It’s June and that means it’s time for another year of Pride Month spotlights! I’m so excited to spotlight No Filter and Other Lies by Crystal Maldonado and share the interview with the author!
Welcome Crystal! Thank you for allowing me to interview you! Can you start off by introducing yourself?
Thank you so much for having me! I’m Crystal Maldonado — glitter enthusiast, lady with a lot of feelings, wife and mom, and young adult author of Fat Chance, Charlie Vega and No Filter and Other Lies. I write inclusive stories about fat, Latina girls learning to love themselves in a world that often tells them they aren’t worth loving. My books celebrate identity, bodies of all kinds, friendship, love, and emotion. There’s also always at least one Beyoncé reference!
How would you describe No Filter and Other Lies in one sentence?
17-year-old Kat Sanchez puts the ‘cat’ in ‘catfishing’ when she steals a friend’s photos, makes a new identity on Instagram, and realizes lying for the clout may not be all she imagined it would be.
Can you introduce us to the main character(s) of No Filter and Other Lies?
There is a whole cast of eclectic and delightful characters to love in this book, including Kat’s hilarious friends and her incredibly wholesome grandparents, but here are some things to know about the main cast:
Kat: I like to describe the main character, Kat, as a delightfully messy friend we can’t help but love. She is a smart, funny, and kind-hearted photographer, who wants nothing more than to be accepted by those around her—though she’d rather die than admit that out loud. She is lost when we meet her, unsure of her place not just in the world but within her friend group, the friends-with-benefits relationship she’s currently in, and her own family. Readers get to see exactly its impact in Kat Sanchez’s story—how, in the blink of an eye, she goes from a regular user to someone nearly swept away in its current. It’s through social media and the warm blanket of anonymity it provides that Kat starts to figure out who she is and what she wants. There, she feels like she can really be herself. And it’s there that she discovers her bisexuality and feels the weight of the decisions she’s made.
Hari: Kat’s ride-or-die best friend, Hari, is equal parts sweet, protective, gentle, and funny. He’s also super hot, and he has a major thing for Kat. He’s the reasonable one in his and Kat’s friend group and always trying to break up arguments between Kat and Luis, who is perpetually running his mouth. Though Hari has his own issues to deal with—mostly, that his parents favor his older brother, Dev—he is always there for Kat and his friends.
Elena: The prettiest, take-no-shit, pink-haired intersectional feminist on the West Coast, Elena ends up being a perfect foil for Kat and they form a close friendship and bond quickly with one another. Elena is easy-going, energetic, funny, open, and loves to love, which complements Kat and her closed-off heart really well. She gets Kat to be vulnerable and they connect easily and quickly. She’s also an incredibly talented artist with the most amazing friends and I low-key wish I was friends with her myself!
Cash: Cash is the most adorable three-legged pitbull you’ve ever met—full of heart and joy and who just wants to find his forever home. He and Kat form an incredible bond during Kat’s time working at a local animal shelter called One Fur All, and he ends up playing a significant role throughout the book. He’s definitely my favorite character!
What representation will readers find in No Filter and Other Lies?
I do my best to built inclusive worlds that feel real in my books and I prioritize BIPOC and queer representation, as well as fat and body positive characters. Readers will find characters whose family dynamics differ from one another; who are from different socioeconomic backgrounds; who defy expectations and carve out space for themselves to live a full, nuanced life, even if they are minor in terms of the plot or story.
Do you know from the beginning how your books will end or do you let your characters decide their journey?
I always have an idea of what will happen in a story, but then I let the characters take me where they’d like to go. It’s great! I may start a book with one idea and end up with a completely different story by the end. For example, when I first started thinking about NO FILTER, I was envisioning a character who was catfished, but that never felt right. Instead, the story morphed into being told from the person doing the catfishing, which felt so much richer and more interesting to me. But very early iterations of Kat were a little more sinister in that she didn’t care as much that she was deceiving people. As I wrote her, though, I realized she actually didn’t get joy from the deception at all; instead, her decision to catfish and lie was born of a place of deep hurt and insecurity. Once I figured that out, I went back and rewrote those early chapters and suddenly I could see Kat for who she was and who she would become. Though Kat makes a few serious missteps on social media, I also think she comes out on the other side of it having learned so much about herself, her hopes, her dreams, and her place in the world. I hope readers see it as equal parts cautionary tale and call for empathy.
Do you have a favorite scene, moment, or quote from the book?
My actual favorite scene is a bit of a spoiler, so I will share one of my favorite early quotes from Kat: “I’ve photographed enough people to know there is beauty in everyone, me included.” I think this speaks so much to where she is as a person when we first meet her. She knows, intellectually, how each of us matters profoundly, but we watch as she struggles to apply this thought to herself. I think we can all relate to that struggle in some ways and in that sense, we may all find ourselves just like Kat at different parts of our lives.
