Amy Christine Parker’s debut novel for young adults is Gated, published by Random House Children’s Books. Parker has a degree in elementary education from Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. She has worked as an inner city school teacher and has dabbled in collectible doll-making. Parker lives outside Tampa, Florida, with her husband and two children.
What inspired you to write Gated?
Amy Christine Parker: I’ve always been fascinated by cults, but this story’s doomsday aspect was inspired by a television show on elaborate underground shelters. It was on about a year before the Mayan Apocalypse was supposed to happen, and it showed all of these large scale bunkers meant for dozens of families. People were buying apartments in them for hundreds of thousands of dollars and making lists of the four or so people they could bring with them, and it just dumbfounded me. How could people invest so much into something like that and be so convinced that the end of the world was imminent? After all, there have been apocalyptic predictions over and over again and none of them have come true, yet each time another one pops up, there is a group of people who believe absolutely that it’s true. I wanted to explore that mindset, and it just seemed like a natural progression to explore it within the confines of a cult.
What advice would you give a young adult interested in writing?
ACP: Well, let’s just get the old adage of read a lot and write a lot out there first because it truly is the most important advice to follow, but along with that I would encourage any young adult interested in writing to spend as much time immersed in the world around you as you can. So many people are consumed with their electronic devices: phones, computers, etc. — me included — but part of good storytelling and writing is observing others and being alert and ready for that lightning strike of inspiration when you come across a situation or person who gets you wondering “What if?” Try to take time each day to disconnect from all forms of entertainment. There’s something to be said for boredom, because those are the moments when your brain does its best wandering. It’s too easy to pull out the phone, or whatever, in a moment of downtime and I think it’s gotten people to a point where they don’t allow themselves to ever be bored. I really think this stunts imagination. Ha, ha, how’s that for an old lady response to that question?
Did a particular teacher foster your interest in writing?
ACP: My sixth grade English teacher, Mrs. Blum, was the first teacher who pulled me aside and told me flat out that I had a talent for writing and should seriously consider trying to get published. I didn’t get serious about writing until much, much later, but I still vividly remember that talk and I’m sure that day she planted the seed that I might be a writer someday.
What is your earliest memory related to reading?
ACP: My earliest memory is more about storytelling than actual reading, although I’d argue that it is still very much related. I had a grandfather who used to tell me stories at night that he made up about Jinkie and Junkie — two bears who got into all sorts of trouble. I used to love those stories. There was something so wonderful about lying in a dark room listening to the rich, deep sound of my Pop Pop’s voice and imagining these two bears. I was really little, yet it’s stuck with me all this time. Those memories remain very vivid for me. My love for a good story was born on those nights and was strengthened when my own parents read to me, too.
What was your favorite book in high school?
ACP: The Lord of the Flies by William Golding was my favorite high school read. I loved that book. It unsettled me in a way that no other book had before. I did my first critical paper on it and must have read it four or five times through. I guess I have always had a fascination for the ways in which people deteriorate under stress and show their true characters. I think part of the brilliance of that book is that he created young boys who were absolutely real, not some idealized version of what youth is supposed to be like. Cruelty doesn’t come with age; it’s part of human nature from the beginning. Children can be sweet and they can be cruel, the same as adults.
Why do you think Young Adult fiction is so important?
ACP: I think it’s important because when it’s done well, it depicts teens as they really are — with all the hopes, fears, and passion that come with being that age. There’s something empowering about feeling understood, and good young adult books do that — they make teens feel known in a way that adult books don’t. Adults tend to gravitate towards young adult books as well, and it’s good for them too, because it helps them remember what it was like to be in that place, in that mindset again.
Are you working on anything now?
ACP: Actually, I’m in the midst of edits for Gated’s sequel which will be out next fall and am currently researching and drafting a brand new novel. I’m really excited about it. The subject matter is a bit dark and deals with teen abductions, but at its heart I’d argue that it’s a book about sisterhood, hope, and survival. It’s a scary thing to try to write and get correct because the subject matter is so intense, but I am of the mindset that if it isn’t scary on some level, I’m not pushing myself to write better or bigger.
If you were a bookseller, is there a book you would say YA readers just have to read? (Besides your own, of course!)
ACP: No, there’s never just one book. That’s an impossible thing to figure out for me, because there are so many quality books that deserve to be read. But if I must, well then, I’ll go with some new classics: The Book Thief, Code Name Verity, and because I just love this book in a way that I rarely love a book, The Scorpio Races.
If you could invite three authors (past or present) to a dinner party, who would they be? What do you think would be the topic of conversation?
ACP: Let’s see … I would invite Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, and one poet, Billy Collins. Basically, I want to hang out with a bunch of old guys who are wicked smart and funny and downright pragmatic in a lot of ways when it comes to the writing process. I think the dinnertime topics would probably be all over the place, but I’m pretty darn sure that they would all be extremely interesting. My feeling is that there would be some talk about classic horror/sci-fi movies and stories from all three of their pasts and that I would have very little to add to the conversation but, oh, how awesome would it be to just sit and listen and take it all in?
Gated, by Amy Christine Parker (9780449815977, Hardcover, Random House Children’s Books) Publication date: August 6, 2013.
Learn more about Amy Christine Parker at amychristineparker.blogspot.com.
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