Amy Plum FAQs

GENERAL QUESTIONS
Are you a full-time writer?
How did you get your agent?
What is your full name, and when and where were your born?
Do you have any siblings and if so, how many?
What’s your favorite childhood story?
What kind of kid were you growing up? Were you a good student?
What did you want to be when you grew up?
What inspired you to write (or how did you start writing)?
Do you believe in love at first sight?
How personal is your writing?
Do you outline?
What is your writing routine?
Which comes first, the story or the character?
What advice would you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Who has inspired you and influenced your work?
Now that you have several books published, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as an author?
How long did it take to get published?

DIE FOR ME SERIES QUESTIONS
Was DIE FOR ME your first published novel?
What were your literary influences for DIE FOR ME?
What inspired you to write DIE FOR ME?
How did you come up with the idea for your monsters?
Where did you come up with the term “revenant”?
Why is DIE FOR ME set in Paris?
Since the book is set in Paris, why do DIE FOR ME’s characters speak English the whole time?
What type of research did you conduct for DIE FOR ME?
How long did DIE FOR ME take to write?
Will DIE FOR ME be a movie?
How did you feel when the Revenant series was over?

AFTER THE END SERIES QUESTIONS
What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
What sparked the idea for you to write AFTER THE END?
How does AFTER THE END compare to the Revenant series?
What was the hardest part to write in AFTER THE END?
Which came first, the title or the novel?
What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
What do you like most about the cover of the book?
Who is your favorite character in the book?

GENERAL QUESTIONS

Are you a full-time writer?
I’ve been a full-time writer as of January 2010, when I quit my job teaching English at Tours University in order to write the DIE FOR ME series.

How did you get your agent?
Here is my blog post on how that happened.

What is your full name, and when and where were your born?
My pen name is Amy Plum. You can make up any title or middle name for me that you want. I was born in Portland, Oregon when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Do you have any siblings and if so, how many?
I have a brother and a sister. (I’m the eldest.)

What’s your favorite childhood story?
My mom used to tell us The Twelve Dancing Princesses on long car rides. (This was before the day of portable video players. Or even cell phones, for that matter.) She would always add on bits and make it really long so that we would fall asleep. That story is still magical for me.

What kind of kid were you growing up? Were you a good student?
I was a nerd. A book fanatic. And pretty socially awkward. I was an A student, but had to try really hard with math (especially geometry).

What did you want to be when you grew up
An astronaut or a librarian.

What inspired you to write (or how did you start writing)
I always loved reading, so for me it was a natural step to start making up my own stories and putting them on paper.

Do you believe in love at first sight?
Absolutely. Although, I’m not sure how much it should be trusted for finding The Right Person.

How personal is your writing?
Very. There is an element of autobiography in my stories, even if I don’t realize it when I’m putting story to paper.

Do you outline?
No. I’m a pantser. I don’t even know what I’m going to write until I sit down at my computer each morning.

What is your writing routine?
With first draft, I try to write 1500 words a day and send them to a friend of mine at the end of each day. If I don’t do that, I get lost in the words.

Which comes first, the story or the character?
It has been different for each book idea.

What advice would you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Read a lot. Write a lot. And read Stephen King’s ON WRITING.

Who has inspired you and influenced your work?
Madeleine l’Engle was one of my big influences. I read her books and heard her talk about being a writer, and was hooked. I also met her in New York City where she was writing in the library of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. She was married to an actor and lived a bohemian lifestyle, while still managing to seem very grounded. I wanted to be her.

Now that you have several books published, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as an author?
Way back to the beginning of my first novel? Let’s see…I guess the most important thing I’ve learned is to let my imagination run wild. I’m always super-cautious about only writing something that will make complete sense and fit in with my mythology, the history I’ve created, other similar literary examples, etc. I was even afraid to make up new terms, so didn’t introduce the word “bardia” until book 2 of my Die for Me series, even though I had already made it up during book 1. I’m too cautious. My inner-critic still has too much power, but I’m working on overthrowing her.

