Michael Leali author photo

I first met Michael Leali at a recent local author event, and I was thrilled to learn about his books. His middle grade novel THE TRUTH ABOUT TRIANGLES comes out today, May 21, 2024.


The Truth About Triangles CoverTwelve-year-old Luca Salvatore is always running in arguments between his younger twin siblings, in his parents’ troubled marriage, and between Will, the cute new boy in town, and Luca’s best friend, June, who just can’t seem to get along. When the host of his favorite culinary TV show announces an open call for submissions for its final season, Luca is sure getting his family’s failing pizzeria on the show will save it and bring his falling-apart family together. Surprisingly, securing a spot is easier than kneading dough—but when the plan to fix everything comes out burned, Luca is left scrambling to figure out just the right recipe to bring his family and his friends back together.


According to your website bio, you have an MFA from the VCFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. What did you enjoy most about this program, and what would you tell writers who are interested in pursuing an MFA?

It’s true! I graduated in July 2019 with my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. For me, attending the program was a life-changing, incredibly positive experience. I came to the program because I’d taken my writing as far as I could on my own, and I was eager to take my projects to the next level. Through my work with the faculty, my writing craft and knowledge about stories for young readers grew tremendously. They helped me see myself and my work in ways that I couldn’t access before. I’m forever grateful. Aside from the writing, one of the best parts of the program was finding a community of like-minded people. I made so many friends who have become essential to my life.

I have a lot of thoughts about pursuing an MFA. First, you do not need an MFA to get published, and an MFA program is not the right fit for every writer. MFA programs challenge writers to explore and expand their writing, but they also prepare them to teach at the collegiate level. For me, this was exactly what I needed! If teaching isn’t a part of your hopes for the future, however, an MFA program may not be the right choice for you. There are many other avenues that can enhance your writing. I would also encourage interested writers to really do their research about programs and institutions—so much has changed since I graduated in 2019. Ask questions about finances, financial aid, current teaching faculty, and the health of the program. An MFA is a costly investment in yourself, and you should get your money’s worth. Before you agree to anything, ensure that the program will best serve you on an intellectual and human level. Talk to current students and faculty. Ask the tough questions. You’re worth it!


Excellent advice! In THE TRUTH ABOUT TRIANGLES, Luca is trying to hold himself and everyone around him together. How did you know that this was a story you needed to write?

I love how you phrased this question; this absolutely is a story that needed to come out. My novels are usually inspired by things I’ve experienced or aspects of my identity. TRIANGLES is no exception.

One of the most formative aspects of my childhood was a period when I felt like the world was on my shoulders. I was in seventh grade, my sister was a year old, my mother was battling post-partem depression, and my two younger brothers and I were all being homeschooled in a town we had just moved to at the end of that previous school year. I didn’t really have any friends, I was struggling to understand my gay identity within the confines of a highly conservative Christian household, and I could feel my family struggling. Some responsibilities were put on me, and I took on more on because I felt like it was my duty as the oldest child. This took a massive toll on my mental health—something I didn’t really start to process until nearly a decade later. This experience fed my perfectionism, co-dependency, and anxiety, among other things. It was a long road to sorting myself out. I’m still a work in progress, but today, I can happily report that I’ve worked through these past experiences, and I’m in a great place with myself and my family. I couldn’t be more grateful for that.

As a teacher, I got to know and care for many students who come from similar familial situations. These students felt like it was their job to be the parent, to run the house, to care for themselves and siblings, to ensure that chores were done, and bills were paid. Life is often unfair, and I believe that most parents are doing their very best to raise their children. Good intentions, however, do not spare a child from harm. Parentification can have serious lasting damage, and anything we can do to prevent it is a must.

While THE TRUTH ABOUT TRIANGLES is entirely fictional, the pressures and feelings that Luca experiences are inspired by my life. My hope is that readers will come away from this story feeling seen, heard, and understanding that one person can’t be responsible for everything, and that some things are not our responsibilities. It’s good and right to put yourself first sometimes, especially if supporting others is a detriment to your own well-being.

For all the conflict and hardship in this novel, it’s also a lot of fun! That might sound strange, but it’s so true to life: there’s often an ongoing juxtaposition of joy and sadness. That lightness is what keeps us going. At least, it keeps me going! Luca’s passion for pizza and cooking is inspired by my own fascination with food. I’m a huge fan of shows like Top Chef and Chopped, and I’ve always found cooking centering and fulfilling. In another life, I think I’d like to be a chef. This book is also a love letter to my Italian American heritage. I’ve added lots of language and speech patterns, physicality, food, and cultural pieces that come from my family. I hope that they feel my love for them in these pages.

Last, but certainly not least, this is a gay first crush story. Navigating romance as a tween is so awkward and exciting and terrifying, and it can be even more challenging for a queer kid. Despite significant progress in the last twenty years, society still doesn’t make it easy for LGBTQIA+ folks to live and love freely. Queer stories for young people are constantly under attack. We’ve seen a massive increase in book banning, soft censorship, and now a lack of purchasing of LGBTQIA+ titles due to bigoted push back and legislation. PEN America reported that “Books with LGBTQ+ characters and themes made up 36% of all bans from 2021 to 2023.” This is appalling.

I believe that books and stories have the power to save lives. They validate experiences and remind readers that they are not alone. I know firsthand how lonely and isolating hiding your identity can feel. When our stories are taken away or silenced, our most marginalized populations are being actively harmed, and the attacks and impact are even worse for children of color and our trans and non-binary children. We must keep fighting against the hateful minority who seem to have so much sway over our libraries, educational system, and laws. Our children depend on it, and they deserve better. I will not stop writing and celebrating the stories of queer people, and I hope that this story helps even one LGBTQIA+ child feel seen, heard, respected, and cared for.


This is probably one of the best arguments against book censorship I’ve heard so far, and so many children need these books for the exact reasons you’ve stated. Now that you’ve released your third middle grade novel, in what ways, if any, has your writing process changed from when you released your debut, THE CIVIL WAR OF AMOS ABERNATHY?

I find that each story takes on a life of its own, and that means they come out in different ways. Many writers identify as either a “pantser” (those who draft without an outline) or a “plotter” (those who map everything out before they draft)—I tend to be somewhere in the middle. I almost entirely pantsed AMOS, but TRIANGLES was carefully plotted and outlined before I drafted past the first couple chapters. What I need to get writing depends on so many factors: deadlines, other commitments, the state of my brain! I find that it’s best to press into whichever tools and skills feel most natural for that story, and I’m always open to trying new things, especially when drafting. My revision process is a pretty fine-tuned machine at this point, however. I love my system of using a blank wall, notecards, and copious sticky notes to plan my revision. Other than that, I continue to spend a lot of time day dreaming, embracing boredom so that my creativity can take root, and getting feedback from my writer friends. But things are always changing—who knows how my next books will take shape!


I love the idea of “embracing boredom”! What are some of your current projects?

I can’t say too much about my current projects, but I’ve got a lot in the works. I’m a huge fan of fantasy, so I’ve been cooking up what I’m hoping will be the first book in a middle grade fantasy series inspired by my favorite holiday. I’ve also been working on a lower middle grade series starter that follows the adventures of a young boy and a magical symbiotic creature. I’ve got several picture book ideas tumbling around in my brain, and I’ve just started drafting a young adult novel that both excites and intimidates me. I’m crossing my fingers that there will be a lot more Michael Leali books in the future.






For more about Michael Leali and his books, go to

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *