If you know me, you know I love contemporary YA the best and I’m very glad to be a part of Keepin’ it Real. Kaitlin is awesome for doing this and I’m so glad to be interviewing Amy Zhang. I’ve read 58% of Falling into Place after which I stopped because hello, I-don’t-want-this-book-to-end syndrome. I think I’ll re-read it before finishing it because it’s just that good.
It says in your bio that ‘books, tea, architecture, words, and pie make me very happy.’ Well, all of those things make me happy, as well (though, doughnuts and pizza make me more happy than pie). Anyway, I’d love to see a photo of your paper-mached desk that you did yourself using old book pages. And now for the question part of the question, tell us a bit more about yourself.
Hi! Thanks for having me! I’m Amy. My hobbies include wasting time on Pinterest, marathoning TV shows, and online shopping. I started writing in a fit of self-pity when I moved to Sheboygan, WI, in eighth grade, and I kept writing because I fell in love with it. I’ll be going to New York for college in a few weeks, and I’m nowhere near ready. My favorite word is “misadventures.”
|Hello, Amy’s gorgeous paper-mached desk.|
Liz is a beautifully raw character and it’s hard to not like her despite her flaws. I think we need more books like this, so thank you for writing Falling into Place. How would you describe your debut, Falling into Place?
I usually tell people that it’s just a book about high school and all of things that happen in those years. It’s about wanting to grow up but not know how. It’s about being a friend and falling in love and feeling like the world revolves around you because you haven’t seen enough of it yet to know any different. It’s about living in the moment and making mistakes and trying to fix them and not doing a good job of it. It’s about learning how to be a person.
How do you like the cover of Falling into Place? I, for one, love it because it’s abstract and minimal and yes.
I LOVE IT. I can’t stop looking at it. Originally, we were going to go with a different cover, but when my editor sent me this one, I just remember thinking, yes, this fits better. I couldn’t imagine a better cover. I love the car and the hand and the physics equations in the background. I love the colors and the chevron on the flaps and the pearl finish. It’s absolutely perfect.
Falling into Place is about suicide and Newton’s laws of motion. How did you get to writing about such an unusual combination?
Falling started as two short stories, one of which was about a girl who committed suicide and left behind a notebook with her reasons why outlined in terms of Newton’s laws of motion. I was really intrigued by the idea of motion—how things don’t move if you don’t push them, how they keep moving unless you stop them. There was something about that that seemed so applicable to life, particularly high school life. I think that as a teen, you always feel kind of isolated. You exist in the moment. You’re often afraid to share your opinions, so you almost feel as though you’re the only one to ever think, really think. You feel alone, and that just isn’t true—actions reverberate. Everything is an interaction.
Falling into Place starts in the present and then goes back bit-by-bit with memory flashes. Did you intend it to be this way?
You know, I don’t actually remember what I was thinking when I first sat down to write. My first outline had all of the flashbacks and snapshots, but I never really thought about the structure. That was just the way I saw Liz’s story—in flashes, in memories, in puzzle pieces. Honestly, I didn’t think even think of it as nonlinear until one of my critique partners put a label to it. I don’t know that I intended to tell a certain way—that was just the way the story needed to be told.
Books about unlikable characters are always a bit tough to write because you’re working on a very thin line of endorsal vs portrayal. How did you tackle it in Falling into Place?
I think everyone is a bit of a jerk in high school. What I wanted to show in Falling into Place is that you can’t define yourself in moments—either your best or your worst. No one is likeable at their worst, and Liz was constantly at her worst. I wanted readers to know why, and that she had reasons for being there.
You’re doing a #100daysofFiP photo project on Instagram. How did that come to be?
I have this app on my phone that counts down the days until Falling’s release, and I wanted to do something fun once I hit the 100-day mark. I had just gotten a new camera as a graduation present, and I figured that I should put it to good use!
Is the world of publishing as scary as it sounds? How has your experience been?
Not at all! Deciding to look into publishing was the best decision I’ve ever made. Everyone is so incredibly dedicated and enthusiastic. I think publishing is just one of those industries in which everyone is there because they want to be there, and you can totally see that. It’s fantastic.
Are there any other works in progress? Since I read your blog a bit, I know there are a few and I’m very fascinated by all of them, especially, Memento Mori.
Yes! I’m working on a book tentatively titled This is Where the World Ends right now, which is about a boy who’s obsessed with apocalypses and a girl whose goal in life is to make the entire world fall in love with her. There’s spray paint and a coffee shop full of origami cranes and wings made out of dictionaries, and I can’t wait to share it with everyone! Memento Mori will probably be my next project.
Lastly, everyone should know that you are – ?
…horribly disorganized, usually sleep-deprived, and alarmingly dependent upon caffeine.