Earlier this month Amber Smith, author of The Way I Used to Be and The Last to Let Go, joined me for a Twitter chat about her writing, editing, and publication experiences. As promised, for those who missed it, you can find the full Q&A below.
Bree: Welcome, y’all! Tonight I’m chatting with @ASmithAuthor about her new book #TheLastToLetGo, which published yesterday! We’re going to be talking everything #amwriting, #amediting, and #ampublishing. Welcome, Amber!
Amber: Thank you for having me!
Amber wrote a beautiful debut novel called #TheWayIUsedToBe about a girl who keeps her rape a secret. It is a stunning look into the mind of a young woman who has been wronged in the ugliest way.
Amber’s newest book, #TheLastToLetGo, is about a young girl who’s devastated when her mother is arrested for killing her abusive father. Was it premeditated or self-defense? Brooke, and the rest of the world, might never know.
If you have any questions for Amber tonight, please feel free to send them in. She’ll answer as many questions as she can. Here we go! :)
Q1: Can you give us a quick overview of how you came to writing? What was your #amquerying process like?
When I was searching for an agent with THE WAY I USED TO BE, I got SOOOO many rejections (20+), but one of the things that helped me was that I was submitting to multiple agents at the same time instead of waiting on each response before moving on to the next.
Fabulous advice. Don’t bank your work on one agent. Give your work the best chance it can have!
Why have you chosen writing as a career path?
Well, I should say I always dreamed of writing fiction. Before I started writing novels, I did a lot of non fiction writing–my first career was in the visual arts, so I wrote about art history and biography.
I wanted to write about abuse and domestic violence because it is such a widespread issue that affects SO many people, yet there’s still so much stigma, silence, shame, and misunderstanding surrounding this kind of abuse.
You’ve written two beautiful stories about young girls who find themselves at the mercy of circumstances outside their own control. Why do you think it was important to tell #TheLastToLetGo from Brooke’s perspective?
I really identified with Brooke’s character in a lot of ways. And I felt like Brooke was the most conflicted person in the family, as she has qualities of both of her parents (the mother who was the abused, and the father who was the abuser).
Love this insight! To think that this daughter has qualities from BOTH parents… it’s so realistic, but we love to paint the abuser as a soulless monster with no redeeming qualities.
What do you think gives a book good voice? How do you #amwriting voice into your books that feels authentic to young women?
Great question! We often hear about “voice” as something that’s hard to define. I like to think of voice as the emotional soul of the book. I think about who I was as a young adult, and I try to be as honest as possible in bringing that person into my #amwriting.
That is such a gift, to be able to think yourself into the mind of your past self. Bravo!
Do you work with critique partners when #amwriting and/or #amediting? What’s your process like?
My process has been different for each book. With my first book, I didn’t let anyone read it until it was finished, but with #TheLastToLetGo I asked different readers to look at different parts of the book that I wanted input on. For example, one of my best friends is a Domestic Violence Advocate, and so I asked her to read a draft of this book, specifically with an eye on the domestic violence components.
With writing, it’s always important to get the voice and experience right, especially when there are people who have experienced these things personally. Were these readers fellow published authors, or critique partners you found through the internet/your local connections?
My readers were not actually writers, but people who had experience with some of the themes and subjects of the book. One of my best friends is a domestic violence advocate, and so I asked her to read the book from her unique perspective.
Without giving too much away, what are you trying to achieve with #TheLastToLetGo? What do you want this book to say about battered/abused women who fight back?
Well, I think I wanted to comment on how the cycle of abuse can escalate to tragic proportions when people (most often women) do not get the help and support they need. I think I wanted to help generate more dialogue & awareness surrounding this kind of abuse.
SUCH an honourable and admirable goal. Wow.
Last question! What can readers expect from your #TheseWordsMatter piece, without being too spoilery?
My #TheseWordsMatter piece talks about the kinds of books I needed when I was growing up, the ones that made me feel less alone in the world, the ones that offered me guidance and understanding—those books shaped me as a writer, and most of all, as a person.
THIS is why I started the segment. Thank you SO much for sharing, Amber!
That concludes my Q&A with Amber. If you missed her contribution to “These Words Matter,” she wrote about how Anne Frank’s diary shaped her (she’s also giving away signed copies of The Last to Let Go!). Thank you to the lovely Amber for hanging out with me.