Amy Reed was born and raised in and around Seattle, where she attended a total of eight schools by the time she was eighteen. Constant moving taught her to be restless, and being an only child made her imagination do funny things. After a brief stint at Reed College (no relation), she moved to San Francisco and spent the next several years serving coffee and getting into trouble. She eventually graduated from film school, promptly decided she wanted nothing to do with filmmaking, returned to her original and impractical love of writing, and earned her MFA from New College of California. After thirteen years in the San Francisco Bay Area, she now resides in the mountains of western North Carolina with her husband, daughter, and dog.
Hi, Amy! Welcome to YA SH3LF. Can you describe your new book THE BOY AND GIRL WHO BROKE THE WORLD in 3 words?
Weird, heart-breaking, heart-healing.
What can you tell us about Billy and Lydia?
Lydia and Billy are two loners who have grown up in neighboring towns but never met until senior year when their high schools are combined and they become best friends. Lydia is a cynical half-Filipina self-taught dance prodigy who has grown up in her father’s dive bar. Billy is a pathologically cheerful orphan whose favorite thing to do is watch the 24-hour AA meeting channel. They have both survived a lot and have developed creative coping mechanisms to do so, but as they start opening up and letting each other in, they start to realize that maybe some of their coping mechanisms aren’t so useful anymore.
How do your characters come to you—fully formed or do they reveal themselves in pieces? Do you have little stories about them that don’t make it into the books?
My books are always character led, and this one especially. I could hear Billy and Lydia’s voices in my head long before I knew what the plot was. As I get to know my characters better, my understanding of them deepens and sometimes they change a little, but it’s almost like they already know who they are when they come to me, and it’s my job to let them show me. A lot of that discovery doesn’t make it into the book, but what’s important is that I know everything about them, even if the reader doesn’t. It’s funny you should ask about stories that don’t make it into the book, because there’s one chapter that I loved that I had to cut because it didn’t end up being necessary to move the story along, but I had the chance to adapt it into a standalone short story that will be published by the awesome new online YA anthology Foreshadow (foreshadowya.com) sometime this summer. It’s about Billy’s dysfunctional family Christmas and is equally hilarious and weird and sad, which is kind of how I’d describe the book as a whole.
What is your writing ritual? How do you organize yourself before you jump into a new story?
BOY AND GIRL is my tenth novel, and each one reveals itself a little differently, but one thing that has become pretty routine is that each new book is born out of procrastination around finishing the previous one. Like clockwork, when I’m trying to draft the ending of a book and wanting desperately to quit, a new idea pops into my head, and it’s like I start downloading all this exciting new information to distract me from what I should be doing, which is finishing my book. So I end up having this kind of dual process of finishing drafting one book while also brainstorming a new one. I’m not quite sure why my brain does this. I think maybe because drafting is my least favorite part of writing, especially endings, so my brain gets antsy and wants to do something fun. I LOVE brainstorming new books. It’s the only time in the writing process when I feel truly free, when my inner critic gets to take a break. So I end up with pages and pages of weird jumbled notes that I get to comb through later and fit into something with structure and character arcs and all that important stuff, but for a while I get to feel the joy of just letting it be a mess.
What do you think is the next thing in Young Adult literature? Is there anything you’d like to see in the future generation of writers?
I have no idea what’s happening in Young Adult literature as far as trends go, but I can tell you what I’d like to see more of—literary genre bending. I guess this is kind what I was doing with BOY AND GIRL—it’s deeply rooted in character and the “real” world, but reality is augmented by magical and surreal elements. I adore what authors like A.S. King, Nova Ren Suma, and Emily X.R. Pan are doing. I love books that are deep and beautifully written, but that also break conventions. I love books that surprise me and experiment with different ways to explore character and story. I also love the emerging genre of activist fiction, featuring young people working to create change in their communities and challenge oppressive systems and ways of thinking. We absolutely need more of that, now more than ever.
Interview : YA SH3LF