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.
Pride Month is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond, where during the month of June, queer authors and bookish content creators are invited to celebrate being queer, queer books, and their experiences of being a queer reader. Find the introduction post for Pride Month at The Quiet Pond here.
Hello friend, and welcome back to our vibrant Pride Month series here at The Quiet Pond! We’re starting off our lineup of interviews this year with a very special guest, whose delightful debut will be the perfect queer summer read come August—especially if you’re a romantic at heart like we are. Today, we have the honor of hosting an interview with the lovely Gabriela Martins, who is here to talk about her upcoming queer Latine YA romance Like a Love Song!
Gabriela is visiting the Pond today as a striped cat with soft pink headphones (who may look familiar if you follow her on Instagram)! I’m so very excited for you to read our discussion, as we talk about the inspiration behind Gabriela’s book, her love for the romance genre, and teen queer belonging. I really loved how insightful and heartfelt Gabhi’s answers were, and I absolutely cannot wait until the book finally graces our shelves in August. What a treat it will be too: fake-dating between a famous Brazilian pop star and a soft English actor, Hollywood shenanigans, and an intersectional cast of queer characters? It sounds so joyful already 🥺
Before we dive straight into the wonderful interview, let’s take a peek at the stunning cover and book summary:
Like a Love Song by Gabriela Martins
Fake boyfriend. Real heartbreak?
Natalie is living her dream: topping the charts and setting records as a Brazilian pop star… until she’s dumped spectacularly on live television. Not only is it humiliating—it could end her career.
Her PR team’s desperate plan? A gorgeous yet oh-so-fake boyfriend. Nati reluctantly agrees, but William is not what she expected. She was hoping for a fierce bad boy—not a soft-hearted British indie film star. While she fights her way back to the top with a sweet and surprisingly swoon-worthy boy on her arm, she starts to fall for William—and realizes that maybe she’s the biggest fake of them all. Can she reclaim her voice and her heart?
Author Interview: Gabriela Martins
Skye: Hello Gabriela! Thank you so much for joining us today here at the Pond! For anyone just now discovering your work, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Gabriela: Hi everyone!! I am so happy to be visiting The Pond. It’s such an honor, because I *love* it here! :’) Alright, so a little bit about me… I’m a Brazilian author from the south (extreme summers and extreme winters!) and cat-mom of two. I was an ESL teacher for a long time, and I’m still obsessed with languages. I spend my days daydreaming about fictional worlds, cuddling with my cats, and singing! And no, they do not seem to appreciate the singing part, sadly. They have no musical taste.
Skye: Where did the spark that grew into Like a Love Song come from? What kept you coming back to the story again and again throughout the writing process?
Gabriela: I drafted my debut in 2019, right after a heavy depression crisis. Nothing seemed to stick and I badly needed some joy. I had to take sick leave from work and I could barely get out of bed… Then this idea was born, from watching PR speculations on Twitter. Is so-and-so really dating or is it a PR stunt? I couldn’t stop thinking about a third alternative: what if they were both true? After I had a concept in mind, the characters quickly came to me, and they became my happy highlight of the day! After I got better, I thought maybe the story had been too silly, but that’s the one that got me agented after ten years of querying!
Skye: Both Like a Love Song and your upcoming 2022 novel Bad At Love are wonderful fun YA romcoms centering unapologetically Brazilian protagonists! What excites you the most about romance as a genre?
Gabriela: My sophomore novel features a fake bad boy who is secretly obsessed with (movie) romcoms, and at one point his love interest asks him why, says they’re shallow and superficial, not like the real world at all. I’d like to borrow his words to talk a bit about how much I care about this genre. First of all, I think his LI is entirely wrong. I don’t think (a good) romcom or romance book is at all shallow and superficial. Quite the contrary, I think it offers a fun tip of the iceberg to deeper and more serious issues. There is so much tragedy in the world and in our own lives, and I’m not suggesting we ignore it or sugar-coat it, just change the lenses of it when we’re wrapping it up for consumption.
LIKE A LOVE SONG is a book about that deeply uncomfortable feeling of not belonging, accentuated by the fact that Natalie is a Brazilian immigrant. She’s still a rich pop star, and she goes through funny moments, but she’s a teenage girl being humiliated by much older peers online for the sake of a good laugh. This is all very serious. But if I can make you laugh and swoon while you think about issues of misogyny and xenophobia? Hey, that’s great.
