Our Friend is Here! An Interview with Circe Moskowitz and Linda Raquel, Contributing Authors of Reclaim the Stars – On the Catharsis of Stories, Writerly Dreams, & Latine Book Recommendations

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.

It’s no secret that we here at the Pond love cheerleading and supporting diverse debut authors at the very start of their writerly journeys. Reclaim the Stars, edited by Zoraida Córdova, is a Latine SFF YA anthology that has been super hype for me ever since it was announced — a whole new anthology of diverse YA speculative short stories, featuring beloved authors like Anna-Marie McLemore and Nina Moreno! — but the fact that there are two excellent debut authors among its lineup of writers makes this book absolutely unmissable for me. Today, I am overjoyed to be sitting down for a chat with rising stars Circe and Linda about their stories in the anthology, their writing inspiration, and dreams about the future!

I’ve personally long been a fan of Circe’s writing ✨ aesthetic ✨, and Linda’s anthology contribution about generational curses sounds like everything I love in a story. Circe is joining us today as a cheeky hyena with a skull, while Linda is an adorable manatee with a sunflower behind their ear. It’s always so fun to get to talk to authors on the very cusp of their journey like this, and all of us at the Pond absolutely cannot wait to see where the places Circe and Linda will go from here. For now, onwards to the interview!

Reclaim the Stars: Seventeen Tales Across Realms & Space, edited by Zoraida Cordova

From stories that take you to the stars, to stories that span into other times and realms, to stories set in the magical now, RECLAIM THE STARS takes the Latin American diaspora to places fantastical and out of this world.

Follow princesses warring in space, haunting ghost stories in Argentina, mermaids off the coast of the Caribbean, swamps that whisper secrets, and many more realms explored and unexplored, this stunning collection of seventeen short stories breaks borders and realms to prove that stories are truly universal.

RECLAIM THE STARS features both bestselling and acclaimed authors, and two new voices in the genres, including Vita Ayala, David Bowles, J.C. Cervantes, Zoraida Córdova, Sara Faring, Romina Garber, Isabel Ibañez, Anna-Marie McLemore, Yamile Saied Méndez, Nina Moreno, Circe Moskowitz, Maya Motayne, Linda Raquel Nieves Pérez, Daniel José Older, Claribel A. Ortega, Mark Oshiro and Lilliam Rivera.

Find Reclaim the Stars on:
Goodreads | Indiebound | BookDepository | Bookshop [affiliate] | Amazon

Author Interview: Circe Moskowitz and Linda Raquel

Skye: Hello friends! 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?

Circe: Hi, thanks so much for having me! I’m Circe Moskowitz, an Afro-Puerto Rican writer with a penchant for the macabre. I moved around a lot as a kid, so I don’t really consider myself “from” anywhere – but I currently live in the United States, where I spend my time dreaming up monsters and baking way too many cakes.

Linda: Hola, mi gente! Thank you for having me. My name is Linda Nieves Pérez, my pronouns are she/they and I’m an Afro-Boricua writer that’s obsessed with water gods. ​​I live in Puerto Rico and currently devote my life to the well-being of my dogs.

Skye: Can you both tell us more about when and why you started doing creative storytelling in the first place?

Circe: Stories have always been a part of my life. I was raised by two artists who made it their mission to expose me to great music and movies. They would tell me I had stories inside me, too. But I struggled with addiction for a long time and doubted I’d amount to much of anything. I didn’t even believe I’d make it to eighteen. Eventually, though, I got clean – and the ideas were just too pressing. Writing became catharsis. And then it became something I wanted to make into a career.

Linda: Creating stories has been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I have the first “book” I wrote in my bookshelf, a collection of short stories about a rabbit named Rabito and how he learned to work for his dreams. I illustrated and bounded those pages when I was six and it’s become a token of what I hope to do: share my stories. My passion for storytelling was born through my family. Abuela was a lover of books and stories.

When we were little, she would lay on her hamaca with my brother and I and tell us all kinds of adventures, asking us questions to see where the story would go. Every night would be a different story, every story a different dream. When she couldn’t do that anymore, my aunt continued the legacy, this time including my six cousins, all of us cuddling in the bed around her. We would go on adventures around the forest behind the family house, discover ancient treasures, and meet talking animals, all while hiding under the covers, fighting sleep. I think what’s made me fall completely in love with creative storytelling is hoping that other people experience a little bit of the magic I felt on those nights.

Skye: Congratulations to both of you for being featured in Reclaim the Stars! This sounds like such a lovely project, and I would love to know more about your stories! Where did their initial spark come from? What made you keep coming back to them?

