Diana Rodriguez Wallach, author of Amor and Summer Secrets (Kensington, 9/08), conversed with The 5 Randoms about the secrets to her success. (One of which includes a psychic in Salem, Massachusetts.)
1) What is your typical writing day like?
Right now I’m editing the proofs for the third book in my YA series; it’s called “Adios to All the Drama,” and it comes out in January 2009. At the same time, I am working on edits of a completely different Work In Progress (WIP). So my workday is a bit schizophrenic.
Typically, I work on my WIP earlier in the day because it’s rawer and commands more undivided attention. I try to edit about 30 pages of that manuscript per day. Then in the later afternoons, I work on my proofs of “Adios.” This is the last stage of the process for this book, right before it goes to press, so it’s almost as clean as a whistle. Usually, I can get through about 65 pages of the book. I try to read the proofs twice before I turn them in. Then I spend my nights doing promotional work in front of the TV—emails, interviews (like this one), blogs, etc. I work a lot, that’s why my agent calls me “prolific.”
2) What is the part of the writing process you hate, and what coping mechanisms do you employ to get through it?
The hardest part of the writing process for me is the rough draft. When I’m working on something new, I try to write around 3,000 words per day. Sometimes they shoot out like lightening and I get to spend the rest of the day watching movies and daydreaming. Other days, I’m still cursing my computer at 11 o’clock at night.
I don’t know how much I “cope,” versus how much I just keep writing. I’m an organic writer; I don’t outline. So the more I write in a continuous stream the better. I also wave little prizes in front of myself for meeting my word count like, “Come on, if you finish this chapter you can watch General Hospital!”
3) What is the biggest surprise you’ve experienced when it comes to book publishing?
How slow the industry moves. I worked for several years as a reporter for daily online magazines, and when you work for a daily, deadlines are firm and fast. So it definitely took me a while to adapt to the speed that editors and agents review material. And then after you sell your book, you have to wait for the contract, and then wait for the revision letter, and then wait for the copy edits, and then wait to see the cover art, and then wait for the pub date. There’s a lot of waiting; did I mention that?
4) As the author of a YA series, what are some “randoms” you’d like to share with us?
–I usually write my novels while listening to the ‘90s channel on Comcast TV. But I have to listen to it at a very low decibel because sometimes the lyrics to songs, like “Here Comes The Hotstepper,” can be very distracting.
–I write very quickly—a byproduct of having worked as a reporter. It only took me a month to write the first iteration of “Amor and Summer Secrets,” though that was an unusual experience. Usually it takes me about three months to write a novel. And I once had a marathon day where I wrote 10,000 words in a sitting—no joke. It was while writing the ending of the second book in the series, “Amigas and School Scandals.”
–I started writing my first novel because I had a dream one night that I was a young adult author, and I dreamt the entire series of books. Seriously. When I woke up and told my husband, he reminded me of a vacation we took five years earlier through New England where I had visited a psychic in Salem, MA. She had told me I was “the writer of little books, children’s books.” Being raised Catholic, I took these things as “signs.” LOL. But that’s what got me to write my first novel, and I haven’t looked back since. I give a much more detailed account of this story on my website at http://www.dianarodriguezwallach.com/for_writers.html.
5) Authors talk about “the call.” Usually, it has to deal with getting an agent or getting published or getting an accolade. What was the best “call” you ever received in terms of your writing, and how did it go down?
I love this story! I finished the manuscript for what became “Amor and Summer Secrets” in late 2006. As we were about to start submitting it to publishers, my agent called and said she spoke with an editor who was looking for a Latina YA novel, but she wanted it to feature a Quinceanera. At the time, my novel did not have this element; in fact in the original draft, the character Lilly was 17 years old and the events of her Quinceanera occurred at a nightclub.
I spent two weeks revising the manuscript and was shocked when I loved the book so much more afterward. It added a layer that I didn’t know was missing. We submitted the manuscript to Kate Duffy at Kensington on a Thursday and by the following Tuesday, I got THE CALL.
It was Fat Tuesday. I was at Mardi Gras.
My husband, Jordan, and I had spent the morning catching beads from parade floats in New Orleans. We stopped in our hotel room to dump our bounty when my cell phone rang. It was my agent.
I was wearing a sequined mask with feathers and my favorite strings of gold, purple and green beads that I had caught during the trip (on my website, there is a photo of me on the phone with my agent during that exact moment: http://www.dianarodriguezwallach.com/amor_and_summer_secrets_story.html).
Let me just say that there is no better place on Earth to be when you get good news than Mardi Gras. There was actually a parade going on outside of my hotel room. I hung up the phone and spent the rest of the day dancing in the French Quarter with hundreds of costumed strangers and drinking hurricanes at Pat O’Briens—awesome!
Thank you, Diana! For more about all things Diana, visit Diana’s site.