A rising star among young adult writers, Amalie Howard developed a loyal following after releasing her debut book, “Bloodspell,” in 2011. Now, she is returning with five new books that are sure to excite her devoted fans and catch the attention of new readers.
A bookworm from the beginning, Howard grew up on a small island in the Caribbean with her nose buried in books. When she was just 13 years old, her poem “The Candle” was published in a University of Warwick journal, marking a sign of great things to come. Howard immersed herself into other cultures, globetrotting through 22 countries in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. After moving to the United States, she earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies and French from Colby College in Maine. She also holds a certificate in French literature from the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, France. Traveling around the world, Howard has lent talents as a research assistant, marketing representative, freelance writer, teen speaker, blogger and global sales executive.
Howard is a recipient of a Royal Commonwealth Society award, an international youth writing competition. She is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
Howard’s first book, “Bloodspell” (June 2011, Langdon Street Press) earned rave reviews and was named a Seventeen Magazine Summer Beach Read. Readers will hear more from Howard as she releases a pair of two-book series, “Waterfell” (November 2013, Harlequin TEEN) and “The Almost Girl” (January 2014, Strange Chemistry), as well as “Alpha Goddess” (March 2014, Skyhorse/Sky Pony Press) over the next two years.
Howard lives in New York with her husband, three children and one willful feline that she is convinced may have been a witch’s cat in a past life.
SIX MINUTES WITH AMALIE HOWARD:
Author Amalie Howard joins LitPick for Six Minutes with an Author! Amalie grew up on a small Caribbean island where she spent most of her childhood with her nose buried in a book or being a tomboy running around barefoot, shimmying up mango trees and dreaming of adventure. Twenty-two countries, surfing with sharks and several tattoos later, she has traded in bungee jumping in China for writing the adventures she imagines instead. She isn’t entirely convinced which takes more guts. She is the author of several young adult novels critically acclaimed by Kirkus, PW and Booklist, including Waterfell, The Almost Girl, and Alpha Goddess, a Spring 2014 Kid’s INDIE NEXT title. Her debut novel, Bloodspell, was an Amazon bestseller and a Seventeen Magazine Summer Read.
How did you get started writing?
I’ve always loved writing. Even at a very young age, I was always scribbling some story or another into a journal. I remember writing a story about a young girl covered in magical tattoos when I was about nine. Seriously, what did I know about tattoos at nine years old? Still, it was a pretty cool story. I had my first poem published when I was twelve and I won an award in a global youth writing competition when I was fifteen. That story was about a man whose daughter’s soul lived in a weeping willow, and he could only communicate with her through his violin. Even back then, my imagination had a fondness for fantasy. Over the years, the pencil may have evolved into a laptop, but writing was and still is a huge form of escapism for me.
Who influenced you?
My passion for writing stories came from reading great stories. I’ve been a voracious reader all my life, devouring pretty much anything I could get my hands on. I loved being able to dive into someone else’s life, whether it was via a pixie or a willful orphan or a talking lion. My love affair with reading began with Grimm’s Fairy Tales and continued with books like Anne of Green Gables, The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, Lord of the Rings. My biggest influencers are J.K. Rowling, Enid Blyton, J.R.R. Tolkien, David Eddings, Anne Rice, C.S Lewis, Judith McNaught, and Kristin Cashore.
Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
I don’t have favorites, but there are elements of each of my books that I love.
With Tori from BLOODSPELL, I love that she doesn’t give up despite the overwhelming odds against her, and she finds a way to control the darker side of her magic. Tori is special to me because she overcomes something monstrous—she doesn’t let it win. Instead, she makes the choice to live … to survive her curse. This is something close to my heart because we all have our demons that we have to overcome. As a teen, mine was anorexia. I love her fierce will and her strength. In addition, the setting in BLOODSPELL takes place in three of my favorites places—Maine, New York, and Paris.
