Happy Holidays, everyone! This week, I’m interviewing Sonora Reyes, the creator of #QPOCChat, who is also an author represented by Alexandra Levick of Writers House. Read on to see what inspired Sonora to write their novel, how they coped with rejection along the way, and some tips for self-care while you’re in the query trenches yourself.
Hi Sonora! Can you tell me about the book that got you your agent?
SR: I never planned on writing THE LESBIANA’S GUIDE TO CATHOLIC SCHOOL. Up until the moment I started writing it, I was afraid of being made fun of for writing a “self-insert.” I have so much in common with my main character, Yamilet. We’re both queer first-generation Mexican-Americans who went to a Catholic high school.
It wasn’t until NaNoWriMo in 2018 that I was forced to write something “easy” (spoiler alert: it wasn’t easy). I wanted to write about something I knew intimately because I didn’t have time to world-build or research if I was going to write a book in a month. I wrote the book, and it quickly became the book of my heart. Now I almost exclusively write books about queer Latinx folk, because can we ever really have too many of those books?
Can you tell me a bit about your querying journey? Was the project that got you your agent the first book you queried?
SR: The Lesbiana’s Guide To Catholic School was the first book I queried, and I was lucky enough to get my amazing agent with it! I workshopped my query letter to death, then sent it out widely and crossed my fingers. I will never complain about getting an offer, but the timing was not something I was prepared for.
My first offer came the day after I had just gotten a major surgery, so, needless to say, I was a bit detached from reality. The whole thing felt like a fever dream, and still does. In my pain medicine induced haze, I managed to email every other agent that had my query about the offer. I spent my two-week recovery period sending out my full manuscript and pinching myself. (It didn’t hurt because of the pain meds, but also maybe because it was a dream?) I ended up with several offers from all incredible agents!
I ultimately ended up choosing to work with Alexandra Levick of Writers House, and it turns out that the whole experience was very much real!
Was there a time in your querying journey when you felt like giving up?
SR: I am one of those weird people who finds the querying process fun. I loved researching agents and tailoring the query letter to them. There were definitely a few rejections that stung, but I treated myself to some ice cream and moved on. I eventually distracted myself by working on a new project, and that worked out really well for me. I was so excited about the new project that the rejections didn’t hurt as much.
How did you get the strength to keep trying?
SR: I had to put it all in perspective. This doesn’t work for everyone, but for me, preparing for the worst and hoping for the best is the way to go. I worked on another book so that if the first one didn’t work out, I would have a backup. I read a ton of other novels while I was querying to refill my well. I also spent time with family and friends as much as I could to get my mind completely off of publishing.
Do you have any advice for querying authors?
SR: Take care of yourself! Don’t sacrifice your health for your book. Know that rejection isn’t necessarily a reflection on you as an author and try not to dwell on it for too long. Take as much time for self-care as you need in order to deal with the rejection in a healthy way. When I was querying, I treated myself to dinner every five rejections. That helped me not get too down on myself when they came. Of course I still workshopped my manuscript and query letter, but having that dinner made the rejections hurt less, and I even got excited when the fifth one came around!
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
SR: Plotter 100%! I can’t start drafting without an outline of every major event. Otherwise I just stare at a blank page for all of eternity.
Who would your dream co-author be?
SR: Oh gosh, this is such a hard question! There are so many that would be the absolute dream to work with. If I had to choose one, I think I’d say Zoraida Córdova. She’s one of my favorite authors, and I am in love her unapologetically Latinx characters. It’s my dream to one day write a QPoC legend like Alex Mortíz in Labrynth Lost. Working with her in any capacity would be incredible.
What’s a book you’ve read lately that you’re OBSESSED with?
SR: Anna Meriano’s A DASH OF TROUBLE! It’s been a couple of months, and I still think about it and giggle to myself. It’s so cute and fun and I loved every second of it!
What’s your author dream? Fanart? Movie adaptation? Fanfic?
SR: While I’m not above daydreaming about a Netflix deal, my biggest dream is to make a living off of my books. I want to live comfortably while writing full-time. THAT is the dream.
What’s the hardest part about being a writer?
SR: The imposter syndrome for sure. I’m hoping one day that will go away, but it’s hard not to feel that doubt. I have to constantly remind myself that real imposters don’t get imposter syndrome, and that helps. But then when the imposter syndrome goes away, I’m wondering if that makes me an imposter since I don’t have it! Then it comes back. It’s a vicious cycle.
What’s the best part?
SR: All those “a-ha!” moments that come at any time of the day. When I’m in the shower or at the drive-thru or trying to sleep and I get an epiphany that fixes every problem in the book. As long as I remember to write the idea down, that’s the best part.
Favorite writing snack?
You created #QPOCChat. How has that experience been for you, creating a chat and connecting with other QPOC creators?
SR: It’s been amazing! I’ve connected with so many wonderful people through the chat. I wasn’t expecting the amount of support it’s gotten, but I couldn’t be happier with it. I always find myself looking forward to that time of the month, and I feel so fulfilled when the chat ends. It’s so lovely to see so many other QPOC out there doing the good work.
Do you have any QPOC creators you’d like to boost, while you’re here?
SR: Oh goodness I wish I could boost everyone right now! I’ll keep it to a few, but definitely keep an eye out for the next #QPOCChat on the second Thursday of every month to find more QPOC creators to follow!
Adelle Yeung (@Adelle_Yeung
) is an incredibly talented author and artist! All of her books are brilliant and hilarious. I absolutely cannot wait for them to be out in the world!
Jonny Garza Villa
). I’m beta reading SUNSHINE AND MOONLIGHT right now and let me tell you I have emotional whiplash from all the laughing and crying I’ve been doing.
Emery Lee (@EmeryLeeWho
) is another really talented artist and author! E has a webcomic about a little queer werewolf and I’m loving it!
What is your author goal for 2020?
SR: To get a book deal. Fingers crossed!
Do you have any advice for QPOC authors who are struggling in the query trenches?
SR: Don’t let the “didn’t connect with the voice” comments get you down. Not everyone is going to be right for your story, but that will just make it all the more satisfying to find that one agent who is your perfect fit!
What are some ways writers can boost and support you and other QPOC writers?
SR: Follow us on Twitter! Seek out books by and about QPOC, and if you can’t buy them, request them at your local libraries, and review them on Goodreads, Barnes & Noble and Amazon! Reviews save lives!
Sonora, thank you so much for your time!
Click here to follow Sonora on Twitter, and read more about them below!
About Sonora Reyes
Born and raised in Arizona, Sonora Reyes is the author of the forthcoming contemporary young adult novel, THE LESBIANA’S GUIDE TO CATHOLIC SCHOOL. They write fiction full of queer and Latinx characters in a variety of genres, with current projects in both kid lit and adult categories.
Sonora currently lives in Arizona in a multi-generational, multi-cultural family home with a small pack of dogs who run the place. Outside of writing, Sonora loves dancing, singing karaoke, and playing with their baby nephew.