How long did it take to get published?
I wrote my first book (a comedic memoir), and with it was able to get my agent. However, that book was never published, so it was a good year after signing that my 2nd book (DIE FOR ME) was bought by HarperTeen, and another year and ½ after that that it finally came out in print. Being published definitely necessitates a LOT of patience!

DIE FOR ME SERIES QUESTIONS

Was DIE FOR ME your first published novel?
Yes.

What were your literary influences for DIE FOR ME?
I learned to read at four and have been a book fanatic ever since. Around adolescence I fell in love with science fiction and fantasy and used it to escape from a particularly restrictive childhood. I created my own universe, using as a springboard Ursula LeGuin’s EARTHSEA novels, Ray Bradbury’s MARTIAN CHRONICLES, and the books of Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Anne McCaffrey and the like. In high school, I immersed myself in books by the Inklings – in particular Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, G.K. Chesterton, and Charles Williams. A course on modern mythology that I took in university introduced me to Madeleine l’Engle, Walker Percy and Mark Helprin.

Although I had not read fantasy or science fiction for almost two decades before writing DIE FOR ME, these books formed the foundation of my literary world-view. In particular, two of my old favorites, Charles Williams’s ALL HALLOW’S EVE and Mark Helprin’s A WINTER’S TALE, gave me examples of a world that is tinged – but not saturated – by a magic that lies just under the surface of the human world. Instead of pure science fiction or fantasy, I wanted to spin a tale situated just a tad east of magical realism – one that was convincing enough to win over those readers whose feet remained planted firmly on this planet and in this dimension.

My goal with DIE FOR ME is to make the incredible credible. Its universe is one that I wanted the reader to easily imagine herself inhabiting, and its events ones that could be happening right down her street. And I attribute this desire for plausible paranormal to my early literary intake – followed by two decades’ steady consumption of almost purely “non-magical” literature.

What inspired you to write DIE FOR ME?
I had just finished writing a memoir and decided that my new project would be a paranormal romance. I had devoured the Twilight series and thought it would be fun challenge to create my own supernatural mythology centered around a love story.

One of my goals was to create a heroine who didn’t have to be dependent on the man she loved. Self-sacrifice is admirable up to a point, but I wanted someone who was independent and smart – not just intellectually but emotionally.

And so I created Kate. Kate has the character I wish I possessed at her age. I wanted my Kate to be kick-ass but not tough-skinned. But I knew she had to have suffered loss in order to gain her maturity. I had only a vague idea of what I wanted when the first sentence (“Ten days after I got my driver’s license, my parents died in a car wreck.”) popped into my mind. It was my starting point and anchor as the story developed.

How did you come up with the idea for your monsters?
After pondering Kate’s character, I began making a list of supernatural beings that I could write about. Vampires were out. I felt like every possible angle on them had already been covered. Ditto werewolves. What was left? Ghosts, mummies, fairies, and all of the mythological creatures like satyrs and the like. I wasn’t happy until I had crossed everything off the list except “gods” and “zombies”. I wondered if I could combine the two.

I was drawn by the undead angle because, as a historian, I loved the thought of giving my characters backgrounds based in recorded history. But how could a zombie be attractive? How could a teenage girl fall for one without being worried that he would gnaw her face off during their first kiss? And what about that ultimate turn-off-y odor of decomposing flesh? I laughed my way through scenario after scenario before deciding I would have to come up with my own monster. And that is how my revenants were born.

I started writing the book with only a general idea of what my monsters were. As the story progressed, I honed the concept until the mythology began to come together and make sense. When I got stuck on a question like “why do they do this certain thing over and over again?” I would put on my tennis shoes and walk a few miles until it came to me. And it always came. It felt like I was uncovering something that already existed. I just had to be open to “receiving” it.

There are huge swaths of revenant history and mythology that I haven’t used in the books. But it’s under there, as their foundation, and hopefully makes their existence more meaningful and three-dimensional.

