Exclusive Interview: Anna Meriano Shares the Inspiration Behind Her New Book “This Is How We Fly”

We recently shared our review of the book This Is How We Fly, which might be the first fiction book about Muggle quidditch. We also interviewed Anna Meriano, the author of the book.

 

This Is How We Fly sign and there are also quidditch hoops and people with balls and brooms between legs.

Buy on Amazon  Buy on Bookshop

 

The parts about Muggle quidditch came from real experience because Anna Meriano has been a quidditch player since 2012. She mostly plays as a beater, which is actually the same position the main character, Ellen, plays. 

I do love never having to worry about scoring and always having a clear human opponent or target!

The player position isn’t the only thing they have in common since they also both live in Houston, Texas. That raises the question of whether Ellen is actually based on Anna.

I worried a lot more when I started this book that people would think Ellen was a self-insert or that the story was autobiographical just because we were playing the same (admittedly niche) sport, but now that I have more projects with lots of different main characters out in the world, I’m becoming more confident in the knowledge that all my characters have large chunks of me and larger chunks of themselves. I think that, while I usually agree with Ellen’s intentions, I’m often laughing and rolling my eyes at her execution.

 

There is woman wearing facemask and signid copies of book This Is How We Fly in bookshop.

Signed copies were available to buy at Brazos Bookstore.

 

The truth is that Ellen is actually based on Cinderella. Anna saw Cinderella on Broadway and got the idea: What if Cinderella weren’t so passive and good-natured as a character?

It would be funny if she was actually very angry and full of angst and just stuck in that teen space of caring a lot about justice issues but not knowing how to act on those feelings. And of course, as I started to design a passionate teen character, I thought of the many passionate quidditch friends I had.

But even though Ellen is a fictional character, not everything in the book is made up. This is clear to every quidditch player when they read scenes in the book that they have also experienced.

Everything I write is based on real situations or feelings that I’ve put in the blender long enough to make something new, but this book, especially, has lines of dialogue and occasionally whole scenes that match things that have happened on the quidditch pitch or at team dinners or in the online quidditch forums. I was, unfortunately, writing the ‘stranger barfs on my shoes’ scene from multiple experiences!

 

There are twelwe drawings of character on turquise background.

These are twelve characters from the book. Ellen is the girl with brown hair in the middle.

 

Ellen doesn’t look much like a Harry Potter fan in the book, but Anna has a long history with the series. She’s actually thought a lot about the Harry Potter fandom these days because she doesn’t agree with Rowling’s opinions about gender identity.

I don’t think I can ever erase ‘Harry Potter’ from my personal story […] So yes, I have a lot of strong feelings about these characters, know a lot of obscure trivia, and [have] camped out for midnight releases of the books and movies. I play quidditch in real life, have a lot of wrock songs memorized, and can perform most parts of the Mysterious Ticking Noise ensemble passably well. But [I] don’t want to make ‘Harry Potter’ part of my current and ongoing identity when its creator excludes and hurts my friends, my family, and my community.

The relationship between Rowling and the fandom was discussed at her launch party on December 20. Gender inclusivity and equality are some of the values of Muggle quidditch and are also part of the book. These issues may show up in the next book about Ellen, which is expected to be published in a few years but in a different way than we would expect.

I am currently working on a companion novel (not a direct sequel but a story with overlapping characters) that follows Ellen’s younger sister Yasmín as a sophomore in high school, five years after the events of ‘This Is How We Fly.’ Instead of being a ‘Cinderella’-flavored quidditch book, this is going to be a ‘Snow White’-flavored marching band book!

Ellen is expected to appear in the book, but unfortunately, the quidditch won’t be there. But she will be wiser, and out of the closet.

Because I’m planning to skip five years, we won’t necessarily follow Ellen through her exploration, but she is openly nonbinary (still using she pronouns, but probably not exclusively) in the second book. To me, that very much felt like an extension of who she is throughout ‘This Is How We Fly,’ but she needed space and time to get there.

Full Transcript with Anna Meriano, Wednesday, December 9, 2020

How did you get the idea to write a book about Muggle quidditch?

