About the Author
Amy Reed was born and raised in and around Seattle, where she attended a total of eight schools by the time she was eighteen. Constant moving taught her to be restless, and being an only child made her imagination do funny things. After a brief stint at Reed College (no relation), she moved to San Francisco and spent the next several years serving coffee and getting into trouble. She eventually graduated from film school, promptly decided she wanted nothing to do with filmmaking, returned to her original and impractical love of writing, and earned her MFA from New College of California. After thirteen years in the San Francisco Bay Area, she now resides in the mountains of western North Carolina with her daughter and dog.
Amy is the author of BEAUTIFUL (2009), CLEAN (2011), CRAZY (2012), OVER YOU (2013), and DAMAGED (2014), all with Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster. Her two-book series, INVINCIBLE (2015) and UNFORGIVABLE (2016) were published by Katherine Tegen/Harper Collins. She then returned to Simon Pulse for THE NOWHERE GIRLS (2017), the anthology OUR STORIES, OUR VOICES (2018), and THE BOY AND GIRL WHO BROKE THE WORLD (2019). She published her most recent book, TELL ME MY NAME, with Dial/Penguin Random House (2021).
In her spare time, Amy likes to read (obviously), run, eat, make lists, and hang out with her daughter Elouise, who is officially the coolest person in the world.
Q. You write a lot about drug and alcohol addiction and mental illness. Is this something you have experienced in your own life?
A. To answer this question, I recommend you read my guest post on Nova Ren Suma’s “The Book of Your Heart” series, in which I explain the very personal story behind my book CLEAN. I also wrote this personal message about my book CRAZY. My essay “Bless This Mess” in the anthology (Don’t) Call Me Crazy talks a lot about my experiences with addiction and mental health issues, and you can also read it at To Write Love on Her Arms.
Q. What is your advice to aspiring writers?
A. Read and write as much, and as diversely, as possible. Challenge yourself to read and write outside of your comfort zone. Find other people to read and critique your work, preferably other writers, whether it’s in classes, a workshop, group of friends, online community, an MFA program, or something much more informal. Get comfortable with criticism and learn from it. But also know when to ignore it–always write for yourself and remember that you will never be able to write for everyone.
Q. What was the most important book you read as a teenager?
A. Girl, Interrupted, by Susanna Kaysen, and the poetry of Anne Sexton.
Q. Have you always wanted to be an author? When did you begin writing?
A. From a very early age, I knew I wanted to be a storyteller of some kind. I started writing very bad poetry around 13, then learned to play guitar and started writing slightly better but equally embarrassing songs. I went back and forth between wanting to be a writer and a rock star, then decided in my early 20’s that I needed a real profession so I went to film school. Shortly after I graduated, I decided I wanted to be a writer again, so I went back to school to get my MFA in writing. And that’s where my first book, BEAUTIFUL, was born. I never intended it to be YA. I didn’t even know the YA genre existed until I started looking for an agent and one informed me that my book was YA, not the adult literary fiction I thought it was.
Q. What is your favorite book?
A. It’s impossible to pick just one, but here are some of my favorites: Bastard Out of Carolina, by Dorothy Allison; The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold; Her Body and Other Parties, by Carmen Maria Machado; Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders; The Book of Delights, by Ross Gay; anything by A.S. King.
Q. What do you wish you had known when you were a teenager?
A. I often imagine my adult self going back in time and telling the young me that things will get better, that someday I will find people just like me, I will find love and real community, I will not have to be so scared, I will find ways to heal, I will finally be able to express exactly who I am, and I will be able to choose my path in life. Life is long and being a teenager takes only a few years of it. But those few years are grueling and often painful. But then they’re done. You don’t have to do them again. Just hang in there–it gets better, I swear.
(You can also check out my guest post on Dear Teen Me about this very topic)
Q. If you could give teenagers one piece of advice, what would it be?
A. Follow your heart. Listen to that little voice inside that knows what’s right and wrong for you. Choose right even if no one else does. This is the most revolutionary kind of rebellion.
And be kind.