A Q&A with Marilyn Hilton
Thank you for agreeing to sit down to an e-interview with us. We’re very excited about Full Cicada Moon, and can’t wait to share the book with our readers!
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with me!
Q: First things first, could you share with us what inspired Full Cicada Moon? You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that the book was inspired by your own family. But was there a specific moment or experience for you, which made you think: Yes, I have to write this?
Then, a few years ago I attended a workshop at the SCBWI conference in LA. The presenter was an editor, and she answered a question about writing outside your culture. In essence, she said that it didn’t matter to her who wrote the story; what mattered was that the story was a good one. This was very encouraging to me, and I tucked it away. A few months later, as I was working on another manuscript, the story of Full Cicada Moon came to me, and I simply had to write it—even if no one wanted to publish it, and even if I kept hearing No along the way.
But, to my delight, I heard only Yes. And when I had written about half the manuscript, the We Need Diverse Books movement was emerging, and I knew there was definitely a cosmic zeitgeist going on.
Q: As someone who is Asian-American, who has been asked just “what” I am before, I’m deeply appreciative of your willingness to tackle the challenges of race and diversity.
While you’ve discussed your hopes for readers to better understand the worldview of someone like Mimi, do you have any specific hopes for ideas or themes that younger readers with Mimi’s background and/or my background, might take away from the book?
Mimi respected herself and her heritage. She learned to speak up for herself and for others whom she saw were being treated unjustly. And she kept speaking up until the situation had improved. Here are some things Mimi might say to readers:
If you see something that’s unfair or unjust, be courageous and speak up. It’s the right thing to do.
Sometimes when you hear “No,” use it as a challenge to change it to a “Yes.”
Try to walk in someone else’s shoes; have compassion and empathy for them. This is the beginning of understanding.
Honor the journey your ancestors took for you to be where and whom you are, and continue that journey for your descendants.
Always be kind and respectful, but be persistent in bringing about change. Be like raindrops on granite until the granite cracks and the situation has changed.
Whenever you have to do something hard, just take it one small step at a time.
Q: You’ve previously explained why you specifically chose to set Mimi’s story against the backdrop of the late 1960 - it was the end of a decade with tremendous change. What’s one specific event from that period, which you definitely wanted to include in the book?
And the book could not be complete without Mimi observing the first lunar landing and walk on July 20, 1969. That event is also integral to her story because she wants to be an astronaut. And, as she has learned from her dad’s stories, she hears from Neil Armstrong that all great journeys begin with one small step.
Q: And on a related note, which event from that decade, do you think would have had the longest-lasting impact on Mimi?
Q: Full Cicada Moon is being published at a time when there are increasing calls for literature featuring diverse characters. Why do you think that there’s an increasing interest in diverse literature, and how do you think Full Cicada Moon can help continue the dialogue on diversity?
Although Full Cicada Moon takes place several decades ago, we still struggle with the same kinds of issues today. The struggle is not over (and, unfortunately, some days it feels as if we’re going backward), so the kinds of issues Mimi faced are still very relevant now. And, as they say, unless we learn from the past, we’re doomed to repeat it.
Q: Finally, Full Cicada Moon is your sophomore novel - congratulations! Has the publishing journey for this book felt different than Found Things?
Q: And what are you working on next?
Thank you again, so much, for allowing me to do this interview. I wish you and your readers all the best!