I’ve been playing muggle quidditch since 2012, and it became a big part of my life especially when I moved to New York after college. The community I found with my team, the NY Badassilisks, helped smooth out the transition from Texas, where all my friends and family lived, to the Northeast. There were actually several quidditch documentaries and news articles being published around the time I started the book (2014 or early 2015), so I remember thinking that if they could make media about quidditch, so could I.

The idea for the book came when I went to see Cinderella on Broadway, and I got this flash of an idea that Cinderella is often seen as a very passive and unrealistically good-natured character, so it would be funny if she was actually very angry and full of angst and just stuck in that teen space of caring a lot about justice issues but not knowing how to act on those feelings. And of course, as I started to design a passionate teen character, I thought of the many passionate quidditch friends I had.

Your previous books are for younger readers. What inspired you to write a YA book?

I love both Middle Grade and Young Adult novels, and I was lucky to get to study both as part of my MFA in writing for children. There’s definitely a different focus with YA, which usually deals with characters who are exploring their identity and how they fit into the world (while MG often deals with characters who are learning to understand the world around them in a new way but haven’t quite moved on to questioning their own identities yet). I like writing YA characters because they have so much space to be introspective, self-conscious, and critical of their own flaws as well as the flaws they see in others. But I do sometimes miss the less cynical tone of MG!

Is This Is How We Fly really the first fiction book about Muggle quidditch?

Not exactly! There was a quidditch erotica novella self-published in… I want to say 2015 or 2016? It’s since been taken down, though, so as far as I’m aware, this might be the only fiction book about muggle quidditch currently in print. But I’d love to find out that I’m wrong about that!

Which character is your favorite?

Wow, I can’t choose they are all my precious cinnamon roll (or sour patch) children!
Okay, well, obviously I have a LOT of love for Ellen because I’ve spent so much time getting into her head and understanding who she is and where she’s coming from. But side characters are often more fun to write because they’re just… living their lives and having a better time than the main character. So I really enjoyed writing Karey and Chris’s playful dynamic, or the Aaron and Erin messiness, or Xiumiao’s sarcastic quips, because they’re much shorter character sketches that (hopefully) accomplish a lot in less space.

The most important question – what is your position in quidditch?

I play beater! I don’t necessarily play like Ellen (the popular strategies have changed a lot since I wrote Ellen, and in a few scenes I needed Ellen to do something really bold that I probably wouldn’t have thought of), but I do love never having to worry about scoring and always having a clear human opponent or target!

When and why did you start to play quidditch?

I started playing my senior year of college, mostly because my roommate mentioned it and I thought it would be fun and silly. When it turned out to be more athletic than I was expecting, I had a really cool moment where I *suddenly* remembered that I had really enjoyed sports throughout elementary school and middle school, and I had just stopped doing them in high school because it felt like I couldn’t be both a nerd and a jock. So I stuck around because it was fun and surprisingly serious!

Which quidditch teams did you play for?

I played for the Rice University team (which no longer exists, unfortunately) and the New York Badassilisks (I believe they also don’t exist, or maybe they’ve returned?), and my current team is the Houston Cosmos. Lots of great experiences on all three teams, and lots of great jerseys! I’ve also traveled with Team Mexico to two World Cups and a Pan American Games, as [a] hydration specialist/roadie since I don’t have the required citizenship to play on the national team.

How similar are you and your character Ellen?

Ellen and I have several biographical characteristics in common, even more now than when I originally started drafting this story, but her emotions and reactions are exaggerated to make her a better Main Character (and source of drama) than I could ever be. I worried a lot more when I started this book that people would think Ellen was a self-insert or that the story was autobiographical just because we were playing the same (admittedly niche) sport, but now that I have more projects with lots of different main characters out in the world, I’m becoming more confident in the knowledge that all my characters have large chunks of me and larger chunks of themselves. I think that, while I usually agree with Ellen’s intentions, I’m often laughing and rolling my eyes at her execution.

Are there any moments in the book that are based on real situations?

Hahaha… yes. I mean everything I write is based on real situations or feelings that I’ve put in the blender long enough to make something new, but this book, especially, has lines of dialogue and occasionally whole scenes that match things that have happened on the quidditch pitch or at team dinners or in the online quidditch forums. I was, unfortunately, writing the “stranger barfs on my shoes” scene from multiple experiences!

