Exploring coming out, social media, facing your future, first love, friendships and toxic family dynamics, Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun, the wonderful 2021 debut novel from Jonny Garza Villa, is both devastating and beyond adorable. It’ll have you crying and squealing with joy. Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun is the kind of book you read and just know it’s going to do the world a whole lot of good and we’re so excited to have had the chance to ask Jonny a few questions all about it.
Firstly, I want to say a huge congratulations on the release of your debut novel, Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun, it’s absolutely gorgeous! How does it feel knowing that this story that has been yours and yours alone for so long, is now in the hands of readers around the world?
Thank you so much! That’s incredibly kind of you to say. The feelings have been this journey through excitement and impatience and happiness and fear. Jules and Mat have been these kids that only a handful of people had ever met before June 8th, and this book has basically been my entire personality for the past two and a half years. Right now, though, it’s joy and gratitude for having this opportunity to share this story, especially with queer Chicanes, Tejanes, and Mexican American young people.
For those who may not be familiar with the premise of Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun, how would you describe it to them?
I like to say that Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun is one part my own adolescent trauma, one part Patrón and one part Selena’s “Dreaming of You.” It follows Corpus Christi, Texas high school senior Julián “Jules” Luna who accidentally comes out as gay on Twitter after getting way too drunk at a party. And, in the days and weeks and months that follow, Jules discovers both the good and the bad that come with allowing ourselves to live authentically and fearlessly.
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Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun is undoubtably going to be an incredibly affirming and reassuring read for countless LGBTQIA+ teens. How does it feel knowing so many people will find a sense of comfort within your words?
That was exactly the hope for this story from its inception. That anyone who might know at all what it is to be in Jules’ shoes feel comforted and loved and embraced, even if it’s in the quiet of their room and just between Jules and Mat and all the characters in the book. That they know they are enough for this world just as they are. But now that it’s actually out in the world . . . I couldn’t say how I feel. It’s all incredibly real now, you know? A little overwhelmed? A little sad that real life is very much knowing that someone out there could very much connect with Jules’ life? Queer young people deserve affirmation and assurance, and if I’m at all a part of that, I am without words to describe what that means to me.
Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun is filled with so much heart and honesty. Were there any parts of Jules’ journey you could relate to on a personal level?
Absolutely. Jules’ journey was definitely shaped by my own past and fears and hopes. Writing this book allowed me to really process things that I’d honestly trauma-blacked-out my entire life. Like I say in the Author’s Note, Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun became so much more personal than I ever envisioned it would when I started drafting it. There were scenes that took days to write. There are scenes that I still, at times, don’t like revisiting. But it was the story I knew I needed to tell, and I have no regrets about it.
Do you ever think about the cast of Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun and if so, what do you think they’d be doing now?
Oh, absolutely! And this is also envisioning a world where a pandemic never happened, but, actually, in a deleted chapter, Jules and his friends talk about going to as many Pride festivals in Texas as they can manage the summer after graduation, so I think they’d be spending the month travelling to cities like San Antonio and Houston and Dallas, getting as much time together as possible in their final weeks before they all go on their separate college journeys.
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Jules both cooks and eats countless delicious sounding dishes throughout the book but if you could recommend just one to you readers, which would you want them to try?
Chilaquiles! Gotta have one or two over easy eggs on top too. Some refried beans. A couple jalapeños on the side. So good.
The relationship between Jules and Mat is not only utterly swoon worthy, but wonderful in its representation of consent and a healthy m/m relationship. Is this something you felt was important to include in your writing?
Oh, their relationship is cavity inducing! But all of that was definitely important when it came to writing the romance between them. I feel like, especially for queer youth and even more so for queer boys and QTBIPOC teens, we don’t get a lot of opportunities to see ourselves in love but also in a love that is built on consent and communication and being emotionally supportive along with the physical aspects of a relationship.
Finally, are you currently working on anything new and if so, is there anything you can tell us about it?
My second contemporary young adult novel, Ander and Santi Were Here, will be coming in early 2023! It follows Ander, a nonbinary muralist who’s taking a gap year before heading off to art school in Chicago, and Santi, the newest waiter at Ander’s family’s taquería. It’s set in San Antonio, Texas, (probably unsurprisingly) has lots of food, some great family antics, and is about holding onto the person you love even when the world would try to tear you apart.
Get your copy of Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa here.