Hi all! I've got a special treat for you today. About a month ago, I signed up for the Authors Are Rockstars blog tour, hosted by Fiktshun & Two Chicks On Books. To my delight, I was assigned Amy Kathleen Ryan.
You might know Ms. Ryan as the author of Glow, an adventurous book that combines elements of sci-fi, dystopia, and romance to tell a thrilling tale. Well, that's what all the glowing reviews (haha! I'm too clever) say, because I haven't read it yet. Yet! And that's only because my store hasn't stocked it yet. Grrr, limitations of physical space.
To me, Ms. Ryan is a rockstar because she's daring. Go on, click on that link to read the full synopsis of Glow and tell me that isn't a daring story to undertake. It gets better. You see, Ms. Ryan has other books as well, but they're not sci-fi/dystopian. They're straight-up contemporary! Well, except for the one that happens to have a mind reader in it. It takes a lot of guts to stray out of one's expected genre, and rockstars are known for their guts!
Duck below the jump break to read the interview!
Shelver: Thanks for coming by for an interview, Ms. Ryan! It’s a bit of a silly question to start out with, but I was wondering... Why did you decide to go with all three names - Amy Kathleen Ryan - as your pen name?
Amy Kathleen Ryan: Good question! For two reasons: There are a million Amy Ryans out there. It’s a very common name, and I wanted to be a little distinctive. And the other reason is there is an Academy Award nominated actress named Amy Ryan out there and I didn’t want to steal her thunder by becoming much more famous than her.
S: You have five books currently on shelves around the world, which is quite an accomplishment. They vary so much in scope and theme. I’m impressed! Tell us first about Shadow Falls. Without looking at the official synopsis, could you tell us in one sentence what the book is about?
AKR: The book is about how a withdrawn girl overcomes her grief for a brother she lost in a mountaineering accident.
S: What elements of your hometown of Jackson did you incorporate into the story?
AKR: I tried to capture the natural beauty of Jackson Hole, which is where I’m from and is a very dear place to me. I took lots of poetic license with geography and topography, but the spirit of the valley very much informed my writing. Also, Nora’s Fish Creek Inn is a real restaurant and Nora is a real person, and she makes the best huevos rancheros in the known universe.
S: While Shadow Falls sounds like it tends toward the darker side, your next book, Vibes, sounds like a hoot! What was it like for you when you first “met” Kristi?
AKR: Kristi is loosely based on a student I had when I was teaching Freshman composition at the college level. She was snarky and mean and had a terrible attitude. I dreaded meeting with her, but I realized she was actually pretty funny, and her voice kind of crept into my head. I’m sure she has no idea there’s a character wandering the fictional universe that’s based on her.
S: Ha! That's great.
Let me into your head for a moment. You tackled (and conquered) darker YA contemporary. Then you tackled (and conquered) lighter YA contemporary. What made you go “Hmmm, an epic struggle in space sounds like just the thing”? [Shelver note: In trying to make a point about the genres, I skipped over Ms. Ryan's other contemporary, Zen and Xander Undone, but it too deserves recognition. Go check it out.]
AKR: I sometimes think I’d be better off if I stayed in one sub-genre of YA and just kept writing it. Unfortunately, that’s not how my mind works. I think I get bored if I write the same kind of thing over and over. I like to experiment and try new things. It’s not really a choice, though. I don’t get that many ideas that are big enough to fuel a novel. I just have to write what comes to me. I find myself obsessing about a character, a world, a conflict… That’s the next book I have to write. I don't even consider that I might be changing genres.
S: Was it scary to make such a big leap?
AKR: Yes. When I was writing Glow, I really didn’t think I’d be able to sell it because it was so dark and violent. Then, when I was almost done with the first draft, The Hunger Games came out, and I realized that Glow wasn’t so dark after all!
You list Madeleine L’Engle as one of your influences, which completely makes sense. What other sci-fi pop culture icons helped shape Glow?
AKR: Glow has Margaret Atwood’s fingerprints all over it. The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the first novels to use female infertility as a backdrop for a society that oppresses women. In fact, I made some very conscious allusions to Atwood to give her credit. P.D. James’ Children of Men was another book about infertility and how it pressures a society, and I think it probably influenced me a bit. As far as taking the fertility issue and setting it in space, I think nothing puts pressure on characters like being all alone in deep space with no one around to help them. Their lives depend on a tin can that, if pierced, could explode and kill everyone. It’s a great setting for a thriller.
S: Hard question - Which book is your favorite? Or, if a rewording would help, which of your books are you the most proud of?
AKR: Glow represents kind of an artistic breakthrough for me. Before Glow, as you pointed out, I was writing contemporary YA from the first person perspective. With Glow I changed my technique entirely. The book represents a very large canvas with a lot of demands for world building, characterization, and point of view that took all my skill as a writer.
S: What’s one book that you’ve read recently that you just loved to pieces?
AKR: I just finished Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, which describes in horrific detail a doomed expedition to Mount Everest in which eight climbers perished horribly. I made the mistake of finishing that book right before going to bed… Did not sleep much that night. I’ve also recently discovered Ann Patchet, (came a bit late to the party) and I’m in the middle of her book State of Wonder. I’m totally engrossed in it, and will probably pick up her award-winning Bel Canto next. Lately I’ve not been reading a lot of YA, but I’m certain I’ll get sucked back in. I always do!
One more round of thanks to Ms. Ryan for coming by and for Fiktshun and Two Chick on Books for setting up the tour. I've provided links to their respective websites and Twitter pages below. Also, once you've caught up on Glow, don't forget to check out its sequel, Spark, now in stores!
Please feel free to sound off in the comments about Ms. Ryan, her books (I'd love to hear how you like them!) and what authors you think are rockstars.
Ms. Ryan's website: http://www.amykathleenryan.com/
Ms. Ryan's Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmyKathleenRyan
Fiktshun's website: fiktshun | A blog for all things fiction
Fiktshun's Twitter: @fiktshun
Two Chicks on Books's website: Two Chicks On Books