The entire Las Musas crew is proud to wish Diamond City by Francesca Flores a happy book birthday! Keep reading for an interview with Francesca!
About Diamond City:
Good things don't happen to girls who come from nothing...unless they risk everything.
Fierce and ambitious, Aina Solís as sharp as her blade and as mysterious as the blood magic she protects. After the murder of her parents, Aina takes a job as an assassin to survive and finds a new family in those like her: the unwanted and forgotten.
Her boss is brutal and cold, with a questionable sense of morality, but he provides a place for people with nowhere else to go. And makes sure they stay there.
DIAMOND CITY: built by magic, ruled by tyrants, and in desperate need of saving. It is a world full of dark forces and hidden agendas, old rivalries and lethal new enemies.
To claim a future for herself in a world that doesn't want her to survive, Aina will have to win a game of murder and conspiracy—and risk losing everything.
Laura Taylor Namey got a chance to chat with Francesca and learn a bit more about her characters and her inspiration for writing her thrilling debut.
1. When we first meet main character Aina Solís, she’s gotten herself into quite a conundrum, which rarely lets up as the story unfolds. Tell us about your Aina and what it was like to create such a complex, strong character.
Aina, along with the setting of the story, were the first things that came to me when I was initially inspired to write this book. I pictured a confident girl who was a bit mysterious and kept mostly to herself. I heard her voice in my head as the setting of the story came together, and first started to collect little bits of dialogue for a few months before writing. I was working on other projects prior to this and I thought this would just end up being a fun side project that wouldn’t ever end up ‘serious,’ and maybe that’s why I felt more freedom while writing it.
These bits of dialogue for Aina were often witty jokes she came up with on the spot, insightful thoughts, and bold opinions that she's not afraid to share. In pretty much every chapter, I discovered some deeper layer of her that she’s had to hide from the world to survive. The prime, defining part of her character is that her determination is endless. Despite her experiences with violence, poverty and substance abuse, she hasn’t given up hope in herself or for a future. It was a great experience to create her because of how flawed she is and how much she has to learn. She’s become accustomed to a twisted set of morals, the shields she’s built up to protect herself have actually made her more susceptible to being manipulated, while her pride and self-isolation have made it harder for her to make friends who care about her safety. In many ways, she’s similar to the antagonist of her story, and only her choices will make her different from this antagonist. So I’d say it was really fun to write her because of her flaws, her strong voice, and her determination.
2. The world of Kosín is marked by classic fantasy elements as well as some fun steampunk attributes! What was your process for building this world and what were your influences?
I think the first development of the world was the era: I knew I wanted it to be a gritty, industrial world with 1800s inspired technology. That lends itself to a steampunk feel, even though the fantasy elements aren’t related to the technology. They’re more in a feud with each other. Since I studied international relations in school and I’ve always loved socio political dynamics, I wanted to weave that in as well. Huge changes in technology affect every level of society, as well as do shifts in religious belief and power. So pitting them against each other felt like a natural way to stir up conflict even more.
I like focusing on the world first, before really developing the characters, because people are influenced in every way by where they’re from, the environment they grow up in, and where they fit into society now. So creating a world with social hierarchies and power imbalances will create people affected by that world with plenty of opinions and stories about it. Also, while I love fantasy in any time period, I felt like this technological era isn’t often explored, especially in second-world fantasies that tend to lean more toward ancient or medieval worlds. I wanted it to feel like Les Misérables, but with magic and a diverse cast of characters with immigrant backgrounds.
3. Were there any ways you incorporated elements from your own history or culture when building this story and its characters?
I was born in Pittsburgh, and that comes through here in all the rivers that surround the setting of my book and and plenty of bridges, as well as the steel mills near the water. Pittsburgh has a long history of industrial and steel work, and that definitely came into play here. I’ve also always lived in cities, and they’re my favorite kind of setting to write. My dad was also an immigrant, and most of the characters in my main cast are children of immigrants, and one of them is an immigrant herself. I tried to put as much of that experience in the book as I could. The book isn't about immigration, but it is about young people, who happen to be children of immigrants or immigrants themselves, doing great things in a damaged place
4. What was the editorial process like for Diamond City?
Hmm…I learned a lot! Haha. I wrote many manuscripts for years before deciding to query (I think the total is somewhere around 16, give or take), but I didn’t revise much. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I had so many ideas hopping around in my head and I wasn’t really thinking about publishing yet (that always seemed like a far-off dream). So I would just fix major plot holes and do line edits before jumping to the next story. Because of that, I can churn out a decent draft very quickly, but revising takes me a while, and I like it that way.
For Diamond City, I did one big revision and one small revision before querying, and then did a LOT of revising before going on submission with my agent. I learned much more about craft, made a solemn vow to plot better so I would never have to rewrite that much ever again in my life (ha!), and rewrote…a lot. I have a document saved somewhere with about 120k cut words from multiple drafts, and the word count went up and down so much before finally setting on 88k for the submission draft. Now it’s at a nice round 100k, and I feel quite proud of it!
5. Most of all, what feeling do you want readers to come away with after they read your book?
I want them to feel like they went on a heart-pounding adventure in a living, dynamic world, but also a bit like they’ve just made new friends in the characters. I want them to see Aina’s flaws and how she’s grown. I hope that readers in toxic relationships will be able to examine them more critically, or at least be able to see themselves in this book somehow and feel less alone. And I hope people who’ve experienced a lot of poverty or homelessness in their lives can feel like their voices matter, and that they have wonderful futures ahead of them.
6. Can you share what’s coming up next for you, or what you’re working on now?
I’m working on my sequel (Diamond City is a duology!). I’m in the first round of revisions for it, and it’s finally coming together! I can’t wait to share it with readers 😊
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