Guest Feature

Matt de la Peña–What Was on His . . .


Matt de la Peña

Matt de la Peña

Our guest today is the very talented, very real, critically-acclaimed author Matt de la Peña!

Matt has published five young adult novels—Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here, I Will Save You, The Living, and Ball Don’t Lie, which was made into a film that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2008. Last year, Matt released his first middle grade novel, Curse of the Ancients (Book 4 in the Infinity Ring Series), and not to leave any genre or age-group untouched, he is the author of the biographical picture book: A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis (illustrated by Kadir Nelson).

This month starts off another banner year for Matt, which will culminate in the release of four works: Eternity, Book 8 in the Infinity Ring Series (August 26, 2014); Last Stop on Market Street, a picture book illustrated by Christian Robinson (January 2015); The Hunted, the sequel to The Living (May 2015); and last but not least, Matt is a contributor to My True Love Gave to Me (October 2014)–which includes twelve holiday stories by twelve bestselling young adult authors, including Holly Black, David Levithan, Rainbow Rowell and Laini Taylor!

Matt teaches creative writing at NYU and Vermont College of Fine Arts, speaks at high schools and colleges throughout the United States, and sits on the Board of Advisors of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. And if that isn’t enough! Matt has also published essays in The New York Times and for His latest is a hilarious and poignant piece about meeting his wife, Caroline, entitled Secrets Spawned of Machismo, Matchmaking And MySpace.

Curious to know more about Matt de la Peña? Then keep reading and find out What Was on Matt’s . . .

Mind: Non-fiction and music and characters of color. I’ve been binging on non-fiction lately. What great fuel for a fiction writer. It’s made me think about fresh (to me, at least) forms for stories. Like, what about the stuff Kundera does? But in a YA voice. What about Malcolm Gladwell’s anecdotal approach? Maybe I’m not the one to do it. Or maybe I am. And I’ve been making up all these songs on the guitar for my four-month-old daughter. She’s obsessed with music. So I am too. She’s also made me think a lot about the power of diversity in literature. I like writing about mixed kids because when you’re mixed you can’t go to mom for tips about growing up mixed (unless she, too, is mixed), and you can’t go to dad. You have to figure it out on your own. And it’s incredibly helpful to find a version of this struggle/path in a book. You get to watch. It’s like a QB checking out game tape. Maybe you’ll be better equipped when a certain situation shows itself.

Desk: Six unread New Yorker issues. Three unread books I’m supposed to blurb. Two unused Chapsticks. A notepad full of middle-of-the-night notes I can’t read. Suttree (always Suttree). Loose photos of my construction-worker uncle who just passed away, alone, the end point of a colourful journey fuelled by machismo and substances. A framed photo of me holding my little baby girl – the two of us looking in two different directions.

Wish List: The ability to understand how artistic ambition and commercial viability can successfully coexist/mesh. Some people really “get” this. I want to “get” it, too. Is there a class I can take? Also, more diverse characters in the books I randomly reach for at the bookstore when I’m browsing – because I sometimes imagine a teen of color browsing, and I want that teen to feel included. Also, enough time in the day that I can write, write, write, and read, and teach, and jog around Prospect Park, and still answer emails. Because sometimes the emails get left there. They get dusty. And that’s messed up. Also, a move back to California someday. I miss the smell of the Pacific.

Stovetop: Dust. I need to learn how to cook. People who can cook are badass.

Playlist: Ten thousand sad, melancholy songs. And this sad rainstorm I listen to when I’m writing. And a handful of VCFA lectures.

Twitter Feed: Self-promotional stuff that feels a bit too self-promotional. Some didactic sports opinions (especially about the untapped potential of half-Mexican QB, Mark Sanchez). And a few thoughts from the road – because I end up in some strange places. And some bits of gratitude here and there.

Refrigerator Door: Photo booth pics of C and I (some from way back). Menus. An old movie ticket for Ball Don’t Lie.

Catalog of Fears: Spiders. That maybe I’m messing up the book I’m writing. That maybe my stories are boring. That one day they’re going to figure out that I don’t deserve to be able to publish these stories. That someone will realize the whole thing was a mistake. They screwed up. Spiders. That the darkness that sometimes creeps in might creep too far. That I’d be better off stocking grocery store shelves somewhere. Late at night. Or washing dishes. In a small town in Texas. Alone. Where I could just read other people’s stories. That I’m not honoring my past enough. Spiders climbing into my bed.

Dream Guest List: Malcolm X. Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Michael Jordan. Albert Einstein. Cormac McCarthy. Elliott Smith. Ruth Forman. Robert Cormier. Mark Price. Toni Morrison. Dania Ramirez. Philip Roth. Saul Bellow. Junot Diaz. Leonard Gardner.

Bulletin Board: Notes about this new book I’m starting. It’s driven by romance. It will hopefully see the world in 2016. It’s sad love. Notes about the next picture book. Which involves basketball. And this amazing story of two teammates. Notes about this adult novel I’m writing.

Lap: This little girl named Luna. When she smiles it makes my chest feel stuff.

Matt de la Peña Matt de la Peña Matt de la Peña Matt de la Peña Matt de la Peña

You can keep up to date with Matt de la Peña by visiting him online at and by following him on Twitter at @mattdelapena. If you would like to learn more about his most recent YA novel, The Living, simply click below:

the living

Interested in pre-ordering his latest picture book, Last Stop on Market Street? Click here:

Last stop on market street


And be sure to stop by again next month for Jandy Nelson, the author of the breathtakingly beautiful The Sky is Everywhere and I’ll Give You the Sun!

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6 thoughts on “Matt de la Peña–What Was on His . . .

  1. Wow. What I love about this series is the prompt often elicits responses that are simple in one phrase and profound in the next. Thank you, Matt, for this generous glimpse into your world!

  2. Yay! You know what’s weird? I just heard (and enjoyed) Matt’s interview with Sara Zarr on her blog and now he’s here! Love this! So cool! Yes, he makes me feel lazy. But I have to laugh at the unused chapsticks. I have some of those too. I also have similar people on my dream guest list. 🙂

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