Welcome back to Penguin Teen Author Spotlight! Today, we’re welcoming author of the incredibly moving ALTHEA AND OLIVER, Cristina Moracho. ALTHEA AND OLIVER follows two best friends through their mistakes and challenges, and captures your heart in the process. Read on to find out what Cristina loves about her book and what she’s bringing us next.
Name: Cristina Moracho
Novel: Althea and Oliver
Who’s your favorite author, living or dead?
Oh god. I never realized how impossible it is to answer this question until now. I guess I’ll say Donna Tartt, if for no other reason than I’ve reread The Secret History more than any other book. But I will say that Megan Abbott, Sara Gran, Cara Hoffman, Sarah McCarry, Lauren Grodstein, and Kelly Braffett all fall in the “favorites” category. So does Stephen King—I read all his new books as soon as they come out, and I reread his old ones on a regular basis as well.
What’s your favorite thing about your book?
I love that it seems to have genuinely moved some readers. The months leading up to the pub date have been pretty nerve-wracking, so the fact that I’ve already gotten some incredibly positive responses from people for whom Althea and Oliver really resonated, that’s been amazing. You can write in a vacuum for so long you almost forget your endgame—to get the book out there so people can actually read it. Althea and Oliver felt like my imaginary friends for so long, so I love that finally other people can see them too.
If you could spend one year on a deserted island with one character from literature, who would you choose?
Where do you write?
There’s a cozy little alcove in my apartment where I write, surrounded by my bookshelves. I painted the back wall of this nook with black chalkboard paint, so I can make notes to myself or jot down quotes I find particularly inspiring.
Who is your favorite hero or heroine of history?
I tend to gravitate more towards morally questionable historical figures. One of the nice things about making Althea’s father a history professor was that it allowed me to work my fascination with Hernando Cortes into a novel about contemporary teenagers growing up in North Carolina. Garth refers to Cortes as an “asshole” at one point, which is totally accurate, but there’s something about his “hit the shore, burn the ships” mentality that’s undeniably compelling. The guy was committed.
Do you tweet? What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever tweeted?
I think my funniest tweets are also my meanest tweets. A few months ago I was having a bad day and tweeted something about passing a family on the street and wanting to knock the toddler out of its father’s arms. It lost me a few followers but some people thought it was hilarious.
What is your favorite season?
Summer is my favorite season but also my least productive. I’ll blow off just about anything—work, writing, whatever—for the chance to spend a couple of hours at the beach. Winter is for hunkering down in my apartment and writing.
If you could teleport anywhere in the known universe right now, where would you go?
Nairobi. I spent a month there this summer, staying with friends, and I still miss it, and them, every day.
Do you have any writing rituals?
So many. Too many. It’s difficult for me to write while listening to music—too distracting—but I also can’t write if it’s too quiet, so my solution is to write with the television on, the volume down low, and a movie that I’ve seen a million times playing on repeat. When I was writing Althea and Oliver I alternated between The Usual Suspects and The Royal Tenenbaums, occasionally throwing Armageddon into the mix for a little variety. I also had day jobs in offices for a long time, and writing was something I did after work, at night, and that association is so strong in my subconscious that I still find it difficult to settle in and write if it’s light out. On the one hand I feel like you do whatever you have to do in order to make the writing happen; on the other hand those little rituals can turn into obstacles if you need all these elements to fall into place so you can work. When I did my first writer’s residency I actually worried about how I would do in a cottage with no television, but I managed.
What is your idea of earthly happiness?
That moment right as the show is about to start, when the lights do down and the band comes onstage. And then the moment after it’s over, when you’re sweaty and exhausted and your legs are all shaky, and you walk outside with your friends and light a cigarette in a daze. And of course every moment in between.
What is the best concert you’ve ever been to?
Another impossible question, but I’ll do my best. A few years ago I saw the Hold Steady perform at this weird recreational center in Westchester, called Life: The Place to Be. To this day I have no idea how or why THS ended up performing there; it’s the kind of place you rent out for your bat mitzvah. My old roommate and I took Metro-North there, got off at the wrong stop, along with about a dozen other people, and had no idea how to get to the show. There was literally only one cab in the whole town to shuttle everyone back and forth; the driver had to make all these trips between the station and the venue. In the end we had the best time—we ran around playing video games and skeeball until the show started, we made friends with all these other people who had come up from the city to see the band, and THS played a killer set. Something about being out of the city made everyone friendlier, and the setting was so bizarre, and the whole night just had this great feeling to it, like we were all on this weird little punk rock adventure that had somehow taken us to the suburbs. We took the train home with all our new friends, and for years afterwards when I saw THS play in Brooklyn or Manhattan I’d run into people I recognized from that show.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a new novel that’s very different from A&O; it’s darker, and it has a sort of noir/crime feel, and at the heart is a story about vengeance and justice, where they overlap and where they diverge. One of the quotes on my chalkboard right now is from Confucius: “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”
If it’s half as compelling as ALTHEA AND OLIVER, we’re sure we’ll love it!
Follow Cristina on Twitter to keep up with her!
Add ALTHEA AND OLIVER to your “To Read” shelf on Goodreads!
Better yet, buy ALTHEA AND OLIVER now!