Happy Friday Friends!
I’m so excited for the chance to interview this author, not just because her book is everything I love in a YA fantasy, but because we share something in common: an agent sibling (Hi Pete!). A few months ago, I had the opportunity to read her debut novel, and it was officially “unputdownable.” Its grit, intensity, and worldbuilding felt fresh and captivating, and I can’t wait ‘til everyone can read it too! Please welcome: Francesca Flores!
Hi Francesca! Thanks for agreeing to an interview. My first question for you: where are you at in your writing journey, and how did you get there?
Hi Ayana, thank you so much for this interview! I’m the debut author of DIAMOND CITY, a young adult fantasy novel with Wednesday Books/Macmillan.
I started writing when I was really young, and wrote my first novel sometime in high school. I wrote around fifteen manuscripts before thinking about querying—it had always just been a hobby to me before that, and I didn’t really consider publication until some of my writer friends started talking about it. I started getting ideas for DIAMOND CITY at the end of 2016 and began writing in January 2017. That summer, I went to a writing conference and began querying, and got offers of representation from agents from both avenues. My (our, lol) agent is Peter Knapp (hi Pete!). We sold my book in 2018, and now I’m just excited to share DIAMOND CITY with the world!
Fifteen manuscripts, that’s incredible!! It just goes to show that the road to traditional publication can be long, but usually ends up being worth it in the end. Of course, DIAMOND CITY is out in just a few days, so can you tell us what you’re currently working on?
Right now I’m working on revisions for my sequel! It will follow my assassin Aina, her old friends and some new, through a new adventure in the city of Kosín. It’ll be just as gritty and action-packed as the first one! I’m really thrilled to be in this world again and in these characters’ heads.
Yay! I can’t wait to see what’s in store for her, no spoilers, but you left readers hooked at the end of this duology’s first installment. Okay, I want to talk for a moment about your style of writing. How would you describe it, in a word or two?
This one was hard, but fun to think about! I think I’d say atmospheric and brutal.
Based on what I read in DIAMOND CITY, this feels entirely appropriate.
I love writing settings that can feel almost like characters themselves, and I usually have intense or difficult topics in my books as well as lots of action, so ‘brutal’ works for that.
I’ve said this before, but as a reader, atmosphere is one of the most important things for me to become invested in a story. Okay, Francesca, you’ve just talked about how Diamond City’s publication took some time and real work, which makes me curious about what your favorite/least favorite part of the writing process?
Hmm, I have two favorite parts! One would be when I’m first coming up with ideas for the project and everything just comes to my head so quickly, I barely have time to write it down. That’s always a great rush of inspiration. My other favorite part is when things finally start clicking and connecting in revisions.
My least favorite...I think all parts of the process have value, but of course there are plenty of difficulties that come with writing. When you get really into a section of the book’s plot and lose focus on the characters, or vice versa, that’s frustrating and kind of makes you feel incompetent for a bit. But it can be fixed!
Oh I agree, it’s so rewarding when you’re in the midst of revisions and things finally click. Where do you think you find inspiration for your stories?
From so many things! If not from other stories, like books or movies, I get a lot of inspiration from nature and traveling. I live close to a park and I love taking walks through there when I’m feeling burnt out from writing. Inspiration can come from the smallest things. I once got a whole story idea from an interesting pattern of wood whorls on a door. They looked like faces without mouths. It’s definitely a horror story.
I am deeply curious about this book and will be chatting with you offline about it momentarily haha. Simple nature can do so much to replenish our creative wells. Okay, I have another question about the working side of being an author: how do you manage life and other responsibilities alongside your writing?
I think the biggest things that help are always setting aside hours for writing, whenever possible, and not being hard on myself if I can’t get it accomplished that day. There’s always tomorrow.
A mixture of discipline, self-care, and balance sounds PERFECT. Of course, there are moments when finding that balance is more difficult than others, especially when you get a hard critique back from an agent, editor or critique partner. How do you combat writer’s block and/or tough critiques of your own work?
For writer’s block, I usually just change how I’m approaching that particular scene. Maybe I’m starting it from the wrong place, or maybe it’s not as necessary as I think it is. If it is necessary and I’m just struggling with getting the motivation for it, I try to re-gather inspiration for it, perhaps by reading previous chapters that had a similar feel or pace, or by consuming media that can give me inspiration. Or I can go on to the next scene and then work my way back.
