Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Q&A with Anika Fajardo


Photo by Dave Dieken



Anika Fajardo is the author of the new middle grade novel Meet Me Halfway. Her other books include the middle grade novel What If a Fish. She teaches at Augsburg University's MFA program, and she lives in Minneapolis.


Q: What inspired you to write Meet Me Halfway, and how did you create your characters Mattie and Mercedes?


A: When I was 25, I  found out that I had a brother, who is just four months younger than me. I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time and he also lived there. I got to thinking about what it would have been like to run into him somewhere.


That's how I started thinking about Mattie's move to California and what it would be like for her to meet someone who looked like her. My brother, like Mercedes, knew about me his whole life, so I also wanted to explore what that would be like. My brother and I are great friends now and so I also wanted to explore the experience of found family.


Q: How would you describe the dynamic between the two girls? 


A: There is definitely a lot of tension between Mattie and Mercedes! This is, at first, due to the fact that they are extremely different. As they get to know each other, I think their dynamic continues to be tense as they try to figure out how to navigate the relationship. I loved writing the tension and arguments between the two.


When I was a little kid, my mom used to read aloud to me. She's told me that my favorite thing was when Nellie Oleson was mean in the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I think that kids love to see antagonism, especially when it resolves.


Q: The author Rebecca Balcárcel said of the book, “Fajardo expertly weaves together two perspectives and layers in the power of myth, the legacy of separation, and the uncuttable threads of love.” What do you think of that description?


A: I'm a huge fan of Rebecca's and I'm honored that she wrote such a nice blurb. I think she captures the book perfectly and it's stunning to have a reader see what you intended as the writer. I did a lot of work to make sure that all those themes would come through the story. 


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: For my other books (my middle-grade novel What If a Fish and my memoir Magical Realism for Non-Believers), the titles came very easily early on. This book took a while to find its title.


In the story, the girls find a poem written by their father. Of course, as the author, I'm actually the one who wrote the poem (I'm not a poet but used to write poetry as a teenager so it was fun to try that). I ended up taking a line from the poem for the title.


Meet Me Halfway also signifies both the distance--physical and emotional--that the girls have to cross.


Q: What are you working on now? 


A: I'm in the early stages of both an adult novel and another middle-grade novel.


Q: Anything else we should know? 


A: Part of this book is about coincidence and I had my own experience with coincidence while writing it. When I was working on the story of the father's work as an anthropologist, I was looking for an indigenous story around sky mythology. My Colombian stepmother is an anthropologist, and she helped me find the Arhauco myth of Tima and Yui.


Fast forward to this past spring: I was assigned to write a travel article and sent to Colombia. The trip included a guided visit to an Arhuaco village! It was amazing to meet the people that I had written about in Meet Me Halfway.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Anika Fajardo.

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