By Jamie Rush
I’m sitting down with Amy Christine Parker to find out all the juicy details about her new YA romantic suspense, GATED.
Amy, how exciting it must be to see your debut novel come out! Congratulations! Tell us what this story is all about and what drove you to write it.
GATED follows a teenage girl named Lyla who has been living in a religious cult after the disappearance of her sister. While her parents are hopelessly under the sway of the group’s leader, Pioneer, Lyla is drawn into a dangerous situation when she begins to question Pioneer’s prophecy about the impending apocalypse.
At its heart, this story is about a girl who is beginning to realize that all she’s accepted as truth for most of her life may in fact be a lie. She has to decide what she believes in and what she’s willing to do to fight for her right to those beliefs. The story came to me as I was watching a TV show about extreme apocalyptic shelters. I was amazed at how elaborate they were and how many people around the world were beginning to build them. It got me thinking about how a person becomes convinced that the end is near and what they’re willing to do to ensure their own survival. When I combined this line of thought with my ongoing fascination with cults and their dynamics the story just grew from there.
You’ll have a second book out, so will this be part of a series? If so, can you give us a hint about what’s to come?
The sequel to GATED will release in Fall 2014. It will be the final book in a duology. Basically (without being too spoilery) the story picks up where GATED leaves off. Lyla is thrust into regular society and has to figure out how to navigate it…all while trying to distance herself from the rest of her Community and its leader Pioneer, who is very interested in bringing her back to them no matter what. If the first book feels intense and creepy when you read it, I think I can safely say that the next book has a double helping of both.
Cult communities can be a dark and rather twisted setting. What inspired you to involve a cult?
I am fascinated by the idea that cult members will give up their free will to someone else. I am a bit of a control freak (an understatement, really), and this just boggles my mind. I really wanted to explain how this could happen to myself and by extension, to my readers. I think by the end of my research I started to really see how effective many cults were at brainwashing and how adept they were at targeting those who are most vulnerable to them.
We love to hear stories about triumph. Tell us about your journey from dream to being published.
I have a bit of a Cinderella publishing story. I’d only written one other manuscript before GATED and in all I’d only been writing for a little over two years by the time I was picked up by an agent. I’d met my agent previously and queried her with my first manuscript. She knew that it wasn’t ready but let me know that she thought I had talent and asked what I was going to work on next. When I pitched her the idea for GATED, she asked to consider it once I finished, so at first I queried her exclusively with the idea that if by some crazy chance she was interested in it, I’d sign with her since she’d shown me support so early on. I sent it to her before the holiday season that year and right after New Year’s she sat down to read it. She literally read the whole manuscript in less than twenty four hours and offered the very next day. A month after that we were out on submission and less than a month after that several publishers had offered on GATED at auction. It was a whirlwind fairytale thing, the only time my life has very much felt like a scene in a movie and not real life at all.
You’ve been an inner city teacher, a fondue waitress, and a collectible doll maker before plunging headlong into writing. Did any of your previous jobs or hobbies inspire aspects of your book?
Not a one. The world of this book was a completely foreign one for me. I really was trying to explore characters and settings that I had no personal experience with. A lot of research went into this book.
Do you have any writing rituals before you begin a book or start your day?
I tend to write late in the morning and into the afternoon or very, very late at night. The only constant is that I have to write my first draft longhand on legal pads. My routine is really more about when I have to drop off/pick up my kids/make dinner/do laundry/help with homework and how I’ll fit the writing into the mix. I tend to have to be pretty flexible, especially come summertime. I don’t have rituals persay, but I do need several Coke Zeros to keep me going and some tunes…usually Imagine Dragons or Linkin’ Park.
What does your writing space looks like?
My writing space is my dining room table. It is usually chock full of piles: manuscripts, to do lists, empty food dishes, date books, my computer, research books. My enormous cat is curled up at my feet sleeping and there are books strewn out on the floor as well as index cards and story boards. I try to clean it all up after the day is over, but I don’t always get around to it.
What’s the best way for reader’s to get in touch with you? Do you Tweet/blog/etc.?
Thanks for sharing your exciting story! I wish you all the best with it.
Thanks for taking the time to highlight my book and me and for the well wishes!
To learn more about Amy, please visit her website.