Each of Us a Desert: How Mark Oshiro Crafted Their YA Latinx Fantasy


As I talk about the Genesis of this project, I also have to admit that I would say maybe 1% of that first draft is what actually ended up in the final draft.

It happens sometimes… you have an idea, but it takes you on a really weird path. But the initial idea came before I even had a book deal. It was when I had gotten an agent and my agent asked me if I was working on any of the projects. And I was like, “No,” because I’m trying to get this published,” and he gave me a good piece of advice, which is, “Well, the book’s done. We can do whatever work we can to get it hopefully published. But right now you should think about what comes next. Do you have any ideas?” And I was like, “No, not really,” and because I just at that point was, especially when you’re unpublished you’re kind of just hoping the thing that you wrote is the thing that makes it. 

So I started giving it some thought and I had a very coincidental experience that inspired it. So myself and my twin brother, we’re adopted and we know very little about our biological parents. And so for many, many years, we’ve been sort of trying to find out who they are, where they are. I managed to track down our biological mother, but we’ve never met or seen his photo or even known the name of our biological father. And not long after this conversation, I had an experience with my brother where we did actually find our birth father’s whole name, which when you’re searching in records, when you’re searching for the legal stuff, that’s one of the most important parts and we’ve never had it. Unfortunately, in that very same document in which we found his name, we found out that he was not a U.S citizen and that he had given up his parental rights to us. And as far as we knew, went back to Mexico.

And all of a sudden, we went from the elation of, “We have information,” to … “Oh, there’s a border.” There’s this invisible line in the earth has now made this search just as hard as it was before. And so I remember coming back from my brother’s place and having this image in my head of this girl trying to find her parents and she was trying to cross this large expanse. It was just images. And this is the first time I didn’t have a concrete story idea. I just kind of just liked this image of like, “Someone searching for their parents,” because it was something that I was doing and that then took shape. And over the course of a month, I came up with this whole novel idea because it’s not the book that you read. It was very different, the first draft of this book was like far-future dystopia. It wasn’t fantasy at all. And so over the course of many, many edits, it became the book that is now, Each of Us a Desert, but that’s where it came from.

How did you approach the world-building aspect in the book?

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