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.
Our Friend is Here: Latine Heritage Month Edition is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond between September 15 – October 15, where we invite Latine authors to celebrate being Latine and Latine books! Find the introduction post for Latine Heritage Month here.
With the explosion of dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels in the early 2010s, I struggled to connect with these stories in which people who looked like me and my friends never seemed to survive the apocalypse. I was ready to put my fascination and love for dystopia and post-apocalyptic stories to bed – until last year, I read one of my favourite YA post-apocalyptic novels of all time: The Last 8 by Laura Pohl. Finally! I thought, a post-apocalyptic novel that’s brilliantly told, exciting, with a cast of queer teens of colour who actually look like me and my friends! From there on, I vowed that I’d read whatever Laura Pohl wrote.
How lucky am I, then, that Laura Pohl has a story about four girls, reimagined as fairytale princesses, investigating the murder of their best friend? The Grimrose Girls is a dark queer fantasy that integrates fairytales, has magic and murder, and is set in a boarding school – and I could not be more excited to dive into this story when it releases in November.
And again, how lucky am I that I get to kick off Latine Heritage Month with Laura Pohl herself?! I’m so delighted that Laura is visiting us today as an opossum rocking a denim-jacket to talk to her about The Grimrose Girls, as well as give us some Brazillian media recommendations! So, before we dive into our interview, I’d be honoured to introduce you to Laura’s upcoming book, The Grimrose Girls.
The Grimrose Girls by Laura Pohl
Four troubled friends, One murdered girl… and a dark fate that may leave them all doomed.
After the mysterious death of their best friend, Ella, Yuki, and Rory are the talk of their elite school, Grimrose Académie. The police ruled it a suicide, but the trio are determined to find out what really happened.
When Nani Eszes arrives as their newest roommate, it sets into motion a series of events they couldn’t have imagined. As the girls retrace their friend’s last steps, they uncover dark secrets about themselves and their destinies, discovering they’re all cursed to repeat the brutal and gruesome endings to their stories until they can break the cycle.
This contemporary take on classic fairytales reimagines heroines as friends attending the same school. While investigating the murder of their best friend, they uncover connections to their ancient fairytale curses and attempt to forge their own fate before it’s too late.
Author Interview: Laura Pohl
CW: Hi Laura! A big welcome to The Quiet Pond – it’s so exciting to have you visit us today for Latine Heritage Month! For our friends out there who have only met you for the first time, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and a book that you think everyone should read?
Laura: Hi everyone! Thanks so much for having me here, I’m excited about this visit. I’m Laura, a Brazilian writer of YA speculative fiction. I’m the author of THE LAST 8 and the upcoming THE GRIMROSE GIRLS. I love lasagna, Star Wars, and dachshunds. My favorite book nowadays is GIDEON THE NINTH, so, if you haven’t read that, you’re missing out on some great lesbian necromancers action, and also a lot of swords.
CW: My first foray into your work was your fantastic YA post-apocalyptic story, The Last 8, which I feel is one of my favourite YA post-apocalypse stories of all time. Post-apocalyptic stories can be frustrating at times, because the survivors are often overwhelming white, cis, and heterosexual. What inspired you to write a queer cast in The Last 8? And what does that representation, particularly in a post-apocalyptic story, mean to you personally?
Laura: I’ve always loved post-apocalyptic stories about survival, and honestly just every shade of speculative fiction everywhere, and as we know, this has often been majorly white/straight. I didn’t have any inspiration per se to write a queer cast, but I wanted to reflect something that has been my own experience. I have a large friend group which is very diverse, so it never occured to me to write something that wasn’t. Writing THE LAST 8 meant it was my turn to tell this kind of story, so it’s only fair that I feature people like me and my friends on it. To me, personally, is getting to see ourselves in stories that aren’t just about our relationships with our marginalizations and identities, but to see ourselves having adventures just like everyone else. If the straights can get swords and spaceships, so can we.
CW: Congratulations on your upcoming YA fantasy, The Grimrose Girls! It has fairytale retellings, a queer cast, boarding school, magic, and even a muder mystery – I’m so, so excited to dive into this come November 2nd. What was the inspiration behind The Grimrose Girls, and what piece of the book motivated you during the writing process?
Laura: I know this is a cliché answer, but I’m always writing the stories I wanted to read as a teen. In the early 2010s, there were a lot of fun YA books that always focused on romance, and friendship was only in the background. I can’t even tell you how many books I read that the MC’s best friend ended up betraying the MC for a guy she was going out with, or the MC herself would cast her friends away in favor of the romantic interest. The Grimrose Girls was mostly inspired by me wanting to write a story where all the girls are always putting each other first, their friendship the most precious substance in the story. Some of them have romances, some of them have family trouble, some of them are going through well, Some Heavy Shit™, but in the end, they always focus on each other. That was always what kept me going, and how nuanced different friendships can be. I have four girls as the main characters, and their relationships and interactions with each other are all so different, as well as how they act when they’re in a group. It was really great playing with that dynamic, and I can’t wait for everyone to see the result.