Where did you come up with the term “revenant”?
I used the word “zombies” in my first draft. But the more my monsters’ mythology revealed itself, the more convinced I was that I needed a different term. About halfway through the book, the French word “revenant” (which literally means “one who comes back”) popped into my mind. In French it means a type of a ghost…a spirit that comes back from the dead for a certain purpose. It seemed to be a rarely-used term here in France, so I decided it would be perfect and used the term from then on.

Since finishing the book, I have found references to revenants in both English-language and French fiction. However, there seems to be no consensus between authors as to exactly what a revenant is. Since I had already concocted a complex mythology for my characters, I decided to appropriate the term and cast the revenants as historical creatures that were as old and venerable as vampires, zombies and werewolves.

Why is DIE FOR ME set in Paris?
I set the story in Paris because it is a city that feels completely magical to me. I moved there when I was twenty-three and stayed for five years. I had an everyday job that I commuted to every day, taxes to pay, food to make, nights to sleep – a normal existence. But every single morning of those five years I stepped out my front door and experienced a frisson of wonder. Paris never lost its sense of mystery and magic for me. I want the reader to feel that bewitchment. Kate does. Even though she’s lost and in mourning, the city’s spell pierces through her emotional armor.

When I wrote DIE FOR ME, I was living three hours south of Paris, so most descriptions were written from memory. But at one point I jumped on the train and spent a few days walking through the story’s locations. I chose the building I thought Kate’s grandparents would live in and found the perfect place for Jean-Baptiste’s maison particulier (which now houses the Maillol Museum). I walked along the streets that Kate walked, and back and forth along the quays to situate myself in the story.

I know most of the locations in the book like the back of my hand, having had my own experiences there. I kissed someone on the Pont des Arts. I rode through the streets of Paris behind a handsome boy on the back of a scooter. The restaurant Kate and Vincent go to on their first date was my regular haunt, where I happened to take a couple of first dates myself. I lived in the building where Jules has his studio, and sat on the steps of the adjoining church imagining the jousts that used to take place there. The building next to the Sorbonne where Vincent and Ambrose died in 1968 was my old apartment building. I have spent days in La Palette, the Picasso Museum, the Village St. Paul, and sat in the sun on the cobblestone quay of the Ile St. Louis. And I can personally attest to the fact that Les Deux Magots has some of the best hot chocolate in town.

Since the book is set in Paris, why do DIE FOR ME’s characters speak English the whole time?
They don’t. In the first drafts, I actually specified, “…he said in English”, “Speaking in French, I replied…” And then it all got too messy. So I only specify which language the characters are using when it’s out-of-the-ordinary. Otherwise, this is how it goes: Georgia and Kate speak English with each other and with the other kids at their international school. The sisters speak French with their grandparents. Kate speaks English with Vincent, because he likes to practice his English with her, and it makes her feel at home. And besides speaking English with Ambrose, Kate speaks French with the rest of the revenants.

What type of research did you conduct for DIE FOR ME?
I researched the histories of a few of the revenants. But most of the information in the book was based on either my previous historical studies or stories I had heard. My ex-husband’s grandfather was in the maquis, and I was honored when he told me the whole story one Christmas – to the shock of the rest of the family who had never heard it before. (The U.S. being my birthplace, he considered me an Ally.) I read the book “Is Paris Burning?” years ago, and never forgot its haunting stories of occupied Paris.

During my research, I came across a few specific people who were so perfect that I drew directly from their stories. For example, Lucien is based on Philippe Henriot – “The French Goebbels.”

How long did DIE FOR ME take to write?
As professor of English at Tours University, I had to wait until exams were over in May to start the book, and then wrote non-stop until August. The first draft took around three months, and then I did two more drafts before giving it to my agent, Stacey Glick, in October. I accepted HarperCollins’s offer fourteen days after she began submitting it to publishers.

Will DIE FOR ME be a movie?
I hope so! Movie rights are being handled by The Gotham Group.

How did you feel when the Revenant series was over?
That was a very strange feeling. On the one hand, it was a relief. I never know how a story is going to go until I write it down. (I don’t plan the plot ahead of time.) So I was just hugely satisfied that the story came together in a dynamic and conclusive way. On the other hand, it was hard to say goodbye to all of my characters. I kept thinking about them on a daily basis for a long time.

