How did you become an author?
I started writing. No, seriously, you become an author when you start writing.
Ugh, I meant a published author.
It took a long time, so I’ll try to make this as short as possible. I wrote a book when I was fourteen that wasn’t very good, I tried to revise it, and queried before it was ready. Then I wrote another book, revised it, shared with critique partners, and queried for a long time before signing with my first agent. My book didn’t sell. Then I wrote another book, revised it, queried it, and signed with my current agent, Brianne Johnson at Writers House. We did tons of revisions that made the book better than I thought it could be, went on submission, and got an offer from my editor less than a day later.
That doesn’t usually happen!!!!! I almost fainted. Seriously. I actually had an asthma attack instead. But it was magical and incredible and one of the best moments ever.
Why didn’t your first book sell?
Sometimes books don’t sell. No one ever really talks about it, because you aren’t supposed to talk about submission, but it’s important to me that people know this. It’s normal. Lots of people’s first or second or even third books don’t sell. It’s okay. Start working on the next one.
What is the best and worst part of being a writer?
The best part of being a writer is people seeing my work. I imagine stories and characters all of the time, so it’s the absolute best to share them with people. The worst part of being a writer is when I get to a good part and have to stop.
How do I become a better writer?
I don’t think there’s ever a point where you’re the best author you can be. There’s always room to improve. But write, read as much as you can (especially in the category you’re writing), and learn how to revise. Making other writer friends helps a ton with that. They can critique your manuscript. I wouldn’t be here without my first critique partner (shout out to Jenni!)
Can you refer me to your agent and/or publisher?
No, I can’t. Sorry!
Can you read my manuscript?
I can’t do this, either. Double sorry.
Why are there so many people of color/queer people in your book?
My mom actually asked me this, too. Have you been talking to my mom?
I’m a person of color and also queer, so I like to write characters who are like me. I first started writing with fanfiction. One of the reasons why (I think) it’s so popular is because readers are able to see themselves in their favorite stories. You have black Hermiones and queer Bucky/Steve. Fanfiction is great, but I wanted my books to be a place where readers could see themselves without having to search the Internet. Representation is incredibly important. I want kids who don’t usually see themselves to get stories, especially fun ones.
Plus, queer people of color are just fun to write.
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What are your favorite books?
Are you prepared to ask that question?
Young adult: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, the Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan (this starts off middle grade, but…), The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, Noteworthy by Riley Redgate, Dear Martin by Nic Stone, Dread Nation by Justin Ireland, Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke, Like Water by Rebecca Podos, The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth, The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee, and Autoboyography by Christina Lauren. Anything by Laurie Halse Anderson, Jason Reynolds, and Becky Albertalli.
(I read A LOT of YA. This list will probably be longer by the time you finish reading.)
Middle Grade: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan, The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester, The Giver by Lois Lowry, and The Shadow Cypher by Laura Ruby.
Adult: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, Ordinary People by Judith Guest, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, Black Boy by Richard Wright, and Hunger by Roxane Gay.