I am so excited to introduce my friend and incredible author, Federico Erebia. I met Federico through our local SCBWI meetings and feel lucky to play a small part in spreading the word about his amazing debut novel, PEDRO & DANIEL (Levine Querido, June 6). This is a beautifully written and emotion evoking book. following two brothers and their unbreakable bond through overwhelming hardship. Regardless of your background or experiences you will find yourself connecting with this deeply moving book.
Welcome to The Backstory and thank you for joining us and sharing the inspiration behind PEDRO & DANIEL.
First off, please tell us a little bit about your story.
Pedro & Daniel (Levine Querido, June 6) follows gay, neurodivergent, Mexican American brothers from age five through their teen years, until they are young men. Their bond between brothers helps them face serious challenges along the way. They face colorist and homophobic physical abuse from their mother. Despite this, there is much joy and laughter throughout the book.
Some fun facts: There are elements of picture book, chapter book, middle grade, young adult, new adult, adult fiction, novella, short story, nonfiction, verse novel, and memoir in Pedro & Daniel. There are four ARCs. The structure and formatting of the book are unconventional. Part One is written in third person; the rest of the book is written in first person, with Daniel and Pedro alternating chapters. There is an index of about 200 dichos/proverbs that are used throughout the story.
Federico, you have crafted such a special book. It is raw and authentic. You take us on a heartbraking journey through abuse, colorism, and homophobia while displaying the unbreakable bond of brothers.
What’s the story behind the story? What was your inspiration? Where did the idea come from?
Although Pedro & Daniel is considered YA fiction, it is semi-autobiographical. The character Daniel is very much based on my “fifteen-months-younger-twin” Daniel. There is a scene in the book that actually took place, when my brother and I contemplated how our lives might have been different, if we had had a loving home as children. During that conversation, I really did decide to write this book. It was about a year before his death at age thirty of AIDS.
Over the last thirty years, I have been writing this novel in my head. I knew which stories I wanted to write, which words and phrases I wanted to use. I imagine other neurodivergent folks write and store their stories in their minds. Writing with a pen or typewriter would have been foolhardy for me. But once personal computers, and especially laptops, became affordable, I knew I’d have to start writing it down eventually.
Daniel would have turned 60 this May 20th.
I am so thankful those stories made their way onto the page for everyone to enjoy. Thank you for your vulnerbality in sharing so much of yourself and your brother. While only semi-autobiographical there is no denying the 100% heart and emotion you poured into this book.
How did you approach going from this seed of an idea to what is now PEDRO & DANIEL? Was it something undeniable you had to start immediately or did you need to sit with this idea and let it grow for a while before it found its way to the page?
Interesting that you use the word undeniable! As I said, I’ve been writing these stories in my head for three decades, but when I actually sat down to write some “Pedro and Daniel” stories in 2021, the thought of writing a novel was still overwhelming. So, I started writing the stories as picture books. I was trying to deny the nagging insistence that I “write this novel already.”
Part One in Pedro & Daniel has sixteen chapters that were each initially picture book manuscripts. A seventeenth PB manuscript was a collection of poems I wrote which were loose translations-in-rhyme of dichos [Spanish proverbs]. Those poems are now the chapter openers in Part One of Pedro & Daniel.
What a transformation from a series of picture books to a YA novel! I know you are not alone in that overwhelming feeling. Be it writing a novel, in rhyme, or a picture book, I feel like at one point or another many authors feel that pull towards something that seems so unattainable. Good for you for overcoming that and finding your path forward in completing this novel.
Did PEDRO & DANIEL undergo any major changes/revisions from the original version? If so, what led you to make these changes?
Honestly, I have enough for a second book with all the stories that were cut by the time I had my final revision of Pedro & Daniel. My editor (Nick Thomas, Levine Querido Executive Editor), and several critique partners, which include you (Andrew), helped me hone the manuscript through several revisions.
There were many stories I was sad to delete, but ultimately, they were not necessary to advance any of the story ARCs in the book.
The story ARCs lead the way, but nevertheless, it must have been hard to cut so much. Perhaps after the release of PEDRO & DANIEL there will be an avenue through which to share some of those stories that didn't make the final book.
Where do you tend to find your inspiration or your sparks for ideas?
We are constantly bombarded by story ideas in everything we do and experience. Tara Lazar’s Story Storm is a terrific grouping of story-generating ideas that reminds us of this concept. Even my husband has started saying, “That’s a great idea for a story!” when he sees something unusual in a photo, video, or life.
The neurodivergent folks in your readership may have a hyperacuity to our surroundings like I experience. It can be exhausting, but my mind is always dissecting stimuli, reshaping it, recreating it. A building, a flower, a rock, the wind, are not simply a building, a flower, a rock, or the wind.
When the unusual captures my attention, my imagination is set free. My mind is a fantastic world of fantasies.
I love how you describe the inner workings of your mind. Spotting ideas is certainly a skillset and can quickly become a habit when we allow our minds to be open to it. Much like your husband joining in, my kids have begun doing the same however, the literary merit of their ideas has yet to be proven.
What books have been the most inspirational/impactful on your writing?