CW: The Grimrose Girls leans heavily on fairy tales, and I’m especially excited for this element in particular! What was the thought process behind depicting fairytales? And what are you excited for readers to discover in your take?
Laura: I always loved fairy tales, and to do a retelling was challenging, but what I loved the most was doing all the retellings at once, which was very fun to play with. I’m a huge fan of shows like Ever After High and Once Upon a Time, so the inspiration was always floating around, and how much we can change from the original tales to create something new but that still has the original echoes around it. For one, what makes Cinderella Cinderella? Does she always have to have a stepfamily? Is she always stuck in an abusive family home? Does she always have to go to a ball as a respite, a way to find her freedom? In retellings, there are elements you can change or turn on their heads, and others you have to stick around with, and it’s really satisfying to define which elements are important and how you can modernize them in a way that doesn’t get repetitive or old.
I’m also excited for people to see how dark the original fairytales can be, and I drew a lot of inspiration from those really gory tales. I chose a lot of the classics — Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Beauty & the Beast — and I tried to interwave them together. That was definitely the most challenging aspect of the book, to make sure that all the beats and emotional arcs were lined up in a way that makes sense. The elements are all there for those who look close enough, and in Book 2 all the journeys will conclude, one way or another. I hope you’re all ready for the ride!
CW: I’d love to take a moment to celebrate you! What is something that you are really proud of with your writing journey thus far?
Laura: I think mostly I’m proud of the way I’ve found a way to keep changing. I have a very ecletic taste, so I enjoy experimenting in different genres and playing around with people’s expectations on these stories. I got my turn with post-apocalyptic and aliens in THE LAST 8, and now I get a turn with fairytales and fantasy with THE GRIMROSE GIRLS. I hope that readers will stick with me, because I still have a lot od different stories to tell.
3 Brazilian books to read
There’s still a long path to go toward Brazilian representation written by Brazilians in the US publishing market, but here are 3 unforgettable reads.
- Here the Whole Time, by Vitor Martins: a delightful summer read for all holidays, about a boy who’s forced to live with his childhood crush for 15 days.
- Where We Go From Here, by Lucas Rocha: three Brazilian boys, two diagnosed with HIV, a sensitive book about relationships, family, and learning how to accept yourself.
- Like a Love Song, by Gabriela Martins: after a horrible public break-up, Brazilian rising popstar Nati stars fake-dating a cute British boy so her break-up doesn’t uppend her career. A rom-com for all tastes.
3 Brazilian movies to watch
I’ve talked about my love for Bacurau before, so this time I’ll recommend three other Brazilian movies to watch.
- A Dog’s Will: This is arguably my favorite Brazilian movie of all time. It’s based on a play by Ariano Suassuna, and it’s a comedy that follows two impoverished friends as they try to get their fortunes changed.
- The Way He Looks: this is a sweet coming of age movie about Leonardo, a blind gay teenager, navigating his first school crush.
- Good Manners: this horror/fantasy mash-up tells the story of Clara, a woman who’s hired by a rich woman to take care of her soon-to-be-born baby. The problem? The baby is a werewolf. And yes, it’s SAPPHIC!
3 Brazilian artists to keep an eye on
There are so many great Brazilian artists who I love, so here’s a shout-out to them. Give them a follow and you won’t regret it.
- Samia Harumi: Samia has done the character art for both THE LAST 8 as well as THE GRIMROSE GIRLS. I love her work so much, the colors are rich, the characters are beautiful.
- Isadora Zeferino: Isadora has illustrated several beautiful book covers, and she has an upcoming graphic novel MISMATCHED (2023), illustrated by her and written by Anne Camlin, and it’s a modern gay retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma.
- Dante Luiz: Dante Luiz is the art director of online speculative magazine STRANGE HORIZONS, and he’s also the illustrator of CREMA, published by DarkHorse. I love how dark and mysterious his work is.
About the Author
Laura Pohl is a Brazilian YA author. She likes writing messages in caps lock, quoting Hamilton and obsessing about Star Wars. When not taking pictures of her dog, she can be found curled up with a fantasy or science-fiction book. She makes her home in São Paulo, where she graduated in Literature.
She is the author of THE LAST 8 (Sourcebooks, 2019). When not writing, she likes reading science fiction and fantasy, and enjoys deep discussions about conspiracy theories and alien life. Learn more about her on her website, and make sure to follow her on twitter, instagram, and pinterest.