2020 Debut Author Interview: Amanda Sellet & By The Book!

In 2019, we made it our goal is to work with as many debut authors as possible and spread the word about their debut novels. It was such a success last year that we decided to continue the fun this year as well! Follow us this year as we pick the minds of the 2020 debuts and chat with them. Also stay tuned for news of giveaways, Twitter chats and more!
At the end of 2019, we Tweeted about wanting to discover more debut authors and their books. We ended up finding Amanda Sellet and her novel BY THE BOOK, and we have been interested in it ever since. We are so excited to have Amanda on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 

Amanda Sellet
Amanda Sellet has strong opinions about books, movies, and baked goods, which led to a previous career as a professional critic. Now she channels that saltiness into YA novels about smart girls who still have a lot to learn. On the comedy/tragedy question, she is team comedy all the way.
Keep up with Amanda: Website / Twitter / InstagramGoodreads 

The Book Bratz: First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to be a debut author?
Amanda: Thank you! Some of the ways it feels to be a debut: Unbelievably thrilling when you first hear “yes” after weeks or months or years of “no,” even if you make the regrettable decision to color your hair during the one afternoon when everything is happening. Quietly satisfying later on when someone asks what you do, and you get to tell them about your book. Nerve-racking as you try to master all the stages of the publishing process. Occasionally terrifying once people start talking about marketing and metrics and other things that are only distantly related to the craft of writing. And there’s the “huh” of realizing you’re the exact same person you were before your book sold, and still have to do laundry. 
The Book Bratz: In your opinion, what is the best part of the writing process? What's the hardest?
Amanda: My favorite part of the writing process are the moments of inspiration that seem to come from nowhere. You’re washing the dishes and poof! A plot twist pops into your head. Or it might be a line of dialogue, relationship complication, a romantic gesture, or a whole new story; whatever it is, you feel the excitement of the idea fizzing under your skin like a bath bomb. That’s the closest thing to magic I’ve ever experienced. The hardest part of writing is that there are also days when you feel profoundly uninspired, and every word is a chore, and you’re pretty sure you’ll never finish the book, and even if you do people will be bored to tears by your leaden prose. But you have to keep slogging, because it can’t all be the story fairy smacking you in the head with her sparkly wand. Plus I suspect those days of eking out a few tortured sentences are the dry tinder waiting for the spark.  

The Book Bratz: Where did you get the idea for BY THE BOOK?
Amanda: I had been working for several years on a story that had a lot of sadness and loss, and somewhere around draft three thousand I thought, “next time, I’m going to write something light and funny and totally me.” Shortly after that, I had the idea of a girl who was completely unapologetic about her love for old books, to the point that she felt compelled to tell other people how they were screwing up by not following the life lessons of 19th-century literature.   

The Book Bratz: Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the hardest? 
Amanda: I had a lot of fun writing Jasper, the annoying little brother, because I have three younger brothers of my own who are outrageously funny and often rude, but also deeply loyal. The hardest character to write would have to be Mary, because this is very much a first-person book and she goes on the biggest journey, so it can’t all be cracking jokes. I wanted the reader to empathize with Mary and be on her side, but also have enough distance to see where she has room for growth. 

The Book Bratz: What was your favorite scene to write? 
Amanda: As much as I adored writing the family dinners, to me there is nothing better than romantic banter, so I have to go with one of Mary’s encounters with her love interest. To narrow it down, I’d probably say Trivia Night.  

The Book Bratz: This book deals a lot with bad boys -- who's your favorite literary bad boy?
Amanda:Jonah Griggs from JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta! (Cue dreamy sigh.) On the more classical side, I’m fond of Sydney Carton from A TALE OF TWO CITIES. Basically I like Cadbury egg bad boys: a hard shell hiding all the gooey sweetness inside.   

The Book Bratz: Do you plan on returning to the world of BY THE BOOK in the future, or do you have other projects in mind? Can you tell us anything about them?
Amanda: I’m working on a loosely connected companion book right now, featuring characters mentioned during the calamitous birthday dinner scene in BY THE BOOK. And I wouldn’t mind revisiting one or more of Mary’s siblings in the future, if a story presents itself! 


Title: By The Book: A Novel of Prose and Cons
Author: Amanda Sellet
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 12th, 2020 

Summary: As a devotee of classic novels, Mary Porter-Malcolm knows all about Mistakes That Have Been Made, especially by impressionable young women. So when a girl at her new high school nearly succumbs to the wiles of a notorious cad, Mary starts compiling the Scoundrel Survival Guide, a rundown of literary types to be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, Mary is better at dishing out advice than taking it—and the number one bad boy on her list is terribly debonair. As her best intentions go up in flames, Mary discovers life doesn’t follow the same rules as fiction. If she wants a happy ending IRL, she’ll have to write it herself.

Thank you so much to Amanda for stopping by and answering our questions! We are super excited about BY THE BOOK and can't wait for it to be out in the world on May 12th

Celebrate So Excited GIF by Hey Violet

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