Monday, February 9, 2009

Interview with Amanda Marrone

Author of the Month: Amanda Marrone
Amanda Marrone grew up on Long Island where she spent her time reading, drawing, watching insects, and suffering from an over-active imagination. It didn’t help that her father told bloodcurdling stories, and would take Amanda and her siblings for moon lit walks in the graveyard—the highlight of which involved having them march up to mausoleums and knock on the doors—alone. On more than one occasion, Amanda turned around to find they’d ditched her for laughs. (No, she didn’t find that particularly funny.)

Not surprisingly, she was extremely scared of the dark—living in fear of cats meowing at the door at night (she was sure they were really monsters pretending to be her cats), and things lurking in basements, attics, dark rooms, and closets.

Amanda successfully avoided monster attacks by leaving all the lights on in her house, and convincing other family members to let the cats in—eventually earning a B.A. in Education at SUNY Cortland. She taught fifth and sixth grade in New Hampshire, where she was known for putting on mini-musicals, and dissecting eyeballs and owl pellets with her students.

After taking a very early retirement to raise a family and write novels—some of which have vampires and other creepy creatures, Amanda now lives in Connecticut with her husband, Joe, two kids, two cats, a crayfish, hissing cockroaches, and their newest addition is Griffin, a havanese dog who can say "Hello" and "I love you". Check the links page to see Griffin’s YouTube videos where you can see him in action.

Amanda loves reading, going to Broadway shows, creepy crawly things, hiking, annoying her husband with show tunes, and is thinking about getting another tattoo. She is still scared of the dark.

Amanda’s first two books for teens, Uninvited and Revealers are available now, and her next book Devoured will be out in September of 2009. Her middle grade series The Magic Repair Shop Chronicles: The Multiplying Menace, Kobold Blues and The Shape Shifter’s Curse will be available starting in the summer of 2010.

1. Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a recovering social and phone phobic. I’m much better now and no longer fear calling for hair cuts and pizza. I’m also a Broadway musical geek and listen to show tunes 85% of the time. I have two kids, and a talking dog, Griffin, who can say “hello” and “I love you”. I think I brag more about the dog than my kids.

2. With writing, was it always a dream of yours or was it something that you decided later on?
I always wanted to be a picture book writer and illustrator. I wrote two picture books and made dummy books, but the third one turned into a novel and I realized I loved the longer format. I never thought I’d attempt another picture book, but I’ve written two in the last nine months and my agent is shopping them around. I’m not trying to illustrate these, though, I can draw, but now that I know more about illustrating, I don’t think I have the chops to pull off a book and will leave that to the professionals.

3. Did you plan on writing YA or was that just where your editor thought your writing should be labeled?
Once I started writing novels—the main character in the first (which sold ten years after I wrote it) was twelve, but the idea for book two was definitely YA. Now my YA editor is hoping I’ll have a book a year which means some other ideas I’ve had in other age groups have to be put on hold.

4. When writing your characters, are any of them based on people who you know or have known? Or even yourself?
My first draft of Uninvited was filled with my friends from high school, but an editor wanted some changes so I made up all new characters with new dialogue. The main character—while I never felt like I was writing about me—has all of my phobias and fears. I do tend to use family names for characters without really thinking about it. Margo in Revealers shares a name with my stepsister. Unfortunately Margo in Revealers is a bit of a bitch, but I never even thought to about the name until my mom asked why I named the “bitch” in Revealers after my stepsister!! I just about died—the real Margo is super sweet and funny and nothing like the Margo in Revealers.

5. Out of all your books so far, which are you most proud of?
Not sure—they’re all so different and I like different things about each one.

6. We have noticed you have written Middle School books as well as YA. Out of the two, which do you enjoy writing the most?
That’s another tough question. I like that the middle school books are ‘clean’. There are some people who don’t like the content of some of my YA’s—I really can’t say which I enjoy more.

7. Is there going to be any adult fiction books in your writing future?
I’ve never thought about writing for adults and haven’t read an adult book in years. Yes, I’m missing out on some wonderful stuff, but I think I’ll be sticking with the younger fiction.

8. Being an author you must love to read. What could we find on your bookshelf?
I do love to read and my shelves are so full, they’re two books deep. Recent reads I’ve loved: Dramarama, Lament, Unwind, The Hunger Games, and a lot of nonfiction books on fairies and creatures. Going through a book on world mythology helped me come up with the idea for my next YA Van Helsing.

9. Could you give us a preview on any current and/or future projects?

I’ve got my magic repair shop series for middle graders and I just sold a new YA—Van Helsing (we’re going to give it another title) Rival teen vampire slayers and the thrill-seeking daughter of the lead singers of the kiddie rock band sensation The Disco Unicorns join forces to defeat the ancient demon vampire Lilith.

10. With your book covers, is your input required, or is it all out of your hands?

They ask me what I think, but it always sounds like it’s a done deal by the time they show it to me. I’ve been very happy with the covers, though, and I LOVE my new cover for Devoured!!!

11. Do you know what fan fiction is? If so, how would you feel about others writing about your characters?

I haven’t read any, but I know it’s out there. My son said he found a fanfiction of Uninvited but it felt too weird to check it out. I guess I don’t have a problem with it, but I don’t think I’d read any of it.

12. Do you have a ‘best’ and ‘worst’ moment in your career?

Besides selling the first book, the best was hearing my middle grade sold and that the editor wanted to make it into a three book series. Worst—my first bad customer review. Some people get really angry over books.

13. Have you met any of your fans, and if you have which is the most memorable?
I’ve had some wonderful emails from teens who make the nasty review feeling melt away. Recently two teens interviewed me for literature projects which was surreal.

14. How long does it usually take you to write an entire book from start to finish?
Now I can write a book in three months. But that’s a lot of BIC—butt in chair—hours, and my house gets really messy!

15. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers like ourselves?

Read, write and believe. I never once thought it wasn’t going to happen, even if friends and family gave up when it didn’t happen right away.
To find out more, check out her site at:

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