Reporting by Georgia S.

BookPeople recently hosted Aaron H. Aceves to celebrate his debut YA novel This Is Why They Hate Us! Teen Press Corps member Georgia sat down with Aaron to chat writing, music, and inspiration for his novel.

How and when did you realize you want to be an author?

Aceves wanted to get ARCs, but also write his own endings. He wrote his first book at nine years old. He wrote 100 pages and ran out of ideas, so he made the font bigger. His writing journey took off again in college when he realized he wanted one of his stories published.

I noticed many pop culture references in the book. Who would you say is your favorite pop singer?

After commenting on my Red ring, Aceves said he is a big Taylor Swift fan. He appreciates how she names people directly, such as her song “Hey Stephen”. He still writes young adult literature because he loves teen movies, namely Mean Girls, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty In Pink.

Are there any songs you associate with the story or specific characters? 

When I asked this question, Aceves immediately responded, “Absolutely.” He has a Spotify playlist of 17 songs, one for each year of the main character, Quique’s life. The first song on it is “Swim” by Brockhampton. Swimming is a big motif in the novel. Aceves attributes “Ashabi” by Mashou’ Leila with the main love interest, Saleem. 

Fabiola and Quique have a very tight friendship. Did you draw inspiration from any of your own friendships to create theirs?

Fabiola is chaotic, and Aceves based her a bit on best friend’s chaotic side. He wanted Fabiola to be the catalyst of the story. 

What changes have been made from the original idea for the book to the final product?

Aceves admits that the story was originally “all vibes” and lacked a plot. It was solely character driven. His agent described it as a series of vignettes. He also needed to make Quique more of an active central character. 

Are there any other books and/or authors that you took inspiration from?

Aceves is a big Adam Silvera fan, and especially loves his 2015 debut novel More Happy Than Not. The tone of their books are very similar in the way they engage with difficult subject matter in a dark, yet humorous way. He also recognizes the similarities between This Is Why They Hate Us and Benjamin Ailre Saenz’s book Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Both books focus on two brown boys falling in love, particularly through swimming in the summer.

What aspect of writing was the hardest for you?

Since Aceves was writing a young adult novel, he needed to write as if he was 17 years old. He didn’t finish his first draft until he was 24, and the last edits were made when he was 29. He needed to use teenage language while also dealing with hard topics. He ended up doing so by creating complex and profound sentences, then following them with something to diffuse the emotion, such as “It sucks”.

What do you want readers to take away from your story?

Aceves wants everyone to feel worthy of love in any way, not just romantic, especially teens that feel unlovable. 

Who is your favorite character from This Is Why They Hate Us?

Aceves said he’s supposed to play the “I can’t choose, I love all of my characters” card, but he can definitely choose. His favorite character is Manny because he felt unpredictable even though Aceves was the one who had control over the characters. Manny was always doing many chaotic things. 

How did you choose the title of the book?

Aceves says the title just came to him, with the imagery of the emotions of the novel all encapsulated on the cover. The hands almost touching, the subtle bisexual flag colors. He thinks of others looking at this image of two queer brown boys and hating them for these aspects of their identity that they cannot control. It is a cute love story, yet people will find any excuse to hate someone different from them. 

Aaron Aceves (right) and Jason June discuss This Is Why They Hate Us at BookPeople on August 23, 2022

If you could collaborate with any author, who would it be and why? 

Johnny Garcevia, author of 1500 Miles From the Sun, has a very similar writing style to Aceves. The two are also friends, so Aceves says they would feel comfortable giving honest feedback to each other. 

If you could write a spin-off book about any of the characters, who would it be and why?

Aceves would love to follow Manny for an entire book and see what he does with his life. 

Is there anything you are reading right now?

At the time of the interview, Aceves was reading Hola Papi by John Paul Brammer. Brammer had recently had an event at Book People that Aceves moderated. 

Are you working on any more projects?

Aceves is in the process of putting together a story about a kid in high school journalism who doesn’t get the editor-in-chief position that he wants, so he makes his own newspaper.

Aaron Aceves signs books and chats with fans at BookPeople on August 23, 2022

Get your signed copy of This Is Why They Hate Us here!