Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Amanda Sellet Interview - Belittled Women

Photo Content from Amanda Sellet

Amanda Sellet (pronounced Sell-ay) is a former journalist who has written book reviews for The Washington Post, personal essays for NPR, and music and movie coverage for VH1. She has an M.A. in Cinema Studies from NYU. After a mostly coastal childhood, she now lives in Kansas with her husband, daughter, and cats.


Greatest thing you learned at school.
That I could make people laugh! In my extremely nerdy, Type A, pop-culture-referencing introvert way.

When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
I knew from my early school days that I wanted to do something involving writing and stories about people, but it took a while to figure out what form that would take. Professor? Reporter? Film critic? I was well into adulthood when I found the courage to pursue the ultimate dream of being a novelist.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
My first book has a very romantic pastel cover, so I was surprised when my nephew (who was in middle school at the time) put a BY THE BOOK sticker on his laptop. One day a couple of girls came up to him at lunch and asked if he liked that book, because they’d read it too. When he told them that his aunt wrote it, one of them announced to the entire cafeteria: “Elias is low-key famous!”

If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be?
I would love to have written one of Robin McKinley’s fantasies for young adults, because both THE BLUE SWORD and THE HERO AND THE CROWN are burned into my memory as some of the most intense, immersive, and transporting reading experiences of my life. Beautiful prose, indelible characters, thrilling plots: the total package.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
Setting aside the universal answer (the pandemic), the biggest distraction for me while drafting BELITTLED WOMEN was second book syndrome. The writing itself wasn’t more difficult but I did struggle to tune out the background noise of having a book in the world. There’s a tendency to think, “this time I’ll do everything right, and no one will have anything to complain about!” Which is a) impossible and b) not a fruitful creative mindset. Striking a balance between artistic growth and being true to your own vision is tricky!

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
On the noble, humanitarian side of the equation, I think storytelling is a wonderful source of empathy – the old walking a mile in someone’s else’s shoes. More selfishly, narrative is the only thing that absorbs my brain so completely it shuts out restless thoughts and worries. I remember my mother telling me when I was a new parent that I needed to find time for “fiction breaks,” even if it was only ten or 15 minutes. And she was right! Escaping into another world was more restorative than a nap.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?
How much I enjoyed writing the sisterly arguments. I’m a very non-confrontational person in real life, so channeling Jo was an adventure. She tends to let it rip and worry about the consequences later, whereas I am much more likely to stew over grievances for days. Or years!

Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from BELITTLED WOMEN
I have a mild obsession with unfortunate tourist attractions, the cheesier the better, so I particularly enjoyed writing the rehearsal and performance scenes for Little Women Live!

Here’s the beginning of the chapter in which they hold auditions for a new Beth:

“Most would-be Beths followed a standard formula. A faint cough, some handkerchief choreography, a hurricane of piteous sighs. Speaking above a whisper was unheard of, though they got plenty loud when it was time to fake cry. …
More rarely a would-be Beth might stagger in and announce she was back from visiting the poor, sad Hummel children and “suddenly . . . I feel . . . so strange . . . cold . . . and damp . . . so tired . . .”
And crash. Down she went.
Other aspiring Beths took the “scarlet fever” part literally, wearing so much blush it looked like they were seconds from heatstroke.
This year we got a “Mama! I see a bright light!” right out of the gate, followed by a girl who choked so hard at the sight of Laurie that I thought we were going to have to Heimlich her.
The next one came out in barely there dancewear, a marked contrast to the usual floor-length nightgowns, and proceeded to writhe her way through a modern-dance routine full of
reaching arms and falling to her knees.
“Well.” Mom made a note on the audition form. “She seems very flexible.”
“I wonder if she does tap?” Andrea murmured.”

And here's a bit featuring “Laurie” and his fondness for shredding shirts:

“With a guttural growl, Laurie fell to his knees, gripping the front of his T-shirt with both fists. The sound of tearing fabric made me jump.
Silence descended as we absorbed the fact that Laurie had ripped his shirt in half. This was followed by another quiet moment during which everyone admired his abs.
Beth cupped her hands around her mouth. “Do you even lift, bro?”
Laurie winked at her.”

What is the first job you have had?
My first paid gig was babysitting, but my first “real” job with a W-2 was working at a dry cleaner in south Florida, with no air conditioning. I spent 20 hours a week there through most of high school, trying not to sweat on other people’s clothes!

Best date you've ever had?
When I started seeing my future husband, I was working as a theater critic for a small newspaper. On one of our first dates, I took him to a funny play, and afterward we ran into a friend of mine who was a chef. She invited us back to her restaurant after hours and fed us half the menu. It made my life seem a lot cooler than it actually was. Stick with me, babe! I own this town!

What is your most memorable travel experience?
When my little sister was in high school, she came to visit me in London, where I was working as a nanny. The two of us flew to Greece and took a ferry out to a remote island. We had very little money to spare, so we decided to hike across to the other side instead of taking the bus. Unfortunately, the guidebook I’d gotten from the library was several years out of date and we ended up lost in the mountains until a goatherd wandered by and we were able to follow him (and his goats) back to civilization.

What's your most missed memory?
I miss the ocean, though I only realize how much when I get to see it again.

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep?
I think about a book I’m writing or one I’ve read, and either replay scenes I loved or work through plot tangles. It’s like telling myself a bedtime story.

If you had to go back in time and change one thing, if you HAD to, even if you had “no regrets” what would it be?
The time I asked my neighbor when her due date was … and she’d already had the baby.

What event in your life would make a good movie?
My year as a nanny in England, especially when we spent a few weeks in Portugal with a hotel full of handsome young actors and musicians who (along with my employer) were performing in a Purcell opera.

What is one unique thing are you afraid of?
Contortionists. As soon as someone starts bending a limb the wrong way, I’m out.

What is the weirdest thing you have seen in someone else’s home?
A woman eating raw ground beef like it was popcorn.

When you looked in the mirror first thing this morning, what was the first thing you thought?
I recently stopped coloring my hair so it’s still a jolt to see a head full of silvery white, especially if I’m wearing a pale nightgown. Jump scare! Ghost bride! I kind of love it, though.

Sharp and subversive, this delightfully messy YA rom-com offers a sly wink to the classic Little Women, as teenage Jo Porter rebels against living in the shadow of her literary namesake.

Lit's about to hit the fan. Jo Porter has had enough Little Women to last a lifetime. As if being named after the sappiest family in literature wasn't sufficiently humiliating, Jo's mom, ahem Marmee, leveled up her Alcott obsession by turning their rambling old house into a sad-sack tourist attraction.

Now Jo, along with her siblings, Meg and Bethamy (yes, that's two March sisters in one), spends all summer acting out sentimental moments at Little Women Live!, where she can feel her soul slowly dying.

So when a famed photojournalist arrives to document the show, Jo seizes on the glimpse of another life: artsy, worldly, and fast-paced. It doesn't hurt that the reporter's teenage son is also eager to get up close and personal with Jo--to the annoyance of her best friend, aka the boy next door (who is definitely not called Laurie). All Jo wants is for someone to see the person behind the prickliness and pinafores.

But when she gets a little too real about her frustration with the family biz, Jo will have to make peace with kitsch and kin before their livelihood suffers a fate worse than Beth.

You can purchase Belittled Women at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you AMANDA SELLET for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Belittled Women by Amanda Sellet.