Interview with Amy Plum
This Halloween some people from ubok, including us, Emilie and Vera, got to meet with Amy Plum, the author of the Die for Me series and After the End, the first out of a series of two books. We both really liked her books, they were so much fun to read. They were super romantic and there was so much action. Plus the characters were really cool. We were, of course, super excited to meet her and she was incredibly nice. She even let us interview her. We must warn you there may be some spoilers, so without further ado, here are the questions and answers from the interview, spoilers and all.
What inspired you to write the Die for Me series?
I was inspired to write the Die for Me series, or not even the series, the Die for Me book, because in the beginning I was thinking of it as just one book, after reading Twilight. So I had read Twilight, I hadn't been reading any young adult books since I had been a young adult myself, but my friends in America were all saying "O you have to read this series" and I read it, and I liked it, and I thought I would like to do a supernatural romance, but set in Paris. And with a heroine who had a bit more backbone, who was a little bit braver, and that is what I set out to do, so for me, in my mind, first of all I just wanted to write a supernatural romance. I didn't know what kind of supernatural beings I was going to use, I had no idea. So I was just sitting there, I do most of my very serious thinking in the bathtub, and I was sitting there, in my bubbles, thinking "what is this book going to be about?" I knew I wanted to write a book, I didn't know anything else, and all of a sudden to my mind came a sentence and this sentence was: "10 days after my 16th birthday my parents died in a car accident." and that was Kate. It said so much about her; it gave me her age, it told me what frame of mind she was going to be in, it told me that she was going to be independent and having to make lots of choices. It just set up everything in that one sentence.
After that, I started thinking about what type of supernatural character Kate would fall in love with. And so I made a list, which I still have, of everything that I could think of: vampires, werewolves, unicorns. I had like everything: mummies, gods, satyrs, anything and everything you could find in Narnia. I had the whole thing worked out and I was thinking about each of them seriously. For some of them, like vampires I thought that so much has been written already, that I don't feel like I can add anything. And I hate following. I like creating original things of my own. So I was running over things in my mind; no vampires, werewolves, I just think of slobber, like lots of spit, and that's gross, and anything else, everything, just seemed a little bit wrong. Until I started thinking about zombies.
Zombies have an allure for me because they could be from anywhere in history. I'm an art historian, I got my masters in art history and so I love history. And I thought: I could have people from different eras. Maybe I could mix zombies and gods, and if I could have a mix of the two, they could maybe even be sexy. So that's how I started coming up with the idea for revenants.
However, in my first draft I only used the word zombie. I wrote up to the part where Vincent and Kate are kissing. It's their first kiss on the Pont des Arts bridge and I had just written zombie and I thought, "No. I can't use the word zombie. You can't kiss a zombie, there's the smell, and there's the limbs dropping off. It's just not sexy. At all." That's when I decided to come up with my own word for what I was writing about. I thought I’d used the French word "revenant". My ex is French so I ran in the house and I said, "What does revenant mean to you? In the dictionary it just says ghost." And he's like, "Well it's more than a ghost, it's like a ghost that comes back for a reason, for a purpose." and I was like "Perfect! That's what it will be." So that's the way I came up with the idea for the story. First starting with the character Kate, building off of her story. What kind of supernatural character would she fall in love with? One whose reason for existing was to save people's lives, like her parents perhaps, if he was there.
How did you choose the names for your characters?
Choosing the names for the characters was so much fun. As I said I hadn't been reading much young adult literature. I have read so much more now, and people come up with really original names, like Four, and all these names that kind of stick in your mind or are a little bit different. I didn't know that was the common way of doing things, I thought "I'm just going to use regular names." and I was trying to think of something strong, independent, easy, but classical. Kate for me was perfect, and not even from Katherine or anything else just plain old Kate.
For Vincent I had a French name and a friend of mine who was reading as I wrote said "I can't even pronounce that name so don't name him that cause nobody is actually going to be able to say it in their mind, and I came up with Vincent. In fact I went through baby names in France from different eras. I knew he was going to be from the WW2 era and there are web sites that you can go to that show you baby names that were popular in those years so that was one of the popular my names and I liked it.
For the others, let's see, Ambrose... Ambrose was a good one. because he was a part of the first black American, African American tank battalion who is in WW2 and so I went back to that battalion and took one of their first names and one of their last names, so his name is definitely very historical. I did the same thing for Jean Baptiste. I used someone from Napoleons army. So I did try to get the names from historical sources that I thought would make it more accurate.
What inspiration did you have for the different characters?
Die for Me was the first time I had ever written fiction. I had already been writing memoir, which, I'm not sure if it's the same in Norwegian, in French if you say memoir it doesn't mean the same thing, but basically writing about my life, little stories from my life. I had been working in the art world in New York City and then, all of a sudden, moved to this tiny town in the middle of the French country side. It was stories about my life, the people who were living around me and all the strange country people. My first book was about all that type of stuff. That book was never published, I'm very happy to say. A lot of writers are happy that their first book was never published, and I am very happy that nobody has ever seen that book.
