GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Amy Christine Parker, author of GATED

Today on the blog we’re interviewing Lucky13 author Amy Christine Parker, whose debut young adult thriller GATED is in bookstores now. Here’s a bit about GATED:

Do the gates keep the unchosen out or the chosen in?

In Mandrodage Meadows, life seems perfect. The members of this isolated suburban community have thrived under Pioneer, the charismatic leader who saved them from their sad, damaged lives. Lyla Hamilton and her parents are original members of the flock. They moved Imagehere following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, looking to escape the evil in the world. Now seventeen, Lyla knows certain facts are not to be questioned:

Pioneer is her leader. 

Will is her Intended.

The end of the world is near.

Like Noah before him, Pioneer has been told of the imminent destruction of humanity. He says his chosen must arm themselves to fight off the unchosen people, who will surely seek refuge in the compound’s underground fortress–the Silo.

Lyla loves her family and friends, but given the choice, she prefers painting to target practice. And lately she’d rather think about a certain boy outside the compound than plan for married life in the Silo with Will. But with the end of days drawing near, she will have to pick up a gun, take a side, and let everyone know where she stands. 

Hi Amy! Welcome to the OneFour KidLit blog, and congrats on writing such a blisteringly awesome book—Gated completely blew me away. What inspired you to write a book about a cult?

A show about underground apocalyptic bunkers was the original inspiration for the book. I was totally fascinated by how many people were buying them and how elaborate and luxurious some of them were. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that people were sinking lots of money, sometimes millions, into something that they would probably never need. It made me start thinking about extreme beliefs and then it wasn’t long before I started looking at cults too. I put both things together and the book came pretty quickly after that.

One of the (numerous) things that impressed me about GATED was the utter authenticity of cult life portrayed in your novel, especially the portrayal of the cult’s leader, Pioneer—he is the single most frightening book villain I have ever read. How were you able to create such a realistically creepy character? Did you draw from any real-life sources?

Thank you! The thing I worried about most while writing this book was getting Pioneer right. It’s hard to make someone creepy and yet also charismatic/warm enough to be believable as a cult leader—as someone people will follow. I drew inspiration for him from lots of real life cult leaders. I wanted the over the top creepy of Charles Manson mixed with the fanatical conviction of Jim Jones and the sort of country fatherly thing that David Koresh had going on. I also looked at a lesser known cult leader named Wayne Bent. He is this really slight framed older gentleman who is really soft spoken and smiley, but the words that come out of his mouth…whoa. I spent a ton of hours watching video footage of all of these men. I really wanted to find a way into their heads, to see what made them tick. It was intense research, but also fascinating.

Having met you, I can say honestly say that you’re one of the loveliest, smiliest people I’ve ever met—which is why I was so UTTERLY SHOCKED at some of the darker scenes in GATED. You certainly didn’t pull any punches. Without giving anything away, how difficult was it to write some of the gut-wrenching scenes in this book? How were you able to get into the right mind frame to write such deliciously dark material?

Ha, ha! Am I going to scare you if I say not that difficult at all? I mean the writing was almost always difficult—the getting the words and plot right part, but the subject matter itself just wasn’t. Maybe it’s because it’s so far from my real life that I can keep the proper distance required to go to those places. I wanted to understand what made cult members and cult leaders tick, because I can’t relate at all to them. But I think maybe it’s also because knowing why things like Jonestown happened make them less scary for me. That said, it doesn’t mean that sometimes I don’t get unsettled by some of the research. I think the one time I remember really feeling this was when I was double checking quotes from Jim Jones that are in the book—during my last round of edits—by re-reading the transcripts from the last day in Jonestown when he was forcing people to drink poison and that same day the Boston Marathon bombs went off. It was too much darkness to take in in one sitting.

Needless to say, I adored GATED and am anxiously waiting your next novel. Can you tell us what we can expect next from you—more dark, edge-of-your-seat thrillers? (Please say yes).

I’m working on the first round of edits for the sequel to GATED right now. It will pick up where the first book left off. I don’t want to say too much so I don’t spoil the first book’s read for anyone, but I can say that if you thought the first one was creepy the second book kicks it up a notch.

And finally, as this community is All For One and One Four KidLit, we’d like to know what two or three books inspired you as a kid.

Only three? Yikes, that’ll be hard to do. Okay here’s the three I always think about most when I remember being a kid/teen.

