Author Interview: Michelle Ruiz Keil

Updated: Aug 6, 2019



Yay June! A beautiful time of year for weather and for books! Dive into these brand new novels and get your summer started right!


All of Us With Wings

by Michelle Ruiz Keil


Seventeen-year-old Xochi is alone in San Francisco, running from her painful past: the mother who abandoned her, the man who betrayed her. Then one day, she meets Pallas, a precocious twelve-year-old who lives with her rockstar family in one of the city’s storybook Victorians. Xochi accepts a position as Pallas’s live-in governess and quickly finds her place in their household, which is relaxed and happy despite the band's larger-than-life fame.

But on the night of the Vernal Equinox, as a concert afterparty rages in the house below, Xochi and Pallas accidentally summon a pair of ancient creatures devoted to avenging the wrongs of Xochi’s adolescence. She would do anything to preserve her new life, but with the creatures determined to exact vengeance on those who’ve hurt her, no one is safe—not the family she’s chosen, nor the one she left behind.


June 18th, 2019

Introduce yourself and your debut novel!

I’m Michelle Ruiz Keil and my novel is ALL OF US WITH WINGS, a magic-infused coming of age story set in post punk San Francisco about trauma, healing, found family and complicated love, due out June 18th from Soho Teen.


What’s the most surprising part about your debut journey so far?

The biggest surprise was suddenly becoming a YA author! I’d always wanted to sell ALL OF US WITH WINGS as a YA title, but only found an agent and an excited editor when I sent the book out as adult literary fantasy. Luckily, the team at Soho Press decided to publish it through their teen imprint. I’m so excited for this book to find a home with older teen readers!


Give a shout-out to a fellow debut!

There are so many! Tehlor Kay Mejia is my critique partner and I’ve loved seeing the great reception for WE SET THE DARK ON FIRE. I’m also obsessed with Nina Moreno’s DON’T DATE ROSA SANTOS. And I’m longing for a free moment to read so I devour ARCS of THE GRIEF KEEPER by Alex Villasante and THE TENTH GIRL by Sara Faring.


What's a cool thing about your book that isn't in the blurb?

One cool thing that’s not in the blurb is the way music and film from the late 80s is woven in the story. Every chapter title is song title that serves the mood of the scene. If I listen to the playlist I can see the scene in the book unfolding.


There’s also a really tight connection between Wim Wenders masterpiece Wings of Desire, about an angel who falls in love with a trapeze artist from a low-rent traveling circus, and ALL OF US WITH WINGS. The main character Xochi sees the film in an early chapter and its themes infuse the novel. I even got permission to use some passages of the voice-over poetry from the film in the text of the novel.


What was the hardest scene to write?

The hardest scenes to write were the scenes from the point of view of the Waterbabies, a pair of ancient elemental creatures who Xochi and her tween genius charge Pallas unintentionally summon during a riot grrl ritual on the Vernal Equinox. Finally, I settled on trying out verse for their part of the story. That combined with a tight deadline and high fever finally created the right mood to write them.


Describe your writing space.

My writing space is a tiny room with a large window in an office building downtown. There is just enough room for my desk and my big dog, Stella, whose day job is being my familiar.


How do you select character names?

Honestly, character names just pop into my head. The fun part comes later, when I research the meaning of their names. This is my secret sauce for character development—name them whatever, write the draft, then deepen them with all the crazy things you learn about their names. The REALLY crazy part comes when you find the collective unconscious has done the work for you. When I researched Xochi’s name I found a pansexual Aztec goddess whose ritual included tongue piercing. My Xochi was already written as bisexual and a pivotal scene in the book involved getting her tongue pierced. I definitely got chills!


What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

My oldest childhood friend, Talese Babb, is an amazing writer. Playing pretend in her family’s overgrown garden was the best training a writer could hope for.


My dear friend and comadre MK Chavez is an award winning poet and the smartest person I know. She helped me edit the verse in ALL OF US WITH WINGS and her words and work inspire me every day to be more expansive and creative.


Tehlor Kay Mejia is officially my adopted little sister and has been the best champion for ALL OF US WITH WINGS I could ever hope for. She’s taught me to trust myself and my work more than anyone from the sheer force of her unwavering belief in my story. It’s been such a joy to share my debut year with her.


I also want to shout out Las Musas, a collective of Latinx YA and MG authors who have been the most supportive and inspiring literary family I could have hoped for.


Share a playlist!

Here is the chapter title playlist...it’s almost like reading the book in music form!

https://open.spotify.com/user/mishilynn/playlist/2CKIMWJlHOqIVWRhjVbKMN?si=UQrujTJIQwqwyf2mv0Hiiw


Share book aesthetics!


Thanks, Michelle! I can't wait to read Xochi's story! It's available on 6/18/19!

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