This week’s feature is PRETTY AMY by Lisa Burstein. I found Lisa through her Dear Teen Me entry and the premise if her book grabbed me immediately. It’s also a great example of superb cover art.
Amy is fine living in the shadows of beautiful Lila and uber-cool Cassie, because at least she’s somewhat beautiful and uber-cool by association. But when their dates stand them up for prom, and the girls take matters into their own hands—earning them a night in jail outfitted in satin, stilettos, and Spanx—Amy discovers even a prom spent in handcuffs might be better than the humiliating “rehabilitation techniques” now filling up her summer. Worse, with Lila and Cassie parentally banned, Amy feels like she has nothing—like she is nothing.
Navigating unlikely alliances with her new coworker, two very different boys, and possibly even her parents, Amy struggles to decide if it’s worth being a best friend when it makes you a public enemy. Bringing readers along on an often hilarious and heartwarming journey, Amy finds that maybe getting a life only happens once you think your life is over.
Your website bio states that you earned your MFA in Creative Writing. What led to this and can you tell us more about your journey toward becoming a writer?
I have always wanted to be writer. After college, I worked in publishing for a year before deciding I wanted to write book, not sell them. I took a year off and applied to MFA programs. I was accepted to two of them. Basically for me an MFA gave me two years to focus on nothing but craft. To focus on nothing but writing and reading and talking about books(and of course a little drinking in bars with other writers spattered in between)- it was heaven. Like this perfect space and time where everything I was doing was exactly what I wanted to be doing.
I’ve considered pursuing an MFA–you make it sound fabulous!
I love the premise for PRETTY AMY. Where did the idea for the story come from and what do you want readers to take away when they’re finished reading?
I write YA because I felt like I still had all these things to say from when I was a teenager that I never got a chance to say. I also feel like teens need books in a way adults don’t. At least I know I did, I looked to books to help me make sense of what I was feeling. I guess I hope teens will use PRETTY AMY in the same way. I was arrested during my senior year of high school, not for the same reason Amy was, but that was where the kernel came from. I also knew I wanted to write a “shocking” book from a teenage girl’s point of view. I feel like you can get away with your character being a murderer, or a jerk, or just a smart ass more easily if your book isn’t contemporary and I wanted to try to break that mold with PRETTY AMY. I also wanted to write a contemporary YA book that was about what real teens go through. I feel like teenage girl’s lives are complex and I hoped to show that in PRETTY AMY. In terms of something to take away, just that they are not alone.
Contemporary YAs are extremely relatable, and allow for a wonderful opportunity for authors to share experiences with teens. I hope to do the same in my writing.
I read the first chapter of PRETTY AMY on your website and noted that you started the narrative right before her prom. What led to this decision, and how do you devise your plot points while writing?
Well I needed to up the stakes in the story and so an important night like prom night was the obvious choice. It gave everything that happened to Amy so much more resonance. In terms of plot points, I am a pantser who takes notes as she writes, most of my best ideas come while I’m writing.
I love the PRETTY AMY project–a great way to reach out to your readers! In what other ways are you outreaching, and what do you recommend to writers who want to get themselves out there?
I am very open and friendly. As someone who has been on the other-side (a reader or an aspiring author) I know how much it can mean for an author to be nice and helpful. I respond to emails and tweets and hopefully will always have time to.
We aspiring writers definitely appreciate it! What are some current projects you’re working on?
A companion novel to PRETTY AMY, titled DEAR CASSIE that follows Amy’s best friend Cassie’s post-prom arrest to a rehabilitation retreat in the woods, told in Cassie’s irreverent voice via her diary entries.
Thanks, Lisa! To snag a copy of PRETTY AMY, click on the button below: