Monday, April 05, 2010

Author Chat: An Interview with Amy Brecount White

Today, I'm thrilled to welcome Amy Brecount White to BBB. She's the author of Forget-Her-Nots (reviewed here), a YA novel about (among other things) the power of flowers. Welcome, Amy!

Me: I know you loved to read as a child, but what about writing? Did you make up stories as a kid or did that come later?

ABW: I remember having an active imaginary life and playing very elaborate games with my friends and siblings, but I didn't actually write anything down until I was in college.

Me: What made you decide to write for a YA audience?

ABW: I used to teach high school English, and I love working with teens. (Often more so than adults!) I think it's a very exciting and elastic time of life. When I started reading more YA novels, I also became aware of how well-written and engrossing they are. Teen readers are a demanding audience, and the writers rise to their expectations.

Me: What made you choose to write brighter, more hopeful stories than those that are currently on the market for teens?

ABW: Quite frankly, I'm a pretty bright and hopeful person. I have my moments, but I like to celebrate the joys and connections of life, rather than dwell on all the negatives. Happy stuff happens, too.

Me: How has teaching junior high and high school influenced your writing?

ABW: Teaching made me very aware of lots of the issues and stresses teens face today. I also came to have great respect for the intelligence and depth of my students. I wanted to write a book that would truly appeal to their curiosity and empathy.

Me: Have you learned anything about teenage readers that helped you while writing FHN?

ABW: I learned that they care a great deal about the world and that they're always listening. I hope that knowing about flowers and their messages adds a dimension of fun and intrigue to their own lives.

Me: In Forget-Her-Nots, Laurel's classmates tease her because she's so into flowers, something that's not common among today's teenagers. Why did you think the subject would be interesting for YA readers?

ABW: Personally, I think flowers are amazing,and they bring me great joy. I wanted to share that joy and delight and encourage teenagers to stop and smell the roses - literally. There are scientific studies that show how having flowers in your room at a hospital can help you recover more quickly or that receiving flowers can boost your mood for days. I wrote a guest blog about it for the Book Butterfly here: http://butterflybookreviews.blogspot.com/2010/03/spread-flower-love-blog-tour-amy.html.

Me: How did your love for flowers come about?

ABW: It's partly inherited from my mom and a neighbor who gardened. So I always knew I wanted my own garden when I had some soil to play with. Both my sisters garden, and we all enjoy plants and flowers in our houses. I love to watch each bud emerge and then open wide. The colors and scents can be magnificent.

Me: What kinds are your favorite to grow in your garden?

ABW: I have flowers blooming in my garden from February to November. Whichever ones are in bloom are my favorites. I especially love the bleeding hearts, native wisteria, and hellebores.
What do your choices say about you? I'm pretty easy to please, as far as flowers go. I love them all.

Me: If Laurel made you a tussie-mussie, what would it include?

ABW: White bellflowers to express gratitude for telling her story. Mountain laurel, because that's HER flower. Rosemary, because she wants me to remember her and bring her back to life on the page.

Me: In FHN, Ms. Suarez is cultivating a very exotic flower in the school conservatory. If you could choose such a bloom for your own gardens, what would it be? Why?

ABW: Ooo, I'd be a little scared to have something that rare and wonderful, but it would probably be a lady slipper orchid. I've seen a few lady slipper orchids in the wild, and they just take your breath away. So beautiful. I haven't had the time or patience to try them in my yard, and they're expensive, too. With my three kids and dog to keep me busy, I prefer lower maintenance stuff now that I know will come back next year (perennials).

Me: I know you're working on a new book, after which you plan to write a sequel to FHN. Tell me about both stories.

ABW: The next one is called STRING THEORIES. It's YA, ages 14 and up, so slightly edgier. It's about love and lust, the physics of relationships, a stream, and getting even.

After that, I'd love to do a companion novel (kind of like Shannon Hale's Bayern books) to FHN. It would have more to do with the world of orchids and flower smuggling.

Me: You juggle so many roles - wife, mother, teacher, writer, blogger. How do you balance it all?

ABW: It's a little nuts right now. I'm not teaching at all, but I hope to do school and Skype visits, because I do love to talk about writing. I try to live fully in every moment and give my best to whatever I'm doing. I'm sure some things have slid through the cracks, but I'm having a great time. I'm a very energetic person! My kids are thrilled for my success, so they're pretty good about helping out.

Me: Finally, I ask this question of all the authors I interview, simply because I'm fascinated by the variety of responses I get: How do you write?

ABW: I love to get up early and write while the world is still asleep, but I usually only do that when I'm deep into a novel or revisions. Most days, I write while my kids are in school. I just finished STRING THEORIES, so I'll read it one more time, then send to my agent and take a little break to catch up after the FHN launch and let some ideas gestate.

Me: Do you have a regular writing schedule or do you compose as the mood strikes?

ABW: I have to write when the house is silent, which means while the kids are at school. I'm fairly disciplined. My most important rule is to leave a note to myself at the end of each writing day, so I can dive in where I left off without feeling blocked or blanking. I don't have time for writer's block.

Me: Do you outline your books or just write?

ABW: I do both. Sometimes the voices and scenes just run in your head, and you follow along. Then later I'll go back and see how it fits into the whole scheme of the novel. Sometimes I plan exactly what to write. It's different every day.

Me: Where do you write?

ABW: Anywhere quiet.

Me: Is there anything you HAVE to have beside you when you write? I love to drink hot tea while I write. I drink a lot of Earl Grey with milk.

ABW: What makes you unique from other writers?

Me: My topic of the language of flowers definitely sets me apart. Every writer has had unique experiences she can bring to the page. So every writer has the potential to be unique. :-)

Me: Thanks so much, Amy!

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