By Onz Chery | firstname.lastname@example.org
Sisters Maika and Maritza Moulite call “One of the Good Ones” an “inhale” book because while writing it, they often took turns holding deep and heavy breaths. It was an emotional writing process because the book revolves around the story of a teenage girl whose sister dies in police custody.
Since its January release, “One of the Good Ones” has been well-received, as was the writing duo’s 2019 debut book, “Dear Haiti, Love Alaine.” The latest novel is rated a 4.7 on Amazon and 4.2 on Goodreads and Barnes and Noble.
Reflecting on their journey thus far, the Moulite sisters are still taken aback at the thought of getting paid to write. However, writing as a career was practically preordained since childhood.
In an exclusive interview with The Haitian Times, the Moulite sisters, both Ph.D. students, share what it’s like to write together and the inspiration for their two books.
THE HAITIAN TIMES: Can you two tell us about what your childhoods were like?
MAIKA MOULITE: I was born and raised in Miami. Maritza was born in Boston and raised in Miami. Growing up, our parents took lekol, legliz, lakay [school, church, home] to a whole other level. During the weekdays, the only TV we could watch was Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and the news. That was it.
But every weekend, our parents would take us and our two younger sisters to the library and we read tons of books like “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass.” So many of them mostly had white characters. We very rarely saw books that had Haitian people.
MARITZA MOULITE: So I’m the second child and Maika’s the first. I would add to what Maika said [that] books were an opportunity to go to another place. Even if we didn’t see ourselves physically in the characters, we were still able to identify with them in some ways and imagined that our lives were similar. That’s something that guides us in our own writing. We really want Haitian people, Haitian-Americans, Americans, all people to be able to look in our stories and see something of themselves.
Haitian Times: How did the idea of writing together come about?
Maritza: I would say we started writing together in 2014 or 2015. But I can’t remember who brought it up.
Maika: You know what it is, a lot of times we would have ideas at the same time. That’s a testimony to how close we are and the way we were raised. We were forced to know each other really well. I don’t know, one day we woke up and were like ‘Why don’t we just try this?’ It was just like a stroke of genius, I would say. We bring out the best part of each other. Any place I could be lacking in, Maritza could excel in it. So us coming together makes a well-rounded story.
Haitian Times: What’s the writing process like?
Maika: We sit down and talk about what we want the story to be about. After we have all the points in the outline, then we start writing. It’s whoever wants to write which part. Maybe Maritza would write chapter one. I’d write chapter two or half of chapter three. Once we’ve written a part, we each go back and read what the other person wrote, make edits and inject our own voice. It ends up being one voice.
Maritza: If Maika does something with the character and I’m like ‘No! Let’s not do that.’ We have a rule where we will both state our cases to each other. Whoever is the most passionate about their arguments wins. But we don’t disagree often about the story. Nothing crazy. We’re pretty boring in that sense.
Haitian Times: What’s the story behind “Dear Haiti, Love Alaine?”
Maika: This is the type of book we would’ve loved to see when we were growing up because whenever we misbehave, our parents would be like ‘If you don’t stop, I’m sending you to Haiti.’ “Dear Haiti, Love Alaine” is about a Haitian-American girl who gets sent to Haiti after a prank goes wrong.
Haitian Times: About “One of the Good Ones,” what inspired it?
Maika: While we were grieving the death of our great aunt a few years ago at a funeral ceremony, we saw Trayvon Martin’s name on the wall. We decided we wanted to write a story that tackles racial injustice, but we wanted to focus on it from the lens of a girl. Because very often when we’re talking about the Black Lives Matter movement, what rallies folks together is when Black men are wrongfully being targeted. We wanted to also bring attention to Black women being targeted. Not to discredit what’s happening to one group, but to elevate both groups.
Maritza: We wanted to explore what it would feel like to lose a sister, how that could change someone’s life.
Haitian Times: What do you two do outside of writing?
Maika: In my research hopefully I’ll be focusing on representation within the media. Who knows, maybe my research interest will change? But it’s really important for me to see Black people being represented in the media they consume. [She is a Ph.D. student at Howard University’s Communication, Culture and Media Studies program]
Martiza: After I finish my Ph.D. in Education with a concentration in Literacy [at the University of Pennsylvania] I’m really interested in academia at a research institution and also teaching. But I’m still open.
Haitian Times: Do you two ever see yourselves writing separately?
Maika: We both know that we’re good writers separately. But we also know that there’s something special when we write together. We’re focusing on right now, whatever arises later on, it will be because we decided it together. We can write together, separately, whatever the case might be, but no matter what we’ll always be sisters first.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.