I’m so excited to be a part of the book tour for Small Town Monsters that is hosted by TBR and Beyond Tours. I was really excited to also be able to interview the author for this book!
Welcome Diana! Thank you for allowing me to interview you! Can you start off by introducing yourself?
Hi Thank you for having me! Well, I’m a YA author and SMALL TOWN MONSTERS marks my 7th (yes, 7th!!) published novel. But it’s my first YA horror and my first with a Big 5 publisher. My last project, the Anastasia Phoenix series which started with PROOF OF LIES, was a trilogy of international spy thrillers. PROOF OF LIES was even a finalist for the International Thriller Award. My debut YA series, AMOR AND SUMMER SECRETS, is a contemporary Latinx YA trilogy and it came out before many of my current readers were probably born.
How would you describe Small Town Monsters in one sentence?
I can do better than that! I found my current agent via #PitMad, which is a Twitter pitch event to help match agents and writers. Here is the actual tweet I used, summing up SMALL TOWN MONSTERS, to hook my current agent:
THE CONJURING x IT. Vera Martinez doesn’t want to be like her demonologist parents. But when Max says something’s very wrong w/his mom, and a cult worshipping death spreads, Vera must face her link to the family business to save a town that hates her.
My publisher has since changed the comps to THE CONJURING x THE VOW, which fits sooo much better.
Can you introduce us to the main character(s) of Small Town Monsters?
SMALL TOWN MONSTERS is told in dual POV, from a boy and a girl, Max and Vera. They are both multicultural Latinx teens from very different home lives. Vera is the creepy outcast whose parents are demonologists; she’s never had a playdate let alone a boyfriend. She also believes she didn’t inherit her parents’ gifts, so she’s lived 17 years feeling as though she fits in nowhere.
Max is the uber popular teen, whose father sadly died in a town tragedy when Max was 10 years old. He’s been helping his single mom raise his little sister ever since. Only now, something is seriously wrong with his mother.
What representation will readers find in Small Town Monsters?
There’s lots! I’m half Puerto Rican and half Polish, so I try to give my characters a similar multicultural experience that I feel a lot of kids can relate to.
In 2019 only 5.3% of children’s books published in the U.S. featured Latinx main characters. That’s it. I think this is one of the aspects that makes SMALL TOWN MONSTERS different.
It’s a running joke that non-white characters are the first ones killed off in horror movies. But it’s true. And I want teens to see themselves as not the best friend, not the spicy sidekick, and not the Latin lover, but as the center of the story.
In addition to the Latinx characters, there’s also an LGBTQ romance featured and a lot of Catholicism.
Do you know from the beginning how your books will end or do you let your characters decide their journey?
As I’ve grown as a writer, I’ve become a plotter. So yes, I outline my books before I write. But usually about halfway through the first draft, I end up making huge changes. For example, the cult aspect of SMALL TOWN MONSTERS wasn’t in my original outline. That sort of grew out of the story and ended up being a key component.
Do you have a favorite scene, moment, or quote from the book?
The very first scene, and the very first words, I wrote for SMALL TOWN MONSTERS are now in a chapter titled, The Storm. I call these “interlude” chapters—they’re the scary bits meant to showcase the evil spreading through town. The scene was originally the first chapter of the novel, but I later moved it to the end of the book, about 75% of the way in. These words were roughly the same in the very first draft:
“Their eyes turn in unison toward the basement door, an unseen force tugging their chests and swelling their pupils. The dust in the room grows hefty as the silence builds.
Then the crash sounds. A cascading clink of shattered glass rings in the girl’s ears, in her soul.
Something has broken.
No, it’s broken loose.”
What are three books you would recommend if someone enjoyed Small Town Monsters?
Wow! There are so many! If you like female-centered paranormal Latinx horror, read Gaby Triana’s books (@GabyTriana); her latest is Moon Child. If you like real-life human monsters in your Latinx horror, read Cynthia Pelayo (@cinapelayo); her latest is Children of Chicago. And if you like reading about teens killing each other (who doesn’t?), read any of Gretchen McNeil’s books (@GretchenMcNeil); her latest is the #murdertrending series.
What’s next for you? Anything you can share?
I’m working on a new YA horror. I’m in the middle of a book that mixes horror and technology—my version of Black Mirror. We all spent so much time with our devices in 2020, it would be hard not to be influenced by that. But I also have a few other horror ideas I’m kicking around, one based on an abandoned reform school near my house and one based on famous historical murders, so I’m not sure where my brain will land in the end.
ABOUT THE BOOK
The Conjuring meets The Vow! This terrifying paperback original tells the unputdownable story of a girl, a dark angel, and the cult hellbent on taking over her small, coastal town.
Vera Martinez wants nothing more than to escape Roaring Creek and her parents’ reputation as demonologists. Not to mention she’s the family outcast, lacking her parents’ innate abilities, and is terrified of the occult things lurking in their basement.
Maxwell Oliver is supposed to be enjoying the summer before his senior year, spending his days thinking about parties and friends. Instead he’s taking care of his little sister while his mom slowly becomes someone he doesn’t recognize. Soon he suspects that what he thought was grief over his father’s death might be something more…sinister.
When Maxwell and Vera join forces, they come face to face with deeply disturbing true stories of cults, death worship, and the very nature that drives people to evil.
Underlined is a line of totally addictive romance, thriller, and horror paperback original titles coming to you fast and furious each month. Enjoy everything you want to read the way you want to read it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Diana Rodriguez Wallach is a multi-published author of young adult novels. Her most recent, Small Town Monsters, is a YA Latinx horror novel that will publish in Fall 2021 through Random House’s Underlined imprint. Additionally, Diana is the author of the Anastasia Phoenix Series (Entangled Publishing), a trilogy of young adult spy thrillers. The first book in the series, Proof of Lies, has been optioned for film and was chosen as a finalist for the 2018 International Thriller Awards for Best Young Adult Novel. Additionally, Bustle listed her as one of the “Top Nine Latinx Authors to Read for Women’s History Month 2017,” and Paste named Proof of Lies one of the “Top 10 Best Young Adult Books for March 2017.” Diana is also the author of three Latina young adult novels: Amor and Summer Secrets, Amigas and School Scandals, and Adios to All The Drama (Kensington Books). Amor and Summer Secrets placed second at the 2009 International Latino Book Awards for Best Young Adult Novel. Diana also penned a YA Greek-myth inspired short-story collection entitled Mirror, Mirror (Buzz Books).
In 2011, Diana published an essay in Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories (HarperCollins), which was the only essay from the anthology selected by Scholastic to be used in its classroom materials. Diana is also featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses (Twilight Times Books, 2015).
Diana has taught as a Creative Writing Instructor for Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth since 2015, and she has led Creative Writing Workshops in inner-city schools throughout the Philadelphia region for over ten years. She previously wrote as a blogger for Quirk Books, and she currently volunteers with the nonprofit organization Mighty Writers, which promotes writing in urban communities. Diana holds a B.S. in Journalism from Boston University, and currently lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two children.
One person will win a signed finished copy of Small Town Monsters. The giveaway starts on September 6, 2021 and ends on September 13, 2021. To enter this giveaway, click here!