Today I have the pleasure of sharing with you all my first author interview :) So without further ado, I welcome Amy Efaw, author of Battle Dress and After. A mother of five, I’m impressed that she has any time to write, let alone do a ton of radio interviews (read more about those on her blog) and even respond to me :D. Amy Efaw’s most recent novel for young adults, After, does a fantastic job dealing with the “Dumpster baby” phenomenon (see my review from yesterday for more on the book).
KB: What was your inspiration for After?
AE: I first got the idea for AFTER while living in Philadelphia with my law student husband and then 3 little kids, all under the age of 5. One cold winter day, the big news story in Philly was of an off-duty police officer and his pit bull. During their early morning walk, they stumbled across a live baby in a trash bag that was left at the curb. That incident got me thinking about the issue – how could someone do something like that? And why? Then a couple of years later, I had just published my first book for teens, BATTLE DRESS, and I was trying to figure out the topic of my next novel. We were living in Washington State, I was pregnant with my fifth child, and my Army prosecutor husband got his own “Dumpster baby” case to try! At that point, I just knew that I had to write a novel involving the “Dumpster baby” phenomenon.
KB: How did you choose the title?
AE: Actually, the working title I used while I was writing the book was AFTER BIRTH (which I thought was perfect – gritty and graphic, but also clever because of its double meaning). But my publisher thought it was just too icky (“afterbirth” – one word – is another term for “placenta,” and my publisher felt that too many people would’ve been grossed out by that title). So, we tossed around many different ideas, which just weren’t working for one reason or another. And then one day, my amazing editor Joy Peskin and some of the other “decision-makers” at Viking were meeting around some conference room table (at least, that’s how I imagine it happened), and they came up with the simple, but intriguing, title AFTER. And I really liked it, too!
In fact, Joy emailed me about their choice right after the meeting, hoping I’d like it. She wrote, “And, hey “After” is half of your original title :)!”
KB: When did you start writing?
AE: When did I start writing, period? Well, one day in junior high, my 7th grade English teacher called me up after class. She told me she was so impressed with one of the creative writing stories I had turned in to her, that she wanted to submit it for publication. That was the first seed – a teacher telling me I wrote well. A couple of years later in high school, I started writing a novel, but I never finished it. Over the years, I’d write poetry just for myself. But I seriously considered trying to become a writer when I became a mom. I’d sit around in the children’s section of this really cool Borders Bookstore in Philadelphia and read picture books to my kids, and I thought, “Hey! I can do this!” So, I got to work.
I wrote a couple of picture book manuscripts first and sent them off to publishers. But I didn’t have much luck besides collecting rejection letters. But I didn’t give up. Then I attended a weeklong children’s writer’s conference in Chautauqua, New York (I had won a full-ride scholarship to it), and when I returned home all inspired, I started a novel, based on my experience as a female cadet at West Point. It sold before I had even finished it! That was my first book for teens, BATTLE DRESS.
KB: Why did you choose to write for teens?
AE: I might get into trouble for saying this, but I’m going to do it anyway – I think in many ways you have to be a better writer to hold a teen’s attention than an adult’s. We young adult authors have a lot of competition – video games and MySpace and TV and iPods and text messaging, etc. If we don’t grab our audience right away, our book will be tossed, relegated to some corner in a closet or under the bed, never to be cracked again. Adults tend to be more patient when they read; they’ll give a book more time to draw them in.
Also, I believe that teens tend to be more open to new ideas than adults tend to be. Not that I write with an agenda in mind, but as an author, I think it’s a powerful thing to possibly affect the way people look at a particular issue or expose them to a new concept.
KB: What do you hope readers will get out of reading After?
AE: Of course I’d like to bring more awareness to the “Dumpster baby” issue. But even more than that, I’d hope AFTER encourages readers to get involved in other people’s lives. Don’t sit by when your friends withdraw into themselves or change. Take a risk, step up, and ask, “What’s going on with you?” OR “I’m worried about you.” And don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Life can be tough; we need to help each other get through it when we can.
KB: Are you working on anything right now?
AE: Yep, I’ve started working on my next novel for teens. It’ll be another psychological, “get into the head” type story. The going is kind of slow at the moment since AFTER is just coming out, and I’ve been bombarded with tons of radio and blog interview requests, so I’ve been funneling my time in that direction lately. I get distracted very easily, unfortunately! And having five busy kids, my writing often gets shoved onto the back burner.
KB: Thanks, now for a few random questions. Since it’s August, what’s your favorite summer food?
AE: I really love a good burger, grilled out. Lots of ketchup. And ice cream – anything with chocolate. I have a couple of really cool ice cream shops within walking distance of my house in North Denver, so that’s been my vice this summer – taking a walk in the evenings with my husband, Andy, and stopping to grab a scoop!
KB: What song is playing in your head the most right now?
AE: “Paper Planes” by M.I.A.
KB: What question do you wish you were asked more often?
AE: “So, when is that next book coming out?” Because I could always use that extra kick in the butt to stay on task!
KB: Haha, I’m sure we’ll all have to keep that in mind ;) Thanks so much for visiting and best of luck to you.