When Cassie moves from the tiny town where she has always lived to a suburb of Seattle, she is determined to leave her boring, good-girl existence behind. This is Cassie's chance to stop being invisible and become the kind of girl who's worth noticing.
Stepping into her new identity turns out to be easier than Cassie could have ever imagined...one moment, one choice, will change everything.
Cassie's new existence both thrills and terrifies her. Swept into a world of illicit parties and social landmines, she sheds her virginity, embraces the numbness she feels from the drugs, and floats through it all, knowing that she is now called beautiful. She ignores the dangers of her fast-paced life?but she can't sidestep the secrets and the cruelty.
Cassie is trapped in a swift downward spiral tinged with violence and abuse, and no one—not even the one person she thought she could trust—can help her now.
Here we go with the questions:
First off, Cassie's "voice" was amazing. You did a great job with emotion through everything Cassie had to deal with coming to a new school and reinventing herself. Did you have a hard time getting into her head?
Thanks so much! I wouldn't say that it was hard getting into Cassie's head. For good or for bad, I think I've always kept the memories of my childhood and teen years very accessible and raw, so it wasn't hard for me to channel all that confusion and fear and desperation into Cassie. But I will say that it was incredibly painful at times. I remember feeling just devastated and drained after writing certain scenes. Sometimes I couldn't stop crying. When I got to the final chapter, I pretty much wrote the whole thing straight through, and I was weeping the whole time.
Cassie and the cast of Beautiful, for the most part, are in 7th or 9th grade. How did you decide how old (or young) she would be, given the heavy topics of the story?
I don't know that I put a whole lot of thought into the decision. I was in seventh grade when I experienced similar things, and a lot of my friends were in ninth grade, so it just seemed natural to make everyone that age. I've mentioned in other interviews that I actually didn't initially write Beautiful for a teen audience in mind. It found it's way into YA after it was written, and I'm so happy it did. But I think if I knew I was writing for teens at the time, I would have made Cassie a couple years older. Not that I regret her age or think I made the wrong decision, but I think it would be a little less painful for readers if they could think of her as a little bit older.
I read on your bio that you changed school a ton growing up. Did that help in writing Cassie's character as the new girl in school?
Yes, absolutely. Being the new kid became part of my identity like some people consider themselves jocks or brains. I never felt like I completely fit in; I was always trying to catch up to people who had been there longer. I remember feeling so lost and scared, like everybody was judging me. It was a very lonely time. I had friends, but it was hard to get really close because somewhere inside knew I was going to leave soon. All of that pain definitely went into Cassie.
Did you always want to write teen fiction and if so, why?
I didn't really know there was such a thing as teen fiction until after I wrote Beautiful. But throughout my life, the books I loved have tended to be about young characters. I've been writing since I was thirteen, and all my work has either been autobiographical or about teen characters. So even though I didn't know the name for it, yes, I think I've wanted to write teen fiction for a long time. In my opinion, teens are really the most compelling characters. Their feelings are so raw and honest. As an adult (sort of), I think I can get away with saying that we're usually full of crap.
What's next on the writing front? Any new project you can tell us about?
I'm a couple chapters away from finishing the first draft of my next YA novel, tentatively titled The Walls. It's the story of five teen's experience in a drug and alcohol treatment center. If you liked Beautiful, you're definitely going to like this one.
Thanks for hanging with us and we wish you many readers. Check out Amy's website for additional info about Amy and Beautiful.