Our Friend is Here! is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.
When I first head about Fifteen Hundred Miles From the Sun, pitched as Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and, one of my favourite TV shows of all time, One Day at a Time, I could feel my whole body buzzing with excitement. I mean, a queer story about two Chicanx teens, a long distance relationship, and a story that is one part sweet and one part heart-rending? I knew that this was a book to put on my radar immediately.
When Jonny reached out to me, wanting to be featured, the obvious answer was a resounding, echoing ‘yes!’. I am so delighted, friends, to have Jonny here visiting us at the Pond today. Jonny is visiting us as a xolo dog, a hairless dog native to Mexico, wearing a bandanna, and I had the privilege to interview them. I really enjoyed doing this interview; it was a privilege to learn more about Fifteen Hundred Miles From the Sun and about Jonny’s journey as a writer.
But, before we jump right into our author interview, I’d like to formally introduce you all to Fifteen Hundred Miles From the Sun!
Fifteen Thousand Miles From the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa
An #OwnVoices debut pitched as SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA meets ONE DAY AT A TIME, in a home where social conservatism, machismo, and masculine identity run deep, Corpus Christi, Texas high school senior Julián Luna is forced to keep his gay identity a secret. Jules’ only focus is laying low the next ten months and enjoying every moment he has left with his friends before college takes them on separate paths.
Until Jules wakes up hungover and discovers he came out on Twitter in between tequila shots. In an instant, his entire life is thrown—literally—out the closet.
Helping him navigate the life that is openly gay Jules is Mat, a Twitter mutual from Los Angeles who slides into Jules’ DMs. He’s friendly, supportive, funny, and so attractive. He’s the first person Jules says the words “I’m gay” to. And, if he weren’t three states away, could definitely be Jules’ first boyfriend.
But a cute boy living halfway across the country can’t fix all Jules’ problems. There’s one thing he’ll have to face on his own: coming out to his homophobic father.
I need this book, friends. I love that Simon Versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda exists, but I’m even more happy and glad that books like Fifteen Hundred Miles From the Sun will be there for queer readers who will resonate more with Jules’s story. I can’t wait to meet Jules and meet Mat, and see how they are going to overcome life together.
Author Interview: Jonny Garza Villa
CW: Hi Jonny! A big warm welcome to the Pond; thank you so much for visiting us! We are so excited to have you here today. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself for all our friends out there who may only be meeting you for the very first time?
Jonny: Thank y’all so much for having me! So, I’m Jonny Garza Villa, young adult author of Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun. I’m a Chicane, born and raised in Texas, a Sagittarius sun and Capricorn, like, everything else; my D&D alignment is chaotic queer, and I can usually be found eating tacos or at Whataburger.
CW: Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun is your upcoming young-adult debut, and we here at the Pond are so excited to read it! What is Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun about and what are you most excited for readers to read about in your book?
Jonny: I can’t wait for y’all to read it! I like to say that Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun is part personal adolescent traumas, part Selena’s “Dreaming Of You,” and mixed with an entire bottle of Patrón. It centers around Julián (aka Jules) Luna, a Corpus Christi, Texas seventeen-year-old who gets way too drunk at a party and, while extremely inebriated, accidentally comes out as gay on Twitter. In the days, weeks, and months that follow, with the support of some amazing friends, a wonderful older sister, and a long distance crush from Los Angeles, Jules will have a chance to finally embrace his identity and face both the immense love and rejection that can come with choosing to be who we are.
I’m excited to be bringing a South Texas setting to readers and the experience of being both Chicanx and queer and how that can differ from the very white journeys that are more common in media, especially when centered around young adults and even more so when it comes to coming out stories.
CW: Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun was originally titled Sunlight and Moonlight. To be honest, I love both titles, but I’m super curious: what, in the story, does ‘Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun’ allude to – but tell us in the vaguest and most mysterious way you can!
Jonny: It was! I was actually quite attached to the original title and a little petty about having to change it, but I’ve grown to be very happy with Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun and I’m so happy you love it. Somehow, coming up with a new title seemed even harder than actually writing the book!
And, to answer your question as cryptically as possible, I would say look to Google Maps.
CW: The premise of Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun sounds like it’s equal parts fun and joyous for its depiction of brown queer love but also equal parts a story that will make us feel, ache, and cry. How much of Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun autobiographical for you?
