1. How do you know so much about ballroom dancing?
I used to be a competitive ballroom dancer. I started dancing (ballet and tap) at age three. When I was nineteen, I became obsessed with the movie Saturday Night Fever and wanted to learn how to Hustle. Shortly after, I attended my first ballroom dancing competition and I was blown away. After that, I started training up to forty hours a week in the Latin style. I had a professional Latin ballroom partner but our partnership didn’t last.
2. What’s your ethnicity?
My mom is Mexican-American and my father was Czech/Polish. I consider myself a biracial Latina.
3. Any advice for aspiring writers?
Find a writing group, attend writing conferences, get a critique partner, and hire a good editor.
4. You’ve won many writing contests—any secrets you’d like to share?
Listen to the contest judges even if you don’t agree with them. Consider them beta readers. If they dislike a part of your writing or plot, chances are a reader might agree. Take constructive criticism and always try to improve your writing.
5. Who are your favorite books?
On the literary side, I was an English major at Stanford, so I love 19th century tales of the supernatural and science fiction: Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, Matthew Lewis’ The Monk, Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. I also have a penchant for Arthurian Literature (Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon) and Literature of Passing (Charles Chestnutt’s The House Behind The Cedars). I love Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Vladimir Nabokov’s King, Queen, Knave and Herman Wouk’s Marjorie Morningstar.
As for contemporary books, I love Alisa Valdes Rodriguez’ The Dirty Girls Social Club, Lauren Willig’s The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, Kristan Higgins’ Too Good to be True, and Kiana Davenport’s Shark Dialogues.