Sometimes sharing the diversity of your truth can lead you to success in the publishing industry, a reality for Latina author Priscilla Oliveras. Early in her career, she embraced the industry’s grain instead of embracing the uniqueness of her heritage–something that would prompt a shift in her perspective and her writing. Learning the lesson from this experience helped her find her voice and develop stories that embody what’s unique and beautiful about the Puerto Rican influences in her world, her family, her life, and love. Writing what she knows, from the heart, helped her score a publishing deal with Kensington’s Zebra Shout imprint and find a devoted audience who love her sweet romances that highlight the complexities of love and family with splashes of Latinx culture intertwined. Priscilla joined Diverse Romance to share with our readers the lows, highs, and lessons of her writing journey.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a published author.
Goodness, I’ve been writing for over two decades. I started my first book when I was a married college student with a newborn and, due to a military move, I had to take a semester off of school. Over the years I’ve raised three daughters, earned several degrees and moved across the US and the Pacific Ocean. There were times when I barely got a word on the page…life’s responsibilities have a tendency to take priority. However, I’m a long-time member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), and I do believe that the friends, mentors, and contacts I’ve made along the way helped to keep stoking the fire within me to write, to get published, and to eventually hold my own book in my hands. The first few books I wrote were big learning opportunities for me as I made that jump from reader to writer. I’ll admit that those early books emulated the books I saw on the shelf. Meaning, not much diversity. But as I grew in my craft and started coming into my own as a writer, I realized the stories in my head, the ones I wanted to share, were a lot like the world I actually live in—filled with diversity, especially with a Latinx influence.
I think many diverse authors struggle with writing mainstream to fit in versus writing our truth to stand out. It sounds as if you’ve struck the right balance. What sparked the idea for this Matched to Perfection series?
HER PERFECT AFFAIR is the second book in the MATCHED TO PERFECTION series featuring my beloved Fernández sisters—Yazmine, Rosa and Lilí. All three sisters have their own unique personality, yet they share a love for their Puerto Rican heritage and a deep devotion to their familia. All of my books have a Latinx flavor along with family themes, mostly because those are important aspects in my life. They say write what you know. For me, I enjoy writing about and sharing with readers the aspects of my life that are important to me—my culture and my familia.
What five words would you say best describe the stories in this series?
Let’s see…complicated, touching, emotional, family-centered, feel-good
I love to hear which lines really strike a chord with the writer when developing a story. Share a few of your favorites.
Sí, tonight Rosa Fernandez had finally decided to break away from the wallflowers and take a walk on the wild side.
A slow heartbeat later, she twisted her hand so they were palm to palm. Their fingers laced, the small sign of unity giving him a measure of hope.
She gazed up at him, her expression an interesting mix of confidence and vulnerability.
Gently, he caressed her silky hair, amazed by how drawn he was to her. How badly he wanted to protect her, care for her.
Dios mío, the very idea terrified her, which meant it was exactly the right thing.
Oh, my! Breaking away from the wallflowers. As a certified wallflower, I really want to find out what happens next. Let’s shift gears for minute. Why don’t you tell us about your writing space and your daily routine.
Well, I teach at a local college Monday-Thursday this semester, so my big writing days are Friday-Sunday. But, I do have a daily word count on my teaching days, too. Especially when I’m on deadline.
As for my writing space, it changes from time to time, depending on my mood, the weather, how stressed I am about my word count, etc. At home, we have a small office where I can write, but I also move outside to our covered porch if the weather’s nice. I have a great travel standing desk that I can take anywhere. I love it because it makes dance breaks from writing a little easier. ☺ With my teaching schedule, I also write on campus before/after class, and I’ve been known to write in my car in between work and going into the gym for Zumba. Again, when you’re on deadline, you get your writing in wherever, whenever you can. It’s kinda like: Have laptop, will write all the time.
What‘s one of your favorite reviews/comments you‘ve ever received about your writing? Who did it come from and how did it impact you?
My publisher recently shared the first official review for HER PERFECT AFFAIR and I was immensely relieved and pleased that Publishers Weekly gave the book a Starred Review. I worked so hard on Rosa and Jeremy’s story. There was intense pressure—that I put on myself—to do a good job with the second in the series. I love Rosa. She’s the quiet, generous sister that hadn’t realized her own strength until it was tested. So I really wanted to be sure I gave her and Jeremy the best I had.
