Thursday, February 14, 2013

Kim Askew and Amy Helmes Author Interview

Authors Amy Helmes (left) and Kim Askew (right), with Kim's adopted pup, Macbeth. 

Amy Helmes and Kim Askew have been writing together since 2004, when they launched Romancing the Tome, a blog dedicated to their obsession with book-to-film adaptations.

Kim Askew 
is a contributor to the anthology The May Queen. Her writing has appeared in literary journals and other publications, including the SoMa Literary Review and Elle Magazine. An expert on teen fashion and pop culture, Kim has been the content director for the Webby-award winning teen site since 2003. As such, she’s been interviewed by dozens of national newspapers and has been a return guest on morning radio shows. She’s covered the Teen Choice Award and the MTV Movie Awards, interviewing such disparate celebrities as Brittany Murphy and Dakota Fanning. With the Twisted Lit series, she can finally deliver on the promise she made her parents that a degree in Renaissance literature would come in handy someday. 

Amy Helmes is the author of Boys of a Feather: A Field Guide to North American Males and Voodoo You Love as well as collection of books for Cider Mill Press that includes The Bathtub Reader, The Good Wife Guide, The Good Husband Guide, Boyfriend Training Flashcards, The Wisdom of Nancy Drew, Lois Lane’s Guide to Life,Betty & Veronica, and Boyfriend Wisdom. She’s a West Coast news editor for the nationally published Soaps In Depth magazine, has worked as a writing consultant for the Oxygen network and is a weekly contributor to The Rundown, a free daily email service that keeps subscribers informed about what’s new and cool in Los Angeles. She has been sugarcoating Shakespeare from a young age, having rewritten Macbeth as an epic rhyming poem in junior high. She can still recite most of it by heart.

What was your first introduction to YA literature, the one that made you choose that genre to write?
Kim: I adore A Wrinkle In Time, which I chose as one of my five favorite YA novels in this article for The Children's Book Review. As a child, I was a big fan of Little Women. I'm not sure if it counts as YA, but it is about four teenage sisters coming of age -- and falling in love -- during the Civil War. I must have read it at least a half dozen times before I was even in the fourth grade.

What's one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
Amy: I'm a huge trivia geek, and have competed on "Jeopardy," which was a lifelong dream come true. (Shakespeare was actually a category on my episode, but I ended up losing to the all-time greatest "Jeopardy" champ ever: a guy named Ken Jennings.)

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
Kim: I wrote an epic poem about a unicorn during naptime, when I was still young enough to be taking naps.

What was the greatest thing you learned at school? 
Amy: Discovering my true talents. Having the sort of teachers who took me aside and said, "You're really good at this" -- from grade school all the way up through college -- gave me the confidence I needed to pursue a writing career even when it seemed to be an impractical (and most certainly not lucrative) choice. Choosing a profession that I have a passion for has had a direct correlation with the level of contentment I feel in my life. That, as Frost would say, "has made all the difference."

Did you learn anything from writing Exposure: A Modern-Day Spin on Shakespeare's Macbeth and what was it?
Kim: Yes! I'm always learning new things while researching and writing our books, which makes the process even more interesting. With Exposure, we learned about the native-Alaskan Inuit culture and film photography, including how to develop film in a darkroom. I also read a lot of books about Shakespeare and his plays, including Colin McGinn's Shakespeare's Philosophy and Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World.

What do you feel is the most significant change since Tempestuous?
Amy: If, by "change" you mean the most significant change in our lives, I'd say it's just that feeling of, "They like us! They really, really like us!" The positive response to our books has been beyond our wildest dreams.

Which character have you enjoyed getting to know the most over the course of writing Twisted Lit Series?
Kim: It's tough to choose, but I really enjoyed getting to know Tempestuous's Miranda. I love her self-assurance, and that she managed to learn a lot about herself throughout the course of the novel. She became a better friend, and I think a better person.

For those who are unfamiliar with Skye, how would you introduce her?
Amy: Skye is our take on Banquo from Shakespeare's Macbeth. She's this shy, unassuming wallflower of a girl who's harboring a giant crush on the most popular boy in her school, Craig MacKenzie. She ends up finding herself in a psychologically untenable situation after inadvertently discovering his horrific secret.