I’m also proud of this line, also from chapter one: “I recheck the photos from earlier, admiring the way the brown skin on this gorgeous couple glimmers in the light, as if that’s the real gift of the golden hour. Brown skin really is the most beautiful.” I struggled with loving myself in my brown skin for a long time as a kid, so being able to write this definitively in black and white on the page meant a lot to me. There is beauty in my skin, and in yours.
What is something readers will find in No Filter and Other Lies that they may not realize based on the synopsis?
I love this question! Readers would probably be surprised to see how sapphic and soft Kat emerges through this story. Her bisexuality and journey to becoming comfortable with that part of herself is not the main theme of the book, but it is still a crucial one.
When I think of NO FILTER AND OTHER LIES, I also think of how hard it is to be vulnerable, how difficult it sometimes feels to be authentically yourself, how you can love others ferociously but still have a tough time applying that inward. I think of complicated families, friends that become family, and love that’s all-consuming. I think of reconciling the life we dreamt of with the life we have. I think of the sweet and gentle way animals bring out the best in us (especially if they’re adorable, three-legged dogs!). I think of how even the best of us make mistakes.
Those elements may not be evident in the synopsis, but they are all important pieces of Kat and of her story.
What’s something you hope readers will take away from No Filter and Other Lies?
I hope readers leave this book feeling more compassionate and empathetic toward themselves. Kat is so hard on herself and that’s part of what drives her to make this snap decision to make a fake life; she assumes that’s easier than admitting out loud how she feels or what she wants. But she quickly realizes it’s a mistake and continues to be swept up in the instant validation the attention on social media brings her. So, if readers can understand her in that way, I would love if they could turn that empathy and kindness inward, toward themselves, and learn to give themselves space to make mistakes and learn from them.
What are three books you would recommend if someone enjoyed No Filter and Other Lies?
FIFTEEN HUNDRED MILES FROM THE SUN by Jonny Garza Villa has the perfect found family elements, and also involves a coming out story that happens due to drunken social media moments, so this is a must.
GABI, A GIRL IN PIECES by Isabel Quintero features a Mexican-American teen named Gabi who deals with some of the same struggles Kat does—imperfect family, pressures to have it all together, feelings that sometimes come out in the wrong ways. They’re similar in lots of ways.
SIA MARTINEZ AND THE MOONLIT BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland because Sia is such a spitfire. I think Kat might have a little crush on her!
What’s next for you? Anything you can share?
I’m fortunate that I get to write more young adult books about fat Latina girls falling in love! My next will be released from Holiday House in fall 2023. All I can say is that this one is for those of us who love tropes and the feeling of autumn. I can’t wait to share more!
Thank you so much for having me!
ABOUT THE BOOK
You should know, right now, that I’m a liar.
They’re usually little lies. Tiny lies. Baby lies. Not so much lies as lie adjacent.
But they’re still lies.
Twenty one-year-old Max Monroe has it all: beauty, friends, and a glittering life filled with adventure. With tons of followers on Instagram, her picture-perfect existence seems eminently enviable.
Except it’s all fake.
Max is actually 16-year-old Kat Sanchez, a quiet and sarcastic teenager living in drab Bakersfield, California. Nothing glamorous in her existence–just sprawl, bad house parties, a crap school year, and the awkwardness of dealing with her best friend Hari’s unrequited love. But while Kat’s life is far from perfect, she thrives as Max: doling out advice, sharing beautiful photos, networking with famous influencers, even making a real friend in a follower named Elena. The closer Elena and “Max” get–texting, Snapping, and even calling–the more Kat feels she has to keep up the facade.
But when one of Max’s posts goes ultra-viral and gets back to the very person she’s been stealing photos from, her entire world – real and fake — comes crashing down around her. She has to figure out a way to get herself out of the huge web of lies she’s created without hurting the people she loves.
But it might already be too late.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Crystal Maldonado is a young adult author with a lot of feelings. Her debut novel, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega, is a 2021 New England Book Award winner, a Cosmopolitan Best New Book, and a POPSUGAR Best New YA Novel. Her next novel, No Filter and Other Lies, explores teenage life in the social media age—and the lies we tell to ourselves and others.
By day, Crystal works in higher ed marketing, and by night, she’s a writer who loves Beyoncé, glitter, shopping, and spending too much time on her phone. Her work has been published in Latina, BuzzFeed, and the Hartford Courant.
She lives in western Massachusetts with her husband, daughter, and dog. Find her everywhere @crystalwrote or crystalwrote.com.