Friday, September 11, 2009

Find Out Friday: Amy Reed


What inspired you to write a book for young adults?

It may surprise you to know that I originally wrote this book for an adult audience. When I started writing it, I didn't know a whole lot about the current YA genre. I assumed it was pretty similar to what I grew up with--which wasn't much. I didn't know anyone was publishing books for teens that dealt with the kind of issues in Beautiful. I just knew that I had to write this story, and the fact that it ended up being published for young adults was an unexpected bonus. I feel so lucky to be a part of this exciting community of readers and writers.

What is your favorite young adult book?

When I was younger, I loved Go Ask Alice, which was pretty much the only book of its kind. Luckily these days, there are so many writers delving into difficult issues with incredible honesty and compassion--Laurie Halse Anderson, Ellen Hopkins, and Julie Anne Peters, to name a few. I wish their books were around when I was growing up. The YA books that have really moved me recently are Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls and Julie Anne Peters's Luna. But there's still a lot more out there I'm dying to read.

What is your favorite part about being a writer?

I love being able to explore a new world and characters and be constantly surprised by them. I love how they take on a life of their own and I just get to observe and write it all down. It's incredible how close I feel to the characters, how I live with them in my head for the months and years it takes to get their stories down. I was really close to the characters in Beautiful for a couple of years. I could see and hear them in my mind. It's been a while since I finished the book, and I actually really miss Cassie and Sarah like they're old friends who moved away.

Are you working on any other books?

I'm working on a YA novel about patients in an adolescent drug rehab facility. Maybe one day I'll write a comedy or love story. Lol.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I've always wanted to tell the stories close to my heart. Writing has been my constant companion since I was twelve or thirteen, although I also had periods when I wanted to be a songwriter and filmmaker. My undergraduate degree is actually in film. But I always came back to words and writing.

Beautiful questions:

Why did you write Beautiful, what gave you the idea to write it?

Beautiful is partly based on my own experiences growing up, so in some way, I had the idea for this book since I was thirteen. It started as a short story ("Under the Wall," published in Fiction Magazine, Vol. 20 #2), but I couldn't let it go at that. The characters kept growing in my head, and I knew they had much more to say than could fit in a short story.

Did you have to do a lot of research before writing it?

If you call surviving junior high "research," then yes ;)

Where did you get the names of your characters from?

Most of the secondary characters' names were pretty random. I knew I wanted Sarah to have a plain, girly name, so Sarah seemed appropriate. And I wanted Alex's name to be hard sounding and slightly androgynous. I chose Cassie because it's short for Cassandra, the tragic Greek character who had the gift of prophecy but was cursed because no one ever believed her. I think she's similar to Cassie because they are both so hyper-aware of what's going on, yet both live with the fear that no one will listen.

How do you feel about the cover?

I absolutely love it! I feel so lucky to have had such an amazing creative team at Simon Pulse to work on it. It's definitely intriguing and eye-catching--but more than that, I think it really captures the mood of the story.

Was there a message you hoped to spread by writing Beautiful?

It's important for me to be honest in my writing, to tell the truth, and sometimes the most difficult and painful truths are the most important to tell. Cassie's story is tragic in many ways, but I believe it's necessary for her story to be told. There are so many girls going through the same things as Cassie, dealing with similar pain and confusion. From experience, I know that the worst part is feeling alone, lost, feeling like no one understands what you're going through, like there's nowhere to turn for help. I want readers to know that no matter what they're facing, no matter how hopeless it seems, there is always a better way out, a way to find help, a way to climb out no matter how deep you seem to have fallen. There is so much pressure in our society to look and act and be a certain way, and sometimes it's overwhelming, especially as a teenager. But in the end, it is always you who makes decisions for yourself--not parents, not teachers, not friends or boyfriends or enemies. It is ultimately you who decides what's right and wrong for yourself. Cassie had a hard time finding the strength to do that, and she suffered immensely. If my book can help just one person avoid the kind of pain she went through, I will feel very, very blessed.

Thanks so much for the interview, Amy! Click here to read my review of Beautiful.

Click here to visit Amy's website.

PS: My contest for an ARC of Hush Hush ends tomorrow! Click here to enter!

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