Jonny: It is definitely much more autobiographical than I intended it to be when I was first drafting this book. Much of what I went through as a teenager trying my best to mold myself into something that was most palatable to those around me and the harms and fears and traumas that came with that is put into Jules’ own story. But I also wanted to give him what I didn’t have and wish I had at that age. Those reasons for and means of joy; and being supported and embraced and loved while getting to be exactly who he is. Because when I finally found my own group of people who were that for me, I mean, it was life changing. It was life saving.
CW: I’d love to know more about your writing journey! When and where in your life did you begin writing? What inspires and motivates you to write your stories? How has your writing grown thematically over the course of your writing career?
Jonny: I actually didn’t start writing with any real seriousness until a couple years ago. Specifically for Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun, which is the first book I’ve ever written, I completed the first draft during NaNoWriMo 2018 and was inspired by Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli and then seeing Love, Simon a couple months later. I loved both, and they hold a special place in my heart, but I also was left considering, as I mentioned earlier, how gay media and especially stories about coming out are mainly white and sort of one note. I was curious as to what a story like Simon’s might be like if it was a Chicano teenager in South Texas who doesn’t have Jennifer Garner to tell him, it’s okay, you can breathe now. So I went and wrote it.
I’m constantly inspired by my own Chicanx and Tejanx identities and cultures, by my own interests and issues that I think are important, especially when it comes to speaking on and writing about the Mexican American experience and the good parts and problematic parts of my community, and a general want for queer Chicane readers to see characters like them get into all sorts of pendejismo.
CW: You’ve been tweeting about your next WIP, Ander and Santi Were Here, about young Latines who fall in love and is set in a taqueria! Can you tell us a little bit more about Ander and Santi’s story?
Jonny: Of course! Ander and Santi Were Here is about Ander, a non-binary eighteen-year-old muralist/street artist taking a gap year between graduating high school and starting college, and Santi, the newest waiter at Ander’s family’s taqueria. We get to see them meeting for the first time, growing from strangers to very obviously crushing on each other to then, when Ander learns that Santi is undocumented, trying their best to hold onto the happiness of a relationship in a country that would try to tear them apart.
And, as serious as that sounds—because it is, and I don’t want to downplay that in any way—I promise, much like my debut book, there’s a lot of joy, hilarity, love (familial, platonic, and romantic), culture, and food, and hopefully I’ll get to talk a lot more about Ander and Santi and their story in the near future.
CW: You have mentioned a few times that food is incredibly important to you. (And as a fellow foodie, I can understand why!) Why is food an important theme to you and to your writing?
Jonny: I could honestly spend an entire interview talking about food and its importance to me and my writing both in general and specifically to Jules’ character. Trying to keep it as brief as possible, growing up quite assimilated in a small, conservative, predominately white Southeast Texas town, the one thing I had that connected me to my Mexican roots has always been food. And I think that’s a big reason why I hold onto it so fiercely. Food is also such a definingly human experience while, at the same time, so diverse and unique and vast, which I think is just an incredibly cool thing to think about. And, lastly, in my humblest of opinions, Mexican and Tex-Mex food is god tier cuisine, and I will forever shout about it.
CW: Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun and Ander and Santi Were Here are both contemporary stories – do you have any plans (or ideas!) to write something outside of the strict-contemporary genre in the future?
Jonny: I do! I have a contemporary fantasy project that I had to shelve at about the halfway point, but come next year, it’s going to be my main priority as far as writing/finishing new things, and I’m very excited to be getting back into it. The story is set in modern day Mexico City, we got Aztec gods and creatures related to their mythos, god killers that were inspired by the Equalists from Legend of Korra, of course, all the food, and if you’re into the soulmates, chosen one, and, like, the you’re so fucking annoying-to-lovers tropes, I think you’ll really enjoy this one.
CW: I ask all of our visitors at the Pond this question – and I think you’re going to love it! What is a food that means ‘home’ to you – wherever or whoever that may be?
Jonny: Enchiladas rojas. The sauce has that very warm, comforting smell that comes from the comino and the chiles and all the seasonings and other things that go into it. The process of making them, while therapeutic, is laborious and takes time when you’re working on that sauce plus tortillas and then whatever is going inside the enchiladas and if you’re also making side dishes like rice or beans. And I think it’s such a familial dish. Like, there’s no way I could make only a few. They’re made in trays and fifteen, twenty, thirty at a time. It’s a communal experience and one I love making for my friends and family.
About the Author
Jonny 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 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, and listening to Selena.