When I was a child, I don’t recall seeing very many Latinx characters in the literature I read in school, the programs I watched on television or the movies I watched on the silver screen. Even though the times that we live in now are certainly more inclusive than generations past, there is still much room for improvement. Asian authors only make up four percent of the author population. African American authors encompass nearly six percent. Authors of Hispanic/Latino descent consist of only a few percent more, currently making up seven percent of the author population in the United States.
There is a growing number of authors of color who have rich stories to tell about their personal and cultural experiences. However, a saturated book market and the pervasive gatekeeping in the publishing industry, among other things, makes it difficult for authors of color to place their stories front in center to shine, for everyone to see and appreciate.
One such author is Candice Yamnitz, a Latina young adult author from my state of Illinois. She is a homeschooling mom, blogger, and teacher. She taught in an elementary dual-language classroom for seven years before having her three spirited children. She mentored teen girls for years and aims to inspire through stories.
Her debut novel, Unbetrothed, was released in February 2022 with Illuminate YA. It tackles self-worth in a Latin-inspired, magical world. She infused her experiences visiting her family in Puerto Rico and Mexico.
When she’s not inventing magical worlds, she’s spending time with her family, chatting with the #bookstagram community, illustrating new characters, or reading a book.
I had the pleasure to interview Candice about her journey and this is what she shared:
What inspired you to become an author?
I fell in love with reading when I was a senior in high school and chose to minor in English. Throughout all the time I spent reading, I loved processing life through different perspectives, but I didn’t see myself in the books I read. A story sparked in my mind one day while I was writing, and I just needed to write it.
Where did you get the idea to write your book?
UNBETROTHED is my second book baby. My idea came in a strange postpartum stage where I realized I wouldn’t return to my career, and I was working through the toddler stages. I also mentored teen girls who also juggled inadequacy and them finding their place in life. My story started with a premise about a princess with no magical gifting while everyone else had a gifting.
How would you describe the book publishing process?
The book publishing process looks different for everyone. Mine took 5 years of showing up to my laptop. In that time, I wrote and edited more times than I can count. I finished my book. Then, I queried to find an agent. Once I signed with an agent, I edited again. We went on submission with publishers. A hand full of publishers were interested and eventually one offered a contract. Of course, once I got the contract, we edited again.
What went smoothly for you?
Nothing. Every part of the process took effort and learning. I wrote most of the book within a month and that was the smoothest part, but it still took time, and the end result wasn’t lovely.
What challenges did you face?
I faced lots of rejection. I went through writer’s block soon into my project. I also edited my manuscript at least 20 times.
What are your impressions about Latinx representation in young adult literature?
Growing up, YA novels didn’t exist and neither did having Latino protagonists. If we were in books, we’d have to fit into a certain box. Lately, I’ve seen an uptick in Latinos being published in YA, ranging from romance, fantasy, and contemporary. When I first started writing, I wasn’t seeing this outpour of own voice authors telling their stories. Even still, I don’t know many high fantasy books with Latinos.
What would you like to see more of?
I’d love to see open and honest arguments in books—always in a fun storyline.
What do you enjoy the most about the writing process?
I love when you reach that moment in drafting where everything clicks together. You’re just typing the conversations and things you see in your mind’s eye.
What do you enjoy least?
I hate editing the first draft. The writing process always seems fun until I have to clean up the mess I wrote and rearrange the events. I much prefer line editing an almost finished draft or writing something new.
What advice would you give to other young people of color who are interested in writing/publishing but may not know where to start?
- Start writing today no matter your ability. No one starts writing high-level writing without practice.
- Read a lot of books. Books in your genre. Books about writing. Even audiobooks. You need to know what professional writing looks and sounds like.
- Find a serious writing group and share your work.
- After you’ve gotten feedback and have edited your work, attend writing conferences.
Unbethothed can be found on Amazon.com: Unbetrothed: 9781645263425: Pedraza Yamnitz, Candice: Books