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Kids' Q&A

Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Describe your latest project.
Persistence of Memory is a story I started eight years ago, and which has grown up with me. It is the story of Erin Misrahe, a girl who desperately wants to be normal, but has never had that chance due to a condition that human doctors have diagnosed as childhood schizophrenia. It doesn't matter that Erin has seen most of the best psychiatrists in the country, because human doctors have no way of understanding what is actually going on. Erin's dangerous alter ego is not a creation of a traumatized child's mind, but a living — though not quite breathing — vampire, an inhabitant of Nyeusigrube (the Den of Shadows), who is as disturbed as Erin to discover the connection.

  1. Persistence of Memory
    $7.95 Used Hardcover add to wishlist

    Persistence of Memory

    Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
    "Atwater-Rhodes will not disappoint her many fans with this cleverly crafted story of a collision between the fantasy world and the known world." KLIATT

    "[T]his fast-paced narrative will be a quick read for devotees of the genre." Kirkus Reviews

  2. In the Forests of the Night
    $6.99 New Mass Market add to wishlist

    In the Forests of the Night

    Amelia Atwater-rhodes
    "Both the book's subject and the age of the author will ensure its popularity, especially with middle-schoolers, and it may encourage other young writers to pursue the craft." Booklist
  3. Hawksong: The Kiesha
    $3.50 Used Trade Paper add to wishlist
    A School Library Journal Best Books of the Year pick

    A VOYA Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror List selection

    : "Teens will relate to these characters and the universal themes of peer pressure, family problems, and the search for identity." VOYA (starred review)

Describe your most memorable teacher.
I have had so many wonderful teachers (and a few terrible ones, who are equally memorable) that it is difficult to choose just one. I would have to talk about Mr. Corey, who only recently retired, but who was my fifth-grade teacher.

It is not a coincidence that I started writing the first novel I ever finished — the one that introduced me to Nyeusigrube (and paved the way for me to start In the Forests of the Night two years later — in the summer after fifth grade). Mr. Corey had a way of making dreams seem possible and simply raising the bar of human potential.

In his class, I worked with my peers to build a lighthouse, a hexagonal structure in the back of the classroom with two stories and a flashing lamp. I suppose adults must have helped with things like cutting materials, but that isn't what I remember. I remember us, the students, designing it. One group was in charge of researching lighthouses to decide what pattern we wanted to paint. Another was in charge of the building design. My group put together the lamp. Later in the year, we transformed that lighthouse into a gigantic tree as we learned about the rainforest.

These were projects that would overwhelm the mind of any 10-year-old, but somehow we did it. We did a lot of miraculous things that year. After that, the notion of writing and publishing a book just wasn't as daunting. I graduated fifth grade with a solid sense of Yes, I can.

How did the last good book you read end up in your hands?
The last good book I read was The Myth Hunters by Christopher Golden. It ended up in my hands after the author and I exchanged a few emails about his upcoming young adult novel The Waking: Dreams of the Dead (Gaijin Girl #1), published under the name Thomas Randall, which I agreed to read and provide a quote for. I enjoyed Gaijin Girl greatly, but was even more excited when Chris sent me a box full of his backlist books. I have not had time to get through many, but I now have the other books of the Veil series on my Christmas list.

Do you read the Sunday funnies, and which are your favorites?
I do not read newspaper comics unless they happen to be out when I visit my parents, but I follow several online comics, which I check every morning while I drink my coffee and wake up for the day. One of my absolute favorites, Comedity, sadly just ended. Other favorites include, in no particular order, Order of the Stick, Something Positive, Irregular Webcomic, Dominic Deegan, and Looking for Group. The entire list is 44 comics long, and includes everything from gamer humor to political humor to LOLcats.

What is your favorite breakfast cereal?
Apple Jacks. For a while, after I moved into my own apartment and started trying to be a so-called "adult," I tried switching to adult cereals, only to discover looking at labels that most supposedly healthy cereals have no nutritional value whatsoever. Kid cereals may have more sugar, but they also tend to be fortified with a panel full of vitamins, so at least I feel like I ate for a reason that morning.