This is easy, and difficult to answer. As a teen, the works of Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Dickens, and J.R.R. Tolkein transported me to another place and time. They were my escape, when I really needed an escape. Later in life, I discovered the writings of wordsmiths like Oscar Wilde and Stephen Sondheim–yes, I include the books of Broadway when I’m talking about books. They were definitely inspirations as I developed Daniel’s character, and his obsession with word games.
Recent books that were impactful while writing Pedro & Daniel include: The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sánchez, and Flamer by Mike Curato.
What are the must haves for your workspace? Tools? Inspiration? Reference materials?
For the controlled chaos of my mind–that I describe in Pedro & Daniel–to function well, I have up to five computers going at the same time. Each has its own function. I can work on multiple projects simultaneously, or one at a time. I made my own 3-foot by 5-foot desk which accommodates all my screens, and is otherwise clean and neat, most of the time.
I do a lot of volunteer work, primarily through SCBWI. It’s a way to give back to the writing community. I am inspired by the authors, illustrators, translators, teachers, and librarians I’m meeting along the way. It motivates me to do more writing and volunteering.
You have quite a setup. I appreciate that you know what works for you as a creative and have designed a space that supports your success.
Any inspirational words of advice for aspiring authors?
There are too many presumptions in, “If I can do it, you can do it.” But it sometimes rings true.
I doubted I could write a novel. I had no training, and I believed there were too many obstacles. Then I changed my attitude, followed my instincts, and explored every opportunity.
I think there are a few basics that writers need to do:
Join a writing community. SCBWI is important for children’s book creators. The writing community on Twitter is terrific, despite the new owner’s efforts to destroy it. For picture book writers, 12x12 is a wonderful and supportive community.
Join at least one critique group. You will learn from each other, and it becomes an accountability group.
Figure out what you need to allow you to write.
Read lots of books! Or, listen to audiobooks!
Find ways to keep track of ideas: voice to text memos, notepad by your bed, etc.
Dedicate time to writing. Even if it’s 10 regularly scheduled minutes.
Revise, revise, revise.
If you can afford it, go to conferences, festivals and fairs. There are many free webinars, and other opportunities to learn the craft.
Consider volunteering. Not only is it a nice way to give back to the writing community, you can make connections, and you might find inspiration for your next, great story!
Superb advice! I agree with all of it and always like to emphasize the importance of finding your writing community. Writing can feel so isolating, but it doesn't have to. Having friends, even if they are across the country, who are persuing the same dream and facing the same challeneges makes the whole experience better.
Do you have any upcoming projects or news you would like to share with us?
I’m working on several projects, including a Mesoamerican graphic novel that I find really exciting because of a twist in history. I have several picture book dummies. I’ve been asked to contribute to an anthology that is in development. I’m also writing an adult fiction, 1990’s gay love story with a connection to 9/11.
But my main focus for 2023 will be to talk about Pedro & Daniel, and the many interesting societal issues within.
You certainly are busy! And your range of projects is inspiring. I wish you the best of luck with all of your projects and especially with the promotion of PEDRO & DANIEL and all of the important conversations that can be initiated as a result of it.
Where can people connect more with you?
I am mostly on Twitter: https://twitter.com/FedericoErebia
My linktree has easy access to important links: https://Linktr.ee/FedericoErebia
Readers if you don't already, be sure to follow Federico. Not only is he a skilled author but he is also an all-around amazing human! And while you are at it, mark PEDRO & DANIEL (Levine Querido, June 6) as "Want to read" on GoodReads and place your preorders so you can get your hands on this book as soon as possible.
Federico, I am so happy to have had the opportunity to feature you and your amazing book on the blog. There is no doubt in my mind you are going to touch so many lives with this text.
Federico is generously offering three winners a physical ARC of PEDRO & DANIEL.
Ways to enter:
1. Retweet my tweet about this blog post. Additional entry for tagging friends!
2. Leave a comment on this post.
3. Like our FB page and comment on this week's post.
4. Post about this interview on FB/Instagram and tell me in the comments that you did.
Each method earns an extra entry!
ABOUT FEDERICO EREBIA
Federico Erebia is a retired physician, woodworker, author, illustrator. He was born in Port Clinton, Ohio. He received a BA from the College of Wooster, and an MD from Brown University.
Pedro & Daniel (Levine Querido, June 6) is his debut novel.
He is on the SCBWI Impact & Legacy Fund Steering Committee, is in the inaugural Poets & Writers publicity incubator for debut authors, is a Grubbie Debut Author, and is a member of the Boston Author’s Club and several other writing groups.
He lives in Massachusetts with his husband, and their Westie and Whippet, in the home he designed and renovated.
ABOUT ANDREW HACKET
Andrew Hacket is a teacher by day, parent by night, and writer in the nooks and crannies of life. When it comes to his books, Andrew aims to create stories that tickle the funny bone and hug the heart of readers both young and old.
Andrew is the author of the early reader, CURLILOCKS AND THE THREE HARES (The Little Press, 2024) and the picture book, OLLIE, THE ACORN, AND THE MIGHTY IDEA (Page Street Kids, 2024). Additionally, his short story, THE TUNNEL, has been chosen for inclusion in the SCBWI anthology, The Haunted States of America.
Andrew lives in Massachusetts with his wife, three young children, and puppy, Gus.
Andrew is represented by Dan Cramer of Page Turner Literary.