Author Spotlight: Cynthia Salaysay

May 1, 2020

We are excited to feature author Cynthia Salaysay and her debut YA novel, PRIVATE LESSONS (Candlewick), coming out on May 12! Enter to win a copy (a Netgalley copy will be provided now and a hard copy later in the year).

Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for teens.

I was one of those kids under the covers at night with a book and a flashlight. My mother did try to get me to stop -- half-heartedly! Like many pre-teens I had a diary and wrote very bad poetry. But, it got me writing. I have always loved coming-of-age stories because of the wonder that the characters feel for life and the directness of the emotions in these stories, and it became a dream of mine to write one.

Congrats on your debut YA novel, PRIVATE LESSONS. Tell us about it and what inspired you.

I grew up in Fremont, CA. It is a quiet suburb and at a the time I didn't feel like I went on many adventures -- except in my head, with the help of music. I feel like music has the power to show you the world, the scope of human emotions, change you, give you hope, heal you. Music did so much for me when I was a high schooler and I wanted to share some of that in my book. 
PRIVATE LESSONS is about a 17 year-old girl who wants to become a classical pianist. She becomes enthralled with her piano teacher Paul, and  as she struggles for his love and approval, she opens herself up to being under his power and control. This is a book about fighting for yourself, with everything you have. 

Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?

I think it was in-between. The writing of the book and the revision process took a long time, but I am blessed to have a wonderful writing group. One of its members mentioned I might be a match with an agent she saw at a conference -- Jennifer March Soloway. We clicked! From then there was more revision, and it was quite a struggle, but I think no more than can be expected.

What projects are you working on now? Are you able to concentrate these days?

I have a novel I'm writing about two estranged sisters, and I am learning to write picture books. The novel is a little dark, and writing picture books is a happy break from that. I think picture books are beautiful and extraordinarily difficult to write -- I think it is my new passion. I am unfortunately not able to concentrate for long periods the way I had hoped, or if I am able to it hasn't been every day. Still I am growing and reading and thinking about my work and how to approach it, so I feel that the time has been valuable.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Don't give up. Read a lot, and take as long as you can to develop your own voice before considering publication, so you can be as confident as you can as an artist before you interface with the business side of things.

What is one thing most people don't know about you?

My second toe is longer than my first! 

Where can people find you online?

On Twitter, I'm @cyntaur. On Instagram, I'm @cynthiasalaysay. My website is at

Cynthia Salaysay is an author and registered nurse living in Oakland, CA. Her first book, Private Lessons, is due out from Candlewick in May 2020. Cynthia holds a bachelor's degree in English from UC Berkeley.

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  1. I love this cover! :)
    Megan S.

  2. I love the theme of your book, fighting for yourself with everything you had. A lesson we should all know :) Congrats on your new book & good luck on the pb writing!

  3. “Music has the power to show you the world” Yes! Such a beautiful statement! Congrats on your book, and thanks for sharing your insights!

  4. I love the premise of this book. I play the flute and took lessons so I can already relate.

  5. I want to read this in parallel to Piano Lessons by Anna Goldsworthy. It would be exciting read to learn lessons of life from music. Both titles has 'Lesson's in book name!

  6. Intriguing! Congratulations on your new book!


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