By Alaina Leary
Today we’re pleased to welcome Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite to the WNDB blog to discuss their young adult novel One of the Good Ones, out January 5, 2021!
When teen social activist and history buff Kezi Smith is killed under mysterious circumstances after attending a social justice rally, her devastated sister Happi and their family are left reeling in the aftermath. As Kezi becomes another immortalized victim in the fight against police brutality, Happi begins to question the idealized way her sister is remembered. Perfect. Angelic.
One of the good ones.
Even as the phrase rings wrong in her mind—why are only certain people deemed worthy to be missed?—Happi and her sister Genny embark on a journey to honor Kezi in their own way, using an heirloom copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book as their guide. But there’s a twist to Kezi’s story that no one could’ve ever expected—one that will change everything all over again.
You’ve collaborated on this book as well as Dear Haiti, Love Alaine. Did you always know you wanted to write together? What is your process like?
Maika: Funnily enough, Maritza and I didn’t always know that we would co-write. We’ve each tried writing things separately but never finished. I’m so glad that we had the idea one day why don’t we try doing this together?! And the rest is history. There’s no accountability partner like a sister! Someone to keep you on task and tease you mercilessly.
Our process usually involves coming up with an idea, putting together an extensive outline (like 20-30 pages before we even start writing!), and then we just hop in and write and let the spirit move us. We don’t divvy things up by chapter. It’s usually based on who wants to write what scene.
Are you a plotter or a panster, and which style would you say your co-writer fits into? How do your writing processes complement each other?
Maika: I am a total pantser and like to feel inspired when I write. Maritza on the other hand is a plotter (booooo). But we meet halfway and it’s been a good experience for us. Maritza’s plotting helps us stay on task and I get to be my regular chaotic self and we’re able to make any edits or shifts as the characters come to life. Nothing is set in stone.
Maritza: I am a proud plotter! I don’t stick to the outline to the detriment of the story I’m working on but I am a sucker for a well-crafted plan and thinking about important elements to the story before getting deep into writing and realizing I don’t know what to do. Maika, bless her heart, is a panster.
This story strongly connects the past to the present. Why do you think it’s important for people to understand the past, even past events that may or may not have a direct connection to them? Why is it important for young people to understand multigenerational trauma?
Maritza: Events that have happened moments, months, decades, centuries before we were born continue to have implications in our lives today. For OOTGO, we wanted to see what this would mean for individual people and families.
A major theme in One of the Good Ones is the idea that people, especially Black people, are only worthy of humanity if they prove themselves in some way. Why did you want to tackle this through Happi and Genny’s journeys?
Maika: This was a really important point that we wanted to make when we set out to write One of the Good Ones. So often we’ll get caught up in respectability politics when we know that doesn’t save anyone from harm. A person’s life shouldn’t matter more because they “speak well,” have lots of money, or anything along those lines. Being a human being should be more than enough to be able to live your life with dignity. We tackle this idea of who is one of the good ones in multiple ways throughout the story to show that we’re all out here trying to make this time we have on this planet the best that it could be.
Why did you want to explore what it’s like to lose a sibling as a teenager? How did you work together to craft the ways that Kezi’s loss impacts Happi and Genny?
Maritza: We are the older sisters of two other amazing women and we could not even fathom the pain of losing a sister. That is a major fear of ours in fact and we decided to explore the space of such terror.
What other novels do you see One of the Good Ones as being in conversation with? And do you have any recommendations for forthcoming or published YA?
Maika: I would say that One of the Good Ones could be in conversation with This is My America by Kim Johnson and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I love The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo so I will always recommend it and I’m really looking forward to Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo.
Maritza: I’m very much looking forward to reading Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe, and I absolutely adored Simone Breaks All the Rules by Debbie Rigaud.
What is one question you wish you were asked more often (and the answer)?
Maritza: Who is the most interesting Bennett sister and why is it Kitty?
Maika Moulite is a Miami native and the daughter of Haitian immigrants. She earned a bachelor’s in marketing from Florida State University and an MBA from the University of Miami. When she’s not using her digital prowess to help nonprofits and major organizations tell their stories online, she’s writing stories of her own. She also blogs at Daily Ellement, a lifestyle website featuring everything from diverse inspirational women to career guidance. She’s the eldest of four sisters and loves young adult fantasy, fierce female leads, and laughing.
Maritza Moulite graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s in women’s studies and the University of Southern California with a master’s in journalism. She’s worked in various capacities for NBC News, CN, and USA TODAY. An admirer of Michelle Obama, Maritza is a perpetual student and blogs at Daily Ellement. Her favorite song is “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire.
Alaina (Lavoie) is the communications manager of We Need Diverse Books. She also teaches in the graduate department of Writing, Literature, and Publishing at Emerson College and is a book reviewer for Booklist. She received a 2017 Bookbuilders of Boston scholarship for her work in the publishing industry. Her writing has been published in New York Times, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Refinery29, Allure, Healthline, Glamour, The Oprah Magazine, and more. She currently lives in Boston with her wife and their two literary cats. Follow her @AlainasKeys on Instagram and Twitter.