If you read Hollywood Crush on the regular (and if you don't, what's wrong with you!?), you likely know Kat Rosenfield as our curator of all things hot, sexy and naked. But in between dreaming up "Magic Mike" flag pole puns and writing 500-word think pieces on Taylor Lautner's abs, Kat's been hard at work on her literary debut, the uncoming-of-age tale, "Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone."
The YA novel tells the parallel stories of two girls: Becca, a recent high-school grad who wants nothing more than to break free of her backwater town, and Amelia, a recent college grad who turns up mangled and dead on the outskirts of said town. The murder shakes the otherwise quiet community to its very core—Becca included, who begins to question her own uncertain future.
Let's just say this is unlike any murder mystery you've read before.
As Kat's beautifully lyrical book hits shelves and eReaders today, we fired up the ol' Gchat to conduct an IM Analysis of "Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone" with the authoress herself.
Amy: So, Kat, I just finished your novel, but I'm a bit confused. There are no vampires, werewolves or dystopian death matches. Are there pages missing from my copy?
Kat: No, incredibly enough, that was entirely intentional.
Although I did play with the idea of making one of my characters sparkle in the sun.
Not because of vampirism, just because of body glitter addiction.
But somehow, it just didn't quite fit.
Amy: That would have added another dark layer to an already dark tale!
"Intervention: Body Glitter Addiction"
Kat: Too dark, I think.
Dead bodies, sex, smoking, and small-town secrets are one thing.
But body glitter? Banned for sure.
Amy: Totes. And speaking of darkness, people like to say first novels lean towards the autobiographical. Were your teen years this messed up?
Amy: And if so, why haven't producers made a Lifetime movie about you?
Kat: HEY LOOK A SQUIRREL.
But no, in all seriousness: there are bits and pieces of me in this book, and certainly bits and pieces of the place I grew up.
And admittedly, the brutal breakup that occurs in the first chapter of the book is based pretty much exactly on the worst time I ever got dumped.
But my teen years otherwise were full of sunshine, unicorns, and general well-adjustment.
(Did you hear that, Mom and Dad? Nothing to see here!)
Amy: Has someone with a very particular set of skills been sent after that boyfriend? Cause that was HARSH.
Kat: Ha, no. Although I did get one of those painful, half-assed apologies several years after the fact.
Amy: Via Facebook?
Kat: AOL Instant Messenger, I think!
Amy: Even classier!
Let's get back to the sunshine and unicorns part of this discussion (i.e. something not such a bummer!)
How did this idea even come about?
Kat: Yes, let's!
So, this is where we start at "inspired by real life"—because I'm from a very small town, and I've always been fascinated by the kind of community that you get in a small, isolated, insular place like that.
And I started thinking about what it would be like if, say, a dead body appeared one morning on the side of the road with not a single clue as to its origins.
(And that's where we go from "based on real life" to "next stop, Crazytown.")
Amy: You essentially have two protagonists: a dead girl and a girl affected by the dead girls', uh, being dead.
They're probably like children to you, but do you prefer one over the other?
Kat: I'm going to have to say Becca (who's probably the bigger of the two protagonists)—if only because I got to know her so much better over the course of writing the story, and really get into what a flawed person she is.
Amelia is more like a snapshot of a person than a fully-fleshed-out human being; you see her highlights reel, but I think there's more to her story that we really don't know.
She's more of an acquaintance, really.
Amy: Could you see yourself ever writing a prequel that delves more into Amelia's story, or do you truly think she is dead and gone?
(See what I did there...)
Kat: I wish I had a GIF of that scene from "Jurassic Park" right now where the velociraptor comes out of the bushes: "Clever girl."
Kat: And it's funny, people have asked me whether I'd want to write a sequel to this and the answer was always no; I think the end is very much the end.
But a prequel... HMMM. You might have given me a brainspark there, Wilkinson.
Let's just say I would consider it. Maybe.
Amy: Well, if SOMETHING were to come out of this, I'll request only a 20% cut.
Kat: I'll give you a bag of Doritos.
How about that? ANY FLAVOR.
Amy: Add a Yoo-Hoo and I'm in.
Kat: Haha, done.
Amy: I think people are always curious about the writing process. How long from ideation to publish did this whole thing take?
Kat: In this case, a really, reeeeally long time. The time that elapsed between writing the first sentence and selling the manuscript was just under four years, and it took another two between that moment and the book actually being published.
Which is to say, I've spent a lot of time biting my fingernails and wailing, "Whyyyyyyy is it taking so loooooooong!"
Amy: So basically, your demo was in, like, the first grade when you started this.
Not to make you feel old or anything.
Kat: What's that? Speak up, sonny! And get off my lawn!
Though actually, I think it's more like fourth grade. Small comfort there.
The reviews have been pretty great so far, but have you read any that have made you chuckle/shake your head/throw a piece of pottery through the window?
Kat: Actually, my favorite review so far has been from someone who absolutely hated the book, believe it or not.
And it was basically a long lament about how all the gruesome, disgusting, filthy images in it stayed with her long after she'd finished it, and she couldn't stop thinking about it, and it made her feel so dirty.
And I was like, "SUCCESS."
Amy: It's funny that in rebuking you, she essentially gave you the highest praise you could receive as a writer: IT STUCK WITH ME.
Kat: Yes! In a way, it's almost higher praise to hear that your book gave someone nightmares than to hear that it made them laugh or cry.
And all told, if "Amelia" makes people feel things—even if they're unpleasant things—I feel that I've done my job as a writer.
Amy: Did you ever think it might be too dark for a YA novel?
Kat: No, and I think people who think there's such a thing as "too dark" in YA have no memory at all of what it's like to be a teenager. Which isn't to say it won't be too dark for some, but readers who can't handle this kind of content tend to stay away from it on their own. Basically, just like adults, kids are perfectly able to make their own choices as to what they do and don't want to read about.
Amy: Yeah, I was going to say, I think you set the tone pretty quickly with a sex scene on the first page.
Readers should have no delusions regarding what this book's about.
Kat: Yep, I don't mess around
You open the book, you get throat-punched.
But if you don't like it, you don't have to keep reading, of course.
Amy: Now that "Amelia" is out in the world, what do you have on your plate project-wise?
Are you working on a second novel?
Kat: I am!
...And that's all I'm going to say about it.
(Sorry, it's a secret for now.)
Amy: YOU ARE SUCH A TEASE, KAT ROSENFIELD.
I have nothing left to say to you.
Kat: Am I dead to you now?!
Amy: AND GONE.
Kat: CLEVER GIRL.
Do you plan to pick up a copy of "Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone"? Sound off in the comments and on Twitter!