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Interview: Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

July 22nd, 2008 (07:08 am)
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When her first novel was published in 1999, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes was only thirteen years old. She's released one book every year since, and her tenth book is on the horizon. I am happy to report that we share a favorite author (Christopher Golden!) and am flattered that Bildungsroman was chosen to be the first stop on Amelia's two-week blog tour.

How do feel your writing style changed since the publication of In the Forests of the Night?

I don't think I could even begin to fully answer this question...

My writing in general has grown in just about every way since I first started to publish. The world is more complex in my head - both the fictional one, which has grown with each story, and the real one, which I have lived in and studied through high school and college classes. I have trouble sometimes these days limiting a story, instead of including every little detail I want to about the history or the psychology or the political intrigues that play out in the work. Thankfully, I have a wonderful editor, who helps encourage me to find the meat of a story inside my early drafts.

Beyond that, my sense of a story and what goes into it has matured. I have more awareness of my audience as I write, which is both good and bad. I can deal with more of the plot at a time, planning more than I used to, which again sometimes works out for the best and sometimes trips me up when I over-think an early draft that should still be at the play stage.

How long does it take you to complete a manuscript?

How long it takes me to finish a manuscript varies greatly, depending on how much trouble I have with the storyline, how many other stories I am working on at the same time, and what else is going on in my life. Forests took me only a few months to finish a first draft. Persistence of Memory, on the other hand, was a story I started in 2000, when I was in tenth grade, and did not finish until 2007. I experienced writer's block about halfway in, and put it aside for years, not just once but twice.

Many of your stories involve shapeshifters and supernatural elements. Have you written or would you ever write a straight drama or comedy without any sci-fi/fantasy in it?

I have occasionally played with other genres, such as real-life fiction, but I have never finished any of those stories. I just don't get drawn into them the way I do with my Nyeusigrube works.

What's one piece of advice (about the writing industry, young writers, etcetera) that you wish someone had given you ten years ago?

"You never have to answer a question you're not comfortable with." Wait, no, people did give me that advice; I just didn't learn it as fast as I would like. It took me a while to learn how to separate my public and private life when dealing with reporters, which led to some awkward moments early on.

Most of the important advice I give to young writers, I did receive at that time, which is probably how I got here. My parents, peers, and teachers were all very supportive of my ventures. They're the ones who told me that, if I wanted it, I had to work at it; if they hadn't, I'm sure I would have sat around and wondered "what if?" for a very long time.

I have a customer who is one of your most loyal fans. He can rattle off the titles and chronology of your books in the blink of an eye. How long does it take you to outline a story?

I rarely make outlines before I start writing. When I do outline an unfinished or unstarted story, it is usually just a matter of jotting down ideas so I don't forget them before I can write them more fully, not an attempt to organize anything. Writing to me is a form of discovery; I uncover the plot and the characters as I go along. Naturally, this often results in a very messy first draft, since I sometimes don't know where I'm going until half-way in, but that's what editing is for. I write to find out the story. Once I have a completed draft, then I outline.

Your next novel, Persistence of Memory, comes out at the end of this year. Care to share the basic plot?

I've never been good at summarizing plots, but I can summarize the inception of Persistence.

I first started the untitled book that would become Persistence in 2000, when I was a sophomore in high school, and on the fencing team. The first version of the story was inspired by many of my teammates. It went nowhere, and I put it aside for several years.

That story was revamped after I spent an evening in the emergency room with a friend of mine. The original plot and the main character took heavy overhauls, and the new story (now 0113 – Untitled) became kind of cathartic for me.

Persistance fell by the wayside for a while, as I published the Kiesha'ra Series. I picked it up occasionally over the years, but only set down to finish it in the spring of 2007, when through some madness I offered it to Random House.

Persistence of Memory is, to a large extent, about what reality really is. It deals with characters introduced in my short story "Empire of Dirt," which was published recently in an anthology titled Number of The Beast (666).

When someone grabs your books about shapeshifters, I also give them Prowlers by Christopher Golden. Who are your favorite authors that you'd recommend alongside your own books?

Well, I love Christopher Golden, though I've never read that particular work. I often recommend young adult authors I read as a kid (Christopher Pike, LJ Smith) as well as Vivian Vande Velde and Annette Curtis Klause. What else I recommend depends a lot on the person I'm talking to, and what other books he or she reads. A lot of my readers are also reading adult fiction, in which case I might mention a few works I know in a similar genre there; others read YA works, in which case I try to be careful to stay within that group.

What do you love to read that's wholly different from your own work?

The most frequent genre I read that's different from my own is in the realm of crime-thrillers and government conspiracies. I love the Bourne trilogy by Robert Ludlum, the three Hannibal Lecter books by Thomas Harris, and the works of James Patterson and Alex Kava.

I also like reading plays, with my recent favorite there (beyond the actual Shakespeare) being Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead [by Tom Stoppard], and I read a lot of psychology, including both theory and case studies.

What are your all-time ten favorite books?

I'm not sure I could come up with such a list. Of my favorite authors - Robin Hobb and Stephen King - I would be hard-pressed to narrow the list down to only ten. Beyond them, I would still need to include some Orson Scott Card (Ender's series), Christopher Golden (Shadow Saga), Laurell K. Hamilton (the first ten or so books in her Anita Blake series), Robert Ludlum (Bourne trilogy, mentioned above) and Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.

Follow Amelia's blog tour:

July 22nd: Bildungsroman
July 24th: Cheryl Rainfield
July 25th: BookLoons
July 28th: Mrs. Magoo Reads
July 30th: Teen Book Review
July 31st: Making Stuff Up for a Living
August 4th: Bookwyrm Chrysalis
August 5th: The Reading Zone
August 7th: Through a Glass, Darkly