Book Nerd Interview
Amber Kizer writes two very different young adult series for Delacorte Press/Random House. The Gert Garibaldi series is contemporary, frank and funny following an American high school student through the perils of growing up. Her debut novel ONE BUTT CHEEK AT A TIME was included in the prestigious NYPL Best Books for the Teen Age 2008 list. The next book in the series 7 KINDS OF ORDINARY CATASTROPHES will be released April 2011.
The Fenestra series is paranormal, dark and follows a girl who shepherds dying souls to the afterlife. MERIDIAN has been translated in German, Spanish, Turkish and will be available in Australia, Malaysia, and New Zealand within the next year. The next book in the series, WILDCAT FIREFLIES, will be published in August 2011.
In addition to these series titles, the spring of 2012 will see the release of a stand alone dystopian, young adult novel also from Delacorte Press/Random House.
Amber has toured nationally, speaking at writers’ conferences, on television and radio, to educators, and to teenage readers. Recently, she was selected to present one of a few breakout sessions at the NCTE Assembly on Adolescent Literature at the Philadelphia 2009 Conference.
Her official website is www.AmberKizer.com and more about MERIDIAN can be found atwww.MeridianSozu.com. Gert can be found at www.OneButtCheek.com. She enjoys hearing from readers and can be reached at Amber@AmberKizer.com.
Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
No, I never wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be a lawyer and a judge. But at age 17 I was injured and developed a rare nerve disease that changed everything. In 1997 there were few careers that were as flexible as I needed for my legs and writing was one of them. But by the time I finished writing my first book I had a thousand other ideas and fell in love with sharing stories. My legs still define my days but writing was a gift from that.
Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
I read 20-25 books concurrently and will try anything except computer programming and math theory. I might as well try to read a tabloid in Mandarin! (I don’t know any Mandarin.) So saying my all time favorite book means picking from thousands that changed or touched me in some way. As relates to A MATTER OF DAYS I’d say Stephen King’s THE STAND was the first post-infection-new-world story I read and adored. Gabriel Marquez’s STRANGE PILGRIMS was the first book (a collection of short stories) that changed the way I look at the world and story.
I think YA is amazing these days in the range, but I go through many spurts where I don’t read any of it because I get tired of stories teens “should” read as thought by adults, rather than stories teens want to read. I grow weary of morality tales.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
“Don’t read reviews.” I don’t. I write the best story I can when I write it—trust me, I have a good reason I did every little thing and used every little word I did. By the time you read it I’ve moved on and I don’t care if you would write it differently. I hope it entertains you, touches you, or adds value to your life as a reader, but I don’t understand authors who troll for reviews—there are so many places these days people can have opinions. It would be exhausting to open up to that and give it any energy.
In your book; A Matter of Days, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it?
Every six months or so there’s a virus that pops up in the news—right now it’s an avian influenza—gets everyone’s attention and then it dribbles out of the news because it didn’t mutate, or jump species, or become the full blown pandemic that it might.
One of these days that virus is going to do the worst—we’re primed for it and it’s just going to get better (from a virus perspective). And especially in the United States where most of the population is miles and years from knowing where their food comes from (how many of you have headed anywhere other than a grocery store recently?) or their water—anything and everything…do you know how to head out into the unknown and trust your instincts?
A MATTER OF DAYS starts at Day 56 after an influenza (BluStar) has burned through the globe—everyone who’s had it either survived, or is dead, and it’s time to move on to the next chapter of survival. Siblings Nadia and Rabbit have each other, some equipment (for a little while) and the hope that if they can get from Seattle to West Virginia they have a future. From this new perspective their crazy survivalist Grandfather is actually not so crazy anymore…but the obstacles keep coming..
Should they look for their friends? Bury the dead? Do they rescue trapped pets? Commit crimes like stealing? Breaking and entering? Are there still laws and crimes? Do they trust other survivors or mistrust everyone? Do they take major roads, head for military bases, or avoid cities? Do they leave an injured dog to die of infection? When a little girl is left alone in a mall, do they rescue her from kidnappers or continue on their journey? When they find a town full of safety and supplies do they stay or venture on that there might be better down the road? When illness strikes, wounds fester, and they can’t head to the emergency room—what happens? Can Nadia and Rabbit adapt to this new world and all the unexpecteds? Can they take their father’s advice to “be the cockroach” and thrive in whatever comes their way?
For those who are unfamiliar with Nadia, how would you introduce her?
When Nadia’s dad is killed during a military operation she’s an average high schooler—but as her mom fades further and further into grief, Nadia is forced to grow up and take on the role of adult in the house and parent to her younger brother, Rabbit. And then BluStar shows up and changes everything again.
What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
Next February, PIECES OF ME is being released by Delacorte Press and is about an unwilling organ donor and her eventual peace found in the lives of her recipients.
Am finishing a middle grade book called TANSY SUMMER, a couple of YA including a funeral home that parties and one about tree spirits…plus a couple of adult projects—very busy around here!
If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I would love to have Zack from this one and Tens from the Meridian books get together and hang out. They’d probably exchange about six words but they’d like each other.
What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Zack?
Even though his life has been extremely challenging and living on the streets of LA was a survival story all his own—he hasn’t lost his heart and his hope for other people to be better than they are.
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
This one, definitely.
What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
There’s no magic handshake—you have to learn the craft and practice. There’s no way to become a concert pianist unless you play the piano…same song, different instrument!
What's the most memorable summer job you've ever had?
I made the 4:30 AM bread run for a small specialty deli—I think it was memorable because of the crazy hours and my car filled with that warm yeasty bread smell for a couple hours each day, while I escorted it from bakery to deli.
Who was your first boyfriend?
You don’t know him.
Tell me about your first kiss
It wasn’t with my first boyfriend.
What would be harder for you, to tell someone you love them or that you do not love them back?
Love is easy. It’s the not loving or the inability to make that love something it’s not, that’s hard.
When was the last time you cried?
I laugh loudly and cry easily—so when the Evening News does those “Making a difference” stories—I cry during those all the time. I love it when people go out of their way or do the right thing without needing acknowledgment or reward.
What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
Let’s clarify that I would never choose to be a teenager again. Seriously, life gets better with perspective and less hormones. I like seeing that this moment is not as overwhelming or humongous as it feels from ages 10-18. The great stuff is still great in my thirties—the bad stuff I now know will get easier to carry.
I’ll stick with my decade—I survived the 90s that works for me.
What is your greatest adventure?
I hope it’s coming next and not already over.
Where can readers stalk you?
The most up to the minute way to find out what’s going on is to friend me on Facebook, if you prefer only book related and no personal info “like” my facebook fan page and if you want 140 characters of current editorializing follow @WriteAmberKizer. However, lots of behind the scenes book info, photographs and inspirations, and personal info is always available on AmberKizer.com
What readers will find mesmerizing about this altered world is how real it seems. Instead of chapters, the story is divided into days since the outbreak. Readers will get a first-hand experience of a very realistic series of events following the release of the life-threatening disease.
Rabbit’s memories of his father’s survival skills will help them reach their destination. Along with Nadia implementing his “cockroach” approach, the two make necessary decisions in order to survive. They’ll come across other survivors and experience the death and damage of BluStar’s aftermath.
Amber’s take on the genre of plague stories is quite unique and different from what we are used to. It shines a new light on a genre that usually follows a carbon copy path. The path she takes her characters through is truly gripping and intriguing. Even at a time when the world’s days are numbered, we are reminded that there will still be good and bad people. It will make readers wonder how they would handle such a situation. A Matter of Days is a well written plague story that contains a very intriguing plot and characters that will have more stories to come.