Mandy Gonzalez’s path to publishing her first book started in what may seem like an unusual place. As a child in California, she was a voracious reader and loyal library patron. But a career on Broadway and TV, which led her to Hamilton, In the Heights, and Madam Secretary, changed her direction. It wasn’t until after she started #FearlessSquad, an online community she created three years ago to uplift followers, she was inspired and realized she could write a book.
Fearless centers Monica Garcia, a twelve-year-old-actress cast in a fictional Broadway production, who must confront the ghost of a famous performer to save the theater from closing.
Gonzalez spoke with LatinaMedia.Co. before the book’s release about writing for readers who normally don’t see themselves in fiction, providing inspiration at a time that’s proving to be difficult for many, and of course the #FearlessSquad.
You have a history of empowering people through #FearlessSqaud. What drew you to that work, and what keeps you inspired?
When I started on Broadway, people could send letters and I wanted to create a place on social media for belonging and inclusion. I feel lucky to come from a very strong family and have that sense of belonging. My father is Mexican American and my mother is Jewish American, and they fell in love through letters. When my father returned from the war, he showed up on her doorstep. They’re my biggest supporters!
Creating #FearlessSquad and having so many people reach out and say they now have a community and parents saying things like, “My child was diagnosed with cancer, what do I do?” And calling on those people from my squad to support them. I never thought my own stories would lead me to need their support as well, and they were there. This book is the next part of this movement.
How much time passed between conceptualization and publication?
When the shutdown started, I was working on the last rewrites, and it’s surprising how I was able to create something during this time that kept me busy. I’m currently writing the second book in the series.
What’s your most memorable reading experience?
I didn’t grow up with lots of money, so the library was a place where my mom would let us get anything we wanted. One of my favorite books aside from Judy Blume’s was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It wasn’t until I was older that I discovered authors like Sandra Cisneros and I understood there was a place for me in this world.
Who are the Latinx women who have nurtured your writing?
Isabel Allende and Quiara Alegría Hudes!
Why is it essential for you to tell the stories that you tell?
A student at one of the In the Heights talkbacks asked Lin-Manuel Miranda why this was the first show by a Latinx artist and with a mainly Latinx cast. He said that if you don’t see the story you want to see, you have to write it. That has stayed with me!
Fearless will be released on April 6th, 2021. You can preorder your copy of the book today!