Amelia Diane Coombs writes books for young adults. Back in the day, she majored in English and went on to receive her MFA in Creative Writing. Now she writes unlikable female protagonists, positive mental health representation, and swoony romances with soft boys. As a lifelong native of the San Francisco Bay Area, she resides in beautiful Sonoma County with her boyfriend and their Siberian cat. When she isn’t writing or reading, Amelia happily fills her days with beekeeping, card and tabletop games, hiking, and volunteering with cats.
Kristin Lambert: Hi, Amelia!! I can’t wait to chat about KEEP MY HEART IN SAN FRANCISCO and am even more excited to read it!
Were you a big reader as a child/teen, and if so, what books influenced the writer you’ve become?
Amelia Diane Coombs: I was the biggest bookworm as a kid! For as long as I can remember, I’ve always devoured whatever I could get my hands on. Luckily, I grew up in a family that really encouraged reading and funded many trips to the bookstore. As a child, I loved Nancy Drew (maybe one day I’ll write a mystery?) and as a teen, I was a huge Sarah Dessen fan. I also really enjoyed Megan McCafferty’s Jessica Darling series.
KL: What has it been like to debut a book during a pandemic?
ADC: Well, I wouldn’t recommend it, that’s for sure! As other debut authors know, there’s so much emphasis and hype around debuting, and I was really looking forward to my launch. This is a moment I’ve dreamt of since childhood and it’s ended up looking completely different than I imagined. But I’m still trying to enjoy myself. I’m putting a bigger emphasis on social media since I can’t do events, and I’m so glad some bookstores are opening back up; I’d love to actually see my book on shelves next week!
KL: It’s been challenging for sure! How many manuscripts did you write before your debut? What was your journey to publication like?
ADC: Only one, actually. But I’ve had a pretty wonky publishing journey. I queried my first-ever manuscript to some pretty disastrous results in early 2016. By that summer, I heard about Pitch Wars, entered, and I got in! I revised that manuscript with my mentor and began querying again in the fall. I signed with my first agent soon after and went on submission. Unfortunately, that book didn’t sell and, when my agent was switching agencies, I decided to part ways. While on sub, I’d written another book (my future debut) and actually subbed to Pitch Wars again—and I got in a second time! Another round of mentor revisions, an agent showcase, and cold querying later, I signed with my agent the following February. I was so hopeful for that book, but during the summer, my agency shut down overnight and my subs were pulled from editors. It was quite the scandal! But my agent found another agency the following month and my debut sold four weeks later.
KL: Wow, what a roller coaster! What advice do you have for unpublished writers?
ADC: Read, read, read! Find critique partners! And don’t give up!
KL: Great advice! What embarrassing moment from your life could be a scene from a book?
ADC: When I was ten or eleven years old, my aunt was getting married. Both my sisters were bridesmaids and, for whatever reason, I ended up being the ringbearer. I’d never been in a wedding before and was pretty excited during the rehearsals. The wedding coordinator kept telling us to not lock our knees during the ceremony. But, being a youngster, I didn’t know what that meant. During the ceremony, I started to feel awful. It was August in California (read: hot!), I was in an itchy gown, and my vision was blurring. I grabbed the arm of my closest sister and tried to tell her I wasn’t feeling well. My sister shook me off and hissed at me the ceremony wasn’t over yet. I then proceeded to pass out right as the officiant said, “I now pronounce you…” and almost split my skull on a nearby planter. You can’t see me passing out on the wedding video, but you can hear me going down like a board and watch the guests gasp and leap to their feet. That was nearly twenty years ago and I still get made fun to this day. I’ll never live it down.
KL: Oh no! I, too, have an embarrassing wedding moment that I’ve never lived down! But our embarrassments make us stronger, right? What’s your favorite part about being a writer?
ADC: Writing has always been an escape for me. I have pretty severe anxiety and, when I’m writing, I’m able to let a lot of that go and just exist in whatever world I’m creating.
KL: What’s your favorite part about the writing process? Least favorite?
ADC: This sometimes depends on the project, but I love revising. I feel like revision is where the magic happens and all the disjointed parts of your story come together; it’s so satisfying. On the flipside, I hate drafting. Just … loathe it. I think it’s because I’m a perfectionist and have a hard time not editing as I go. But if I edit as I go, I usually get too focused on all the errors and ditch the project before the second act.
KL: I’m the exact same. Drafting is the worst. Do you listen to music while you work? Yay or nay?
ADC: I really wish I could write while listening to music! Sometimes, when I’m fast drafting and just trying to get words on the page, I can listen to new music (nothing I know the lyrics to) but if I’m revising, I need complete silence to work. But I’m big on playlists and will make manuscript-specific playlists for all my books.
KL: What’s the most recent show you marathoned on TV?
ADC: Unsolved Mysteries on Netflix! I’m a huge true crime junkie and blasted through those episodes. Not marathon-ing, but I’m also in love with I’ll Be Gone in the Dark on HBO. My fiancé and I have been surviving quarantine by binging old seasons of Big Brother (I’m trash for reality TV) and it’s been surprisingly fun!
KL: I’m still scarred for life by watching Unsolved Mysteries as a kid, so I feel you. What’s coming next for you in publishing?
ADC: My second book, BETWEEN YOU ME AND THE HONEYBEES, releases next summer from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers! It’s another YA contemporary romance and it’s just… the fluffiest, most feel-good book ever. It was a joy to write. I’ve also sold two more books with Simon & Schuster, a third releasing Summer 2022 and a fourth releasing Summer 2023.
KL: That’s so exciting! You’re clearly an up-and-coming talent, and I can’t wait to read them all!
Congrats on the release of your debut novel, Amelia! You can visit Amelia’s website to learn more and follow her on Twitter and Instagram, as well as order KEEP MY HEART IN SAN FRANCISCO on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Indiebound. And don’t forget to add it on Goodreads!