Interview with Candice Pedraza Yamnitz
Hey, story-lovers! I recently had the pleasure to interview the amazing Candice Pedraza Yamnitz, and after putting off the transcript for a bit too long, it's my joy to publish our conversation!
To begin with, would you be willing just to introduce yourself?
Yes—my name is Candice Pedraza Yamnitz, and I am a YA fantasy author. My debut novel, Unbetrothed, just came out in February, so I’m really excited to talk about it and share about, just, the whole publishing process.
Personally, what do you think makes a good book? What do you look for in a good book?
I just want it to sweep me away where I feel like I am the character and I’m on an adventure.
The tagline of this blog is “Remember the stories”, and it’s championing the idea that stories can spark hope even in the darkest of situations. Do you have any personal experiences that would go along with that?
I definitely agree with you, first. And my favorite book is A Voice in the Wind—I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it; it’s by Francine Rivers. I always give a caution with that one which is, like, if you struggle with sexual sin, that’s not the book for you, but it definitely inspired me to, first of all, to write something with a little bit of hope and to not back away from a Christian message. Another thing is it inspires me is to pray more, because that’s like a huge theme you’ll see woven throughout the entire story.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
[laughs] Can I think that quickly, or do I need to edit my words a few more times. . . I am, I don’t know. . . spunky. . . spontaneous. . . I’m not trying to go for s’s, I promise. . . and impulsive? I don’t know.
When you were writing Unbetrothed, why did you write it? What inspired you to start writing it?
Well. . . I think I was going through an interesting season. I’d just had my second child, I was a youth group leader, and I was just struggling with that feeling of inadequacy. I think it was finally then that it hit me, like, I am never going back to teaching. And, you know, just being at home with a toddler—if you’ve ever had a toddler or have ever been around one, you know that they are very difficult.
So there was that, and I was struggling with inadequacy and self-worth at that time, and then I’m looking at my youth group girls, and I’m like “Oh, they’re struggling with it too.” It looked a little different than mine, but, I mean. . . Some of us had similar responses, some of us didn’t, and that’s kind of what inspired the theme and the main character.
How did you get the idea? We talked about what inspired writing it, but did it start as a character, as a line of dialogue, as a plot. . . ? How did it start?
It’s hard because, I like to, you know, daydream about books like months in advance, and it was kind of just one of those things that I kept on thinking about, this character. . . I think it was the character first and her going on some adventure for magic. I was like, Okay, this’ll be fun, and I started just daydreaming about it all the time, couldn’t get it out of my head, and, finally, when January came around, I was like, I am writing this, so. . . kind of what started it.
If you could meet the characters from Unbetrothed, what would you say to them?
Oh. . . I think I say it through her dad, like, “You really don’t need this gifting to be, you know, to think that you’re okay, that you’re worthy and everything." I kind of say it through her parents a little bit, but she doesn’t get it and she has to do what she has to do in order to get what she thinks she needs in order to have worth.
When you were writing it, who were you writing it for? Who was the ideal reader in your mind as you were writing?
The ideal reader was a teen girl anywhere between thirteen and eighteen, maybe even older, like mid/young twenties, loves reading edgy fantasy with strong woman characters, and who might like picking up—what is it, I’m like It’s The Assassins' Creed but, no, it’s not that one. . . like Sarah Maas’ books, that type of thing, or even the select and that kind of thing, but they want something clean, and they want something with a Christian message.
Was there anything strange or unusual that you had to research for writing it?
Oh, goodness, plenty of things. So, I mean, first I spent way too much time figuring out distance, like how long it would take to travel up mountainsides and, like, around mountains, and on horseback versus walking. There’s that. That wasn’t really the strange one; the strange one was figuring out how people die, like how long does it take for a sword wound to kill someone? Like, how much money actually leaks out, can you actually survive, yeah. I mistakenly killed someone with a cheek wound, and my editor was like “Um, no, absolutely not”, and then we had a detailed conversation about death.
When you are writing, did you listen to any music while you were doing it, and what?
I listened, like, you go to youtube and you look up “emotional instrumental music”, and I found one, and I listened to the same one over and over and over, had it on my favorites, but then I changed laptops and I have no idea where that music is anymore. But, like, it was perfect—it swept me away and I was able to write while listening to it and got caught up in scenes, so, yeah, I recommend it to anyone—I actually wish I could share what I was listening to, but it got lost with the laptop.
What was the hardest part to write? Was it the beginning, the middle, the end, a certain scene?
