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Tomas Moniz’s New Book Is an Ode to Friendship in the Bay Area

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Tomas Moniz, author of All Friends Are Necessary, a novel about friendship in the Bay Area.
Tomas Moniz, author of All Friends Are Necessary, a novel about friendship in the Bay Area. (Courtesy of Tomas Moniz)

View the full episode transcript.

Tomas Moniz’s novel All Friends Are Necessary explores the profound depths of friendship and the unique ways in which love is expressed.

Moniz’s tale centers on a man in his late thirties named Efren “Chino” Flores. After the passing of Flores’ newborn child and the subsequent unraveling of his marriage, Flores moves back to the Bay Area. Equipped with a support system of longtime friends and new acquaintances, Flores embarks on his personal healing journey.

Throughout the book, Flores regains his bearings, becomes an entrepreneurial educator and discovers love in different forms of romantic partners. The process ultimately leaves him in a position to support his longtime friends when they need it the most, reciprocating the love they gave him when he was down and out.

Moniz knows from his own life experience that the grieving process is a community effort. He’s penned a novel chock-full of remedies for grief, sweet moments between friends, observations about Mother Nature and shoutouts to some key Bay Area landmarks and cultural institutions — all of which we discuss on this week’s episode of Rightnowish.

Tomas Moniz will read and sign copies of his new book at Doña (3770 Piedmont Ave., Oakland) on June 13, 2024 at 6:30 p.m. and at Green Apple Books (1231 9th Ave., San Francisco) on June 18, 2024 at 7 p.m.

Also, Moniz is a big fan of exchanging letters. He can be reached at P.O. Box 3555, Berkeley, CA, 94703.   

Rightnowish is an arts and culture podcast produced at KQED. Listen to it wherever you get your podcasts or click the play button at the top of this page and subscribe to the show on NPR One, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.


Episode Transcript

This is a computer-generated transcript. While our team has reviewed it, there may be errors.


Pendarvis Harshaw, Host: Hey Rightnowish listeners, it’s me, your host Pendarvis Harshaw. Today we’re talking about the joys of friendship, the bonds that save us and challenge us when we need it the most. And this kind of platonic love is wonderfully captured in the new novel, All Friends are Necessary, by Berkley-based writer Tomas Moniz.

In the book, Moniz writes about a man named Efren “Chino” Flores and the ordinary ways that he and his friends show up in each other’s lives to hold each other down through big transitional moments.

Tomas Moniz, Guest: There’s a scene that opens the book with them running down the shore of Ocean Beach and jumping into the Pacific Ocean. They’re skinny dipping, right. And the inspiration for this novel came when a similar incident happened in my life where I see my friend’s, butt, like, nakedly running down the shore into the river, and I’m like, ‘that’s the kind of book I want to write a bouncing butt in the moonlight.’

Pendarvis Harshaw: In this episode, Tomas, talks to us about the enduring power of friendship, metaphors of ferns blooming, and the personal experiences that propelled him to write this story of navigating loss with the homies by your side.
More from Tomas Moniz, right after this.

Pendarvis Harshaw: You bring the readers on this journey through key spots in the Bay area. You’re going from the Mission, you’re in East Oakland, you’re at Lucky Three Seven, Diamond Park. Like, reading about these places and you’re not doing it in a corny way, like, how did you approach highlighting these different places and not making it sound generic?

Tomas Moniz: I’m writing about this spot that I love versus just kind of like having it be part of the scenery, having a character interact with it in a genuine way. I think that’s kind of where I hope my writing has taken me now. 

So yeah, the first part takes place in the Mission, right? And so my partner lived there for 15 years, and I spent a lot of time there and just kind of wanting to catch that, the vibrancy of it and biking through it and the spots that we would walk to from her apartment. And just noticing how these places made me feel and trying to capture that feeling in the writing.

