Amalie Howard is the author of Waterfell, and her newest book, The Almost Girl, will be out tomorrow from Strange Chemistry! Amalie was kind enough to stop by and answer a few questions about the book, and more, so please welcome her to the blog!
Will you tell us a bit about your new book, THE ALMOST GIRL, and what inspired you to write it?
I’m a huge sci-fi fan, and have always loved the Terminator movies. With The Almost Girl, I wanted to write a story about a girl from a parallel dimension that had suffered a similar destruction from the powers of artificial intelligence, who is thrust into the alternate reality of our world. When you’ve been taught to live life within certain strict parameters, carving your own path becomes a personal rebellion. Riven, a soldier first and foremost, has to find herself and connect with her humanity. Taught never to question orders, she makes the leap to trust her instincts and do what she thinks is right, even if it means going against her king. I was inspired to see where this took her.
What did you enjoy most about writing your heroine, Riven, and why do you think readers will connect with her?
I loved Riven’s fearlessness and her fierceness. She’s loyal to a fault with a very strong sense of right and wrong. I really enjoyed writing about her growth and how she comes to embrace the emotional parts of herself, recognizing that they don’t make her weak as she has been taught. A soldier first, she’s so hard on the outside but still vulnerable on the inside—I really connected with her struggle to just let go of all her rules and be a girl. We build so many walls to keep from being hurt that we don’t allow ourselves to connect with others. I love that she was brave enough to trust her heart. This evolution was an integral part of Riven’s story, and I hope that readers will connect as I did with her journey.
You’ve been writing since a very young age. What’s one of the earliest things you can remember writing?
I’ve always loved writing. Even at a very young age, I was always scribbling some story or another into a journal. I remember writing a story about a young girl covered in magical tattoos when I was about nine—tattoos that became alive and were trying to kill my protagonist. Seriously, what did I know about tattoos at nine years old, much less killer ones? Still, I remember it being a pretty cool—if a little sinister for a nine-year-old—story.
What, or who, have been some of the biggest influences on your writing?
My favorite book as a child that made me fall in love with story craft was Grimm’s Fairy Tales. My illustrated copy is over twenty-five years old. I loved the fact that those stories weren’t afraid to venture into the darker nature of fairy tales. That was the book that really set the seed for my compulsive interest in fantasy and mythology. Some of my other favorite books are Anne of Green Gables, Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Go Ask Alice, Tuesdays with Morrie, Queen of the Damned, Wide Sargasso Sea, The Count of Monte Cristo, Pride and Prejudice, Girl Interrupted, Harry Potter, Fire and The Hunger Games. These books (and their authors) have all in some way contributed to my style of writing.
What are you reading now?
I just finished reading Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and I absolutely loved it. Her characters are so well drawn, realistic and compelling that they practically take up residence in your brain. It’s a great contemporary read that I highly recommend.
If you could experience one book again for the very first time, which would it be?
Harry Potter, hands down. I’ve read the series so many times that experiencing it for the first time, especially knowing how much I adore it, would be magical.
What do you enjoy most about writing for a teen audience?
I think as adults we sometimes forget how intense teenage life can be. Everything is more life or death, even something as simple as a crush: “I’ll die if he doesn’t notice me.” I mean I remember thinking those very words and the feeling of my heart rising into my chest and then dying a crushing death when said boy didn’t notice me. After all, as a teen, you’re navigating the waters of friendships, relationships, parents, school, teachers, identity, self-worth and confidence with a whole bunch of raging hormones thrown into the mix. It’s the antithesis of easy. In my writing, I love incorporating the intensity of teenage life—the discovery, the defiance, the self-confidence, the flaws of youth, the vibrancy of it, the all-or-nothing mentality—because it makes the stakes so much higher and the scenarios far more compelling.
What do you hope readers will take away from The Almost Girl?
If there’s one message I’d like readers to take away from The Almost Girl it’s to be resilient. When life throws you a curveball, don’t be afraid to take a swing. Life’s not going to be easy at the best of times, and it’s about how you respond to those challenges. Face what comes your way with courage, trust yourself to do the best thing you can do, and don’t be afraid to have an open heart. Sometimes, you just have to take the jump without knowing what’s on the other side.
What did you love most about growing up on a Caribbean Island?
Growing up in Trinidad really was like living in a paradise—beautiful beaches, friendly people, tropical food and drink, and a very relaxed way of life. I grew up in a house on a hill with a gorgeous view and a large lush backyard full of coconut trees and all kinds of other tropical fruit trees like mango, orange, plum, and guava. We lived about forty-five minutes from most of the beaches on all sides of the island, so we usually went to one of them on the weekends—we had our choice of the more popular tourist beaches to less-known more pristine waters. Our family friends owned a house “down-the-islands” that could only be accessed by boat, and we would vacation there all summer long, which was pretty much year round! In all fairness, I must admit that while growing up in the Caribbean did have its perks, I should stress that I did have to go to school just like everyone else, and had to do homework and chores and extracurricular activities just like any other kid. So it wasn’t an all-day vacation, if that’s what you’re imagining!
You’ve traveled extensively! Where have you not yet been that you’d love to go?
Hawaii, believe it or not. I know it’s a really touristy place, but I’d love to visit especially for the surfing!
What’s next for you?
I have four books coming out this year, so 2014 is going to be an exciting time! THE ALMOST GIRL with Strange Chemistry comes out in a few days on January 7th and ALPHA GODDESS with Sky Pony Press comes out on March 4th. I’m really excited about both of those and hearing what readers think. Following WATERFELL, which came out last November, the second book in the Aquarathi series, OCEANBORN from Harlequin TEEN, will be out in August. Lastly, the sequel to THE ALMOST GIRL is scheduled for November. As far as future projects go, I’m working on a few different things, including a YA techno-thriller and a contemporary novel.
About THE ALMOST GIRL:
Seventeen-year-old Riven is as tough as they come. But coming from a world ravaged by a devastating android war, she has to be. There’s no room for softness, no room for emotion, no room for mistakes. A Legion General, she is the right hand of the young Prince of Neospes, a parallel universe to Earth. In Neospes, she has everything: rank, responsibility and respect. But when Prince Cale sends her away to find his long-lost brother, Caden, who has been spirited back to modern day Earth, Riven finds herself in uncharted territory.
Thrown out of her comfort zone but with the mindset of a soldier, Riven has to learn how to be a girl in a realm that is the opposite of what she knows. Riven isn’t prepared for the beauty of a world that is unlike her own in so many ways. Nor is she prepared to feel something more than indifference for the very target she seeks. Caden is nothing like Cale, but he makes something in her come alive, igniting a spark deep down that goes against every cell in her body. For the first time in her life, Riven isn’t sure about her purpose, about her calling. Torn between duty and desire, she must decide whether Caden is simply a target or whether he is something more.
Faced with hideous reanimated Vector soldiers from her own world with agendas of their own, as well as an unexpected reunion with a sister who despises her, it is a race against time to bring Caden back to Neospes. But things aren’t always as they seem, and Riven will have to search for truth. Family betrayals and royal coups are only the tip of the iceberg. Will Riven be able to find the strength to defy her very nature? Or will she become the monstrous soldier she was designed to be?