L.A. Libros Fest: Interview With Kat Fajardo

Patricia Valdovinos, Librarian, Multilingual Collections,
Artist Kat Fajardo and her graphic novel, Miss Quinces
Kat Fajardo will be one of the featured performers at the Los Angeles Libros Festival, a free bilingual book festival for the whole family

Kat Fajardo is an award-winning comic artist who loves making playful art about self-acceptance and Latine culture for young readers. Kat is known for their self-published autobiographical zines such as Gringa! and Bandida. And their debut Middle-Grade graphic novel Miss Quinces is a love letter to quinceanera culture, family traditions, and self-discovery. Miss Quinces is published by Scholastic-Graphix and is available both in English and Spanish editions in bookstores and libraries near you.

Kat Fajardo es una dibujante de cómics galardonada a la que le encanta hacer arte lúdico sobre la autoaceptación y la cultura latina para lectores jóvenes. Kat es conocida por sus zines autobiográficas autopublicadas como Gringa! y Bandida. Y su primera novela gráfica para jóvenes en grado medio, Srta. Quinces, está dedicada a la cultura de quinceañeras, las tradiciones familiares y el autodescubrimiento. Srta. Quinces es una publicación de Scholastic-Graphix y está disponible en inglés e español en librerías y bibliotecas cerca de ti.

Kat will be one of the featured authors at the Los Angeles Libros Festival, a free bilingual book festival for the whole family. L.A. Libros Fest will be streamed live on YouTube on Friday, September 23, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. The Festival will be in-person at Central Library in Downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, September 24, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with select Saturday programs streamed live on YouTube.

Our tagline this year is Read, Dream and Celebrate en dos idiomas. How do you think your books and stories help us accomplish this?

With Miss Quince, I hope I can offer a relatable story that's based on my own struggles as a Latine-American growing up in two different cultures and languages. Having a character find her own identity while dealing with family expectations, language barriers, and cultural traditions, I hope readers can see themselves in Sue and unlock an appreciation of themselves and their background. Having English and Spanish editions of my book readily available, I hope families can enjoy the story together.

What are some of the things you do to bring to life the world you’ve imagined?

I like to create characters based on people I know and who are very important to me. I believe creating characters this way makes them feel more life-like than two-dimensional. Since my story takes place in Honduras, where my family is from, most of the scenes in the book are based on memories I have of going there every summer vacation as a kid.

What stories inspired you as a young reader?

When I was younger, I was obsessed with reading manga, especially with strong female protagonists such as Cardcaptor Sakura, Angelic Layer, etc. I was also lucky in receiving hand-me-downs of Archie digest comics from my older sister, which was my first introduction to American comics.

If your book was turned into a movie/series, who would you cast?

In a perfect world, I'd love to cast only Honduran actors, BUT if that wasn't possible, then I would love to have Xochitl Gomez play Sue, Karrie Martin as her older sister Carmen, Julia Garcia as her younger sister Ester, and Yalitza Aparicio as their mother. And having America Ferrera as the director would be fabulous!

“Libraries are such a godsend, especially for marginalized communities. They provide so many free resources, classes, and even community events that bring people together, especially non-English speakers.”

What advice would you give to young writers?

I would say always keep practicing your craft and find a community that can encourage and offers you advice with your writing. More importantly, expose yourself to different cultures and experiences, you never know when it will inspire your next story.

How did you feel the first time your work was published? How was your publishing journey?

To be honest, since the beginning of my publishing career, every time I see my work on bookshelves, it just feels unreal. I started my career self-publishing my comics and selling them at zine festivals after getting tired of receiving rejections from comic publishers. After submitting my work to indie anthologies and posting my comics online, with time, I made my way into the publishing world (all thanks to my wonderful agent, Linda Camacho!). And since then, I've been designing covers for middle-grade books, and that eventually led to my debut graphic novel Miss Quince. Again, it all feels unreal.

What are some challenges you encounter when writing?

Aside from the typical writer's block and figuring out plot holes, I also suffer from imposter syndrome! Not only as a PoC creator in a predominately white field but also as an indie comic artist entering a new world of writers and book-enthusiasts. I try not to let that inner critic get the best of me, and sometimes when I need a little extra help with my writing, I love confiding in my friends.

What was your experience like getting your book translated into Spanish or English?

It is such a cool experience and a blessing to have my book translated into Spanish. Unfortunately, during my childhood, I relied more on my English in order to do better in school, which was difficult considering my mother only speaks Spanish. However, I think if I had access to translated comics as a child, I think that would've helped my family and I bond a bit more, and it would've encouraged me to practice my Spanish.

How do you think libraries make our world a better place?

Libraries are such a godsend, especially for marginalized communities. They provide so many free resources, classes, and even community events that bring people together, especially non-English speakers. Personally, I couldn't afford to buy books growing up, so spending my weekends at the library while my mom was able to find Spanish-language books was a great way to encourage our love for reading.

What are you working on now?

I'm happy to say that I'm currently working on the sequel for Miss Quince. I'm so excited for fans to read it and find out Sue's next summer adventure. I love seeing my character do fun and interesting things and find out more about herself. I can't wait for you to read it!

Books by Kat Fajardo

Miss Quinces
Fajardo, Kat

Srta. Quinces
Fajardo, Kat

La novela gráfica debut de la estrella en ascenso Kat Fajardo sobre una niña que preferiría hacer cualquier cosa menos celebrar su quinceañera.

Descendants: The Graphic Novel, Book 1: The Isle of the Lost
Venditti, Robert

Kat Fajardo at L.A. Libros Fest

Sep 24, 11:30am
Graphically Speaking With Jarod Roselló, David Bowles, and Kat Fajardo