Prose, Poe, and Buffy: A Chat with Amanda Badillo
The sun is shining (for some of us), the birds are singing, and springtime is near! It's the first of March, and I hope this week's blog post will bring you some cheer. Annnnnd, since y'all have shown such a great response to my first two guests, I've decided to gift readers with a double post this week.
Our first guest is my splendid agency sibling: Amanda Badillo.
Amanda was raised on a diet of Buffy and all things thriller and paranormal. She has a passion for giving back to members of the writing community, and she's recently gotten engaged (send her your congrats in the comments)!
1. Welp, the first question is the question that has probably been asked no less than a hundred times but never loses its novelty. Tell us, how did you get your agents?
Haha, definitely been asked a lot but I never get tired of this question! I had participated in the LatinxPitch event back on September 15th, 2020. However, my story is a bit different than most other writers as I had pitched a book that hadn’t been written yet. I know, I know, I broke the rules completely but, I had this idea since middle school and knew I could make the characters come to life. Also, I didn’t think at the time that this one pitch would get so much traction and interest! So, I had pitched my finished manuscript earlier in the morning that is currently titled Sever My Soul (SMS) then later on, the pitch just sort of flowed out of me for the unfinished manuscript currently titled Vampires Are the Worst (VATW). I had received likes on both pitches from Analieze Cervantes whom I had queried, literally, that past Sunday with SMS. Funny enough, I had also received a like from Jennifer Herrington on my pitch for VATW. I had posted a comment towards Analieze informing her that I had sent in my query already on Sunday for SMS and wondered if she wanted me to pull that query and send her the manuscript for VATW instead. She wrote me back saying basically not to worry and to send VATW to Jennifer Herrington as they sometimes share manuscripts. I, obviously was at that point downright giddy with the idea that two agents from the same agency would be reading two different stories of mine. I was also obviously terrified. Want to know what freaked me out even more? The fact that I had 12 agent requests on top of that for a book that I hadn’t written yet. So, I went on to write VATW in a week. I sent out the 12 partials, received five full requests, four rejections, and one no response. A little less than a month had passed by and with two offers of rep later, the rest is well, history.
2. What are your biggest takeaways from the querying process?
That it sucks. Just kidding. Sort of. In all seriousness though, the querying process is a grueling one that really prepares you for the world of publishing. You don’t realize it when you’re swimming in rejection emails at the time but when you finally get that YES you’ve been waiting for, you start to understand that okay, all these people may not have cared for the concept, the writing, or maybe even the query letter, the list goes on, but this one person loves it. This one person is seeing my vision, my idea, and where I’m going with it. If they love this...others will too. It also humbles you a bit you know? Every writer I’m sure thinks to themselves my story is the greatest thing ever and I’m going to have SO many agents fighting over me, this is going to be a slam dunk! Then your first rejection comes in and you sit there and think, “okay, your loss.” Then the others come and more and more to the point where you can finally think to yourself, “What’s going on here? What do I have to fix?” It opens up your mind to feedback and learning the way of the publishing world knowing - traditional publishing takes a long time so get ready to learn some patience, not everyone is going to enjoy your book much like how you may read the back of a book and put it down, publishing rejection isn’t personal, and you should always be perfecting your craft. Write as many query letters as you can, do your research, read your letter aloud, read your letter to a friend and see if they get it, re-read your opening pages, get a friend to read your pages, find out if they’re hooked, and finally revise, revise, revise!
3. What comes after an agent is an area of discussion that isn’t talked about as widely as the path to getting an agent. What has the after-agent journey been like for you?
You’re absolutely right, it really isn’t talked about much, huh? The ‘after agent’ journey for me has been truly wonderful. Analieze and Jennifer jumped right into re-reading and putting together an editorial letter for VATW. They are both incredibly passionate about my characters and ideas so it’s been fun to sit on a zoom call and brainstorm together! It’s literally like being with three of me if that makes sense? Haha! We are a collaborative bunch which is what I so wanted for my future agents and if I have an idea we bounce it around until it’s perfected and so on. I’m also here to tell you that when you first start editing your manuscript - pre-agent, it’s a grueling process as you don’t want to cut things that you feel are important, you feel like the connection is there, and so on. However, when you have an agent, at least in my case, they are able to see what’s lacking or what needs to be expanded on/cut out. Your agents are also your number one fans for your writing so they act as the reader and express from the mind of the reader what they would like to see more of or less of. It’s honestly such a rad experience and truly, I live for revising and editing now, haha!
