IU graduate releases young adult novel
By Sanya Ali
Megan Gonzalez sold her first book for $5. Gonzalez, a writer for as long as she can remember, sold the book to her uncle at age six, a book written in crayons, which started a chain of events that led her down a path full of literature.
“My family has a big part in that because we always read books,” Gonzalez said. “I was given books all through my childhood and absolutely loved the world of reading.”
“Sketchy Tacos,” Gonzalez’s young adult fiction book, became available Tuesday for purchase as an e-book for $3.99 through publisher Clean Reads. The novel is Gonzalez’s first published work.
“I have been reading young adult since I was 11 or 12, and it’s one of my favorite genres,” Gonzalez said. “It’s just got a lot of energy and I love the tone because it’s so bright and fun, a lot of times. That’s absolutely what I wanted to do for this story, and I think it’s worked out great.”
Gonzalez graduated from IU in 2013 with a degree she created using the individualized major program. Her degree, writing, editing and publishing, included classes in journalism, English and cultural classes that were relevant to the type of writing she wanted to do later.
During her time at IU, Gonzalez said she worked closely with many creative writing professors, though for her thesis project she studied under professor and published author Samrat Upadhyay.
Fritz Breithaupt, professor of Germanic Studies as well as comparative literature and cognitive science, also had a great influence on her writing.
“I took a class on empathy with him, which was a very fascinating class,” Gonzalez said. “I worked with him for Intensive Freshman Seminar and got to know him very well. He’s from Germany, and he kind of helped spread my cultural net and how different cultures view things like empathy.”
She said she began writing her now-published novel the same year she graduated after receiving a grant from the Hutton Honors College, which she used to travel to Mexico for a summer trip. She ended up staying for a full year.
“I started writing with no more of an idea than ‘teenage girl goes to Mexico, funny things happen,’” Gonzalez said. “I wrote the first draft of ‘Sketchy Tacos’ and started the process of editing it for two years, went to some conferences, learned that I knew absolutely nothing and started over.”
“Sketchy Tacos” follows protagonist Mila, a 17-year-old artist, through her travels in Mexico. Having just one Spanish class in her past, Mila assumes her knowledge is broad enough to sustain her in this new place, but she quickly finds there is a learning curve. Gonzalez said she wishes she could relate to her character’s visually artistic side, though she said she feels she can paint a picture with words that mirrors her protagonist’s creativity. She said one thing she can empathize with in Mila is the feeling of knowing what one is getting into and being surprised.
“I went to Mexico and I didn’t always understand what was going on, it can be really difficult to just to go the bathroom,” Gonzalez said. “Things that should be so easy become so much more difficult. I definitely relate to that.”
After working with editors and getting the novel to a comfortable place, Gonzalez said she began the long and complicated process of applying to agents, who she called “the gatekeepers before you even reach the gatekeepers.” From there, six or seven months of proposals began, eventually culminating in the email confirming interest in the book’s publication.
“It’s been a lovely process,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve worked with a lot of different people along the way and it’s been really wonderful.”
Gonzalez’s husband is from Mexico, and the positive experience meeting his friends back home and feeling immediately loved and appreciated was one of many that inspired making Mexico the setting of her first published novel.
“When I went to Mexico for the first time, I just fell in love with it,” Gonzalez said. “There was so much life in everything, from the markets to just conversations, which are just so loud and fast. The people there are just so warm.”
This book is the first in an international adventure young adult series and the next book will be about recent travels in Europe, Gonzalez said.
Young adult fiction provides young readers with a feeling of security that they are not alone, Gonzalez said.
“When I was in high school, I felt like I was dealing with a lot of things and I was on my own,” Gonzalez said. “It was a lonely time, especially because you’re transitioning from your parents’ beliefs and ideals and your own beliefs and ideals. I want young adults and college age and adults to know that, no matter what their struggle is, somebody else is out there, somebody else knows what they’re going through.”
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