And so I did the same thing with the section in part two that takes place in kind of a Guerneville area, right?, the Russian River, the river itself, the redwoods.  And then the third part of the book is Oakland, and that’s where I’ve been the past ten years. And so… I was really scared to write about it, but I knew that’s kind of what I wanted. And when Covid hit and, you know, everyone was walking everywhere around the neighborhoods, that’s really what, you know, brought me to the kind of little nooks and crannies of the community that I live in– in East Oakland, the liquor stores, the small restaurants, the, the parks. So that’s kind of what I was really trying to capture there.

Pendarvis Harshaw: We should be clear that this book is a novel and you are not the main character. 

Tomas Moniz: Exactly.

Pendarvis Harshaw: The main character is by the name of Efren, who’s just this charismatic person who loves nature, loves people, is a support net for his friends, and his friends are a support net for him. And I got hooked in reading the book,  just in the first couple pages there’s an instance where Efren’s calling for a cat and the cat kind of shies away, and then comes back to him.  Explain to me what happens there.

Tomas Moniz: To me, it was a really important moment because I, one of the things I also wanted to write about in this book was kind of the body and how we are alive in our body. So he tries to get this cat to come give him some attention and of course, the cat scratches him once, you know, like cats do. They give you a little bit of love and they scratch you and run away. So then he has this moment where he’s kind of contemplating the blood that’s beading up on his arm.

 To me it was a good setup for kind of all the bodily scenes that come throughout the book as well. So I was really wanting to try and capture that desire for intimacy with like, something you love, like a small little animal and yet the pain that comes from that as well.


I wanted this kind of way in which his character, you learn this character is familiar with the kind of, the messiness of a body, the things the body secretes in some weird ways. Right. So, like, all this kind of familiarity, I want centered in that novel.

In fact, a lot of these scenes, these little moments came from small writing prompts that I did over the course of the last, like ten years, where I would write just about body parts. I would write about, kind of like, just little moments of a person’s life and then they found their way into this story.

Pendarvis Harshaw:  There’s laughter, there’s joy, there’s lighthearted moments. And this book deals with some pretty heavy topics as well.

 Tomas Moniz: Yeah.

Pendarvis Harshaw:  In the chapter “What name did you choose?”, you write about Efren and his ex Luna and their unfortunate experience in losing their child at birth. It’s beautifully written. It’s heavy. The process of becoming an angel parent is never anything easy to digest. What did you use to inform your words when writing that?

Tomas Moniz: My immediate family experienced a pretty intense tragedy where my son’s partner  passed away unexpectedly. And he was left a widower at 30 with a 5 month old baby. 


Tomas Moniz: I mean, I didn’t write for a solid year and a half after that. I didn’t look at the book, didn’t think about it, nothing. We just kind of all came together. How do you get through something like that? How do you support each other? How do you do the dishes and at the same time be angry?

How do you rock a baby and then at the same time need to deal with a funeral? And so it’s like, I think that is the thing that informs the plot points about Efren that are clearly different than the experience, the tragedy and grief that I went through but, like you said, informs the book. 

Pendarvis Harshaw: Condolences to the family. And I know that that is something that is ever present and constantly being worked through. And so I imagine that this book is a part of that healing process as well. And in this book, Efren finds healing through friends.

Tomas Moniz: Right

Pendarvis Harshaw: …as he goes through his experience.  It’s not the common kind of friendships that he experiences, like, even the platonic friendships are more intimate than I’ve ever experienced. I’m thinking about an an excerpt from page 197. Chino calls his best friend Metal Man to apologize. If you don’t mind, could we pull that up?


Tomas Moniz: “I’m sorry,” I started. “I see how my reaction was connected to my personal traumas and triggers. I wasn’t able to listen to you unfettered for my own bullshit. I’m not sure what’s going on for me: jealousy, envy, anger. But I love you, and I want to be there for you.”

“Wow, how long have you been practicing that? Felt like my whole life.” 

Metal Matt said, “But actually, you storming off, kind of helped. I told Suzy about it, and we decided right then and there we needed to figure this shit out.”