4. You’re a student and a writer--very, very impressive! How do you balance the demands of school with writing? And please tell us, how do you keep that creative well filled when you have so much assigned reading and writing?
I also work full-time, HAHA! But honestly, thank you, I truly appreciate you saying that. I’m fortunate enough to have been raised by a mother and father who have basically always told me, “just get it done.” I’m also now engaged to a man who also says, “just do it.” Easier said than done of course but I’ve never been one to back away from a challenge. I used to SUCK at time management but over the years thanks to the many job titles I’ve held, I’ve been able to make a schedule for the week of what I need to do and the times to do it. I basically go to work by day, do my classes (now that it’s virtual learning, this has helped me immensely) as well as any homework for the week on a specific day (usually on a Wednesday or the weekend), and write by night. In terms of keeping my creative well filled, which I LOVE that term by the way, I can say that at this current moment I haven’t found it too hard to keep myself inspired. I think this is truly all thanks to the fact that I have amazing professors within the writing department of my university and since I’m taking almost all writing classes this Spring, every class has been centered around thinking and expanding the mind. One class in particular that I am in, Fiction Workshop 2 to be exact, my professor had us choose a genre from the start of class that we enjoy, I chose Horror of course. He then assigns us with interesting writing prompts and classic reads to enjoy and discuss. It’s funny, while being in his class I’ve been able to create a couple of different characters that I plan on adding to my books so it’s pretty awesome! I also feel like I'm a jar of Prego sauce, you know? I’ve been sealed tight with all of these ideas, characters, and stories for so long that now that I’ve finally been popped open and am ready to be spread around and write whatever comes to mind.
5. Do you know when you’re at risk of burnout? What’s your form of self-care?
Totally. I think we all know when enough is enough and you need to turn your mind off for a while. I’ll know I’m at that point specifically when I can feel my brain hurt if that makes sense, haha! If I’m laughing a lot (like too much), on the brink of crying, or really just feeling myself start to feel out of it/feeling overly tired that’s when I give myself a break for a week or two. My greatest form of self-care has to be hugging onto my dogs Bailey and Newton, there’s no better medicine than your pets. Otherwise, I’ll either spend time with my fiance, friends, or my mom - she’s literally my best friend. I’ll lay on the couch and binge-watch Gilmore Girls usually or Cobra Kai for the 20th time. Lately, I’ve been on a real Dance Mom’s kick, trying to wean myself off of Real Housewives of New York - you can only watch it so many times! Pre-pandemic, I would go out to party with my fiance and our friends whether it was heading to a club/bar to drink and dance or having our usual game-nights with board games/video games!
6. So, a while ago I peeped that you got an Edgar Allen Poe tattoo. Tell us more about your love of the paranormal and thriller genre? When did it begin, why did it continue, and why do you love writing in that genre?
Haha, yes! It’s funny because after I got the Poe tattoo on my shoulder I went back and got another raven on my wrist! My love and adoration of the paranormal and thriller genres really started back when I was five years old and we can blame mom for that one. My mom was always a huge vampire fan/advocate and started me on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I remember every morning before school we would sit and watch it on either the WB or TNT, I can’t remember which one it was. One time we played hooky to finish an incredibly important episode when Angel tried to kill himself, cried hard, watched charmed after, and then went shopping. After Buffy came Queen of the Damned and so on and so forth. I’ve always loved the idea of the supernatural, the unknown, the paranormal, and of course that’s only heightened as I’ve gotten older. I think it’s the idea that all humans cling on to, the whole, “Imagine if I was Buffy and I had to slay all these monsters? Are monsters like this out there? Would I be friends with them?” Every person pictures themselves at one point in time as a character in either a movie or a show, my problem is I don’t think I ever stopped, haha! My love for thriller - books and movies in general was always there but I could never properly explain it until I saw Shutter Island. The twists, turns, and ‘holy shit,’ ending threw me for a loop! It was then that I knew what I wanted to read and what I personally wanted to create for the future! I wanted to have others fall in love with my characters and be on the edge of their seats until the very end! I think it’s the not knowing what’s going to happen next and the ability to create such amazing and heinous characters that leaves me with the desire to keep creating them.
