I’m so blessed that Candice Yamnitz is a member of my American Christian Fiction Writers online critique group, the Storyteller Squad. A Chicago native, this strong Christian mom of three gives gentle but honest critiques and generously shares her vast knowledge of social media. She has 6,200 Instagram followers! Her beautiful debut YA novel, Unbetrothed, launches Feb. 8. You can pre-order it on Amazon. I hope you get a feel for her dynamic personality through this interview.
Jill: What inspired you to write teen fiction and this book in particular?
Candice: I gave my life to Jesus as a teen and have a desire to impact other people like my youth leaders did when I was a younger. I served as a youth group leader for many years. After having my second child, I struggled with inadequacy and saw the teen girls I served struggling with the same thing. Unbetrothed was born from that season.
Jill: I LOVE the cover of your book. Could you tell us a little more about its creation?
Candice: I didn’t have much to do with the creation. I filled out a questionnaire and Illuminate YA did a fabulous job capturing the feelings and emotions I wanted to send. This is what I wrote: I’d like the reader to get that feeling when you find a hidden, forbidden path that you know is just meant for you. The comparable covers I gave were: Mark of the Raven, The Kiss of Deception, and The Queen’s Poisoner.
Jill: The names of your characters fit them so well. How did you decide on these names?
Candice: Princess Beatriz and Laude came instantly into my mind with the story premise. I worked a little more with the rest of the names. I spent far too long searching the Bible for obscure names that were still pronounceable. This is how I found Zichri. The other names changed every other edit. I searched old medieval Spanish names several times over. Jaime, Blas, and Gonzalo came from all my searching and replaced my other placeholder names. If you’d ever like to write a fantasy story and don’t know what to name your characters, choose very distinct names; it made it so much easier to find their unique names in a document search.
Jill: Are any of your characters based on people you know? if so, which ones?
Candice: Some of the characters have my qualities at different points in my life. I’m positive that I took qualities from people that I know. I don’t want to get too specific.
Jill: I can envision your settings so well. How do you plan them?
Candice: I used real settings as the basis for my story world. For instance, the mountainous countryside was written based on my travel through the Puerto Rican countryside and Huasteca, Mexico. Some of the experiences traveling were my experiences. The castles and houses resembled Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The castle scenes come from my visits to Castillo San Felipe del Morro in San Juan, Puerto Rico and the Palace of Versailles in France.
Jill: There are several intriguing storylines in this book. How would you describe the main theme?
Candice: Overall, it’s a person’s self-worth and redemption. Other characters have storylines that arc around trust, honor, and family loyalty.
Jill: How does your Christian faith impact your writing?
Candice: My faith that Jesus is my savior and that the gospel as stated in the Bible is a fundamental part of my life. It permeates my decisions and corrects the ones that don’t match. My writing isn’t perfect, but it’s meant to glorify God and provide Christians with a clean teen alternative. Through the process, I prayed. I read scripture and then prayed some more.
Jill: I know you’re a talented artist. I’ve seen your work. Will any of your future books feature your illustrations?
Candice: I have no idea. I want to delve more into creating children’s stories with artwork, but I’m not sure how much time I will have for that since I am going on submission with another YA book.
Jill: Can you pretty please give us a hint of what might happen in the sequel to Unbetrothed? And when is it set to launch?
Candice: I have an exclusive epilogue I am giving away to readers who pre-order or purchase during launch week. I wish I could tell you when the sequel is set to launch, but I don’t have a specific date yet. COVID has turned published schedules upside down.
Jill: How can readers learn more about you and your stories?
Okay, Candice. Let’s play a quick Q&A game. Answer these off the top of your head as fast as you can:
Coffee or Tea? Coffee
Introvert or extrovert? Extrovert
Summer or winter? Summer
Lakefront or oceanfront property? Oceanfront
Mountain or city view? Mountain
Meat & potatoes, or veggies & tofu? Meat and Potatoes
Paperback or ebook or audiobook? Audiobook (Busy momlife)
Favorite color? Turquoise
Favorite animal? Dog
Ideal vacation destination? Puerto Rico
Favorite hobby(ies)? Reading and board games
Favorite movie? Pride and Prejudice (The 95 version)
Favorite Saturday attire? A sweatshirt and jeans
Favorite Christmas or birthday present to date? I just really love the parties. My 25th and 19th birthday celebrations are still my favorites.
Candice Pedraza Yamnitz is a YA author who loves to write stories with a Latin twist, a heavy dollop of mystery and a smidgen of romance. She fell in love with Lord of the Rings and Pride and Prejudice in high school and hasn’t stopped reading since. She taught in a bilingual elementary education classroom for years until she decided to stay at home, teaching a crew of imaginative children. So in between reading lessons and converting cardboard boxes into pirate ships, she writes and draws fantasy stories.