With Riven from THE ALMOST GIRL, she has to dig deep down to embrace her emotions. A soldier first, she’s so hard on the outside but still vulnerable on the inside—I really connected with her struggle to just let go of all her rules and be a girl. We build so many walls to keep from being hurt that we don’t allow ourselves to connect with others. I love that she was brave enough to trust her heart. I set this story in a futuristic, post-Terminator type world. And that was just awesome to imagine and develop! I had a lot of fun with the world building in this novel.
What I love about Nerissa from WATERFELL and OCEANBORN was her willingness to change the things about herself that needed changing. It’s hard to step back to take a long hard look at yourself and find yourself lacking. She evolves from a selfish princess to a queen her people can be proud of. To me, that takes insane courage because facing and acknowledging your flaws can be terrifying. The setting in WATERFELL was inspired by my childhood growing up on an island. I love sand, sea, and surfing, and all of those things are incorporated in this story.
Lastly, with Serjana from ALPHA GODDESS, I love that she was able to bridge her past lives and make herself whole (past and present). Being a teen and finding yourself is hard. Being a teen and an Indian goddess with multiple incarnations is something else entirely. I really admire her resilience and her evolved sense of self. This book was one of my favorites to write because it was so different. It’s steeped in East Indian mythology (my father is a Hindu priest and I grew up hearing many of these stories). I wanted to share some of my cultural background with readers and bring something new and diverse to the table.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
Do polish your manuscript until you can’t polish anymore. Then do it again.
Do read Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.
Do join a critique group (your local SCBWI chapter is a great place to find one).
Do research and understand the nitty-gritty of submissions in your genre (word count, format, query letters, proposals, cover letters, etiquette, etc.)
Do get a good agent with a track record in your genre.
Do create a social media platform and build your brand (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+).
Don’t get discouraged by rejections—they’re a part of the process. Keep your head up, use constructive feedback and submit again.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not good enough. They don’t get to decide that, you do.
Don’t ever give up even when it feels like that’s all you want to do (trust me, every writer has this exact thought at some point or another—you’re not alone). Just believe in yourself and your work, and you can’t fail.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I usually write in my office, but I also have a lovely Paris-themed reclining armchair in my bedroom near a big window that I love. I also occasionally write in cool coffee shops, outdoors when the weather is nice, or in my local library when I need a change of scene.
What else would you like to tell us?
Honestly, just a heartfelt thank-you to my readers for buying not just my books, but books in general, and for spreading the word and all the book love. Thanks for being such amazing fans and supporters! I couldn’t do this without you.
Amalie, thank you for spending six minutes with LitPick and for sharing so much information about yourself, and for the great advice you’ve given to aspiring authors!
Q&A with author Amalie Howard
You released your first book “Bloodspell” in 2011, which led to an impressive five book publishing deals. How the heck do you have time to write so much, and what does it feel like to have your work recognized in such a great way?
I am so incredibly grateful that my wonderful editors saw something they loved in my books and wanted to publish them. All three of my upcoming novels—WATERFELL, THE ALMOST GIRL, and ALPHA GODDESS—each brings something different and unique to the table, so I’m really excited that readers will get to sample such a diverse range of what I have to offer as an author.
As far as writing so much, I’m very lucky that I’m a fast writer, so once I get an idea in my head, I just go. I plot a basic outline of my expectations, and then I let the story take me on its journey. And as I always say to my teen creative writing classes, writing is like homework. You have to make time for it and be diligent about doing it.
What will fans of “Bloodspell” like best about your upcoming titles?
Fans of BLOODSPELL will enjoy meeting some very special new characters and being introduced to completely different worlds—figuratively and literally, especially in THE ALMOST GIRL. In WATERFELL, I was particularly excited to share my love of the ocean (I grew up on an island) and surfing! I also wanted to explore the myth of the sea monster and shift it from something terrifying into something beautiful … enter the mysterious world of the Aquarathi!
I’ve always been fascinated by quantum mechanics (even though I was hopeless at physics in high school) and the possibility of alternate universes. In THE ALMOST GIRL, I was able to explore that and more in this book, like the whole concept of nature versus nurture and whether we evolve differently based on harsher environments. I think this book will take readers on an interesting journey.
