Amy Garvey, newbe author of the awesome YA book Cold Kiss was nice enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions for me. We talked a lot about the characters in her book and the emotional motivation behind their decisions, and of course about her writing life.
1) Let’s start off with a summary of the story in your own words for our readers who haven’t had the pleasure of reading this book.
When Wren’s boyfriend Danny dies in a car accident, she’s wrecked. Grieving and angry and not thinking clearly, she uses the powers that emerge in girls in her family when they’re teenagers to raise Danny from the dead. This is, of course, not the greatest idea ever, and Wren realizes it almost immediately. But now Danny is back, hidden in a neighbor’s garage loft, not really the boy she loved, and she has no idea what to do. Enter Gabriel, a new boy at school who has his own special gifts, and who zeroes in on Wren’s power right away. Wren has to figure out how to let go of one love before embarking on another. (Wow, the cover copy for the book itself said it so much better.)
Friends were talking online one night about where you go after vampires and werewolves, and someone said, tongue firmly in cheek, “Zombies!” What he didn’t know at the time was that zombie books were already showing up in YA – Generation Dead by Daniel Waters is one example – but I didn’t want to go down the shuffling, brain-eating, grave-dirty zombie road. In voodoo, zombies are created by a sorcerer or voodoo priest – and end up bound to that person, a sort of slave with no will of their own. I wanted to explore the reasons someone might bring a loved one back from the dead – and Cold Kiss was the result, even if I vagued up the voodoo origins of Danny’s type of zombie a bit.
3) I felt for all three of the main characters, and even at the end, after Wren did what was technically correct, I wasn’t sure who I was cheering for, as I enjoyed them all. Can you go into more detail about this very unusual love triangle?
I think that was my favorite part of writing this book. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Danny, but also, of course, for Wren. And I didn’t want Gabriel to be the knight in shining armor at all – I wanted Wren to figure out what she had to do. But it was completely understandable – to me, anyway – why Gabriel wanted Wren, even knowing what she had done, and how Wren could respond to, and fall for, Gabriel even with Danny in the neighbor’s garage. Human emotions are a lot more complicated than you ever expect.
4) This book had a strong moral conflict, and even though we know what’s right, you write it in such a way that even what’s wrong makes sense to some degree. This seems to be a heavy theme in the story. Was this one of the main factors you focused on when writing, or did it come out as the story progressed?
I think it sort of emerged on its own – going in to it, all I knew was that I wanted Wren to save herself here, and to make her own choices. They’re hard ones, though, no matter what – how to deal with her friends, her mom and her sister, Gabriel, Danny. There aren’t many easy answers for Wren.
5) I love the way powers play out in Wren’s family and the mystery surrounding the mom’s issues with who they are and what they can do. Add in Gabriel and his special gift, and there is a lot of awesome magical stuff happening. Talk to us a little about the way these powers developed and the way the ideas came to you.
I wanted to explore magic not in a magical realism way, but in as natural a way as possible. Something that might just be a gift, like musical talent or math genius, in a particular family. I like the way Mari explains it – that it’s a kind of natural energy, and if you have the right genes or whatever, you can tap into it. I didn’t want a big Magic Conspiracy or a school or some grander structure to it. I wanted it to be something everyone could relate to – what would you do if you woke up and realized you could turn lights on and off, or change the color of your hair with a thought?
I don’t have a usual routine to my writing. There are things I need – usually some background noise or music, a comfortable chair, something to drink – but other than that, when I’m in the story, I can write pretty much anywhere. I try to go for a particular number of pages a day when I’m on a deadline, though. And when I’m beginning a story, everything’s on paper – I brainstorm in notebooks, not on the computer.
7) Do you follow an outline, or do you sort of free-write and see where the story takes you?
I only follow a really loose outline. I do have to know where a story is going to end up to get there, but the road taken to reach that destination is something I leave up to the process as I write it. So I start off with a basic beginning and end, an idea of the most important characters aside from the protagonist (who I’ve let brew really well in my head for a while), and some idea of the conflicts or turning points that are going to come up. Then I just start writing. (NB: This is often not the best idea, because it leaves so much open to change. But it’s the only way I can write.)
8 ) What books are you currently reading?
I just finished The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters, which was fantastic and atmospheric and creepy. I’m also reading Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, which seems fantastic so far, and I have The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern next in line.
9) What sort of advice would you give to writers looking to accomplish what you have?
Keep writing. It sounds boring, but it’s true. You just have to keep at it, and keep learning while you do. Also, keep reading! There’s nothing better for a writer than to read good writing.
10) What’s up next on the writing agenda?
I’m working on a new proposal, but it’s still in the vague, what-is-this-story-about phase. It’s YA, though!