I decided to write fiction next and I was writing fiction for the very first time. I had heard the advice: "Write what you know." Which is meant especially for new writers, so I thought "Ok, I'm not going to veer too far from what I know. I'm going to base some of the characters on people that I know." Therefore, I based Kate on me when I was a teenager. Or rather, Kate is the teenager I wish I had been. She has the same kind of tastes as me, she's into art, she's really a huge reader like I was, but she's a lot braver and makes better decisions than I did, when I was a teenager. So Kate has a lot of similarities with me. I did that so that I could be consistent throughout the three books. I know what I'm like and so I know what she's going to be like, I know the choices she's going to make and I know the type of things she would say. So that was just basically me trying to be secure.
My idea for Vincent was basically my ideal man, because nobody I’ve ever met has been as good as him. So it’s the whole book boyfriend idea where the guys in the pages are so much better than the guys in real life. Basically I took everything I wanted and I put it in this one man. I took everything that I liked, but didn’t quite trust, and put that in Jules, so as I said, I would marry Vincent, I would date Jules. Those are the two types of guys. I’ve gone out with artist and musicians before and I put all those guys into Jules. Really suave but you know that as soon as they turn around they’re going to be hitting on the next girl they see. You know? So yeah, Jules is based on guys I’ve gone out with in the past.
Papi, Mamie and Georgia, Kate’s immediate family all kind of comes from just parts of my own personality again, like Papi sells antiquities, I sold antiquities. Mamie restores paintings, I did courses in painting restoration. Basically, I took everything that I knew and put it into that book. Again for reasons of security, I knew that I knew it. I didn`t even have to go out and research anything. I just poured everything from my past and from my studies and everything else into these books.
Why did you choose to set the book in Paris?
There are a few reasons. Again, there is security, I moved to Paris when I was twenty-three, and lived there for five years, and I had just visited Paris once when I moved there. I visited Paris when I was twenty-two years old; fell in love with the city. I got off the train and I was just like oaaah, this is where I want to live, I just found it so magical, and a year later, I moved there. I lived there for five years and I have to say that even now, years later, and I`ve lived in France probably one third of my life now, there is not a day that I don`t go outside my door and look around and think "Oh my god, I am the luckiest person in the world." Because Paris is magical to me. So for me when I was thinking I want to write a place that I know very well, of course, but I also wanted to write something magical, and for me a story that is like a battle between good and evil that has magic, that has immortals … Paris is the perfect place to set it. Paris has this creepy, kind of history. Not only with the Nazis, but the mediaeval tortures, the guillotine, there is so much scary, creepy, violent stuff that went on there, yet it’s one of the most romantic places on earth. So for me Paris was the perfect place to set that type of book, that type of story.
And, again, I wrote the books when I was living in the Loire Valley, three hours away from Paris, so I used all of the locations that I already knew. For example Jules studio, his art studio, is my apartment that I lived in, so I can describe it just of the top of my head. The bridge that Vincent and Kate kiss on, I kissed an English guy on that bridge once, so I remember exactly what that was like. I know all the museums like the back of my hand. Every place I described in it, I know very well. So it`s a double reason, I knew the places so I knew I could describe them even though I wasn’t there, plus it just has this kind of magical, historical feel to it, and it was the perfect place to set that story.
In your book the houses in Paris has entrances to the sewers in their basements.
Does all the houses in Paris have these in real life as well?
Yeah, that is one of the really cool things about Paris. My third apartment was the one that was in Jules` studio and the building itself was from the sixteenth century I think, it was on the courtyard of a church and I had a little space downstairs. A lot of times in Paris they’ll give you a little storage space down in the basement, I`d go down there, there were rats down there, it was just like a cave. It was so scary in that basement. And from that basement there is a little door, that wasn’t even locked, that you could open up and there are stairs going down into the blackness, and they’d go down into the sewers. The sewers was used by the resistance during world war two, people would go down there and travel around, there is a whole underground network underneath the streets of Paris, there is an address under Paris for every address above Paris. So yes, most of the buildings, especially the old buildings do have access to the sewers.
Did you find it creepy, having this door in your basement?
Totally creepy, I loved it! In fact, when I lived in Jules house, I think I was twenty-six, and I hadn’t written anything at that point, and I started writing a story about these kids that are living in my house that go down into the sewers and every time they come back up it is a different era. How can you not think that is amazing, this whole kind of secret passageway underneath the city? Creepy yes, but I like creepy, so that was fine by me. The only creepy thing was when the mice would come up from the basement and crawl up through the pipes, so I always had mice in my apartment, that was creepy. I didn’t care about the scary sewers, I cared about the mice.
