I am excited to welcome Alberta-based author Amy Bright, whose debut young adult novel, Before We Go, was released last year with Red Deer Press. Amy stopped by to talk about her novel, the difficulty of timelines, and binge reading.
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Danielle: Welcome Amy! If you had only a few moments to tell someone what Before We Go is about, how would you describe it?
Amy Bright: Before We Go is about three teenagers – Alex, Lucy, and Emily – who all leave a hospital together on New Year’s Eve. Their meeting is not a coincidence, and they end up going on an adventure through Victoria, BC on a New Year’s unlike any other.
D: What is your writing process?
AB: I usually try to get out a first draft all in one go. I can’t usually read fiction books while I’m writing, and it’s really great motivation to just get a first draft done, so I can read again! (And when I do, I usually turn into a binge reader and buy a stack of books and read them in one or two days.) I spend the most time rewriting and editing, much more time than goes into that first draft.
D: What did you enjoy the most about writing Before We Go, and what did you find the most difficult?
AB: At first, trying to figure out how to keep the novel set in just one night – New Year’s Eve – was the most difficult. I wasn’t sure how to convey the evolution of the relationship between Emily, Alex, and Lucy over the course of just a few hours. I also was tripped up by the timeline of the story at times! Because it occurs in just a few short hours on New Year’s, I had to be very careful about making sure that what was happening in the story actually could happen over the course of one night. I did end up getting rid of a ferry trip to an island off the coast of Vancouver Island, because when it was added into the rest of the story, there just wasn’t enough time over the course of the night to make it plausible.
That said, my favorite part was imagining a New Year’s adventure for the three teenager characters. There is so much tied up with the holiday – new beginnings, resolutions, partying – and I felt like I had free reign to make it up for Alex, Lucy, and Emily. I had also lived in Victoria for a year and it was fun to explore the city in the book. I always love reading books that are set in places that I’ve lived, and writing a book set somewhere that I came to know quite well made me feel like I was back there!
D: Before We Go is your first published novel. What was your journey like getting it published?
AB: When I finished writing Before We Go, I started looking to see which publishers were accepting unsolicited manuscripts (I did not have an agent!). Red Deer Press was actually one of the first ones I came across, and I sent off the first few pages! I heard from Peter Carver at Red Deer Press just a few months later, asking if I could send the rest of the manuscript.
D: In Before We Go, Emily is a very good student, whereas Lucy could care less about school and homework. What kind of a student were you when you were in school?
AB: I was an embarrassingly good student. I think I wish I had been like Lucy, and knowing already that it doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. I was terrified of missing deadlines and always did things like finishing an assignment a week before it was due and then pretending that I had just pulled an all-nighter. However, I’ve become that other kind of student finally in grad school, where I really will put off an assignment as long as possible, especially if I’m putting it off to read a really good book.
D: On your literary blog, Girl to the Rescue, you write about children’s and YA books. What is one of your all-time favourite children’s books and why?
AB: I absolutely love anything by the Australian writer Jaclyn Moriarty. Each time a new book by her is released, I read it in one go, and then feel absolutely horrible because I know I’m back to waiting for a few years before the next one is released. The Year of Secret Assignments is my favorite by her, which is told through a series of letters sent back and forth between students at two schools. It is hilarious, and also set in Australia, which means summer holidays are happening over Christmas. It’s one of the only books I read almost once a year.
D: Do you have any advice for aspiring young writers?
AB: Read lots and read everything you can get your hands on! I think there is a point when you are reading all the time that you start to think, “Well, maybe I could try this, too.”
D: What are you working on now?
AB: I just finished up a new YA novel about two characters on a bus trip between Lethbridge, Alberta and Victoria, British Columbia. Now I’m just getting ready to tackle something completely different, and probably a lot less realistic!
Thank you, Amy!