What part of Craig did you enjoy writing the most?
Kim: Without giving too much away, I really liked the part of Craig that, when pushed to the breaking point, faces his demons and completely bares his soul. He comes out of the experience stronger.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Amy: I'd introduce Ariel (our happy "sprite" from Tempestuous) to Beth (our "Lady Macbeth" in Exposure). If anyone could crack through Beth's icy veneer, I think it's someone like Ariel. Beth would totally be annoyed with her at first, but I think even Satan himself would have to eventually find a sweet spot in his heart for the sweet little thing; She's kittens and lollipops personified.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Kim: That's an easy one! We have a fabulous, best-selling author as our mentor and editor: Jacquelyn Mitchard. Working with someone of her caliber and talent is an honor.

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Kim: Never talk yourself out of your dreams. Instead, vow to take one tiny step toward them every day.

When asked, what's the one question you always answer with a lie?
Amy: "Are you nervous?" I like to exude confidence, even when I secretly feel like peeing my pants.

Who was your first boyfriend?
Kim: Robert Skidmore, a fellow first grader with a wicked grin in my class at the Bad Nauheim elementary school in Germany, and Laurie from Little Women.

What is your happiest childhood memory?
Amy: Slumber parties with my two best friends since second grade: Tricia and Michelle. We'd stay up all night in the basement staging elaborate, choreographed, karaoke numbers to cutting-edge artists like Kenny Loggins, Whitney Houston and Amy Grant. We've since grown up, gotten married and had kids, but whenever we're all in the same city, we revert to the giggling nerds we once were (and still are, frankly). We will be doing the same when we're 80-years-old!

What's the worst summer job you've ever had?
Kim: During my junior year of high school my family moved to a small town in California's Central Valley, where I drove an ice cream truck as my summer job. Needless to say, it was a veritable shame spiral to be the shy new kid in town driving around to the soundtrack of "Pop Goes the Weasel" while answering to the moniker "Ice Cream Lady," but now I find it makes for a great story.

Who is the first person you call when you have a bad day?
Amy: Fortunately, I don't have too many bad days, but it would have to be my hubby, Mike. He's a wonderful, supportive guy who just flat-out gets me (so much so that he actually owns a shirt that says, "Hi, my name is Mr. Darcy." That is love.)

When was the last time you cried?
Kim: I cry all the time, especially at the movies. I recently saw a great documentary, Brooklyn Castle, about kids at an underprivileged elementary school kids competing to take home the National Chess Championship. Their story brought tears to my eyes.

Double, double, toil and trouble. Sometimes, the quest for high school royalty can be deadly! In this emotionally-charged twist on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a self-conscious shutterbug named Skye Kingston navigates a treacherous school year in Alaska fraught with unspoken secrets and tragic twists of fate. Along the way she encounters three strangely prophetic BFFs; one social-climbing, sociopathic cheerleader; and a heart-stopping hottie named Craig McKenzie: the man who would be Prom King. Can Skye save the boy she loves — and herself — before they get caught in the crosshairs?

Praise for EXPOSURE

"Death, betrayal, ruthless plots to seize the 'crown' - all the seeds of stage tragedy take root and flourish in this clever modern-day homage to Macbeth. High school is rife with just enough passion and treachery to set a suitable stage for some Shakespearean-level drama." Kirkus Reviews

"Fun-filled escapades into Shakespeare's The Tempest and Macbeth . . . they're an absolute riot! You don't have to be a Shakespeare fan (I'm not) or even have read these plays (I haven't) to fall in love with these books. I can't wait for the next Twisted Lit adventure. It's the best new young adult series of the year!" Jack and Jill Magazine

"Shakespeare is hot again. Merit Press . . . is basing two of its first five debut releases on Shakespeare retellings. Tempestuous [is] a humorous reimagining of The Tempest. The Twisted Lit novels hope to . . . make Shakespeare more appealing to today's teens. Expect to see Shakespeare throughout all forms of media in 2013 as a new generation of media consumer rediscovers the timeless literary treasures of William Shakespeare."

"This is an entertaining read.... Readers don't need to be familiar with the play in order to enjoy this, but students who have read it will appreciate the many Shakespearean references throughout." School Library Journal 

You can purchase Exposure at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you KIM AND AMY for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive one a copy of Exposure by Kim Askew and Amy Helmes.