Author Of The Week: Chat with Amber Smith (The Last To Let Go), Plus Giveaway!!
Welcome to our weekly special feature post, Author Of The Week!!
Each week we will be interviewing a different YA author and highlighting their upcoming release!
We will also be hosting a giveaway of the book we are highlighting!!
Introducing Amber Smith, YABC's Author of the Week!!
Amber Smith is the New York Times bestselling author of The Way I Used to Be, which has been included on the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer List of Feminist Literature, TLA’s TAYSHAS List, was named a Bank Street Best Book of 2016, and was nominated for both the 2016 Goodreads Choice Award in YA Fiction, as well as Connecticut’s Nutmeg Book Award. Her latest YA novel, The Last to Let Go, received starred reviews from Booklist and VOYA, and has been named a most anticipated book of 2018 by B&N Teen Blog and Elite Daily. She grew up in Buffalo, New York and now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her two dogs. Visit her online at www.ambersmithauthor.com.
Meet The Last To Let Go!
A twisted tragedy leaves Brooke and her siblings on their own in this provocative new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Way I Used to Be.
How do you let go of something you’ve never had?
Junior year for Brooke Winters is supposed to be about change. She’s transferring schools, starting fresh, and making plans for college so she can finally leave her hometown, her family, and her past behind.
But all of her dreams are shattered one hot summer afternoon when her mother is arrested for killing Brooke’s abusive father. No one really knows what happened that day, if it was premeditated or self-defense, whether it was right or wrong. And now Brooke and her siblings are on their own.
In a year of firsts—the first year without parents, first love, first heartbreak, and her first taste of freedom—Brooke must confront the shadow of her family’s violence and dysfunction, as she struggles to embrace her identity, finds her true place in the world, and learns how to let go.
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
Domestic violence is issue I hold close to my heart, and it’s one that has impacted people who are very close to me. I had been writing this book on and off for years—one of those stories I would pick up and work on for a while, then have to put away for one reason or another. I had the concept and a pretty clear picture of my protagonist, Brooke, and each of her siblings, but I still wasn’t sure I wanted to delve in to such a heavy topic, especially after my first book dealt with an equally serious and emotional one. But right when I was at the point where I was getting ready to submit a proposal for my next book, and was deciding between two different ideas I had been working on, I saw a piece about domestic violence called “Till Death Do Us Part” in South Carolina’s Post and Courier (which ended up winning a 2015 Pulitzer Prize). It’s such a powerful piece, and that’s what gave me the last little bit of courage (and belief in this book) that I needed to truly commit to finishing it.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
Aside from Brooke, the main character (who I feel most connected with), my favorite character ended up being Caroline, Brooke’s estranged grandmother. Caroline didn’t really come into existence until later drafts of this book and she was somewhat of a surprise for me. I’ve never written a character like her before; I usually write about people who are in the middle figuring something out, but she’s already there, on the other side of it. She’s tough and honest and strong—someone who’s already learned how to be a survivor. I feel like Caroline breathed new life into this story at a point when I had hit a serious rough patch while writing.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
The novel—the title came from a line in one of the last pages of the book after it was already finished.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
It is a moment towards the end of the book, so I can’t say too much about it without it being a spoiler...but it is a scene where Brooke has reached the end of her rope and has to make the choice of whether she’s going to continue going down the path she’s been traveling (which has not been going so well) or if she is going to change course and ask for help. This was such an emotional scene for me to write because I’ve been there—it can be so terrifying to open yourself up and be vulnerable enough to admit that you simply can’t do it all on your own. This was a hard lesson for me to learn, and it’s a hard one for Brooke, too, but that choice marks a turning point in her journey.
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
I’ve learned to accept that not only does this whole writing thing not seem to get any easier, but that this is a GOOD thing—it shouldn’t be easy, and I think if it was I probably wouldn’t want to do it anymore!
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
It is such a striking cover—I love it so much (and, of course, I had nothing to with it!). I love that the tangled strings immediately evoke an emotion—it’s uncomfortable, like a knot in your stomach. It makes you wonder why or how it got so tangled to begin with. Yet the process of trying to unravel this jumbled mess would be a daunting task, so much so that one might even decide it’s not worth trying. That’s why I think it’s a perfect metaphor for how easy it is to get trapped in the cycle of abuse, and how hard it is to break free and disentangle oneself once inside of it—and figuring that out is really the journey at the heart of The Last to Let Go.
YABC: What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2018?
Oh no, does it have to be just one? There are SO many amazing books coming out in 2018! Tradition by Brendan Kiely, Where I Live by Brenda Rufener, The Midnights by Sarah Nicole Smetana, and The Second Life of Ava Rivers by Faith Gardner, to name just a few.
YABC: What was your favorite book in 2017?
Again, does it have to be just one??? Far From the Tree by Robin Benway, The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed, and Now Is Everything by Amy Giles .
YABC: What’s up next for you?
I’m currently working on a new contemporary YA that I’m super excited about—it is a first love story told in dual point of view: a boy who is struggling with the process of coming out as transgender and a girl who’s grieving the recent death of her sister. It’s slated for publication in summer of 2019!
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
Yes! I am so passionate about raising awareness of (and ending) all forms of gendered violence—some of my favorite organizations to support are: RAINN (The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) www.rainn.org, The National Domestic Violence Hotline www.thehotline.org, and www.loveisrespect.org
The Last To Let Go
By: Amber Smith
Publisher: Margaret K McElderry Books
Release Date: February 6th, 2018
Two winners will each receive:
1 signed HC copy of The Last to Let Go and 1 signed PB copy of The Way I Used to Be,
along with a bookmark and two wristbands
(purple for domestic violence awareness and teal for sexual assault awareness)
~ (US & Canada Only) ~
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*
I find book covers with rubber bands, twine, or string deeply unsettling! Truly, I can see that this book *will* involve a "twisted tragedy"!
I wish I'd already read this author's first book. These books are both must reads for me; I think it's awesome such vital themes are central to each respectively. I really hope I can snag this prize. Thanks for the chance! Cheers, Kara S
This book sounds so amazing. I like that the plot is something totally different and much more of a relevant issue than the normal teenage romance.