Interviewer: Deborah, HYW managing editor
What made you decide to become a writer?
As a first-generation Mexican American growing up in the South, I had an interesting childhood. You see, my parents made the decision to only teach me and my siblings English. They worried that speaking Spanish might hold us back academically. As a result, I felt a gap between myself and my heritage (my grandparents, for example, spoke broken English). Storytelling helped bridge the gap between my past and present, and creative writing became a way to process what I navigated in my youth.
What drew you to speculative fiction and fantasy?
All the great sci-fi and fantasy out there are really just vehicles for working through deeper, human-centric themes. It’s not really about alien invasions or impending galactic battles, is it? Speculative fiction is a huge sandbox for writers to play in!
What is your writing process like?
I subscribe to “Discovery Writing,” where you develop a simple premise and character goal and then jump head-first into writing. The first draft then becomes an outline of sorts. I’ve just always found that outlining takes the fun out of writing, but that’s just me.
Can you tell us about the experience of having a book published? What were the highlights and challenges of the process?
Being published traditionally is the culmination of so much work. It’s a dream come true. What I didn’t expect was how much control I’d have to relinquish—in a good way. You really have to trust your editor, your marketing team, your publicist, etc. They all believe in you and your story, so it’s important to identify which battles are/aren’t worth fighting. All in all, I could not have asked for a more amazing, talented team to launch my debut series.
Do you have any advice for young writers interested in this genre?
Writers are readers first. If you hope to write a completed manuscript, it’s important to be consuming books in the genre you’re writing in. It seems like a no-brainer, I know, but it makes a world of difference when you can learn from the best.
Julian R. Vaca is a first-generation Mexican American and first-generation college graduate. His writing has appeared in The Nerd Daily, Writer’s Digest, and more. His debut series The Memory Index (HarperCollins) is available wherever books are sold.