As many of you know, since you voted (!), the House Party Book Club selection this month was Reconstructing Amelia, by Kimberly McCreight. We were fortunate enough to have Kim agree to answer your questions about the book and her writing. Below are her responses. We'd love to know what you thought of the book as well. Did you know where it was going? Did the ending surprise you? Do you believe her death was indeed an accident? Have you or your children encountered bullying like this? Do you think schools often turn a blind eye? Please post your thoughts in the comments below.
1) What character(s) did you relate to most?
I relate to both Kate and Amelia. I connect to Kate as a mother, of course. Reconstructing Amelia was inspired first and foremost by my fears for my own daughters and I approached writing it as a mother. My daughters aren't yet teenagers, but I worry. Even though we are very close and I believe we have a great relationship, will it be enough to protect them? I also relate very much to Kate's constant work-home juggle that she always feels on the losing end of. Every day I feel that way.
But there's a piece of me that connects more strongly to Amelia. I was a bit like her as a fifteen year old, always with my one best friend, bookish and a bit on the side of things socially. I remember so vividly how complicated it was to figure out so much about myself, all at the same
2) Did something like this happen to someone you know or did you have an experience at school like this, perhaps you went to prep school also? Did anything from the story come from a real life experience?
I did attend a private boarding school for high school, which was why I was drawn to writing about that setting. However, there were no clubs, secret or otherwise at my school and I was never bullied. My daughters have experienced some mild bullying and I certainly had that in mind while I was writing. However, the story was largely inspired by the many bullying accounts in the news.
3) What advice would you give to parents on how to deal with the negative aspects of putting their lives on social media?
Before you post anything, assume the worst. Ask yourself what could happen if you write about a certain incident or put up a certain photo. Pretend that it's being published on the cover of The New York Times and ask yourself whether you'd want that-because once it's out there on social media you have no control over where it ends up. Nothing is private, no matter what settings you have on your social media accounts. If you truly want something to stay private, keep it that way by keeping it off social media. I think we should raise our children to understand the same.
We should also understand that our kids have a completely different relationship to social media than we do. They are utterly unafraid and that's what puts them at the greatest risk.
4) Are there plans to make the book into a movie?
The book has been optioned by HBO and Nicole Kidman's Blossom Films. Seeing it on screen will be absolutely thrilling.
5) Who are some of your favorite authors? Books? Who or what inspired you to write it?
Some of my favorite authors are: Sue Miller, Donna Tartt, Michael Cunningham, Megan Abbott, Laura Lippman, Gillian Flynn. The writing of these authors very much inspired my own work, but the emotions of the story were inspired most by my daughters who are truly what inspired the book.
6) Any plans in the near future for another book?
I've just submitted a draft of my next book. It's called Ordinary Crimes and it will be out next April. Narrated from the perspective of two mothers, a teenager and the community list serv, it opens with the body of an infant being found in the woods in a University Town. It's the story of what happened to the baby and how your own family history ends up defining the parent you go on to be.
7) What is your inspiration to write?
"The inspiration for my books comes from a combination of my own personal experience and current events. I don't outline the story in advance, but I have a clear sense of where I'd like the characters to end up. Once I get into the story and I know exactly where it's headed, I generally stop and do some skeletal outlining."
8) What kind of environment do you prefer to write in? Do you need silence or music?
"I like to go to a coffee shop; for the constant flow of coffee, of course, but I also like a little ambient activity. I've tried to write in "writing spaces" and they are too still and quiet for me. I also like to be out of the house so that my work and home lives aren't completely co-mingled. I do wear headphones, though, playing music. It helps me concentrate."
9) How do you beat writer's block and that sometimes paralyzing fear of a blank page (or computer screen)?
Having very low expectations and not censoring myself. Meaning, I know there will be days when everything I write will end up on the editing room floor. That's just part of the deal. It's more important that I write something, even if it's terrible. And there is no doubt that it will be sometimes.
10) Being a mother yourself, and knowing that losing a child is every parent's worst fear, how did you disassociate yourself from that when writing the book from Kate's POV?
I didn't disassociate myself. I very much lived in Kate's point of view. But I had the luxury of always knowing my children were fine. It's a bit like being an actress, I suppose, playing a role. At the back of your mind, you always know it's make believe and that's a great relief. It makes you grateful for everything you have. I also got to live in Amelia's shoes, too, and she is very much alive in her sections of the book, so it was easy to forget that she was dead.
But I always cried when I was working on the ending and I cried when I read it out loud for the first time at my launch. I take that as a good sign. After all, if you can't move yourself, you'll never move anyone else.
Thanks to everyone who submitted questions over the last several days and, of course, our sincere thanks go out to Kimberly for taking the time during her busy schedule to happily answer these reader questions!
What's been your favorite part of Kimberly McCreight's Reconstructing Amelia, this month's Book Club book?