Aaron H. Aceves (he/him) is a bisexual, Mexican-American writer born and raised in East L.A. He graduated from Harvard College and received his MFA from Columbia University. His fiction has appeared in jmww, Epiphany, and them., among other places. He currently lives in Texas, where he serves as an Early Career Provost Fellow at UT Austin, and his debut novel, This Is Why They Hate Us, will be released on August 23rd by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Voyage: What was the inspiration behind your novel, This is Why They Hate Us? What made you want to tell this story?
Aaron H. Aceves: I started writing this book in 2017, when I was 24, working a job I hated. I came home from work one day, sat down at my sister’s dining room table, pulled out my laptop, and just started writing. I had this voice in my head, like this teenager (whom I’d later name Enrique) was just spilling his guts to me, and all I had to do was write down what he was saying. This Is Why They Hate Us is the first queer book I ever wrote, and in a lot of ways it was the first book to allow me to write totally unfiltered.
V: When you write your stories, what is the one thing you hope readers will take away?
AA: I usually have different goals with every new story. In “i,” the story that Voyage published, I focused on poetic language and interiority because I wanted whoever read it to feel deeply. With This Is Why They Hate Us, I really wanted to make people laugh while learning about someone’s mental illness and trauma.
V: What was the hardest scene of This is Why They Hate Us to write?
AA: Honestly, the first draft of the book just flowed. I wrote it chronologically and in four weeks so it was a pretty simple process. That being said, editing was a Process. I’m an underwriter so my agent (and later editors) would have to get me to elaborate on some of the characters and scenes. There’s a scene near the end of the book after a big reveal in which we reach an emotional climax (my agent’s suggestion) and it was hard to write because I didn’t want to make it overly dramatic or play it down.
V: If you could tell your younger writer self anything, what would it be?
AA: If I could go back really, really early I would tell him to stop trying to write like other writers. I was always so insecure about my bare prose and (over?) use of dialogue, but I count those as strengths now.
V: What are your writing must-haves?
AA: All I need is my laptop. I’m really bad about self-care so I often forgo food, water, and rest when I’m really in a writing groove. I have noticed, though, that I get most inspired after reading, so maybe my writing must-have is a book.
Head to our Instagram page (@voyageya) to hear Aaron read the first page of This is Why They Hate Us. Find Aaron’s video under the videos tab.
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