This is not to say I don’t think books that focus more prominently on problems aren’t necessary — I think both are. But especially to a younger audience, they should have the option of learning to laugh about their small mistakes, and getting happy endings from the things you can’t laugh about.
Skye: Let’s talk a little about the characters in your book! I really love that there’s so many different identities represented in the core cast here, from our Brazilian protagonist to the bi Jewish love interest, and a background sapphic couple! What has it been like writing such a playful and heartfelt story at the intersection of all of these identities? Why are you excited for this rep to exist for future readers of your books?
Gabriela: I am so happy to hear that this is something you’re excited about! While I was querying, I used to get a lot of feedback from agents saying that my work was ‘too much’. I remember one of specific rejection that said I shouldn’t have a main character who was both Brazilian and queer, that I had to choose one. Apparently I hadn’t gotten the memo, as a Brazilian queer person who, um, exists! (Note: Natalie, the main character of LIKE A LOVE SONG, isn’t queer.)
I think it’s truly about depicting the world around us. My dad is Jewish (like William), one of my childhood best friends is Pakistani (like Padma), and Brenda and Natalie are Brazilians from different sides of the country. And one thing anyone queer can tell you is that we flock together. It’s really incredible, I have the hardest time thinking of straight friends… but I guess Natalie ended up being the token straight friend! lol
Skye: Ultimately, what do you hope young readers take away from the book?
Gabriela: Natalie’s journey is one of finding her place in the world, starting with how she sees (and presents) herself. There is not one right way to be who you are, regardless of the intersection of identities you carry. Whoever you choose to be, it has to be someone who makes you happy. Whoever you choose to be, there’s a place for you in the world. You belong.
Skye: I’d love to peek behind the curtain on your publishing journey so far — how has Like a Love Song grown and evolved throughout this entire process, from first draft to publication? Is there a core that has remained the same?
Gabriela: I was so lucky, because the book basically stayed the same! The only thing that really changed was the title. Querying and on sub it was called You Can Call Me Nati, but my editor at Underlined wanted to highlight the romance aspect in the title as well, so together we opted for LIKE A LOVE SONG, a title I ended up loving tons.
There were chapters deleted and others added, but the change was minimum. I’d say about 10% of the book was completely changed from first draft to paperback, the rest was just more of what it already was. Both my agent and my editor told me explicitly that their goal with editing was to make the book more me, so they always respected my vision and worked toward a sharper version of that!
Skye: Okay, looking forward to the future a little: what’s your wildest pie-in-the-sky writing dream?
Gabriela: Oh, Skye, how much time do you have? LOL I have many dreams, but I think the most important one, the thing that I wish for the most, is that LIKE A LOVE SONG is a book that makes people feel seen. I wrote it from a place of feeling invisible. I want this book to remind everyone that we deserve to take up space. That we deserve to dream and dream big, and we are not alone.
Skye: Closing on a sunny note! What is something—big or small—that’s been bringing you joy lately, despite everything else currently going on?
Gabriela: Oh my God, I’m not even sure I can share this, but it made me so happy I teared up, so!!! Last night my audiobook producer sent me the audition files for LIKE A LOVE SONG. Listening to so many talented people interpreting Natalie and expertly bringing her to life? I cannot explain how much that feeling got me. I was not prepared for hearing back words I’d drafted two years ago, chuckling at my own jokes! Absolutely surreal experience. We haven’t made a decision on the voice actor yet, but they’re all so incredible, that I hope you all get the chance to listen to the audiobook in the future! I may cry even at the funny parts. Lol
About the Author
Gabriela Martins is a Brazilian kidlit author and linguist. Her stories feature Brazilian characters finding themselves and love. She was a high school teacher and has also worked as a TED Ed-Club facilitator, where she helped teens develop their own talks in TED format to present. She edited and self-published a pro-bono LGBTQ+ anthology (KEEP FAITH) with all funds going to queer people in need. When she’s not writing, she can be found cuddling with her two cats, or singing loudly and off-key. Her YA romances, LIKE A LOVE SONG and BAD AT LOVE, come out summer 2021 and summer 2022 (Underlined/PRH).