Interview: Amy Christine Parker, author of Gated

Amy Christine Parker’s debut novel, the dystopian YA GATED, just came out yesterday, and she was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the book, her writing, and more!

Please welcome Amy to the blog!

amychristineparkerAmy, your brand new book, Gated, just came out this month! Have you always wanted to be a writer?
No, actually I didn’t. I had no idea that this is what I wanted to do until about four years ago. I was always, always an avid reader, paper and pen lover, and word enthusiast, but I never gave writing a serious thought. I didn’t know any writers personally and most of the adults I did know had very practical jobs—ones that they wouldn’t have described as their passion. I guess maybe early on I didn’t let myself dream big enough. I’m not sure why. I can remember always thinking that authors had very cool jobs and feeling wistful about it, but that’s as far as it went until I got much, much older and in many ways, braver.

Will you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I grew up in a suburb outside of Philadelphia and am a product of the eighties for sure. I’m not ashamed to admit (embarrassed maybe, but not ashamed) that I had the big Jersey-style mall hair as a teenager and wore way too much fluorescent colored clothing. I have one younger brother who is only fifteen months younger than me. We grew up fighting like crazy, but then became close enough that we ended up at the same college together hanging around with basically the same group of friends. I moved around a lot when I was really young which caused me to become pretty shy. My love for reading grew out of that. As a kid, I spent lots of time hiding behind books so I wouldn’t have to feel left out at recess or lunchtime at each new school. Stephen King and his short story collections actually got me through some pretty terrible middle school years. I was a cheerleader for one year in high school, but messed up my chances of staying one when I chose to be part of the dancers for the school musical that year instead of being in the big spring cheer routine/competition (I still don’t regret it, either). The musical was Fame, and there was no way I was missing out on that. I love horror and sci fi movies and will sometimes see two movies in a row at the theatre. I hate all hot drinks unless I’m sick, so no coffee or tea for me unless it’s iced. My fave candy is Twizzlers Pull n Peels. My biggest vice is Coke Zero. Chocolate is pretty much a staple food for me. This about sums me up.

Why should we root for your heroine, Lyla Hamilton? What did you enjoy most about writing her character?
You should root for Lyla because even if she doesn’t realize it most of the time, she’s a strong, independent thinker who doesn’t want to give up her freedom of choice or her right to a life free from fear. I loved writing her flashbacks most. There are times throughout the book when she flashes back to memories that directly relate to her current circumstances and explain how she became a part of the Community in the book. These were the most enjoyable for me to write because I felt that they helped me understand who she is the most.

gatedWhat kind of research did you do for the book?
I watched a ton of documentaries on apocalyptic shelters, cults, cult leaders. I read through the final transcripts of Jonestown many, many times. I watched the exit videos that the members of the Heaven’s Gate cult left for family members before they committed suicide. I poured over articles and books on Charles Manson, Jim Jones, David Koresh, the Waco Seige, and Marshal Applewhite. I researched brainwashing techniques used by cults and on prisoners of war. I watched experiments on extreme isolation and its effect on the brain. There was lots of research involved, most of it disturbing, but also completely fascinating.

What made you decide to write a YA novel?
All of my ideas seem to naturally lean towards YA. It wasn’t ever really a conscious decision as much as the most obvious course for me. I’m drawn to teen characters and the obstacles that they face.

Why do you think apocalyptic stories are so popular?
I think apocalyptic stories rise in popularity when our own lives feel more dire. When bad things seem to be happening all around us and at an alarming rate, it’s enough to make anyone wonder about humanity’s future. I know that whenever something like the shooting at Sandy Hook or the Boston Marathon Bombing happen, I tend to wonder how bad things can get before somehow someway there’s a reset.

What is your writing process like?
I try really hard to be structured. Whenever I have an idea I make all these big plans, I create an outline, research thoroughly, map out a writing schedule that makes it look as if I’ll be able to go from the idea phase to the finished manuscript phase in less than five months…and then when I start writing, I basically veer from all of it within the very first paragraph. I have to throw out the outline by the end of that first week and basically feel my way through the rough draft. I am always panicked and stressed about it, but no matter how many times I try to stick to my plan, some part of me always rebels. So I guess maybe my style is structured chaos. It’s not overly efficient in the long run, but it works.

Who, or what, has influenced your writing the most?
Stephen King. That man knows what he’s doing. Sometimes when I read his work it feels like he just goes off on these jazz type writing riffs where the words all flow and I can feel this kind of magic in his prose. Every single day I write hoping that I’ll somehow be able to achieve the same thing in my own work. Someday, hopefully, I’ll get good enough at the craft that it’ll happen.

If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which one would it be?
Oh, wow. Hard question. There are so many books. So I will probably do the rebel thing here and say that If I had to narrow it down–THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND, LORD OF THE FLIES, THE SKELETON CREW, HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE…oh man, it looks like I can’t even manage to narrow it down, can I?!

When you’re not working on your next project, how do you like to spend your free time?
I love to hang out with my family at the beach or go to the movies or read a really good book. I am also a big fan of last minute road trips.

What’s next for you this year and beyond?
Currently I’m revising the sequel to GATED (which I’m very excited about) and working on several ideas for new books. I will be doing some traveling to conferences and such and hopefully some book research-type travelling as well. I think the biggest thing I’ll be doing though is sneaking into book stores to see if GATED’s on the shelf. I have a feeling that the thrill of seeing it there will never, ever get old.

Keep up with Amy: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

About GATED:
She thought the evil lived outside the walls.

She was wrong.

In the Community, life seems perfect. The members of this isolated suburban development have thrived under Pioneer, the charismatic leader who saved them from their sad, damaged lives.

Lyla Hamilton and her parents moved here following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, looking to escape the evil in the world. Now seventeen, Lyla knows certain facts are not to be questioned:

Pioneer is her leader.
Will is her Intended.
The end of the world is near.

Like Noah before him, Pioneer has been told of the imminent destruction of humanity. He says his chosen must arm themselves and prepare to fight off the unchosen people, who will surely seek refuge in the compound’s underground fortress—the Silo.

Lyla loves her family and friends, but given the choice, she prefers painting to target practice. And lately she’d rather think about a certain boy outside the development than plan for married life in the Silo with Will. But as the end of days draws near, she will have to pick up a gun, take a side, and let everyone know where she stands.

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