Circe: I grew up disconnected from my culture at times. My abuela was very intent on my family assimilating to whiteness and Americanness. She didn’t want them to speak Spanish and withheld a lot of things – and that had a ripple effect on my mom and me. When I began writing my story, I kept coming back to that feeling in my mind. That sense of desolation when you want to be closer to something that’s a part of you, but you never got the chance to fully understand it, and your only connection has locked the gates. I wanted to capture all that in Creatures of Kings. It’s equal parts a love story and a horror story. It’s about the lies we tell ourselves – and what happens when we finally accept the truth.

Linda: The main idea for my story came from one of those midnight thoughts you scribble on a paper  right before falling asleep and hope to understand when you wake up the next day. I wrote the first sentence of the story with “Lies?” underlined under it. I left the note between my journals and one random day I was thinking of generational curses and family dynamics in Puerto Rico and that one line jumped to my mind. I sat down and started writing.

Skye: Ultimately, what do you both hope young readers take away from Reclaim the Stars, and from your stories?

Circe: Above all else, I hope they leave feeling like anything is possible, like they can reach for the stars if they want to. I hope they know just how much their own voice matters.

Linda: I hope readers leave feeling that we have the power to break generational curses, especially those that have kept us in the dark and try to force us into neat, perfect boxes. As impossible as it feels sometimes, it’s great to break those barriers; it’s fulfilling to choose yourself.

Skye: Intersectionality is being talked about more than ever these days, both in terms of craft and industry. What does it mean for both of you to write representation into your stories, especially in the realm of science fiction and fantasy?

Circe: I just write what’s real to me. But that can feel impossible in a business that wants authors of color to write primarily for the white gaze. And then there’s this pressure to represent everyone if we become one of the “chosen” voices – like we must write for every Latine experience or every queer experience or whatever. I’m not writing for everybody, though, I’m writing for me. I think whether you connect to it or not is the magic of the thing. Maybe the sparks will fly. Maybe you’ll see yourself in these pages. But maybe you won’t. Regardless, a story that was once just mine now belongs to you. It’s completely terrifying and beautiful.

Linda: There was a time in which I couldn’t express the things happening to me or the things I felt because I’d never seen or read about someone like me in those situations. My hope is to write stories that help that version of me find hope and, in the process, help other readers find comfort in companionship. Even if many of us won’t ever meet gods, fly across the universe or develop special powers, I think there’s so much magic in sharing a small part of my essence in everything I write, knowing it’ll become part of someone else’s, too. 

Skye: Zooming out into talking about Latine stories as a whole: do you guys have any particular recommendations of Latine media that have either inspired you or your stories recently? Feel free to gush all about your favorite ones!

Circe: I’ve been reading a lot of Mariana Enríquez lately! Her stories are strange and unsettling and everything I love about gothic horror. I highly recommend Things We Lost in the Fire and The Dangers of Smoking in Bed.

Linda: I recently read a Latin American SFF anthology called El tercer mundo después del sol and it filled me with so much joy. I’m really excited to read more fantastical stories taking place in Latin America and that anthology was fantastic. I’ve also been reading the backlist of Silvia Moreno-García and I’ve grown to admire her way of twisting every genre to make it respect her rules.

Skye: Okay, looking forward to the future a little: what are your wildest pie-in-the-sky writing dreams?

Circe: Everything, I want to write everything. There are so many genres and mediums I want to leave a mark on, and I hope I get the chance.

Linda: I’d like to write at least one short story in every genre. I want to try everything, push myself beyond the comfort of fantasy and magical realism and jump into all there is to explore in creative writing. I’d also love to have an animated series based on any of my stories, so here’s me manifesting it to the universe.

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?

Circe: Reading. I’ve been returning to old favorites for comfort – but there’s also so many amazing new books coming out. Recent favorites include The World Gives Way by Marissa Levien, No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull and Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca. They’re all spectacular stories that I can’t stop thinking about.

Linda: I recently finished moving and it’s let me have a lot of fun writing and reading again! I had a couple of rough months and hadn’t been able to pick up neither book nor  pen, but I’m in a much better place now and it’s been great going back to the things that make me happy.

About the Authors

Circe Moskowitz is a wanderer at heart and firmly believes home is anywhere she can sit down and read. These days, she lives in Kentucky, writing stories about love and horror.

Find Circe on: Twitter | Website | Instagram

Linda Raquel Nieves Pérez (she/they) is an Afro-boricua writer born on a rainy night in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, which they often blame for their obsession for writing about water goddesses with stormy tempers. When she isn’t re-reading Pride and Prejudice for the hundredth time, you can find her sharing her art and projects on social media. You can check out Linda’s short fiction in the forthcoming Reclaim the Stars anthology (out 2/15/2022).

Find Linda on: Twitter | TikTok | Instagram

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