Featuring multiple honest and unique POV’s, a genre-bending, time-travelling plot and poignant conversations about race, privilege and sexuality, One of the Good Ones, the newest YA novel by sister writing duo Maika and Maritza Moulite, is not only an incredibly impactful read but a highly enjoyable one.
We’re so honoured to have had the chance to chat with Maika and Maritza about what it’s like to write with a sibling, why One of the Good Ones was such an emotional book to write, upcoming projects and more.
Congratulations on the release of your second YA novel, One of the Good Ones (which is utterly stunning!!) For readers who may not yet be familiar with its premise, can you tell us a little about it?
Thank you so much! One of the Good Ones is about 17-turned-18-year-old Kezi Smith who dies under mysterious circumstances while in police custody. To commemorate their sister, Happi and Kezi embark on a journey using the Negro Motorist Green Book as their guide. This is a tale about the family members who are left behind in the wake of a very public tragedy and the grieving process as they struggle with the way in which Kezi was memorialized as “one of the good ones”. We like to think of it as a contemporary thriller that will have readers questioning what it truly means to be an ally.
Where/when/who did the inspiration for the story of One of the Good Ones originate from?
The idea for One of the Good Ones came to us a few years ago when we were at the funeral for our great-aunt. As we were walking around the cemetery, we saw the names of people who had passed away and one of those names was Trayvon Martin. What happened to him played out on a national—global—scale. Seeing his final resting place truly brought it home. There are so many times when something horrific plays out on the news and folks forget it involves a real person who has family, friends, loved ones. So we carried that with us and we decided to write a story that tackles racial injustice in America but looking at it through the lens of a queer Black girl.
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One of the Good Ones discusses so many painfully relevant topics such as racism, police brutality and prejudice in a phenomenal and honest way but I can imagine this made it a pretty emotional story to write at times?
Absolutely. Writing One of the Good Ones was honestly one of the most difficult things that we’ve had to do in our very early writing career. There were definitely times when we had to step away while writing to take a moment to collect ourselves. But it was really important for us to make sure that we did as good a job as possible capturing the many horrors that Black people face in this country but still leave room for hope.
I absolutely loved how the book was structured in the way it not only switched between character perspectives but also time jumped, It was so clever! What made you decide to approach the story in this way?
We approached the story in this manner because there’s really no way for you to talk about racial injustice in America without taking a look at the history of this country. Although we knew that we wanted to keep the story rooted in the modern day, we made sure to have different portions of the story told from different perspectives as well as in different times. It was our way of showing how much has been accomplished in this country but also acknowledging that there is still so much left to do.
One of the Good Ones is your second collaborative novel. Could you give us an insight into what your process is like in terms of co-writing?
Writing with a sister is a really awesome process because there’s no one who will celebrate your successes as enthusiastically as a sibling. On the flip side, a sister will also keep it real and call you out when you’re slacking! Haha. Working together has truly been a great experience for us. And it just so happens that we never have a breakdown at the same time so we’re able to console each other when we’re feeling overwhelmed. It also really helps to have an accountability partner to get the work done.
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As sisters, was co-writing something you’ve always wanted to do and do you think being related makes the process easier or harder? (even in my imagination, writing with my own sibling ends in disaster…)
Funnily enough, we’ve each tried to write separately but there’s something about us working together that’s honestly really magical. It’s so interesting to us when we hear folks talking about the hypothetical situation of writing with a sibling and they’re like “Nope. Couldn’t do it!” But it really works out for us. It might have something to do with the fact that our parents were really strict with us when we were growing up so we only really got to hang out with each other and our two younger sisters for a really long time. And it’s not to say that there aren’t moments when we get on each others nerves—we’re sisters!—but we’re always able to work it out and it’s still very much an enjoyable process for us.
Is there a particular Smith sister you both feel especially connected to?
We love all the Smith sisters! They each have a mind of their own and they’re definitely not afraid to share what their thoughts are. What’s really interesting is how they’re able to express themselves in a way that is true to them each. It was important for us to make sure that the sisters were fully formed in their own right. When you think about it, your sisters (or your siblings more generally) are kind of just a variation of yourself based on how cells came together. It’s always so wonderful and interesting to see how even when you’re growing up in the same household, and experiencing some of the same things, you each become your own person.
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Having read One of the Good Ones, there’s no doubt in my mind that it would make the most incredible and powerful movie. If this were to happen, who would be your dream casting for Happi, Kezi and Genny?
Yay! This makes us happy. We definitely want a One of the Good Ones film too so if there’s anybody out there reading this who can make it happen, holla at your girls! LOL. We have our ideas of who we’d like to play Happi, Kezi, and Genny but mum’s the word!
Are you currently working on anything new and if so, can you give us any hints as to what we can look forward to?
Yes! We are putting the finishing touches on our short story for the upcoming Latinx YA horror anthology Our Shadows Have Claws. And hopefully sometime soon we can make an announcement about Book 3. Stay tuned!
Get your copy of One of the Good Ones by Maika & Maritza Moulite here.