You are from the United States, but you were also involved in the Mexican team of Qeurovision. How did that come to be?

I mentioned that I’ve traveled with Team Mexico before, and I got involved with Mexico’s Qeruovision in the same way: through my fiancé, Ariel Heiblum, who is one of the founders of Quidditch Mexico and the Mexico City metropolitan league. I have Mexican-American heritage, but no Mexican citizenship, so I’m kind of a tagalong with the team and I’m always grateful to my QMX friends for letting me hang out!

Are you considering writing a sequel to This Is How We Fly?

Well actually! I am currently working on a companion novel (not a direct sequel but a story with overlapping characters) that follows Ellen’s younger sister Yasmín as a sophomore in high school, five years after the events of This Is How We Fly. Instead of being a Cinderella-flavored quidditch book, this is going to be a Snow White-flavored marching band book! Ellen makes an appearance as the out of college, older and wiser sibling, but there’s not any quidditch on the page, just lots of marching band drama. It’s in the early stages right now, but I’m excited to see Yasmín grow into a dramatic Main Character in her own right.

I also have a quidditch short story that will appear in Game On, an anthology of stories about games and sports, that will have a couple of familiar side characters. But that project is also a couple years out from publication.

If there is a second book, is there a chance that Ellen will explore more questions of gender identity?

Because I’m planning to skip five years, we won’t necessarily follow Ellen through her exploration, but she is openly nonbinary (still using she pronouns, but probably not exclusively) in the second book. To me, that very much felt like an extension of who she is throughout This Is How We Fly, but she needed space and time to get there.

Do you consider yourself a Harry Potter fan?

Oof. Kind of a tough question these days. I have been thinking a lot about fandom ever since I started this book, but recently I’ve had to reckon much more with the negative aspects of fandom alongside the joyful aspects, since JKR has been alienating fans of color and (especially) trans fans more and more violently. I don’t think I can ever erase Harry Potter from my personal story, any more than I can erase my Twihard days or the impact of my years of watching Muzzy El Grande to the point that I still quote random lines of that obscure educational video series with my brothers. But I don’t think I find as much joy as I used to in the series. The communities we’ve created around Harry Potter are awesome and vibrant and full of amazing people, but they don’t need to stay connected to their source material to survive, particularly when the source material is stagnant and outright harmful to people who have found safety in the community. I have a good friend who was heavily involved in the Saved [b]y [t]he Bell fandom in the early days of [I]nternet forums, and she has stayed connected with the friends she made there long after they stopped bonding over a show they all used to watch. I’ve met some awesome people who are looking at the series critically on podcasts like The Gayly Prophet and Beyond the Veil, and I follow artists and writers whose Harry Potter fanwork captured my imagination—now I’m excited to follow those creators to see how they react to other series and fandoms.

So yes, I have a lot of strong feelings about these characters, know a lot of obscure trivia, and [have] camped out for midnight releases of the books and movies. I play quidditch in real life, have a lot of wrock songs memorized, and can perform most parts of the Mysterious Ticking Noise ensemble passably well. But don’t want to make Harry Potter part of my current and ongoing identity when its creator excludes and hurts my friends, my family, and my community.

If there would be an opportunity to play the actual wizard Quidditch, would you start to play it or would you be loyal to Muggle quidditch?

I mean, I would definitely want to fly on a broomstick because… awesome. But I think I’d stick with quidditch as a sport because it’s been designed to be more enjoyable for its athletes and spectators. Sometimes writers just need things to happen a certain way for plot reasons (and sometimes writers invent sports to make fun of real-life sports that annoy them) and that’s all well and good but it probably doesn’t translate to a very fun playing experience.

 

Want more posts like this one? MuggleNet is 99% volunteer-run, and we need your help. With your monthly pledge of $1, you can interact with creators, suggest ideas for future posts, and enter exclusive swag giveaways!

Support us on Patreon

Veronika Kohoutová

I played Muggle Quidditch for the Prague Pegasus and on our national team in the European Games 2019.

Welcome to MuggleNet!

 

Would you like to join our mailing list?