Author Interview: Amanda Marrone on Uninvited

From Simon Pulse: “Amanda Marrone grew up on Long Island, where she spent her time reading, drawing, watching insects, and suffering from an overactive imagination. She earned a BA in education at SUNY Cortland, and taught fifth and sixth grade in New Hampshire. She now lives in Connecticut with her husband, Joe, and their two kids.”

What were you like as a young adult?

Awkward! I was very shy, always had my nose in a book, and I was a little too much like my main character in Uninvited (Simon Pulse, 2007), Jordan.

While this story is in no way autobiographical, Jordan and I do share some traits. I was a total social phobic, something I’m happy to say I got over! I loved being outside—walking in the woods, watching insects—-something I still love. We even have hissing cockroaches among our menagerie of pets, although my husband is always afraid they will escape. I haven’t told him about the time I found a baby roach crawling on the computer one day!

Could you tell us about your path to publication? Any sprints or stumbles along the way?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer—a picture book writer-illustrator, but I’m not one of the “I’ve been writing stories since I picked up my first crayon” writers. I have a really bad pencil grip, and back in the day, writing long hand, or even using a typewriter—was exhausting.

If it weren’t for computers I wouldn’t have finished a book. I wrote and illustrated two picture books. The third turned into a novel, and I realized that was where my comfort level was.

Getting published for me was mostly kismet. After sending out two novels to just a handful of editors, I took an online young adult writing class, and the instructor suggested her agent. I queried the agent, she took me on, and the first person she sent it to bought it. It was very quick, but the editor was leaving for a two-week honeymoon—in Europe, and I think that got the often-slow process speeded up.

Congratulations on the release of Uninvited (Simon Pulse, 2007)! Could you tell us about this new title?

It’s not a typical vampire story. When my agent pitched the story, she didn’t even mention there was a vampire—she said it was a YA with a paranormal twist—which I think is a good description. But the story follows Jordan’s struggles to take control of her life or open the window to her ex—a new vampire.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

I was working on a middle grade novel, and I suddenly pictured a boy coming up to a girl’s window asking to be let in. I immediately knew she was scared to open her window, but that it was tempting. I banged out the first chapter–which essentially stayed the same after revisions, but I needed time to figure out what I had written, and what direction it would go in. Months later I started chapter two.

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

It was probably four years between spark and publication. I needed to think about the book for a bit, but my husband also got a new job, we moved to another state, and my daughter has cerebral palsy and there were things to take care of for her. I wasn’t writing every day or even every month, but the story was in the back of my mind percolating.

Once we moved to Connecticut, I started in again. When the book was done, I won first place in the YA division of the Tassy Walden Awards for aspiring Connecticut children’s authors. That was a real confidence booster as the judges were agents and editors. A year later, I took that YA class, and then things moved along quickly. But I started the first chapter of Uninvited in 2001, revised the finished novel in 2004, and it sold in 2005.

In contrast, I wrote my second book, Revealers, in a few months and I’m waiting to hear back from my editor about revisions.

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

While I was well read in vampire lore, I dug a little deeper for the book. The biggest challenge I had was what to include? I had to anticipate what my audience knew about vampires—I didn’t want to do a vampire 101, but I also wanted to include enough information so those who where in the dark about vamps could follow along. I was surprised to hear from one reader who hadn’t known vampires had to be invited it. I had thought that was common knowledge.

How did you find out you’d sold your first book? What did you do to celebrate?

My agent called me—she said it was a good offer, but we didn’t have to accept it right away, and she could even shop the book around elsewhere while the editor was out of country. I nixed that idea, and said to accept the offer. After a lot of happy screaming, my husband and I did the usual champagne-and-fancy-dinner thing to celebrate.

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were beginning writer, what advice would you offer?

Keep the faith! Friends and family often cheer you on when you start writing, but when it doesn’t happen overnight or if years have passed—well, some lose their support. For every true overnight success, there are dozens of authors who’ve been toiling to perfect their work for years. You can’t make it happen if you give up. Take classes, network, join a critique group–join SCBWI.

What would you say specifically on the topic of writing Gothic fantasy?

I’m so impressed writers are finding new stories to tell with age-old characters. It’s a lot of fun to read everyone’s different takes on the vampire, werewolf and fairy legends.

What is it about the young adult audience that appeals to you?

It’s a tumultuous time—I still feel what I went through vividly. I like the discovery of the age—the way people change and hopefully assert themselves. How they develop their own identities.

What can your fans look forward to next?

I just turned in my next YA, Revealers, to my editor. It’s due out sometime in 2008. It’s about five teen witches who hunt vampires, werewolves and demons as a public service—only it turns out their coven has a dark secret worse than any of the creatures they hunt. The first chapter is in the back of Uninvited if anyone wants a sneak peek.

I just started a new paranormal YA I’m excited about. It’s a murder mystery/ghost story set at a small New England amusement park.