  1. GRIMM’S FAIRYTALES—I must’ve read and re-read them a thousand times. My favorites were King Thrushbeard and The Goose Girl.
  2. THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE—I literally sat in my closet after reading this one and willed the back wall to disappear. Sadly, it never did.
  3. THE LORD OF THE FLIES—This book changed my life. I was obsessed with it. I even did my high school critical paper on it (and ENJOYED writing it) my love for it was so deep.

But I feel like I’m being neglectful if I don’t also mention all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, LITTLE WOMEN, all of Stephen King’s short story collections, and the short story ALL SUMMER IN A DAY by Ray Bradbury. There, I feel better now! Thanks for interviewing me, I had a blast! 

AMY CHRISTINE PARKER earned her degree in elementary education at SoutheasternImage
University in Lakeland, Florida, and then proceeded to try out many different jobs, including collectible doll maker, fondue waitress, and inner-city schoolteacher. It wasn’t until she became a mom and began making up bedtime stories for her children that she finally realized what she was meant to do. Now Amy writes full-time from her home near Tampa, Florida, where she lives with her husband, their two daughters, and one ridiculously fat cat. Her first novel, GATED, debuts with Random House Children’s August 6, 2013. Visit her at amychristineparker.blogspot.com.

Michelle Krys is the author of HEXED coming from Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books June 10th, 2014. Michelle is a shameless lover of bad reality television, celebrity gossip, dancing badly to good music, and queso by the spoonful. She lives in Northwestern Ontario with her husband and son. You can learn more about her at michellekrys.com or by following her on twitter at @MichelleKrys.

Michelle Krys: HEXED

We have a lot of fantastic authors at OneFour KidLit and are excited to introduce them all to you. Today, we’re talking to Michelle Krys, author of Hexed. One author, four questions. Here we go!

Hey, you’re getting published! How’d that happen?

I’m still trying to figure that out!

I guess the story goes back to this one time I was in the bathtub (Bear with me, I’m going Imagesomewhere with this). So there I was in the bathtub, having at bath. I was 25 years old and 4 months into a year of maternity leave. My older sister called me while I was in said bath and very nervously-yet-excitedly told me that she’d decided to write a book. I was all “GET OUT! I’ve always wanted to write a book!” That’s an exact quote. She read me her first chapter and it was great. Inspired—and with a whole lot of free time on my hands as my son slept 12 hours at night and napped 3 hours in the day—I got to writing my first book. For your information, it sucked and took the rest of my 8 months of maternity leave to complete, but I learned a lot and had so much fun doing it. I’d found my passion.

HEXED was my second novel, and while I’d dreamed I’d get full requests, no one was more shocked than me when that actually happened—and I about dropped dead when my agent, Adriann Ranta, emailed to arrange The Call. It all happened fairly quickly after that. We went on submission, and a month later HEXED was acquired by Wendy Loggia at Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books. So I guess the short answer is: via the slush pile.

What’s your debut book about? Can you share any cool details with us?

Hexed is about a popular cheerleader named Indigo Blackwood, whose perfect life is threatened when a tattooed stranger tells her that the family Bible just stolen from the attic of her mother’s occult shop could mean the end to all witches, including Indigo herself.

Interesting factoids about Hexed:

  • There’s kissing and romantical stuff in the book. Also magic.
  • The love interest is somewhat inspired by freestyle motocross rider Kyle Loza–Google him. You won’t be sorry.
  • It’s set in Los Angeles, and I went there for research.
  • This one could just be a rumor, but I’ve heard that every time someone adds HEXED on Goodreads, a unicorn gets its horn and a fat baby smiles at you.

What are you most excited about in the debut process?

It seems like there’s something new and awesome to be excited about every day, but I think what I’m most excited about is seeing the cover, holding the physical book in my hands for the first time, and walking into a bookstore and seeing HEXED on the shelves. I plan on happy dancing on those occasions . . . but will probably just cry.

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

    • I’m an identical twin, and my sister Brandy Allard is also a YA writer.
    • I also work as a nurse in a neonatal intensive care unit
    • I got married in Africa! Tanzania, to be more specific.
    • I live in Thunder Bay, Ontario—the town where Anna Dressed in Blood is set.
    • I have an ungodly love of salsa and queso cheese sauce, and probably drink more coffee than any human should.
Michelle Krys lives with her husband and son in Northwestern Ontario. She loves bad reality television, celebrity gossip, dance music, and nachos, and is not ashamed of any of it (though she probably should be). Her debut novel HEXED is forthcoming from Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books in Spring 2014. She thinks it would be swell if you followed her on Twitter.