I discovered this beautiful book a few months ago and since then, I've been trying to get EVERYONE to read it because it must be read. It demands to be read. I had the chance to sit down with Amber Smith for a Q&A.
Hi, Amber! Welcome to the blog! I am such a huge fan of THE WAY I USED TO BE and you (as you know).
Hello, and thank you so much for having me!
1. So – it’s here! Your first published novel! What has the process been like for you?
Amber: Well, the short answer is...it’s been amazing! But it’s also been a long road. I started writing THE WAY I USED TO BE at the very beginning of 2010, and now, after six years it’s finally out in the world! There have been a lot of ups and downs along the way, but it’s been a wonderful journey. Scary, exciting, challenging, and so extremely rewarding, all at once!
2. Did you always want to be a writer? Or when did you know you might want to be one?
Amber: Yes, I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was a little kid. But there weren’t many educational opportunities for creative writing when I was growing up, so being a writer seemed very mysterious—I wasn’t quite sure how you would go about becoming one. Then in high school I was actually much more involved in the visual arts, and so that’s what I went on to study in college (I have my BFA in painting and my master’s in art history). As I began working in art organizations I was able to start doing a lot of nonfiction writing (on art), which, I think is what ultimately gave me the push I needed to seriously revisit my dream of writing fiction. I had the creative background from art school and the writing skills from my profession—it all suddenly felt a lot more feasible than it did when I was younger. So, that’s what I did!
3. THE WAY I USED TO BE deals with the very sensitive issue of rape, but was there ever a point you second guessed what you were writing?
Amber: No, I never second guessed the content of what I was writing, but there were times when I found it to be pretty challenging, emotionally speaking. There were different points during the writing process when I had to take long breaks from the book altogether—to take a step back and make sure I was keeping a clear boundary between the fictional world of the book and my real life. But even during those times when I may have felt emotionally strained by the subject matter, I never had any doubts as to whether or not I should be writing it—it’s so important to tell those stories that might be difficult, sensitive, or controversial, because these are the voices that are too often silenced.
4. What message do you want readers to come away with from THE WAY I USED TO BE?
Amber: I think the overarching message I’d like to see readers come away with has to do with self-worth: the importance of finding your voice and speaking your truth, standing up to abuse in all its forms—even the abuse we sometimes inflict on ourselves. Self-worth is something everyone can relate to, regardless of whether or not someone has shared in Eden’s particular experience.
5. What are your writing essentials (silence? music? coffee?)?
Amber: Coffee is a must, always. And I usually do listen to music while I’m writing—I like to create enormous playlists for each project I’m working on to help get me in the right mindset. I also have a separate studio/writing room in my house where I do all of my writing—it’s my creative sanctuary.
ABOUT THE WAY I USED TO BE:In the tradition of Speak, this extraordinary debut novel shares the unforgettable story of a young woman as she struggles to find strength in the aftermath of an assault.
Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.
What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.
Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year—this provocative debut reveals the deep cuts of trauma. But it also demonstrates one young woman’s strength as she navigates the disappointment and unbearable pains of adolescence, of first love and first heartbreak, of friendships broken and rebuilt, and while learning to embrace a power of survival she never knew she had hidden within her heart.
ABOUT AMBER SMITH:Amber Smith grew up in Buffalo, NY and now lives in Charlotte, NC with her two dogs. After graduating from art school with a BFA in Painting, she earned her MA in Art History. When she’s not writing, she is working as a curator and art consultant. She has also written on the topics of art history and modern and contemporary art. The Way I Used to Be is her first novel.
3/30: Such A Novel Idea - Q&A
Giveaway:3 Finished Copies of THE WAY I USED TO BE (US Only)
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