Award-winning local author Crystal Maldonado is back with her sophomore book entitled “No Filter and Other Lies”.

“No Filter and Other Lies” tells the fictional story of a17-year old girl who lives a made-up life online, and how that life eventually comes crashing down around her.

Zydalis Bauer spoke with Maldonado, who shared how the book explores teenage life in the age of social media, and how her career as an author began.

In a digital exclusive piece, hear Crystal read an excerpt from “No Filter and Other Lies.”

Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: Award-winning local author Crystal Maldonado is back with her sophomore book entitled “No Filter and Other Lies.” It tells the fictional story of a 17-year-old girl who lives a made-up life online, which eventually comes crashing down around her.

Maldonado joined me to talk about how the book explores teenage life in the age of social media and how her career as an author began.

Crystal Maldonado, Author: I loved libraries growing up and going to bookstores. And I think it really began as just kind of a fun thing for my family to do with us kids, right? Like, summer break, what do you do when you have three kids at home? It’s like, take them to the library, take them to do something.

And so we found ourselves at our local library pretty often and we would check out books. And I immediately, like, fell in love with these stories that I was reading. And I loved that I felt like I could go on these adventures without actually leaving my house or actually going anywhere.

So, I started daydreaming a lot and like, “Well, what would it be like if I started making up these stories and writing them?”

And so, I mean, I didn’t know you could really become an author. But around like third grade, I was like, “I love writing and I don’t know what this means, but I’m going to just like write these fun little stories for me and my friends.”

And so that’s how — it started that early for me. And then, it wasn’t probably until, god, probably only a couple of years ago that I realized, “Oh, you can, you can make this into a career.”

And — or at least try to, if you’re lucky, right? But, yeah, it took until I was I was well into my twenties before I thought perhaps I can write a book and maybe someone will want to publish it.

Zydalis Bauer: And here we are talking because you have two published books. So, let’s talk about your sophomore book, “No Filters and Other Lies.”

It was released earlier this year and tells the story of a 17-year-old girl who is living a made up life online. And inevitably, things get messy.

Crystal Maldonado: Yes!

Zydalis Bauer: Tell me, where did the inspiration come from to write this book?

Crystal Maldonado: So, there were a couple of things that sort of inspired me for “No Filter.” So, one is truly my — my love and obsession with social media. So, like, I think a lot of us, I spend a lot of time on my phone and on Instagram. And I’ve always had a really positive relationship with social media, but I worked in it as well as like a brand manager, and I sometimes got to see the not-so-pretty sides of it.

And so, it got me thinking a lot about, “Well, what — what is it like being a teenager now and growing up with that pervasive feeling of always being online?” And I think that’s — we don’t give enough credit to young folks who are dealing with that.

Like, I grew up in a time where you actively could choose to go online and it was like a thing, like, you go on the computer and you log on and you could log off. And you don’t have that choice anymore.

And so it’s, I think, really, really jarring and also really tough when you’re in middle school and in high school and your whole life has been documented on social media, and then you have the pressures you normally would of, you know, “do I fit in, do I have friends, am I popular, do people like me?”

But now it’s amplified.

 Now, it’s not just that you didn’t get invited to the party, it’s “I can see the photos of everyone else who did get invited to the party.”

So, I wanted to explore that and that feeling, I think, of just kind of loneliness and — and the yearning for that validation through Kat, and how she’s this girl who she’s just trying to figure herself out. And she uses social media as something — she wants to use it for this professional reason, to get validation for her art. But really, she kind of wants the validation for herself.

And it, I think, is I hope I created someone who is kind of complicated in that sense, like, yeah, of course she does a bad thing. You should never steal someone’s identity. But, we kind of see how she would feel so compelled to do that.

So, I wanted to kind of explore that through the lens of someone who does the catfishing, because I think that’s so much more interesting than someone being catfished. I feel like that story is too sad, you know?

Zydalis Bauer: Well, you said a couple of things that made me think of something. First, you mentioned that you grew up as a teen in a time where you can log on and log off of social media. And you want to create these complicated characters.

So, as somebody who grew up before social media is what it is today, how are you able to kind of put yourself in that place and authentically portray and really understand what teens face today?

Crystal Maldonado: So, I really try to do my best to be respectful and do my research. I feel like the best thing I can do is come at the young adult genre with great respect for teenagers and all of the realities that they have to face today.

I just know, and I think back on my own time and how when I was growing up, you know, everything feels so life or death, it just feels like, you know, I remember getting into these fights with my friends and thinking it’s the end of the world. Or if this person I have a crush on doesn’t like me back, I’m never I’m never going to get over it.

And, I think, the — as we get older, there is this, like, there’s this urge to sort of dismiss it, because we know it’s not the end of the world. And we know that teenagers will be able to get over it, but it doesn’t feel like that when you’re living it.

So, I want to, like, when I’m writing these stories, I want to really pay tribute to those feelings and — and be respectful and appreciate that. Even if I, as an adult know, you know, you’re going to figure out social media, it’s not going to have such a hold on your life as you grow, I also know that, okay, but right now, when you’re 16, 17, God, when you’re 12, it feels like it’s — it’s everything.

Zydalis Bauer: Your first book, “Fat Chance, Charlie Vega,” and this book, “No Filters and Other Lies,” both of them have a lot of representation in that book. And I know that that’s a really important aspect of writing for you.

So tell me, why is that important? And what impact would it have had on, like, a young — a little Crystal’s life to have seen that representation as a young reader?

Crystal Maldonado: Oh, that is such a good question!

So little Crystal, as we said, was like such an avid reader. But I definitely went through this moment in my life as I was growing up where I’m like, “I love these books and I love these characters, but do they actually love me back?”

Because I never saw anybody who looked anything like me in these books. None of them. It was rarely Latina characters. I felt like I never saw, specifically, Puerto Rican characters. I rarely ever saw fat characters.

So, there was just all these things and identities that I had that I thought, “Well, I’m clearly — I must be abnormal, because I’m never seeing these these identities reflected back at me.” And I think there’s so much power in having representation be at the forefront of these stories.

Once you start to see yourself, you you feel a little less insecure about who you are, and you can sort of look at others and feel a little bit more empathetic for them, too, because you’re not out there fighting for your life, you know?

Zydalis Bauer: Right! So, you are an extremely busy woman. You have a full time career on top of your writing career, on top of being a mom and a wife. And you released two books in the span of one year.

Crystal Maldonado: I did!

Zydalis Bauer: So hats off to you! Where do you find the drive to keep going?

Crystal Maldonado: Oh man! I ask myself the same thing some days, because, I’m like, “Can I just take a nap?”

For me, a lot of it is just the love of the actual writing. And getting to meet with readers and students is something that really, really motivates me. It’s getting to talk face-to-face — or even virtually — with young readers who are like, “Oh, I am exactly like Charlie!” Or “I have a friend group like Kat’s friend group!” Or “I want a dog like Cash from ‘No Filter!'”

And those things end up making me feel like, “Oh, this is — this is why I’m doing this.”

Zydalis Bauer: So, last question. What piece of advice would you have to offer other young adults out there that are trying to figure out what they want to do?

Crystal Maldonado: Oh, man! I would say try everything and don’t be afraid to fail. So, I, growing up, was so nervous about looking silly or about someone judging me because I liked Beyonce too much or something. And those things, I think, I let them hold me back and not really be my authentic self, just because I thought, “Well, other people might judge me.” And I think I could have come to writing and — and succeeded a lot sooner if I had not let those fears kind of get the best of me. So, when you’re young, try it all and — and finding out what you don’t like can be just as valuable as finding out what you do like.