Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?
Francesca Flores: The setting and character came to me first for Diamond City! For months before writing, I heard Aina’s voice and wrote down little bits of dialogue from her. She was strong and opinionated, but also vulnerable, so I wanted to get to know her better. For the setting, I started picturing a gritty, dangerous world with industrial-era technology. I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, which has a long history of steel work in the US’ industrializing era, so that helped me bring this world to life. I wanted it to be a society in the middle of great change, and see how that change affects different social classes within that society, especially the poor, immigrants, and people of the traditional religion in this world, which is banned. But I also wanted witty, morally-gray characters and fast-paced, heart-pounding scenes, so it all tied together to make an assassin character fighting her way through this world and being critical of the different injustices she sees and experiences
What character in this novel do you most relate to and why?
In some ways Aina and in some ways Tannis, who is another assassin working for the same boss as Aina. They’ve both used to fending for themselves and having to fight for a chance at a better life. They both need to learn how to trust people more and how to ask for help. I relate to that and I think a lot of readers will as well! They’re also both quite athletic and so am I, so it was fun to write that into their personalities.
Why do you feel novels with powerful and unique characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?
I think that young people in our world today have a front-row seat to the injustices that happen everywhere in our world, and are finding a lot more ways to talk about it and share their beliefs, especially with more ways to talk to and connect with each other than ever before. Authors are finding ways to incorporate these strong voices into their books. As more diverse voices are coming out of YA, that allows different points of view to shine and have voices heard that haven’t been given much opportunity before, and I think that, in turn, can help inspire more unique characters throughout all of YA. Books have great influence and as authors we should recognize that. If young characters have strong voices, young readers can find ways to show their own strong voices.
Please describe the content of your latest read and what can readers expect from it.
I’m reading Jade War by Fonda Lee and LOVING it! It’s the sequel to Jade City, and both are full of action and complex characters. The characters leap off the page, the fight scenes are incredible, the use of jade as the world’s magic system is really unique, and I feel completely immersed in the world.
What’s next for you in the books world?
Soon the title and cover for the sequel of Diamond City will be revealed, and I can’t wait to share this book with readers. It’s wrapping up the duology and has more action, more magic, more romance, and a lot of challenges for Aina to overcome. After I finish revisions for my sequel, I’ll be working on my third book, which is another YA fantasy and I can’t wait to write it. It has elements of different characters, emotions and places that have inspired me over the years, all put together and becoming its own thing
Who is your current favorite writer? Why?
I adore Sabaa Tahir! I’m completely invested in her series, AN EMBER IN THE ASHES. I fangirl every time I go to one of her signings. She stands up for what she believes in, and she’s super funny! Her Instagram stories, especially the talking vegetables, are my favorite thing. I CANNOT wait for the final book of the quartet and to read whatever she writes next!
Any writing advice for aspiring writers?
Practice writing/revising as much as you can and try to avoid feeling pressured to publish “right now.” The first book you write doesn’t need to be the first book you publish. Publishing requires a lot of patience, and writing is a skill to hone, not a formula to conquer. Practice will help you find your voice, learn your own process, and figure out what you really enjoy writing about. Study books in your genre to see how to make readers really feel something, and read craft books to learn ways to make your story more effective. My last bit of advice would be to not fear doing a lot of work. If the story or a major part of it needs to be rewritten (if multiple trusted people have given you the same constructive feedback), then the work is always worth it. Make sure you have a clear vision before diving into revisions, and keep your mind focused on the story you want to convey.