spending hours on airline websites, considering all the places they might disappear to for a month if they weren’t so poor.

Follow Jonny: Goodreads | Website | Instagram | Twitter

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