In ALPHA GODDESS, I wanted to explore some of the stories I’d been told as a child. I also wanted to share some of my experience with readers. My father comes from a long line of Hindu priests, so these myths were a large part of my childhood. The Ramayana is a particularly beautiful love story, and while my novel is a work of fiction, I really enjoyed crafting my version from such an inspiring mythology.
Your next release, “Waterfell,” departs from the world of vampires and witches but stays in the realm of fantasy and science fiction. What do you like about those genres?
Clearly, I love escaping reality. Fantasy and science fiction have always been my true loves. Don’t get me wrong, I love a great contemporary novel as much as anyone, but getting lost in a an epic fantasy world or meeting characters from other planets who have superhuman powers is icing on the cake for me. I like being able to push the boundaries of reality, to create mind-boggling ‘what if’ scenarios … for example, with WATERFELL, what if sea monsters really did exist? And what if they were a species from another planet hiding on ours? And what if they could shift into human form? With science fiction and fantasy, the possibilities are endless.
Like all of your books so far, “The Almost Girl” features a strong, independent female character as the protagonist. What do you hope readers learn from her?
I’m a huge fan of strong female protagonists (that said, I do have a novel with a strong male protagonist so I’m not gender-biased). I do like strong protagonists on the whole, but I also do think there has to be character growth that is transparent and meaningful to the reader. No one’s going to relate to a character who stays the same. With Riven from THE ALMOST GIRL, I love that she has to dig deep down to embrace her emotions. A soldier first, she’s so hard on the outside but still vulnerable on the inside—I really connected with her struggle to just let go of all her rules and be a girl. We build so many walls to keep from being hurt that we don’t allow ourselves to connect with others. I love that she was brave enough to trust her heart. In the end, I’m hopeful that readers will empathize with Riven and learn, as she does, that humans are born to feel, and that being open to life and love doesn’t make you weaker … it makes you stronger.
“Alpha Goddess” is your take on an Indian mythological tale. Where did you first hear about it?
Although ALPHA GODDESS is a work of fiction, a lot of my inspiration for the characters and the world-building in this novel is based on Hindu mythology. My father is a second generation Brahmin (priest class in traditional Hindu society), so Indian mythology was an integral part of my childhood and religious education. Fascinated by stories and legends of various Hindu gods who incarnated as avatars to avert human tragedy, I wanted to write an epic story that encompassed some of the Hindu mythology elements I enjoyed as a child, like the Ramayana, the story of Rama and Sita. Of course, ALPHA GODDESS is my own invented take on another reincarnated version of these characters, and does not actually exist in Indian scriptures.
You are quite the world traveler. How do you incorporate the cultures you come across into your writing?
I love meeting new people and exploring different cultures. I really believe that traveling the world has helped me to craft my characters, especially the ones that aren’t human (whom I have to invent). How do they evolve? How are they different from regular people? How are they the same? I enjoy using elements and facets from all the different cultures I’ve interacted with over the years to develop compelling scenarios and create robust characters in my writing.
I also like to include some of my favorite cities in my novels, for example, Paris and New York in BLOODSPELL, San Diego, California in WATERFELL, and Fort Collins, Colorado in THE ALMOST GIRL. Although a writer can research anything online, writing about a place I’ve actually been to helps me to picture scenes and places more vividly. It allows me to create more authentic descriptions, so that my readers can feel like they are there, too.
We can only imagine you’re working on something new. Can you give us any sneak peek into the mind of Amalie Howard and what’s to come?
I’m working on several different projects. I’ve just finished writing OCEANBORN, which is the sequel to WATERFELL, and I’ve also just completed a near-future, technological YA thriller/romance, which has a male protagonist that I’m very excited about. That one is now in the capable hands of my agent. In addition to that, I have outlined a companion novel to ALPHA GODDESS, and I am about to start writing the sequel to THE ALMOST GIRL. Lastly, I’m fleshing out a joint project with another YA writer that’s super secret and under wraps for now. So yes, I’m busy, but I’m embracing it all (with a lot of gratitude).