AOM Interview: Amy Reed
Posted November 3, 2009on:
You’re a published author! Yay! How does it feel to know that your book is finally on the shelves of bookstores, ready for a reader to pick up?
I’m feeling a whole bunch of emotions. Mostly, I’m just really excited and grateful to have this opportunity. It’s amazing to work so hard on something, to put my heart and soul into it, then have it actually out there in the world. It’s validating, to say the least. It’s a huge honor. But it’s also kind of scary. Because Beautiful is such a personal book, I’m extra sensitive to negative feedback. So far, the response has been really positive, but who knows what’ll happen.
Have you always wanted to be an author? When did you begin writing?
From a very early age, I knew I wanted to be a storyteller of some kind. I started writing very bad poetry around 13, then learned to play guitar and started writing slightly better but equally embarrassing songs. I went back and forth between wanting to be a writer and a rock star, then decided in my early 20’s that I needed a real profession so I went to film school. Shortly after I graduated, I decided I wanted to be a writer again, so I went back to school to get my MFA in writing. And that’s where Beautiful was born. My husband’s a musician and filmmaker, so I figure we have everything covered together.
For those who haven’t heard about it yet, can you tell us a little bit about Beautiful?
It’s the story of 13-year old Cassie, who moves to a new town and decides she’ll go to any extreme to fit in. R.A. Nelson described it as “a latter-day Go Ask Alice,” which I think is a perfect description. It’s edgy and raw, but it’s also a very real look at what can happen when someone finds themselves on a dangerous downward spiral.
Is there anything specific you want readers to take away from Beautiful?
I’ve said this in other interviews, but I really think it’s worth saying again. I want teens to realize how important their choices are. I hope teens feel empowered to make the right decisions for themselves, even if it means going against what they think is popular. I also hope that they can feel safe to ask for help if they’re in a dangerous situation. Even if you think it’s too late, even if you’re afraid of getting in trouble, there is always help out there. There is always hope. You do not have to do it alone.
If Beautiful were to be turned into a movie, who do you picture playing the roles of the main characters?
I would love Cassie to be played by Dakota Fanning. I think she’s one of the most talented young actresses working today, and she has that perfect blend of innocence and edge for the character. I can’t think of anyone in particular for Sarah, but she’d have to be a special combination of sweet and haunted. Alex would be the most fun to cast because she’s not your typical “mean girl.” She’s hard and cruel, but also very wounded. I don’t know that I’ve seen a character like her in a movie before.
Did you read as a teen? What were your favorite books? What are your favorite books now?
I read a lot as a teen, all kinds of books. The YA genre didn’t really exist then, but I remember being blown away by some of the classics: Catcher in the Rye, Brave New World, Lord of the Flies, 1984, Farenheit 451–basically anything with a cynical or anti-authoritarian theme. I was obsessed with Tom Robbins for a few years. I read Go Ask Alice, Girl, Interrupted and the collected poetry of Anne Sexton at least a million times. I think I was drawn toward anything with a troubled female main character. Now, I usually alternate between adult and YA novels, and I still lean toward the dark and edgy. But basically, I love anything with a compelling story and characters. Probably my all-time favorite book for teens and adults is The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. It’s beautiful and brilliant.
What part has the internet played in the release of your book, whether it’s your website/blog, book reviewers, etc? Do you feel that book bloggers have helped spread the word about Beautiful?
So far, book bloggers are my favorite people in the world! Seriously, I think you guys are really the champions of YA fiction, especially when it comes to debut authors. YA has a unique audience that doesn’t quite fit with the traditional publishing mold. I love the DIY attitude of bloggers and the power of word-of-mouth. Even though it all happens in the “virtual” world, it seems somehow more human. It’s about real people discussing and recommending books, not a huge marketing campaign telling you what to buy.
Are you working on anything now? If so, what can you tell us about it?
I’m working on a YA novel that takes place in an adolescent drug treatment center. Like Beautiful, it deals with pretty difficult subject matter, but I think it’ll surprise you with how hopeful it is.
What’s one thing about yourself that you’d like readers to know? And finally, what is your advice to your teen readers, whether it’s on life, writing, or anything else?
I had a pretty rough time in middle school and high school. Like Cassie, I did a lot of things I knew were wrong just because I thought it would help me fit in. But it caused me a lot of pain, and eventually I realized it wasn’t worth it. Nothing is worth sacrificing who you are and what you believe. Even though it may seem like the most important thing in the world, being cool or popular in high school matters very little when you get out in the real world. What matters is knowing who you are and acting with integrity.