Publishers Weekly said: “Oliveras tops her excellent debut, His Perfect Partner, with this revelatory, realistic second romance set among the Puerto Rican community in contemporary Chicago… (her) integration of cultural and class differences, familial expectations, and career objectives into the couple’s romantic decision making immeasurably enriches a moving plot about good people making difficult choices.
That they saw how “good” Rosa and Jeremy are and how they struggled to do the right thing even when it was difficult, which I really wanted to show, really touched me. I guess, in the same way, I hope my characters and their stories touch my readers.
Publisher’s Weekly! That’s exciting. Inevitably in the midst of our successes, we struggle. What would you say is your biggest struggle as a writer? And how do you handle it?
Starting a new book. Ooh, that Imposter Syndrome can be brutal. I doubt myself, my abilities as a writer, and whether or not the previous books were flukes. Then, I can let myself get bogged down in research or getting to know my characters, anything but putting new words on the page. What gets me out of it? Honestly, deadlines. And my desire to not disappoint someone (my agent or editor) by not meeting a set deadline. Those are real motivators–deadlines and my Catholic guilt. ☺
What was the low point of your career? And how did you handle it?
Unfortunately, this business comes with rejection. That’s the sad part of it. I was thiiiiiiiis close to selling a time or two over the years. Then an editor left the publisher or the revisions I made weren’t quite what they wanted. But, honestly, we all get bad news at one time or another. It’s how we respond that counts. Me? Well, first I eat chocolate and let myself whine for a bit…but after that, I try to see, is there a teachable moment in there somewhere? If not, I work (sometimes struggle) to put it behind me, remember a positive moment and focus on that as I keep on keeping on.
As all writers know, it’s the successes that get us through the rough spots. What would you say has been the high point of your career, so far?
I try to look at each step, each little or big success as a high point, celebrating each as they come. My Golden Heart finals; getting “The Call” from my agent; signing my first contract with Kensington; receiving the box of ARCs for my debut, HIS PERFECT PARTNER,;my first official signing with Kensington at RWA National in Orlando last year; my first release day,;being asked to write the Christmas novella; getting my first reader email; getting positive reviews…they’re all blessings I am extremely thankful for. Do I hope more come my way? Of course. But what I’ve been given thus far, and having family and friends to celebrate with…true blessings.
We really want to promote diverse authors and stories. Give us the name of a diverse author you‘ve read that you would highly recommend to readers.
Oh gosh, there’s more than one—thankfully the list of diverse authors who are published continues to grow. We need more! It goes without saying that Beverly Jenkins is an icon many of us look up to and admire, so she’d have to take the top spot. After that, these fabulous authors come to mind, too: Sonali Dev, Mia Sosa, Alexis Daria, Sabrina Sol, Falguni Kothari…I’d recommend readers check out @WOCRomance and especially that they bookmark this site because it’s a place for diverse authors to be celebrated and embraced!
As we wind down in this interview, what‘s next on your writing journey?
I’m working on a short contemporary romance that’s part of a four-author series for Tule. The series, Paradise Key, features books by Shirley Jump, Kyra Jacobs, Susan Meier and me, with my book, Resort to Love, releasing third in the series, late-May.
Also, I’m super excited to share that books 2 & 3 in my MATCHED TO PERFECTION series will release this year–HER PERFECT AFFAIR on March 27 and THEIR PERFECT MELODY on November 27.
Plus, this holiday season, I’ll be introducing one of the Fernández sisters’ cousins, Julia, in a novella titled HOLIDAY HOME RUN that will be included in Fern Michael’s A SEASON TO CELEBRATE Christmas anthology.
My hope is to continue growing the Fernández family tree and create other Latinx families for readers to fall in love with.
I believe in paying it forward, especially with advice to writers who hope to achieve success. What‘s your favorite book on the writing craft or your favorite piece of advice to writers?
The first book I recommend to any beginning author is Deb Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. It’s a great book for helping to create your characters. Another book that I’ve found extremely helpful is a text from my MFA program at Seton Hill University—Pamela Regis’s A Natural History of the Romance Novel. It does a wonderful job of breaking down the essential plot elements in a romance and takes you through different subgenres over the years, dissecting classics to show how the elements can be woven together to craft a Keeper Shelf novel. I actually give a presentation using Regis’s text and the romantic comedy “You’ve Got Mail.” ☺
To learn more about Priscilla, visit her online at:
Facebook author/reader groups: https://www.facebook.com/groups/FictionFromTheHeart/
Check out Priscilla’s current and upcoming romance releases in the Contemporary section of this site.