AFTER THE END SERIES QUESTIONS

What gave you the inspiration to write AFTER THE END?
I had an image in my mind of a girl living in the wild with a group of people—her clan. I knew it was going to be Alaska—I saw her with huskies and wearing furs, hunting for food. But like my first series, Die for Me, I wanted my story to be situated in the here and now. Not the past. Not a dystopian future. Now.

So I had to figure out why she and her people would be living off the grid with absolutely no contact with the outside world. I decided they were hiding.

But what teenager would choose to hide from the outside world? Only one who was sure there was danger outside her own territory. But what would be so dangerous she’d have to hide from everyone?

The thought came that there wasn’t anyone left in the world except for dangerous people…brigands. Survivors of some sort of apocalypse. However, if my story was set in the here and now, and there has obviously been no apocalypse, this story of a dangerous outside world would have to be a fiction. A fiction that the children would believe enough to not wander—so necessarily made up by the parents.

Of course, I then had to figure out why her parents (and their friends) would want to hide from modern day society. But with that first kernel, I had the beginnings of my story.

What sparked the idea for you to write AFTER THE END?
I liked the idea of this girl living off the land—a survivor. But I also wanted to base the story in the here and now. So I had to come up with a device to allow her to be totally isolated from the modern world—which is why I came up with the idea that her parents had chosen to hide from society. In the beginning I thought of them as anti-capitalist, but that seemed to lack depth—it was harder to build subplots off of it. In the end, I decided that they had discovered something that they felt they had to hide from the world. And that is how Juneau and her clan came to live in the wilderness of Denali, Alaska.

How does AFTER THE END compare to the Revenant series?
AFTER THE END is a huge departure from the revenants series. It is still a story about a teenage girl, and contains a magical element, but takes place in a completely different setting. And Juneau, the main character, is very different from Kate. However, both are books about surviving and finding your own strength. So I guess that while the external trappings of the story are nothing alike, the core of the storytelling comes down to the same central idea.

What was the hardest part to write in AFTER THE END?
I figure out the plot as I go along, and this one was particularly difficult to piece together. I never have a problem with my characters. They come with their baggage packed—I just have to listen to them to figure out who they are. But the framework behind the story—all of the rules around the Yara—that was the hard part to decipher and translate.

Which came first, the title or the novel?
I didn’t actually have a title for the book until long after it was written. I’m terrible at coming up with titles. I just called it “Juneau” until my editor came up with After the End.

What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
I am most proud of the scene where Juneau throws her token into the fire and channels the Yara on her own. (Scaring the pants off Miles, which made it even more fun.)

What do you like most about the cover of the book?
I love this book cover. It encapsulates one of the most important moments of the book: when Juneau crosses the tundra to discover a thriving, modern city instead of a decimated post-war ruin. It is the moment of her awakening—the realization that her world does not exist. The hazy foreground and the special effects with the clouds frame that emotional moment perfectly.

Who is your favorite character in the book?
Oh no! You realize you’re asking me to choose between my children. Instead of saying who I love most, why don’t I tell you a bit about the two main characters: Juneau and Miles.

I actually didn’t have to think about them much before I started writing them—they were already there with all of their baggage, just waiting for me to put them on paper. But when I started writing the sequel, I went back and made a list of their qualities and realized that I had unwittingly written two people who were polar opposites. Here’s my list:

Juneau
Tough
Responsible for clan
Fends for self
Thorough planner
Trusting…becomes suspicious
Fear of losing family
Honest
Gives orders
Aversion to money
Confident
Miles
Sensitive, but acts tough
Totally irresponsible
Reliant on dad
Impetuous
Suspicious…becomes trusting
Lost mom. Wouldn’t mind losing dad.
Lies
Takes orders, but rebels against them
Consumer/rich boy
Insecure

For me, it would be impossible to choose between the two of them. They have both survived difficult situations and responded in their own ways. I have utter respect for both of them.

My third choice, then, would be Tallie. Because she’s an incarnation of me.