7. Congrats on being selected as a mentor for Write Mentor! What drew you to the program, and what’s your reason for mentoring other writers?
Thank you SO much! I truly appreciate it! I have always wanted to have a life that was solely based around writing. I have also always wanted to be surrounded by amazing, talented writers where we can cheer each other on instead of tearing each other down. In middle school and high school I always loved writing but like most people, I kept my work to myself unless I had to share it. One of my English teachers encouraged me to join his literary magazine meeting after school and once he left the room, my peers were incredibly rude and trashed the whole story in a very terrible way. Funny enough, the piece I shared was the introduction to the original version (like almost ten year old version) of Sever My Soul - I used to call it The Artist. This obviously traumatized me a bit so much so that it put SMS on the back burner...until now. I also had a horrible Writing teacher in my senior year as an elective class who shared my stories with the class when I wasn’t there and mocked my writing (I had multiple friends in that class who told me). With that being said, I knew what I never wanted to be. I never wanted to be a literary snob. Knowing how much I loved writing growing up and that I allowed people to tear me down, kills me. I vowed to always be an encouraging voice that was put here to yes, write, but to also help others get their stories heard, read, and loved. Once I was signed with Analieze and Jennifer I knew that it would open the doors for me in so many different ways, Write Mentor is one of them. I am so very excited for this mentorship and can’t wait to read the amazing works of MG and YA authors so we can work on their materials and (fingers crossed) land them an amazing agent!
8. Ok, now it’s time for the ‘fun’ questions: Who’s the coolest vampire: Selene, Angel, Edward, or Damon?
OH GOD! Don’t do this to me! Haha! Ugh! If I had to choose in order here...I guess it would go Damon (love his sarcasm and murderous tendencies), Selene (obviously a badass), Angel (love the moody and broody), and then Edward (a little too controlling but I love him all the same, he’s a vampire staple minus the glitter).
If you had Spike or Katherine up here, they would be tied for first, no contest!
9. Unpopular book or writing opinion?
An unpopular book I think that I absolutely love and always go back to read constantly is definitely Venomous by Christopher Krovatin. I wish he would have made a second book! I think instead he switched over to comics and unfortunately as amazing as the artists and writers are for comic books, I’m just not a big comic book nor graphic novel person you know?
10. A year on the NYT or A24 adapting your work into a feature film?
I truly can’t decide! I would say a year on the NYT but then I’m like OH, movies! UGH! Pass!
11. Favorite line from a work by Poe?
You’re killing me, there are SO many good ones! I’m picking two I’m sorry!
The first one is from Annabel Lee and it’s where I got the title for Sever My Soul from:
“And neither the angels in Heaven above
Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;”
Then, my favorite short story of his, The Tell-Tale Heart:
“But why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses - not destroyed - not dulled them.”
I’ve always enjoyed this story just because it is from the perspective of a mad man but also that line in particular just kind reminds me of me when it comes to my anxiety. I sometimes feel vulnerable yet also powerful that I hear everything so clearly, see everything so vividly, and feel everything so strongly.
12. Describe your WIP as lyrics from a screamo song.
Hmm...for Sever My Soul since I started re-tweaking it I would have to say the whole song The Thespian by Alesana really helped to inspire the book but I’ll just pull two stanzas from the song:
“Why are you doing this to me?
(Sweetheart) Are those your eyes staring straight back at me?
(Angel) I see you smile everywhere!
“I touch your lips and stare in your eyes
You smile and it makes me fly
You are the reason my heart beats
Tonight it's just you and me”
Amanda Badillo is a Puerto Rican, New York native who has always had a passion for writing the weird. When Amanda was around five years old her mother introduced her to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and soon began the psychosis of witches, werewolves, demons, angels, possession, and more. Later on, Amanda developed a love for reading which led to her becoming engrossed in the works of Ellen Schreiber, Darren Shan, Christopher Krovatin, Stephen King, and so many other incredible writers. However, her true love? Well, that became the darkly fascinating Edgar Allan Poe with his twisted tales and gory imagery, it was love at first sentence.
Amanda is currently working on her first Young Adult novel currently titled Vampires Are The Worst. She is represented by the incredible duo Analieze Cervantes and Jennifer Herrington of the Harvey Klinger agency.
Amanda’s Links & Social Media