What do you do for relaxation?
These days, it's hard to find a good time to relax. I am effectively working two full-time jobs — one in a classroom and the other one writing — while doing full-time graduate coursework. That's three full-times, and there's only one of me! I work very hard to make time for myself, though.

As is probably obvious from a previous question, my morning comics are important to me. That is when I mentally prepare for my day on an even and relaxed level. If my internet goes down or I oversleep and don't have time (or if the Comic Genesis server is having problems), that can throw off my entire morning. On evenings when I have class, I am likely to be effectively working or commuting from 6:30 in the morning until 10:30 at night, so that first half-hour with my coffee and my comics is gold to me.

On nights when I don't have class, I try to make time to just be. I work during the days and have night classes on Wednesday and Thursday, and live with my partner, who is in school during the days and works Wednesday through Saturday nights. Monday and Tuesday are therefore our nights, and we both get our work out of the way so we can actually spend time together. We follow Heroes and Fringe. Strangely enough, I didn't watch much television until lately. I was considering cutting my cable package all together. But we're both working very high-energy, constant-movement, constant-brain-work kinds of jobs, and sometimes we need to sit, snuggle, and watch an episode of one of our shows (we also have the box set of West Wing, which we've been making our slow way through) in order to slow down our minds.

If we ever have free time, my partner and I are fond of going on walks through the local state forests and parks. We went camping last summer, and are hoping to make time for it again this year. A rare treat for me is when I get time to take out my easel and paint. I took a painting studio class as an elective while an undergraduate, and it's one of my favorite luxuries.

So, my free time, or relaxation time, is highly valued. It is, however, in very short supply, especially in the fall, when my favorite holidays overlap with the busiest time of the year for all my work.

Why do you write books for kids?
When I first started writing, I wrote books for myself. Now, though I've considered branching out to a different audience, I write for young adults because I feel like the work is more important. Every letter I get from someone telling me "your book was the first book I ever read" or "your work inspired me to follow my own dreams" is a letter that tells me I changed someone's life. Even if I sold a bestselling adult novel, I doubt I would ever have that same feeling of knowing my work introduced someone to an entire world, not just within my books, but of books in general.

What's your favorite holiday and why?
My favorite holiday is November. I used to say Thanksgiving, but November is also National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a nationwide writing event in which I have participated for the last three years.

I am the primary Thanksgiving cook these days, with my mother declaring each year that something I make is "better" than hers and therefore I'm in charge. This past year was the first time I made a pie crust on my own, and she has already declared that, next Thanksgiving, the pies will be my job, as well as the gravy (my grandmother's recipe — yikes!).

There are items on our Thanksgiving table passed down from my great-grandmother, and dishes that have existed as family traditions for generations, as well as new faces and new traditions. I have always believed that cooking and sharing food is a manifestation of love and the sharing of one's self, and Thanksgiving is a day that, to me, cherishes that gathering of people around a meal created for the purpose of love and friendship and family. Everyone at the table, even occasionally near-strangers who were brought as friends of friends, becomes family for an evening.

As for NaNoWriMo, "30 days, 50,000 words" is a form of insanity, but my writing group and the writing community on my message board participates every year, and I have gotten so much out of it. Again, it is the community, and the connection between people, that makes the event so important. I write all year long, of course, but for those 30 days, it is as if the writing community holds its breath and says, "Hey, look at this incredible thing I can do." New novelists are born. New worlds are born, in novels that otherwise never would have made it through the first sentence.

In 2006, when I had come very close to calling my agent and telling him I needed to take a break, NaNoWriMo was where I found my inspiration again.

So, there is November. I finished my 50K, and I hosted a meal for 14 people, including two new dishes brought to the table by my partner.

÷ ÷ ÷

Amelia Atwater-Rhodes wrote her first novel, In the Forests of the Night, when she was 13 years old. Other books in the Den of Shadows series are Demon in My View, Shattered Mirror, and Midnight Predator, all ALA Quick Picks for Young Adults. She has also published the five-volume series The Kiesha'ra: Hawksong, a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year and VOYA Best Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror List Selection; Snakecharm; Falcondance; Wolfcry; and Wyvernhail. Visit her online at www.ameliaatwaterrhodes.com.


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