From the time she was a little girl, Santa Clarita native Mandy Gonzalez had a dream of performing on Broadway.
It’s her journey toward accomplishing that dream, starring in the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” that inspired “Fearless,” her first novel, released last week.
“Very similar to the character Monica Garcia in the book, who’s from California, I also grew up with a love of music and performing from a really young age,” the Broadway star said.
Also like the character, Gonzalez had a grandmother who loved Broadway, and she, too, was introduced to it through Broadway cast albums and old movie musicals.
“I remember constantly watching those and looking for names and characters that looked like me, and I have to be honest, I didn’t have a lot of luck,” she added. “So, it was so important for me to create this novel, to create stories, so that kids can see themselves, to know that a life in the arts is possible.”
Gonzalez found her inspiration in creating a story kids could relate to, letting them know they, too, could find a place to belong.
“You think along the way to your dreams everything has to be perfect and there can be no mistakes, but that’s not real life,” she said. “Real life is being vulnerable and fearless, and by doing that you may trip along the way, but I hope that Monica Garcia teaches kids that you just get back up and you keep going.”
The middle-grade novel was finally published last week after years in the making and is set to be part of a two-part series, with Gonzalez already on her way to writing the second.
“I’m beyond excited about the book finally being out and kids being able to read it,” she said of the first.
Not only does the book closely follow Gonzalez’ journey, as she and her grandmother travel from California to New York, but also features the Fearless Squad she created on social media years ago.
“I had a lot of young people writing to me feeling like they didn’t have a place to belong and feeling like they were getting bullied on social media, so I said, ‘Well, if you don’t have a place to belong, you can just be part of my squad,’” she said. “All of a sudden, I had thousands of people that wanted to be a part of it.”
A few years ago, award-winning playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the song “Fearless,” which encapsulated the movement, but still Gonzalez didn’t feel like the story was complete.
It was then that Gonzalez decided to take the stories of characters she’d been writing for years and create “Fearless,” the novel.
“There are so many experiences from my own life, and so many of the characters have been inspired by people that I’ve met or that have been a part of my life since I came to New York,” Gonzalez said, adding that it also includes backstage secrets and theater traditions. “Along the way, Monica meets her Fearless Squad, and together, they learn anything and everything is possible, and together, they can be fearless.”
While it’s been difficult being off the stage for over a year due to the pandemic, Gonzalez is looking forward to Broadway’s return, hoping that kids in the arts don’t stop trying, as they’re fighting to come back.