There are a lot of different couples in your book, do you have any favorites?
That’s so hard to say, because I like different people for different reasons. Georgia, its funny because I always loved Georgia, and when my British readers started reading Die For Me I had quite a few write me saying We hate Georgia, I`m like You do?, and they’re like “we hate her, she’s so fake and whatever. I love Georgia. I think she’s amazing and Georgia and her relationship with men just makes me laugh. She uses boyfriends like clothes, you know? She changes one boyfriend for the other and she’s never trying to break anyone’s heart just doesn’t take anything very seriously. Georgia, especially with Arthur in the last book. I think Georgia is starting to come to terms with the seriousness of life, and starts falling for Arthur. I like that couple.
Probably my favorite, besides Vincent and Kate of Course, is Ambrose and Charlotte. Because Charlotte has been in love with Ambrose for so long, and I can’t imagine living under the same roof as the person that you’re in love with, almost in a family kind of situation, and not have them love you back. For Charlotte to have suffered for so many decades with this unrequited love for Ambrose, and then for him to find her in book three and to realize Genevieve is not the woman for him like he’s been thinking this whole time, and that its actually Charlotte. For me that was … writing the kissing scene for them, I like jumped up, I was like Yes finally! I was so happy that they got together.
I’m actually writing the second, there are two novella that comes after the series. They’re both e-books, they’re not printed. The first one is called Die For Her, it’s from Jules point of view, and the second one is not out yet, but I’ve written it and it’s called Die Once More. In Die Once More Charlotte and Ambrose get married, and Charles gives Charlotte away at the wedding, it’s a nice kind of wrap-up of what happens in the book.
On your homepage, there is a letter from Charlotte to Ambrose, one of many she has written over the years but not given him; do you think she will give them to him after they get together?
I hadn`t thought about that. I think she will, I think she would wait for a while, but I can imagine her giving them to him little by little, and it meaning a lot to him that she waited that long for him. In book three you see how she’s given up on him in a way, when she becomes Vincent’s second, and that’s when he starts seeing her. I think she’s going to stay cool for a little while, but little by little start letting him know how important he was to her.
Have you sold the movie rights?
No. There will most likely not be a movie, they are talking about making a TV-series, but nothing has been signed.
If you could choose whatever actors or actresses you wanted to play Kate and Vincent, who would you choose?
That is so hard, plus, when I wrote them five years ago all the actors we were thinking of then, are now too old. So it changes all the time. I really would want a French person to play the French characters, especially for Vincent and for Jules. But there aren’t actors of that age that I know right now. So I can’t think of who it would be. For Kate there was Emma Roberts, who I thought would make a really good Kate, but she’s probably way to old now to. It changes so fast. I wrote the first book five years ago, so that Kate would now be past college and probably working in an office somewhere. I don`t have any favorites. I would just have to say that I would really want it to be a French person, a French actor.
What did the idea for After the End start as?
For me, the idea, as I said Die For Me started with that sentence about Kate, about her parents dying after her sixteenth birthday thing. After the End, this series for me started with an image, an image in my mind of this girl in furs and leather pant and just kind of like survivalist gear standing in the snow in the wilderness with huskies. For me I saw that and I thought, ok so she is nowhere near civilization, but I want it to be in today’s world, so why would this girl be so far from civilization, living of the land, living in the wild, but not be plugged into society if it was today? So that’s kind of what I started with, the image of the girl, knowing that it was today, and wondering what would have cut her off from society. So that’s how I came up with the idea for it, and little by little I stated deciding, ok she lives in today’s world but doesn’t know it, she has been born in the wilderness so they have been gone for a while. I decided her parents and their friends where going to lie to the children and tell them that the earth has been destroyed in world war three, and then I decided that I wanted her to be the one to figure out that the whole thing had been a lie. So I had to figure out why, and it really took me a while to figure out why these people would hide themselves from society, it wasn’t good enough for me to say they’re against capitalism, their you know environmentalists or whatever, I wanted it to be something more profound, that would make them cut themselves off from society. So for me in my mind they have a secret that they don’t want anyone else to know, and that’s what I based the story on.
Amy Plum vokste opp i Alabama, og bodde i Chicago, Paris, London og New York før hun flyttet til den lille franske landsbyen hvor hun nå bor med mann, hund og to barn. Våk over meg er hennes debutroman.
Vera var tidligere med i ungdomsredaksjonen, men er nå med i "voksen"-redaksjonen. Hun er 20 år og studerer for å bli bibliotekar. Her på Ubok legger hun inn bøker i bokbasen, skriver litt i bloggen og iblant stikker hun også hodet inn på forumet. Hun er også med på ulike arrangementer som forfatterintervju og uboks lesesirkel.