I got to know Amy Carol Reeves this year when we served on a panel discussing YA literature at the SC Book Festival. In a way, we write in opposite genres. My middle grade novel, The Boy Project, is a funny contemporary story. Amy’s YA novel, Ripper, is dark historical fiction. To tell you the truth, I was initially too chicken to read Ripper, the story of Jack the Ripper with a paranormal twist. But then I liked Amy so much that I knew if she wrote it, it had to be good. Bravely, I cracked open the book. I could hardly put it down! Amy’s PhD in nineteenth-century British literature prepared her to write a compelling book set in that time period. Soon, she will be dividing her time between writing additional novels and serving as Visiting Assistant Professor at Columbia College in Columbia, SC. She is looking forward to teaching freshmen composition courses and British lit courses there this fall.
Thanks for joining us Amy! An author with a PhD clearly has brain power aplenty! Can you share your favorite way to flaunt it? Definitely through my teaching! I sort of geek out in the classroom I have an audience of twenty to thirty students and they have to listen to me talk about what I love. I’m at my “worst” when I give a lecture on the Romantic writers (i.e. Mary Shelley, Lord Byron) or the Pre-Raphaelites. I love to tell the side stories about these writers’ personal lives and adventures.
Those interesting lives are the reason I used to love teaching about Romantic writers too (to high school students). Can you share with us how your PhD in nineteenth-century literature helped you with the writing of and the research for Ripper? I feel like the heavy novel reading load in my graduate classes helped to give me a good feel for the time period. Rereading books like Jane Eyre and Great Expectations and reading books that I hadn’t read before graduate school such as Lady Audley’s Secret and Middlemarch, helped to show me how gender roles and the dialogue of the period worked; also, I got into the minds of some awesome strong Victorian heroines. Furthermore, in my Victorian seminars, I remember learning about the crazy stories of the Rossettis (i.e. Dante Gabriel Rossetti having his wife’s body exhumed.) Truth really is stranger than fiction. I remember thinking that I just had to include this in a novel somehow.
Christina Rossetti wrote that beautiful poem “Hurt no Living Thing”. She’s briefly featured in Ripper. I just realized she is a perfect opposite to your villain! What inspired you to add a paranormal twist to the story of Jack the Ripper? I wanted my story to be more than a whodunit. This is as much of a story about a teenage girl unraveling her family’s past, falling in love for the first time, and making difficult ethical choices. I wanted there to be more at stake in the plot than simply finding Jack the Ripper. Adding the paranormal element helped me to branch out from just the murder mystery. The psychic connection with the Ripper was a particularly important element for me—mainly I wanted Abbie to feel his thoughts and to see his viciousness. She needed to understand him and his motivations, and she needed to be tempted by the elixir before she could confront him.
Your strategy above worked! Since you are both a scholar and an author, can you tell us some of your favorite things to read? Oh, so much! I read (and reread) nineteenth-century novels. I’m teaching a Brontë seminar this fall, so at the moment, I’m the ultimate “nerdy chick” now reading Agnes Grey, Villette, and Jane Eyre; I’m also relishing once again in the dysfunctional Wuthering Heights love story. (That Heathcliff really was a rat!)
I also really love reading YA books. Some of my favorites that I’ve read this year have been Gwen Hayes’s Dreaming Awake, Mike Mullin’s Ashfall, and Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. Currently, I’m reading this very fun middle reader book called The Boy Project
Thanks Amy! What is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a nerdy chick? Snagging my husband. (Tip: the best guys are readers.) The first time I met my husband, he asked me what my favorite book was. (Pride and Prejudice of course!) He read the book and then he asked me out. During our first date, we talked about books the whole time. We’ve been together for almost ten years now!
Hey, great tip! We always hear about men who don’t like smart women. It’s great to hear a story about how nerdiness worked to your romantic advantage! Can you tell us about a well-known nerdy chick you admire and why you admire her. I’ve always been a big fan of Amelia Earhart. She completely fascinates me. She was definitely one of the best nerdy chicks of the last hundred years. Not only was she one of the first female aviators, but she was also a feminist, she loved to read, and I think I read somewhere that she played the banjo; she also had a phenomenal sense of style. (I’ve always loved her clothes, shoes, etc.) My fascination with her was one of the main reasons I named my daughter Amelia.
Awesome. Amelia Earhart was included in my first post ever. Do you have a favorite hobby? Details please. I love baking and decorating cakes. My mother-in-law used to make wedding cakes, so she has taught me a lot about making cakes over the years. I particularly have a lot of fun making my kids’ birthday cakes. I’ve made a towering Dr. Seuss cake, a castle cake, a Star Wars cake, and lately I’m experimenting with gluten free cake recipes. It’s a lot of fun. But I’m trying to take up knitting because the sad thing about spending so much time on a cake is that it’s well…eaten very quickly. I need a hobby with a more lasting product.
Those cake will last in your children’s memories! Now for the question I try to ask everyone: If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be? Don’t worry about so much! I was very Type A and so much of what I worried about didn’t really matter in the long run. (Oh, and to my middle school self—puffed bangs were REALLY not cool! What were you thinking?)
Great advice Amy. I still need a dose of “stop worrying” every now and then. Or every day. Or every hour.
Amy lives and writes in Columbia SC. To learn more about her, visit her website at amycarolreeves.com. And stick around for a minute and watch this trailer for Ripper with the absolutely perfect creepy music!
Psst: This Friday’s featured Quotable Nerdy Chick will be a woman whose name is mentioned in this post!