Tomas Moniz: He’s trying so hard to own his own stuff, and yet they can joke about, like, “Yeah, I could see you trying real hard to own your own stuff.” And they go back and forth like that. And there’s a few scenes like that in the novel where they kind of try and unpack their feelings, as well as be there for each other.  

Pendarvis Harshaw: That’s some jerk stuff that one of my friends would say for sure during a hard moment, you know?

Tomas Moniz: Exactly! But it’s also one of those moments and it’s like, it’s lovingly like teasing you in this kind of way that I feel like it’s really important.

Tomas Moniz: I feel like the comps to this kind of book are always like, particularly with male friendships, are always like these big adventure stories, these like, on the road kind of trips across the country. And I really wanted to kind of explore the way friendship has shown up in my life, more so than anything else like that, which is the small ways that we hang out with each other. Right? We watch the Warriors lose. Right? And we got to mourn together. Right? We go out and get drinks and we celebrate birthdays or losses. So I think that’s kind of where my focus on intimacy in relation to friendships, and particularly men was. I tried to center that.

Pendarvis Harshaw:  There’s an interaction between Metal Matt and Efren. I read this passage. I just looked out the window and I was like, man, that is sweet. 


Tomas Moniz: I got up, I walked into the studio to my desk, grabbed a pen and paper, and wrote a note in my fanciest script. I signed the sheet of paper with a flourish and rolled it up like it was the most important legally binding document in the world. I walked back to Metal Matt and handed it to him. He opened it and read it. “Our agreement plan between Metal Matt Matthew and Tio Flores Effron: If you live through this with me, I swear that I will die for you metaphorically, but you know what I mean. Signed and agreed upon at Casa Wildflower, Efren “Chino” Flores.”

Pendarvis Harshaw:  That particular wording, it was… it was moving. Yeah. Where did that come from for you?

Tomas Moniz: I love the fact how friendships grow and evolve. Like we tend to celebrate, you know, friendships early in our lives. And then once we get, you know, into like, primary relationships and jobs, we tend to, like, think back about those as if they’re over, when in fact, you know, if we hold on to them and nurture them, they’re going to grow and develop in really wonderful ways. And I like to see, you know, Efren and Metal Matt doing that same type of thing ‘cause I’m sad I actually don’t have a lot of friends from my early college days. It’s a regret of mine now that I’m not as close to the people I was so close to when I was a young man.

Pendarvis Harshaw:  In doing this, you also kind of parallel it with your understanding of nature, specifically ferns. And like, ferns and how they interact is like a metaphor for how friends and how you make connections with them throughout the book.


Tomas Moniz: However, more commonly, ferns send spores rather than seeds, far and wide, increasing the chance that they will land in a supportive environment and take root.

Pendarvis Harshaw: That’s what I saw Efren doing throughout the whole project where he’s reaching out, finding friends, different ways to like, latch on and find support and be in support of others as well.

Tomas Moniz: Right. I’m actually really glad you brought that up, because to me, that was, you know, the struggle as a writer is to try and find a good character and kind of allow them to change and grow. And so with Efren, I definitely wanted in the first half of the book, he’s receiving this help.  He’s learning how to accept, you know, when someone says, “I’m here for you,” and to take that at face value and appreciate it and be thankful for it. But then, you know, the second, third half of the book he has to learn how to also offer that help in a way that he received it earlier.


Pendarvis Harshaw: The way you write about ferns I feel like you have implanted them on my brain and now I see ferns everywhere. Why ferns?

Tomas Moniz: I need this character to have something that’s not, you know, that’s not me. I am in no way a scientist or a botanist and he is. So it forced me to find a language and a way to think about the world that’s different than mine. And so that really helped me create Efren and his mentality.


