I have decided that I love Bloomsbury...the publisher. I love them. (Of course, I'd love them more if they published one of MY stories...)
Anyway, the latest review book I got from them is this one.
The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry.
And guess what? We are very lucky today to have the author with us for a little interview. Yay!
But first, let me tell you a bit about this wonderful new YA fantasy.
Lucinda Chapdelaine's parents died in a carriage accident years ago, leaving her to live with a distant uncle. They toil in a jewelry shop under the direction of her demanding step-aunt.
One day, a mysterious lady comes into the shop with an even more unique jewel. This sets a chain of events into motion that will change Lucinda's life. She'll befriend a goat, find her childhood home, meet a prince, and be sent to her death.
I thoroughly enjoyed this debut novel by Julie Berry, so I contacted her for an interview. Here goes...
Thanks so much for agreeing to answer a few questions...
First of all, I'll start with the flattery (you can blame Shannon Hale for that). The Amaranth Enchantment is a stunning debut novel. The plot is quick and fresh, and the characters are realistic and engaging. Readers who enjoy books by Jessica Day George, Robin McKinley, and Shannon Hale are sure to find a gem in The Amaranth Enchantment. Anyway, I devoured the book (and found it quite delicious.)
1. Tell us a bit about you.
I grew up on a farm in western New York, the youngest of seven children. I attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as an undergrad, majoring in communication, and have worked in software tech writing, marketing and sales for most of my career. I'm married with four young sons, ranging from 4 to 12 years old. I earned an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of the Fine Arts in January 2008. I love gardening, quilting, and singing -- I'm a choir director at church. And, I write a humor column for the MetroWest Daily News.
2. How did you get the idea for this story?
It was a long process with many false starts. I started thinking about a decaying but once-magnificent house full of memories. I thought about falling from Paradise and how that might happen. And I thought about a fairy-tale heroine with a sidekick who rescues the fallen one. From there, the pieces gradually came together.
3. How did you break into publishing? Do you have advice for the hopefuls like me who haven't been able to YET?
I think several things made a difference for me. My newspaper writing experience taught me to write quickly, for an audience, paying close attention to voice. My years in grad school forced me to write extensively, think and write critically about what I was reading, write lots, and revise lots. Many people do publish without an MFA, of course, but it made a great difference to me. Beyond that, just writing daily, diligently, and being willing to write honestly and revise painfully makes a big difference. Setting all that aside, I met an agent at a conference, followed up with her, and she decided to represent me. Her efforts led to the publication opportunity with Bloomsbury.
4. Who do you most closely identify with in The Amaranth Enchantment? Is there a bit of you in Lucinda? Beryl? The Prince?
I always say that everything I write is autobiographical. It may be true that every character I write is in some way a reflection of me! Probably I feel closest to Lucinda, though, among those you've mentioned. We spent the most time together. I appreciate her flaws and her persistence.
5. Congratulations on the awesome article in the Boston Globe! How do you think being LDS/Mormon has influenced your writing? Why do you think more and more LDS women are writing for teens?
More writers are writing for teens, period, Mormon or otherwise, so Mormons are part of a larger trend in this instance. But I think there's a natural fit between many Mormon writers and children's/YA literature, inasmuch as there's more overlap between youth literature and LDS standards. Mainly, though, I think LDS women are encouraged to develop their talents and pursue their goals, so when the Harry Potter tidal wave hit the world and re-confirmed the legitimacy and vitality of young adult literature, many LDS women rose to the example set by J.K. Rowling, herself an inspiring writer-mom. I think this is true whether or not someone likes Harry Potter or is drawn to fantasy. The entire children's literature universe was expanded and energized by its Potter encounter.
6. How do you balance being a mother and writer?
It's not easy. I'm not sure that I do balance it. I don't write when the kids are awake and needing attention. I write when they're asleep, or elsewhere. I need to focus in order to write, and that's hard to do when they're here. And they need me to focus on them when they're around. So I need to search every day for pockets of time when I can write without taking time away from them.
7. And finally, tell us about any new projects you are working on.
Right now I'm hacking my way into a mystery. Alas, much of it remains a mystery still to me! Beginnings tend to take me quite a while. I need many rewrites and start-overs to find the right entry into my story.