Monday, April 11, 2022

Amanda Panitch Interview - Gone Dark

Photo Credit: Cassie Gonzales

Amanda Panitch spent most of her childhood telling stories to her four younger siblings, trying both to make them laugh and scare them too much to sleep. Now she lives in New York City, where she writes dark, funny stories for teens, kids, and the pigeons that nest on her apartment balcony.


In your newest book; GONE DARK, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
GONE DARK follows what happens after a cyberattack on America's electrical grids causes an indefinite countrywide blackout through the eyes of Zara, a teenager from Los Angeles whose only chance to make it through the chaos is to forge her way across the country to her estranged father's survivalist compound. On a smaller, more intimate scale, it's about surviving trauma, forging a found family, and understanding that even if abuse or cruelty has helped you gain skills that have aided your survival, that doesn't mean that that abuse or cruelty was necessary or okay. Writing this book involved a lot of research to make sure I made the unfolding disaster and Zara's survival feel realistic, as well as the scenery and feel of all the different places she and her friends travel through. I hope readers will find it exciting and also a little scary, and that they love reading about Zara as much as I've loved writing her.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book?
That's an impossible question – I can't name just one! When it comes to YA, some of my recent favorites have been:

1. GILDED by Marissa Meyer – I'm always amazed by how Marissa Meyer puts a new, fresh spin on old fairy tales, and this one might be my favorite of hers so far. It's haunting, brutal, and is so emotional it will wrench your heart right out of your chest.

2. THE GIRLS I'VE BEEN by Tess Sharpe – This book was so gripping I think I read it in 24 hours! But in addition to being one of the most thrilling thrillers I've read, I also fell in love with her characters and was rooting for them the whole time.

3. RAYBEARER by Jordan Ifueko – This fantasy was absolutely spectacular, with complex characters, intricate worldbuilding, and heart-thumping stakes.

4. NOT HERE TO BE LIKED by Michelle Quach – I have a soft spot for prickly main characters, like Zara.

  • 1. My goal is to see all seven New Wonders of the World – so far I've seen Chichen Itza, the Colosseum, and the Taj Mahal. Almost halfway there!
  • 2. I would also love to see all seven Old Wonders of the World, though sadly the Great Pyramids of Giza are the only ones still standing. Pour one out for the hanging gardens of Babylon.
  • 3. I collect cookbooks. One of my favorite things is cracking open a new one and carefully reading all the recipes, the context, and picking out which recipes to try next.
  • 4. I also collect vintage Barbies from the 1960s. My most recent find is a 1967-1968 Twiggy doll, the first Barbie fashioned after a real person.
  • 5. I've wanted to be an author ever since I was a little kid, and am excited every day to go to work.
  • 6. My first job was at an amusement park! I worked at Six Flags: Great Adventure as a teenager.
  • 7. I went to college in Washington, DC, and as a freshman lived four blocks from the White House (though my room was a lot less luxurious).
  • 8. I'm a big fan of musicals. One of my favorite things about living in NYC is being able to enter the lotteries for Broadway tickets. In the last few months I've gotten to see Hadestown, Moulin Rouge, and The Lion King!
  • 9. I majored in English in college, but if I could go back and do it again, I'd pick history, psychology, or anthropology.
  • 10. My favorite chore is doing the laundry.
Favorite things to do alone?
Take long walks. I might listen to music or a podcast or just enjoy the silence, but I love using long walks by myself to brainstorm plot developments or deepen characters in my head. Something about moving my legs and looking at the scenery spurs it on like magic.

  • 1. Maine! It's one of my favorite states – great food, gorgeous scenery, and I like the cold.
  • 2. Japan. I'm dying to eat EVERYTHING there. Starting with the fish market in Tokyo and ending with the 7-11s that are known for serving surprisingly good food.
  • 3. Jordan. Petra, specifically. I love ancient ruins and archaeological sites, and I've heard these are amazing.
  • 4. Mexico City. I've heard it has incredible food (are you sensing a pattern here, haha?).
  • 5. Kenya. I would love to go on safari.
  • 6. France. I studied abroad in Paris over ten years ago and I want to go back and do a road trip around the whole country.
  • 7. The UK and Scotland. Another road trip destination! I want to visit all the historical sites. Also the set of Downton Abbey.
  • 8. Antarctica. Something about such a remote, frozen place fascinates me.
  • 9. Morocco. I'm interested in the culture and food there.
  • 10. Colorado. My husband went to college there and gushes about it nonstop. I want to see all the beauty he's told me about!
Writing Behind the Scenes
I'm a slow thinker, but a fast drafter. Let me explain: it takes me ages to figure out a story and where it should go, who the characters are and what they want, what their world looks like and what's going to blow it up. I can roll those things around in my head for months or years before they all come together and feel right. But when they finally do, the actual process of getting it on the page doesn't take all that long for me. So it's hard to know how to give an accurate answer when people ask me how long it takes me to write a book – the actual literal writing of it might not take long at all, but it might have taken years for me to get to that point.

One of my favorite, highly specific parts of the writing process is choosing character names. Sometimes a name comes to me immediately and feels right, while other times it takes lots of thought, research, and testing out multiple options to find one that feels right. For example, Zara's best friend Estella stormed fully-named into my head, but her brother/Zara's love interest, Gabe, went through a few options before I found one that felt right. First he was named Felix, and then he was Michael. I like to check out the Social Security Administration's most popular names list for the year my character was born to find a list of options, then look into meanings or sounds or personalities to figure out which name really fits a character best.

Dry meets Hatchet in this thrilling tale of survival following a teen girl who must lead her friends across country to the safety of her estranged father’s survivalist compound after a mass power failure leaves the country in chaos.

When seventeen-year-old Zara escaped her father’s backwoods survivalist compound five years ago, she traded crossbows and skinning hides for electricity and video games…and tried to forget the tragedy that drove her away.

Until a malware attack on the United States electrical grids cuts off the entire country’s power.

In the wake of the disaster and the chaos that ensues, Zara is forced to call upon skills she thought she’d never use again—and her best bet to survive is to go back to the home she left behind. Drawing upon a resilience she didn’t know she had, Zara leads a growing group of friends on an epic journey across a crumbling country back to her father’s compound, where their only hope for salvation lies.

But with every step she takes, Zara wonders if she truly has what it takes to face her father and the secrets of her past, or if she’d be better off hiding in the dark.

You can purchase Gone Dark at the following Retailers:

1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card.


  1. I'm happy with where I am right now. But I often do think about being somewhere else.

  2. Not really, no where else I'd rather be.

  3. The cover is so cool! It sets the tone for the book.

  4. Yes, I would love to be hiking in the mountains right now.

  5. "Would you like to be somewhere else right at this moment?" Sure, maybe someplace elegant and splendid where I sleep well and don't have crap neighbors.

  6. A vacation would be nice with my family.

  7. Yes, I'd like to be on vacation with my husband.