Tomas Moniz: You know, it’s so funny, when I was writing the book, I was so, like, I need to know everything about ferns. So I read all these things. And of course, I have horrible pronunciation with, like, scientific language. So I was so afraid to read aloud anything that involved, like the scientific name or something, because they’re in my book. Right? And I’m just like, oh, how am I’m going to do it? And then my editor was like, you know, “You don’t have to be a fern expert, just make it. It’s fiction.” And i’m like what??  I had to put in the acknowledgments: Like, although I love ferns and I’ve read a lot about them. This is not a scientific book. So I made some stuff up. But yeah, so that was my pleasure in terms of writing about something I didn’t know.  

Pendarvis Harshaw: Holding onto relationships and allowing people room to grow and like still being with them. Efren does that not only with his platonic friends, but also people he’s been involved with. And even after the relationship, romantic relationship ends, Efren stays in contact and that friendship still continues to grow.

 Tomas Moniz: Yeah

Pendarvis Harshaw: How?

Tomas Moniz: If you can find a way to honor what you know, what was in the past and where we are now in our present lives, like, that’s a benefit and a joy and a resource to lean on.

I’m super thankful that the mother of my children-we’re no longer together, we haven’t been together for a decade-but I think we have a better relationship now than we ever did. We’ve done the work since that time to give space and to learn to kind of love each other in the new ways, the new people that we are now. I feel really honored when relationships can evolve and I can be a part of them.

Pendarvis Harshaw: That has to take a certain level of maturity, right?

Tomas Moniz: Well, and lots of mistakes and like, I mean, it’s like, who do I want to be? I don’t want to lose the stuff that I had with someone that was wonderful. Like, I want those, I want to access those memories with someone.

Pendarvis Harshaw: It’s pulling again a lot from your personal lived experience as well as your family’s experience. How much of your friends show up in the characters in this book? Do they read the book and they’re like, hey, that’s me or I do that?

Tomas Moniz: I’ve given all my close immediate friends a pass, you never have to read anything I write.  You know, everything is filtered through my own creative process. But they know, you know, I have a friend in Portland named Matt who loves metal. So there’s a way in which, like when I first started it, like they’re more closely related to my personal experiences. But then as the book becomes its own thing, it clearly moves away from anyone specifically but there’s little hints that people who know me know.

Pendarvis Harshaw: Is there ever any hesitation to write about them?

Tomas Moniz: Certainly if I felt like it was writing about someone that they would very clearly be able to identify, I always give them an opportunity to read. And I learned that from writing about my own family.

Early on when I wrote Rad Dad stuff, I wrote about my son and in retrospect, I realize I probably should have let him read things I wrote. And with my daughters, you know, who are younger than him, I let them read everything that I ever said that had anything to do with them, and my experience parenting them. So if they were uncomfortable or didn’t want me to write about it, I didn’t.


Tomas Moniz: So I’ve learned that kind of lesson. I do try, and if I feel like there’s something there that’s clearly an identifiable thing, I would share it with someone.

Pendarvis Harshaw: Personal growth through your own writing.

Tomas Moniz: Exactly. Yeah.

Pendarvis Harshaw: Big, Big thanks to author Tomas Moniz. I devoured your book in like, two weeks. It truly was a joy to read.

Moniz will read excerpts of his book and sign copies at two upcoming events in the bay. First event is Thursday June 13th at Doña restaurant in Oakland and second chance to catch him is at Green Apple Books in San Francisco Tuesday June 18th.

Tomas also appreciates snail mail from readers and he actually writes back! That address is available on our website and in the episode description. And for the digital connection, Tomas can be found @tomas_should_be_writing on Instagram.

Time to give props to the rest of the team that made this episode with me. This episode was hosted by me, Pendarvis Harshaw. Marisol Medina-Cadena produced this episode. Chris Hambrick held it down for edits on this one. Christopher Beale engineered this joint.  

The Rightnowish team is also supported by Jen Chien, Ugur Dursun, Holly Kernan, Cesar Saldaña, and Katie Sprenger . 

Rightnowish is a KQED production. Till next time, peace!




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