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Monday, July 23, 2012

Interview with YA author Amy Kathleen Ryan, about Spark, Book #2 in her Sky Chasers Series!

Please welcome the fabulous author, Amy Kathleen Ryan. She's talking about the characters in Spark and about writing. First, a short synopsis of Spark:

After a desperate escape from the enemy ship, Waverly has finally made it back to the Empyrean. The memory of home has been keeping her alive for the past months… but home is nothing like she left it. Forced to leave their captive parents behind on the New Horizon, she’s returned only to find that Kieran has become a strict leader and turned the crew against Seth. What happened to the Kieran she thought she knew? Now Waverly’s not sure whom she can trust. And the one person she wants to believe in is darkly brilliant Seth, the ship’s supposed enemy. Waverly knows that the situation will only get worse until they can rescue their parents – but how?

Before they have time to make a plan, an explosion rocks the Empyrean, and Seth and Waverly are targeted as the prime suspects. Can they find the true culprit before Kieran locks them away… or worse? Will Waverly follow her heart, even if it puts lives at risk? Now more than ever, every step could bring them closer to a new beginning – or a sudden end.

And now, she answers some questions:

Tell us a little about the main characters in Spark
There are three: Waverly, Kieran, and Seth, and they all have very different ideas about leadership. Waverly is kind of a humanist, and believes in a secular form of government, though her traumatic experiences on the New Horizon make it hard for her to find a balance in her approach. Kieran believes that people need to be inspired, and he uses religion to do it, usually to great effect, though sometimes he gets into trouble. Seth is more of a pragmatist than the other two. He’s also ambitious, but he comes from an abusive upbringing, which has polluted his moral compass greatly.

In what ways have they changed from Glow?
They’ve all been traumatized, and they’re all reacting to what happened before. Seth made a lot of mistakes after the initial attack on the Empyrean, and now he’s trying to put things right, though he has little hope that he’ll ever live down his mistakes. Kieran is terrified that Seth will be able to stage another mutiny against him, and he starts to cross the moral line to ensure that he stays in power. Waverly is probably the most changed of all of them. She’s got a lot of anger about what happened to her on the New Horizon, and that anger comes out of her in explosive, dangerous ways. These are all good people, but they are fallible, and they’re living through events that would be difficult for anyone to overcome.

Give us your favorite line from your protagonist:
Seth to Waverly: “I don’t care anymore that I’m not good enough for you.”

From an antagonist: Anne Mather to Kieran: “If you think a bunch of kids can overcome a seasoned adult crew, you’re deluding yourself.”

An emblematic, teaser paragraph: Whatever Max had done, whatever those sounds had been, Kieran would surely blame Seth for the whole thing, and would likely use it as an excuse to keep him in the brig forever. If those booming sounds were bombs, and Seth was blamed, everyone would believe he was a traitor. And what would Waverly think of him then? Seth had only one choice: he had to find Max and turn him in. He had to prove to Kieran, Waverly, and everyone else that he had not done this. And somehow, he had to do it without getting caught.

How is it writing a trilogy? Challenges? Fun aspects? 
The biggest challenge for me is all the loose threads that can be left dangling from one book to the other. The third book has been the most difficult to write, because there is so much to tie up. I want to be balanced about it, though, and not leave everything too perfectly “pat.” Knowing how to do that without leaving readers hanging has been tricky.

What keeps you going when inspiration flags? Fear of failure!

What truly inspires you?
Honestly, reading a great book. I get more ideas reading that at any other time.

Best words of advice you ever received?  From my teacher Jeffery Renard Allen: “People in MFA programs all have talent, but hardly any of them publish because they don’t have the will.” In other words, you have to persevere and work very hard if you want to be a writer.

Worst? This person shall remain nameless: "Don't worry about promoting your novel. That's your publisher's job."

Can you offer some writing advice to aspiring and new authors? It’s good to have raw talent, but you still have a lot to learn. Take writing classes, go to conferences, start a critique group. You have to have an ego, but you can’t let it get in your way. Learn to take criticism or you’ll never improve. For most people it takes years to hone their craft enough to get published. Get started now.

Which do you enjoy writing most: action, romance, setting or dialog?   I really enjoy writing dialogue between two intelligent characters that are working at odds with each other.

What is the most important theme of book one? Book Two? 
From GLOW, I hope people take away that when religion and politics mix, things get extremely volatile. Religion is about the black and white, good versus bad, right versus wrong. Politics is about gray area and compromise. For that reason, the two aren’t very compatible.
When reading SPARK, I hope people will be forgiving. All my characters make mistakes, and they compromise themselves terribly. I think I’m trying to show that when people are hurt and angry, they don’t always make very good choices. The important thing is for people to admit their failings and try to be good people.

Care to share a hint of what’s to come in book three?
Waverly and Kieran will have to learn to deal with their enemies on the New Horizon. They’re in close quarters with them now, and they’ll both find that they’re being used as pawns in a dangerous game. Seth is a fugitive, and he’ll try to help topple the power structure from the outside, though he’ll find he’s not as powerful as he thought he was.

Where can readers find you on the web? 
My website and blog and on Facebook

Where can people buy Spark, and your other books? From indiebound, Amazon & B&N

Amy Kathleen Ryan is a graduate of the Creative Writing for Children MFA program at the New School in New York City. She lives in Colorado with her family. 


  1. Sounds like a good story. I'll have to check out the first one in series.

  2. Yes, GLOW is quite a (rocket) ride!

  3. Good advice on loose ends. You've got to leave enough to keep a reader coming back, but not so many that they don't feel like a resolution happened.

  4. Sounds like a great story. Great interview to you both.

  5. Yes, Sarah, it's a fine line. Too many loose ends at the end and folks feel irritated, not enough and people feel as if the story is too neat. I'm sure Amy knows how to tread that fine line.

  6. The teasers were super! Glad you gave is a peek.

  7. Writing a trilogy is hard work, I'm learning now. Great post, and Amy's book looks amazing!

  8. This sounds like a great series. Loved meeting the characters.

  9. Congrats to Amy! This series sounds great, and the cover is fantastic!

  10. Great interview! I'm about to start this series :)

  11. This series sound amazing and I agree with you on how reading a great book/story can inspire you