Friday, September 12, 2008

What's Fresh with Diana Rodriguez Wallach's Amor and Summer Secrets

All She Never Wanted.

For fifteen-year-old Mariana Ruiz, it's not so much an unexpected vacation as a literal "guilt trip"-her father's way of atoning for ignoring his Puerto Rican roots. But freedom from her parents is little compensation for being forced to spend two months with complete strangers rather than with her best friends in Philadelphia.

Once on "vacation," her worst fears come true. The heat is merciless, the food is spicy, and her great aunt and uncle's mountain house teems with relatives, only one of whom-her distant cousin Lilly-speaks English. Bored, and hoping to make up for missing her best friend's star-studded Sweet 16, Mariana offers to help in the planning of Lilly's Quinceañera. Soon, despite herself, Mariana clicks with new friends who open doors to romance and long-hidden secrets. Suddenly the summer she dreaded is ending way too quickly. It might turn out that the last place she ever wanted to go is the one place she truly finds herself.

Funny, touching, and smart, Amore and Summer Secrets is a story about friendship, family, rivalry, secrets, and how much you can change over the course of one loco summer.

Hi Diana! Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?

Diana: Prior to becoming an author, I spent several years working as a reporter for trade magazines in Manhattan. During that time I wrote lots and lots of copy very, very quickly. This actually laid the foundation for the speed in which I write my novels today (who knew those jobs would pay off?).

That said, I finished my first novel in the spring of 2005—not to sound strange, but I actually dreamt the entire concept for that book. And knowing nothing about the publishing industry, I Googled, “How to get your book published.” I started submitting my query letter in June 2005. Two weeks later, I got an agent — Jenoyne Adams, who responded to my e-query within five minutes and who offered me representation within 24 hours (how awesome is she?).

To date, that book has yet to sell (maybe I’ll release it on my website some day, stay tuned). However, I went on to write “Amor and Summer Secrets,” which we submitted to Kate Duffy at Kensington Publishing 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!

Great story, Diana! Readers and writers often like to get a behind the scenes peek of an author's writing routine. It would be great if you could please share your typical writing day schedule.

The hardest part of the writing process for me is the rough draft. When I’m working on something new, I try to bang out 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.

After I have a draft complete, I usually let it sit for about two weeks then I begin editing. This is part of the process that I most enjoy. During the first round of edits, I probably go through about 20 pages per day. During later rounds, I can go through as many as 60-pages per day.

My husband is always my first reader, and he usually catches a lot of my plotting and grammatical problems. After I make these corrections, I send it to my agent—who has fabulous beta readers who offer editorial feedback within a week. I make those changes, then I send it back to my agent to read.

Please tell us about your latest novel Amor and Summer Secrets and what we can expect from your characters.

Diana: Amor and Summer Secrets, which is being released by Kensington Publishing in September 2008, is the first in a three-book series. The sequels to the series, Amigas and School Scandals and Adios to all the Drama, will be released in November 2008 and January 2009, respectively.

In Amor and Summer Secrets, 15-year-old Mariana Ruíz has her summer turned upside down. With total disregard to the high-glam Sweet 16 her best friend is hosting, Mariana’s father ships her off to a tiny mountain town in Puerto Rico to stay with family she’s never met. After spending her entire life sheltered in the affluent suburbs of Philadelphia, her new unair-conditioned living accommodations are not exactly her idea of a vacation. The heat is merciless, the food is spicy, and only one of her relatives—her distant cousin Lilly—speaks English. Her consolation prize is Lilly’s homespun Puerto Rican Quinceãnera. Only the unexpectedly festive party exposes Mariana to more than just the culture she’s always ignored. Soon, Mariana finds new friends, her first love, and a family dark secret that’s been buried on the island for more than 30 years.

Looking forward to reading it! What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.

Diana: I’m currently editing a draft of a new YA novel. It’s a complete departure from what I’ve done in the past—lost of spies, suspense, fight scenes and, of course, a love triangle. I’m really excited about it. The character is all about girl power, and her dialogue is a blast to write. I hope to have it ready for the publishing world soon!

Thanks for sharing, Diana! Best of luck with your series. Would you like to close with a writing tip?

Diana: Learn to take constructive criticism. When I first started out, I took feedback too personally. I couldn’t seem to separate myself from the work. But as I’ve grown through this process, I welcome editorial suggestions. It’s the only way to improve your writing.

Also, learn the fine art of patience. This business moves at the speed of a turtle. And trust me, after a few years even the most impatient people (i.e. ‘me’) can learn to sit back and wait. The faster you learn this virtue, the saner you’ll be.

Born to a Puerto Rican father and a Polish mother, I have experienced the cultures that my characters inhabit, and many of the multi-cultural themes expressed in my series are based on my personal background. I have a journalism degree from Boston University, and I have worked as a reporter and as an advocate for inner city public schools. I currently live in Philadelphia with my husband. For more information, visit

4 fresh comments:

Alea said...

Wow! This sounds like a great book. When I was little, 9, I went with my dad to visit our relatives in the middle east. For the most part a lot of them spoke english but I still was left out of a lot of conversations. It was definitely an overwhelming experience at first, but I really did have a nice time and got a chance to meet my family :)

Melissa Walker said...

Great back story! I love the celebratory photos too!

TinaFerraro said...

Thanks for joining us, Diana! And I couldn't agree more on patience in this business, and learning to take constructive criticism.

Diana Rodriguez Wallach said...

Thanks guys! I hope you all enjoy the book!