What blows me away about today’s featured author, Stephanie Diaz, is how young she is, yet what an amazing handle she has on the publishing world. She has been writing since a very young age. She started querying at 13! What were you doing at 13? I think I was chasing after boys and playing with make-up – certainly not going after my publishing dream! But what Stephanie doesn’t have in years, she surely makes up for in her mature approach to having her novel, EXTRACTION published. Stephanie’s journey is full of ups and downs like all of us, but what is so compelling about her is her constant commitment to her story and the craft of writing.
Here is Stephanie’s writing odyssey…
Amy: What inspires you to write YA Fiction?
Stephanie: I just turned 20 recently, so I am a young adult. It’s always seemed natural to me to write for my age group, because I understand teenagers (mostly). But I hope my work also has cross-over appeal!
Amy: Was EXTRACTION your first completed manuscript?
Stephanie: EXTRACTION is my third completed manuscript, not counting the two middle grade novels I wrote for fun in elementary school.
Amy: How long did it take to complete?
Stephanie: The first draft took me a month and a half. Revisions prior to signing with Alison took something like five months overall. This is partly because I received two revise and resubmit requests while querying, and both times I did hefty revisions.
Amy: Did you use critique partners for EXTRACTION? If so, how did that affect your writing process?
Stephanie: I used many critique partners and beta readers throughout the process. Every single one of them helped me see things in a new light and gave me the confidence to keep writing. I owe them ALL the love.
Amy: When you first wrote your query for EXTRACTION did it come easily or did it go through many drafts?
Stephanie: I went through a LOT of drafts for the query. I can’t even remember how many. The lovely writers over at Agent Query Connect helped me come up with something that I initially sent out, but after I received quite a few rejections, I began trying variations. A couple weeks in, I whipped up a brand-new query that finally started getting me requests!
Amy: How many queries did you send for EXTRACTION?
Stephanie: *apparates to Query Tracker* I sent 144 queries. Of those, I had 26 requests for material and 4 offers of representation.
Amy: Did you receive immediate response or did you have to twist your hands and wait a while?
Stephanie: The response times varied from a couple days to a few weeks. The agent who first offered rep actually requested a full the same day and offered a week after I queried her. But it took four months to the day from when I sent the first query to when I received my first offer of rep.
Amy: As many writers know, the publishing world is very hard to break into. What was the one thing you did to help garner agent attention?
Stephanie: I’m not sure that I did anything special, besides trying my hardest to wait until my manuscript was ready before sending it out (ahem, I sort of failed with that at first). I also participated in a couple blog contests that earned me partial or full requests.
Amy: What was your “call” like with your agent, Alison Fargis?
Stephanie: When Alison called me, I knew almost immediately that she was the one I wanted to sign with. We scheduled the call, and I’d already had another call with an agent beforehand, so I was prepared with a couple questions to ask her. What I didn’t expect was for her AND her co-agent to be so enthusiastic. I was on the phone with both of them at once (because I had originally queried her co-agent), and their passion for my story is what made me fall in love with them. I felt like I had the whole agency rooting for me instead of just one person—and even knowing one person believed in my novel was ridiculously awesome and hard to believe. Alison was simply lovely. I had three other offers from amazing agents, but in the end, picking her was easy.
Amy: What was one piece of advice you got during your early writing stages that has stuck with you to this day?
Stephanie: Some of the first agents I queried back when I was 13 told me to just keep writing. I think that’s the most important thing. If you love it, put everything you have into your work. Keep learning as much as you can, and keep at it. Don’t ever lose that passion.
Stephanie is 20. She was born and raised in Southern California, and will graduate from San Diego State University this spring with a bachelor’s degree in film production. She intends to visit the Shire someday and hopes to be the next Doctor’s companion. Her work is represented by Alison Fargis of Stonesong. For more information on Stephanie check out her website or follow her on Twitter.