For tough critiques, I think it’s really important to be able to know what good critiques look like. You want ones that are geared toward making YOUR story more effective, not changing the story to what they think is better.
If you’re the one giving a critique, it’s hard to realize when you’re doing that, but it can easily happen. I think another marker of a good critique, in the earlier drafts of a manuscript, is that they focus more on bigger picture things like the effectiveness of plot and character, or the pacing. If a critique starts pointing out tiny line edit things and avoids commenting on bigger things, and I’m only a couple drafts in, then I don’t give it much weight because I won’t be worrying about line edits until much later anyway.
Once you recognize that something is a good critique, maybe it does have a lot of notes that point out weaknesses, but it’s all given in an effort to make your story stronger. So I always keep the vision I have for my story, the picture-perfect image of this story that I have in my head, at the front of my mind. If the critique can help me achieve that in a way that readers will be able to enjoy something that’s closer to the image I have in my head, then it’s all worth it.
Some really good advice I saw while doing content edits for my debut was to look at your story and think of two aspects (theme, character flaws, backstory, relationships, whatever), that you know are absolutely essential and that you would only make minor changes to because they’re so important. Everything else is fair game to cut or change if it makes the story better. That helped me a LOT with my first major revisions.
An excellent way to approach revisions, no matter what stage you’re at in the game. I think this also helps things feel a bit less overwhelming, too. Okay, now a fun question for you: would you rather have the power to be invisible, or fly?
To fly! Then I could travel whenever I wanted.
An absolutely valid answer! It would certainly save me a lot of uncomfortable plane rides. Another questions: what advice do you have for aspiring writers, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds?
I would say to not limit yourself before trying.
I know it can be difficult, especially when you don’t even know about certain opportunities or possibilities for yourself. It took me so long to query because the idea of becoming a published author hadn’t even entered my mind until my friends started talking about it. It just felt so far removed from my life and the paths I could pursue that even the idea of it didn’t enter my head until fifteen manuscripts in. And I know plenty of people like that, especially people who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, who often don’t know what opportunities are available to them because it’s not something their families ever experienced to be able to give advice on, or they see something as such a far-off dream that it’s never something they consider. It’s hard to break past that, especially the things that you’re not even aware are possibilities. I would say to research, ask advice from people from similar backgrounds who are farther along in their publishing journey, always seek more than one opinion, and never limit yourself. Be your own cheerleader as much as you have to be, and keep trying to achieve more even if you don’t know what exactly “more” looks like or how possible it is. And maybe that’s even better; if you don’t see a goal as ‘impossible,’ then you can pursue it more fearlessly.
What beautiful and sound advice! I have another fun question for you: what’s your “anthem,” the song that would play if your life was a music video?
I LOVE Jazz. I’ve actually danced ballet and jazz most of my life, and while I love the technicality and precision of ballet, jazz just makes me feel alive in so many ways. One of my favorite songs to dance to is “Move On Up” by Curtis Mayfield. I really like Bossa Nova too. I really enjoy songs with saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, etc.
Okay, WOW, I’ve known this song for years without knowing the title and now I’m in love and want to dance down the road. (I won’t, it’s late!) Okay, a final bonus question! You have an all-expenses paid trip where you want with one of your characters--where do you go and who do you bring and why, why, why?
Ooh, okay, this is good! If I could convince Aina to not immediately stab me upon learning that I’m the person who made her life so hard...
I just snorted laughing because I know how true this is, sorry continue...
...it would be really cool to go to Amsterdam with her. I think she’d like how beautiful the city is, especially the canals and the architecture, and we’d have fun running around and climbing on stuff. We’re both athletic so that would be entertaining.
Want to know more about Francesca and her writing? You can connect with her a few different ways:
Francesca’s debut DIAMOND CITY comes out January 28th! To celebrate, I’m pre-ordering one lucky person a copy and sending it your way soon! To enter, all you have to do it retweet the announcement tweet on my twitter account. Bonus points for commenting about why you’d love to get your hands on this book!
You can also find out more about DIAMOND CITY on GoodReads! Thanks, Francesca!