I would think it’s the first few chapters. Writing an unlikable character—‘cause technically Beatriz is unlikable, and it’s funny because people either really dislike or her really love her because they can relate to her. And it’s incredibly challenging to just write a character who’s kind of snobby.
Were there any times while you were writing that you wanted to give up on it?
Oh, yes. For sure. So, like, I wrote it, and I—I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of “pitch wars”? So it’s like a mentoring contest thing, and I decided to finish before pitch wars because I was going to submit it. So I was going to edit it a bit more before that and submit it, because, obviously, it was ready. And, obviously, I got no bites for that, so I edited it again and again, and I went to a conference.
The agents were like “Hey, submit it to me!” But one agent was like ‘Well, it’s your writing”, and I was like, “Okay. . . what does that mean?” So, yeah, I needed to improve my writing. So I kind of quit writing for a few months and worked on something else and came back to it, and it kind of went back and forth for a while just me querying and editing. And after a certain amount of time, I was like, “I think I should give up”, like, I’m not going to do anything with this, but one last hurrah before I give up is that I wanted to join the ACFW Genesis contest, and I was like, “Okay, the only finished manuscript I have is Unbetrothed, so I am going to submit this one because it’s what I have.”
So I ended up becoming a semi-finalist and getting all this feedback and it was really encouraging. And I went to a conference and asked people “How do I use this feedback that I was given?” And they told me “Well, you can do this, this. . .” and I had options and I had something to do with it. So I submitted to an agent again but I didn’t submit Unbetrothed because it needed some work. And I just continued working on that feedback; I did faith pitch—I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of that one—through Twitter, so for you or anyone who hasn’t heard of it, you just go to Twitter and you hashtag #faithpitch, and it happens, maybe, I think twice a year now?
My agent liked it, and I submitted it to her, and in a week she was like “Send me the whole thing.” So I sent her the whole thing, and I got a contract. And after you get a contract you go through an editing process again and you submit, and it’s kind of like querying except with publishers. So, yeah, I think I’ve given up on that one over and over again but it keeps coming back, because I really enjoy the characters.
So it was the characters that kept reminding you of why you liked it and why you were writing it in the first place?
Exactly, and it was fun, I mean, I had fun with it. A lot of friends who read it are like “Oh, I was laughing at some points”, and, like, I think it was just kind of playful. I mean, it still goes kind of dark, it’s fantasy and everything, but there are just instances where I’m like “I’m just going to play with the character a little bit”—she’s just kind of snobby and thinks too much of herself; we’ll just make her mess up here, and we’ll make her mess up here again, and just, you know, that sort of thing. It was just one of those kinds of things where you’re just playing back and forth with the character and putting her in different situations.
You mentioned it was kind of a long process; when did you start writing? How long did it take to do the first draft?
So the first draft was actually pretty quick. Like, I started it in January—it was five years ago—I started in January and wrote the first ten chapters, and then I, like, probably got off on tangents, and I stopped. So, in July, I’m like, I’m definitely going to do pitch wars. So I finished probably three fourths of the book in July, and that’s it. So, yeah, that was the first draft; it was pretty quick. So I recommend it to anyone; if you’ve got a story in your head, write a synopsis and then just go and finish the story just because it’s best to have that first draft. So, yeah, it was pretty quick.
At one point you mentioned a sequel—are you planning on putting this into a series, or. . . what’s next for you in the publishing process?
So I don’t know how the publishing process works for this, but, usually with my friends who’ve had series or duologies, they get a contract for two books, or whatever. They just write it. For me and my publishing house, I got a contract for one book, and I’ll have to submit to them again. I don’t know how it works, and I have to write the sequel, because, when I was writing Unbetrothed, I was going to finish it, like, make it a clean cut, like, the end, happy ending. But I think as I was going I realized: The character arc is done, but I haven’t wrapped up everything. And I like series, so—I’m like, it’s not a bit thing for me, but I want it to be a series, but, at the same time, it’s like “Okay, well, I’m going to have to leave this a loose end or it’ll feel too quick for me, like it’s not the proper end.”
All right, well, last but not least, where can we find your book? Where is it being sold, and where can we get a copy?
Well, you can go to amazon, and you can go to goodreads, and you can find a list of stores—I don’t know every store; I haven’t seen them all. Like, the Book Depository of Colorado, Barnes and Noble, and then a million other stores that I have no idea what they are. So. The easiest way is amazon.
It’s been a pleasure to have you for an interview!