Today we’re interviewing YA novelist Amalie Howard – author of Bloodspell.
Amalie grew up on a small Caribbean island where she spent most of her childhood with her nose buried in a book or being a tomboy running around barefoot, shimmying up mango trees and dreaming of adventure. She received a bachelor’s degree from Colby College in Maine in International Studies and French, and a certificate in French Literature from the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, France. She has also lived in Los Angeles, Boston, and New York City. She has worked as a research assistant, marketing rep, global sales executive, freelance writer, and blogger. A lover of other cultures and new experiences, especially of the culinary variety, she has traveled extensively across North America and Europe, and as far east as China, Indonesia, and Australia. She currently resides in New York with her husband, three children, and one very willful cat that she is convinced may have been a witch’s cat in a past life.
I’ve met Amalie a few times (we shared the same awesome publicist and did an event together in Boston at the Cambridge Library - that's another story for another time) and she’s as cool as her bio makes her out to be. She’s also a fencer (though she tells me she’s out of practice – hah!) and has given me an open challenge to fence, any time, anywhere (gulp!). If she’s anything like her protagonist, Victoria, I better work on my parries … now.
For those who don’t know, here’s a short synopsis of her debut Bloodspell from Goodreads:
The spell was simple... ''Cruentus Protectum'' (''Defend the Blood'') But what do you do if your blood is your enemy? Victoria Warrick has always known she was different. An outcast at school, she is no stranger to adversity. But when she receives an old journal for her seventeenth birthday, nothing prepares her for the dark secrets it holds--much less one that reveals she's a witch with unimaginable power. What's more, when she meets the dazzling but enigmatic Christian Devereux, she has no idea how much her life is about to change. Enemies will hunt her. Friends will turn on her. The terrible curse that makes her blood run black will stop at nothing to control her. And Christian has a sinister secret of his own... Without knowing whom to trust, can Victoria survive her blood's deadly desires? Or will she lose everything, including herself?
Joe: I think titles are a real challenge for writers to come up with (at least they are for me). When did you figure out the title for your book?
Amalie: In Victoria’s world, her blood is the source and strength of her magic, but it’s also a creature with a will of its own that will do anything to control her. I liked the thought of Bloodspell because it combined the power of the blood with the underlying thread of magic binding it all together. The title was brewing throughout the gestation of this novel, but I’d have to say I had a true idea of it after a few rounds of editing.
Joe: I’m so envious. I’m curious about your main character, Victoria, but having read Bloodspell I have to say you have a wonderful cast of secondary characters. Besides your main character, who do you find most intriguing?
Amalie: I would probably have to say Lena, believe it or not because I think she’s going to be very misunderstood in this novel. After all, she’s a baddie and Christian’s ex. But that said, I briefly mention in the novel how she grew up with seven brothers and spoke nine languages, and could fight with all manner of weapons. I find that intriguing and incredibly badass for a girl! Plus, she chooses to become a vampire—I’d be interested in knowing what would have pushed her to make that choice, and of course learn about the things that drive her. Does she have heart or is she really as cold and heartless as she seems? Lena would definitely have a compelling story of her own!
Joe: Lena is indeed badass with a capital B. I, for one, would enjoy reading a novel about her. Let’s jump a bit to reviews. Your novel has been well reviewed (see my review on Goodreads) and I know you enjoy hearing especially from your YA readers. What’s the best email or review you’ve ever received from a teen reader?
Amalie: This was a review of Bloodspell from a 13-year-old teen, Shara Safer. It was so articulate and well written that I was blown away. It’s still one of my favorites.
“I thoroughly enjoyed reading Bloodspell. It was a gripping read that I could not get enough of. I read it from beginning to end without even looking up. I love it when a story can take hold of you like that. It feels like you are being tossed up and down in a whirlwind, never knowing what will happen next.
First, unlike many written-for-teen novels, Bloodspell has in its favor outstanding quality writing. There are no long-winded descriptions of the gorgeous vampire (Christian) that are intended to draw in giggling females. Amalie Howard, the author, instead describes the action and people’s feelings realistically. My personal favorite character, Angie, undergoes a change during the book. She starts off as moody and resentful, but afterwards her moods are explained. The reader can understand and sympathize with her as the book progresses.
Another thing that I highly endorse in Bloodspell is the main character. Victoria is not just the ditzy, helpless, and pretty girl-next-door you find in other vampire books. Nor is Victoria a mere mortal, she is a witch. As a feminist, I appreciate the way Victoria is able to defend herself. She has no need to call on her vampire boyfriend at the first sign of trouble. Instead, she can just summon up her own magical powers and kick the bad guy’s butt. I love strong female characters.”
Joe: I agree with Shara about your protagonist. Lena may be badass but Victoria is kickass badass. Okay. On to writing. What advice do you have for teen authors when it comes to writing a novel?
Amalie: For any aspiring young writer, I would definitely encourage reading as many books as you can get your hands on—the more you read, the more you’ll understand all the elements required to pen a great book. Develop and experiment with your own unique writing voice, and find what moves you. Which writing genres and themes are you passionate about? What drives you? Do you like stories, poetry or journalistic writing? Find your niche—people are usually better at writing about what they love or what inspires them because it comes from somewhere real. I would also advise young writers to get writing experience early, even if it’s something as simple with working on your school newspaper or starting a blog or getting a local internship. A good rule of thumb is that any experience is valuable experience, and if I’ve learned anything at all, it’s that this industry values credentials. Get yourself out there and write regularly—hone your craft. Don't let rejection hammer you. It's all part of the process. Take in the constructive and make your work the best it can be. Lastly, the most heartfelt advice I can pass on to other writers is to never give up. Believe in yourself and your work, and you can’t fail.
Joe: All great advice for writers of any age. What about when you have trouble writing. What do you do when you get writer’s block?
Amalie: It’s a toss-up depending on the day. Sometimes I literally force myself through the wall, but that’s probably the worst way to deal with writer’s block. It works for me because I work well under pressure. On other days, when the wall gets the better of me, I step away from what I’m working on and come back to it when I’m less frustrated. It could be as much as a few hours to several days. I may also ask my critique partners to read what I’ve written to brainstorm on ideas and to get the creative juices rejuvenated. Oh, and cupcakes. They always help.
Joe: I love cupcakes. But I don’t want to let them distract me. Let’s talk a little about getting published. What is the thing that has surprised you most about publication?
Amalie: In terms of the overall process, I really didn’t expect the publication path to be so long. I mean, people said it was long, but I must not have paid any attention. Note to new authors: when they say it’s long, understand that to mean it’s really, really long. The actual book took me about three months to write. We're talking about three months for the—in Anne Lamott's words, the crappy first draft—and then came a few more months of editing, then some time off, then some more editing. I’d probably say give or take a year or two to really polish the manuscript into ship-shape, and then another year and a half to see it in print. So yeah, it’s a long process.
Joe: Thanks Amalie, for taking the time to speak to our readers today and good luck on the sequel, Bloodcraft, coming out in 2013.
Amalie’s give-away is a double-header: a signed copy of her kickass badass novel, Bloodspell, and a sterling silver Bloodspell triquetra charm – winner take all. Contest closed May 1st with winners announced May 3rd.
The rules are simple:
- One entry if you comment on this interview.
- One entry if you are or become a follower of this blog.
- One entry if you tweet about this interview.
- One entry if you post on facebook about this interview.
For more information about Amalie and Bloodspell take a look at her websites:
Bloodspellbook.com (Bloodspell website)
Amaliehoward.com (Amalie’s blog on writing and all things Amalie)
Now... about that fencing match...