Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Author Interview: Amy McAuley on Over and Over You

Over and Over You by Amy McAuley (Roaring Brook, 2005). Penny is haunted by vivid dreams that feel so real, almost as if they...were? After being tipped off by a psychic, she's starting to consider extreme possibilities, destinies, and even true love. Penny's voice is engaging, her plight compelling, and her command of historical factoids inspirational. A wonderful choice for romantics, fantasy fans, and those who appreciate psychic (and psychological) puzzles. Ages 12-up.

What was your inspiration for creating this book?

I'm a history buff. There's a story attached to every person who's ever lived, and while the ways in which people live change all the time, people themselves don't change that much--no matter the time period, they love, hate, hope, want, and dream. That's always fascinated me. And I love the idea of seeing history through someone else's eyes. In Over and Over You, Penny begins to, literally, see the past in her dreams. I wanted the reader to be right there with her. I also wanted to write a fun novel that both contemporary and historical fiction readers could relate to and enjoy.

Another inspiration for the book goes back to when I met my husband. After a series of strange coincidences, my second college-roommate introduced me to one of her male friends. (I'd forced the landlord to kick out my first roommate within days, because she just didn't feel like the "right one"--completely abnormal behavior for me.) My first thought when I saw this man was, "Hey, this is the guy I'm supposed to marry." Freaky!

So when I started writing, I thought about incorporating romantic notions such as fate and true love into a young adult novel. I mulled it over for years, while writing other books, but no ideas clicked with me. I had to wait for Penny to start talking to me (yes, authors do hear voices in their heads), and when she did, I knew I finally had the right main character and the right story.

What was the timeline between spark and publication and what were the major events along the way?

The spark happened one night in 2002. As I tried to sleep, a girl's voice came into my head. "I've been in love with the same boy for a thousand years." The way she said it, as if she'd just heard that strange news herself and couldn't believe it, got me right out of bed to write. Who was this boy? Why had they been in love with each other for a thousand years? Were they destined to be together? One question led to another, and soon I had so many questions I needed answers to, I couldn't possibly not write the book. I had to find out more about the characters, their pasts, and their possible future together.

I finished a first draft quickly, and soon afterward, I got my agent. I liked the book, but it didn't feel complete. The thing was, I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong with the book. My agent sent the manuscript out to several publishers over the course of a year. No bites. Just as I was getting discouraged, Deborah Brodie from Roaring Brook Press called me to discuss ways to make the book better. Her ideas were fantastic. I dumped a bunch of the book, sped up the beginning, bulked up one of the past-life storylines, and had a major AH HA!-moment about the ending.

I sent the revised manuscript back to her, but after years of rejections, I honestly wasn't expecting an offer. I was just so thrilled that she'd helped me improve the book significantly! But on October 16th 2003, I got a call from my agent. Deborah had loved the revision and made an offer. The news threw me for such a loop, I went into a weird daze and nearly threw up. My agent laughed and said, "Well go outside! Don't throw up on the good furniture!" Luckily, I pulled myself together enough to sort of listen to what he had to say and I didn't destroy any furniture in the process.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing it to life?

Right after I sold the book, Millbrook Press (Roaring Brook's parent company) announced that they were filing for bankruptcy and selling Roaring Brook Press. The future of the company became uncertain. I worried about my book at first, because it was quite possible it wouldn't be published. But Roaring Brook had such a fantastic backlist of books that included award-winners, and I believed they would be bought. I actually believed the sale would wind up being a great thing in the end, I just had to be patient and wait for things to sort themselves out. From late 2003 to April 2004, the fate of my book was up in the air, and that was tough on occasion. I hate that whole inability to see into the future thing I'm cursed with! But things did work out for the best. Roaring Brook was bought by Holtzbrinck Publishers (which includes Henry Holt, Farrar Straus and Giroux, and Tor, among others). Over and Over You came out just one season late--Spring '05.

Cynsational Note

Surf over to spookycyn to see my hypothetical past lives list.

Cynsational Links

Author-Editor Dialogues from CBC Magazine: Naomi Shihab Nye and Virginia Duncan; Tracy Mack and Brian Selznick; Karen Cushman and Dinah Stevenson; Katherine Paterson and Virginia Buckley; Kevin Henkes and Susan Hirshman; Christopher Paul Curtis and Wendy Lamb.

Secrets of the Successful Mystery Book Club by Gary Warren Niebuhr from Libraries Unlimited. See also Eight Things Mystery Readers Say by Jim Huang.

Reminder: it's Banned Books Week.

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