Today Romance Magicians welcomes Amy Plum, the author of upcoming Die For Me. Amy is a Birmingham native who now makes her home in the Loire Valley in France.
Die For Me weaves the mythology of a new supernatural monster--the Revenant--into the beauty of Paris and the mystery of falling in love. After the horrific death of both of her parents, 16-year-old Kate moves to Paris to live with her grandparents. While adjusting to her new life, she falls for Vincent, a broodingly handsome Frenchman. But Vincent is anything but the average teenager. He's a Revenant--an undead being whose fate forces him to sacrifice himself over and over again to save the lives of others
I was lucky enough to get a hold of an ARC of the novel months ago, and I really can't say enough about how much I enjoyed the book. In a market over-saturated with angsty supernatural teen romances, Die For Me stands out. The novel is beautifully written and imaginatively conceived. I can't imagine how this book won't be huge. And one lucky commenter will get to read it before anyone else, because I'm giving away an ARC of the novel!
Amy was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Enjoy! (And make sure you go pre-order the book.)
1. I know that the success you've had so far with Die For Me has given you the chance to do what most writers dream of--quit the day job and write full time, but at what point did you make it your goal to be a writer? What did you do to stay focused and motivated on that goal?
Lisa, I’ve always wanted to write. But after a few early rejections (by my university’s literary magazine and by friends whose advice I trusted), I decided to keep my writing to myself. Besides my MA thesis and art historical articles I wrote for Sotheby’s (where I worked for a few years), my writing was limited to journals and long storytelling letters to friends and family about the foreign places I lived.
It wasn’t until I moved to the Loire Valley five years ago that I began blogging. Finally, people I didn’t know from Adam started giving me feedback on my writing. And it was overwhelmingly positive, which shocked me because I still felt that it was a passion that I had no talent for. It was because of those readers’ encouragement that I found the courage to write my first manuscript (A Year in the Vines).
So the blog was my “coming out” as a writer. I didn’t know what blogging was, so I usually wrote full essays and articles. And I did that every day for two years, and then every other day for another year, before it became necessarily (because of my book-writing) less frequent.
The thing that kept me focused and motivated during that period was pure desperation. I had gone from being a career girl in the big city (New York) to jobless and isolated in the French countryside. I had no friends. When my husband traveled I sometimes went a whole week without speaking to anyone. My husband and I weren’t doing well. Our financial situation wasn’t good. And I had this round-the-clock screaming colicky baby that I had no clue what to do with.
For me it was write or die: make my desperate situation funny and in doing so seduce a following of readers who would give me emotional support. (Unless I’m deluded, those readers didn’t know how bad things were. Who wants to read a sob story? So I made it comical. If they’re reading this now...surprise!) If I hadn’t had that creative and social outlet, I would probably have been hospitalized for severe depression. Instead, I found my calling. You could say that writing saved my life.
2. Even though your first manuscript found an agent fairly quickly, it hasn't been published yet. Was there anything that helped keep you focused on continuing to write, even as you waited for news on that first one?
Finding an agent (Stacey Glick of Dystel & Goderich) so quickly was a huge confirmation to me. And then the encouraging feedback from the publishers she submitted it to gave me the affirmation that another book was worth trying.
By this time, I had found a job teaching university English, and had done an overhaul of A YEAR IN THE VINES (changing it from part-fiction to pure memoir at the request of publishers). I didn’t like the new version as much and had a feeling it wouldn’t sell. So while I waited for the news from Stacey, I threw myself into a new project. Although I was used to writing stories from my life on the blog, I thought I’d try a different genre. And since I had just read TWILIGHT and saw how well it was working, I figured I’d give YA a try. I wrote DIE FOR ME during the university’s summer vacation.
It was really a stab in the dark. I had no expectations that the book would work. I was already geared up to write something in a different genre the next summer, which would be my last go at publication before having to quit the low-paying university job and find something full-time.
3. You've talked about using the theme of "impossible love" in Die For Me. Do you think that the theme has more resonance for a YA audience than an adult audience?
That’s a really good question! I think that impossible love holds resonance for a YA audience for one reason, and for an adult audience for another.
When you’re young you dream of Prince Charming (or Princess Charming!) because you haven’t had enough experience to know that he/she doesn’t exist. I remember watching the film West Side Story when I was a teenager. I became hysterical afterward, and cried for hours. Totally freaked my parents out. The impossible love in Tony and Maria’s case was so incomprehensible and unfair to my fifteen-year-old mind that it destroyed me. I sobbed after reading Romeo and Juliet for the same reason.
So we all fast-forward a decade (or two in my case) and several relationships later. You know the difference between reality and fiction now. But oh, how you wish the fiction were real.
4. Do you think you'll continue to write YA fiction beyond Die For Me?
I have one other YA paranormal series in mind, but only because it is about a topic that has fascinated me for years. If that doesn’t work out, I don’t think I will stick with YA paranormal. But I do enjoy YA and would be open to writing something else for that age group.
But I do hope to write adult books. That diamond project I keep seeing glittering in the distance is a dark southern novel—in the manner of Ya-Ya Sisterhood, but with a pretty high creep-factor. And I have a Rosemary’s Baby-style psychological thriller that I wrote about fifty pages of before not knowing what to do with it. I can’t wait to jump back into that project.
5. Die For Me isn't out yet, but you've had a well developed internet platform for the book for a while now. As a newly published author, what do you think are the most important lessons you've learned about using the web or social media to market your book?
I already had a good readership from my old blog, and they all generously followed me over to my writer’s blog and to Facebook. (Even though most are not YA readers.) So thanks to them I wasn’t posting in the dark. As ARCs get out, reviewers are beginning to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and that is definitely helping to spread the word about Die For Me. But it is still early days, and I’ll only be able to measure social media’s true value in hindsight: once the book is published and the numbers are out.
I do put quite a bit of time and effort into it. And some days I wonder if my time wouldn’t be better spent writing another book. But I do feel that this period pre-publication is important for “building a buzz” as the marketing people say. And I want to do everything I can to help that along.
6. What has been the best surprise about the whole publishing process of Die For Me?
If I can turn your question around, the whole publishing process of Die For Me has been a huge surprise.
I really knew nothing about publishing when it was bought. To the point that when someone asked me for an ARC, I had no clue what they were talking about. The editing process was less of a fun surprise—in fact it was more of a shock—but it has been extremely valuable (albeit painful at times). And then all of these crazy little things keep popping up, like helping to choose a voice for the audio book, being asked my opinion on cover art, and filming an author video (deer-in-headlights-alert!).
But I think that the most amazing, awe-inducing moment was when I got the call from my agent telling me about HarperCollins’s offer. The amount of the advance almost made me faint, it so exceeded anything I could have imagined. But WAY more important than that was the fact that a major publisher wanted something that I wrote, and they wanted it badly enough to give an amazing pre-empt bid. I felt so validated, so valued, that my feet didn’t touch the ground for about two months.
Die For Me will be in stores on May 10th, but one lucky reader will get it next week. Just post a comment telling us about YOUR favorite supernatural beings by Friday the 22nd and I'll pick someone at random to receive an ARC of the book.
Update: The winner of the ARC drawing is Lexi. Congratulations! Hope you enjoy the book.