Monday, November 6, 2023

Q&A with Matt Mendez


Photo by Chris Summitt

Matt Mendez is the author of the new young adult novel The Broke Hearts. His other books include the YA novel Barely Missing Everything. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.


Q: What inspired you to write The Broke Hearts, and how does it relate to your previous novel, Barely Missing Everything?


A: Heartbreak.


The Broke Hearts is a companion book to Barely Missing Everything. And Danny and JD are both heartbroken at the end of BME, them feeling both a sense of panic and turmoil about their futures while still dealing with grief and confusion over Juan’s death—the main character from Barely Missing Everything. 


I was interested, especially in 2020 and in the middle of the shutdowns, about living with grief and the different ways we turn toward, or from, it.


The Broke Hearts became a book about living with broken hearts.


Q: How was the novel’s title chosen?


A: I chose this title because of all the different ways we can experience heartbreak.


I was very interested in the ways that some fathers can break their sons’ hearts at a young age to make them tough, as a way to make men. How this kind of heartbreak is generational and can be a form of poverty they’ll have to overcome.  

Q: Did you know how the book would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I did.


The end scene, with Daniel and his son shortly after his birth, came to me early in the writing of the novel. What changed was everything around, and preceding that scene, which changed the meaning of it, for sure.


I get images, or scenes, stuck in my head as I work, and they become quite powerful to me as I write, me not wanting to abandon them.


The image of a new father holding his baby became the central image for me as I wrote The Broke Hearts. The story of Danny and JD was rooted in that image, and I even thought about Juan, from Barely Missing Everything, when I thought of the ending.


For me, the ending ties both books together.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the novel?


A: My hope is that The Broke Hearts will remain with readers long after they have finished it. That it becomes an important book in their life.


I am more interested in the emotional impact the book can have than any kind of moral or takeaway. The characters are funny and complicated, the inventiveness of the book and the art inside helps tells the story of fathers and sons, about friendship and growing up in a what I think is a unique and powerful way.


Q: What are you working on now? Will you return to these characters again?


A: I’m working on another novel and am writing a feature film.


After writing The Broke Hearts, which has a short film script inside it, I got the urge to write to write a feature. So, I am working on that, and the plan is to be done by the beginning of the new year and see what happens!


The new novel I am working on takes place in Arizona and it’s pretty wild so far. I’m still in the early draft stages, so it’s a little early to know if it will stay wild or if it will get even more wild—I tend to not get less wild. 


Both pieces are departures for me, with elements of sci-fi and magical realism. So, I’m excited to be writing each one. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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