In the Forests of the Night is a lush, moody tale of vampires, witches, and shape-shifters. It's the story of how one female vampire comes to terms with her inner nature and reclaims her rightful powers. From the first few pages, readers will feel themselves transported into this haunting world that rests just on the edge of our own.
Readers will also be interested to learn that this exciting debut novel was written by a teenager herself. Amelia Atwater-Rhodes found out that In the Forests of the Night was accepted by Delacorte Press on her 14th birthday! We caught up with this busy young author to find out the story behind the story.
barnesandnoble.com: What's your life like now that you're a published writer?
Amelia Atwater-Rhodes: My life is similar in most ways to the way it was before. [Most of the] changes that I've gone through lately have more to do with the transition to high school. However, I must admit my life is more hectic, trying to create a separation between my "normal" life and my literary life.
bn: How has the experience of your writing -- your literary life -- changed since your book was accepted by Delacorte Press?
AAR: The main difference is that, before, I saw my writing as just mine. Sometimes I never even had the courage to share my writing with my parents! Now I'm sharing it with any stranger who happens to pick up the book. Since Forests was accepted, people have a tendency to ask me for advice or share their own writing with me. It's nice to think that my success can encourage other people.
bn: Have other authors inspired you in particular ways?
AAR: Almost everyone that I have ever read [has inspired me]! My favorite young adult authors are L. J. Smith and Christopher Pike. Pike became my role model. L. J. Smith's Night World , which I stumbled upon more recently after I had created my own "night world," fascinates me. Like many other L. J. Smith fans, I am still waiting for Strange Fate to be released.
bn: What is your writing process like? Do you write every day?
AAR: My writing process is varied. When I start a book, I have two files -- the actual manuscript and then another file in which I log character names, important facts, and descriptions so I will not contradict myself later. After that, I write whenever I have the inspiration to do so, at any time. I am famous for complaining (in school) that I woke up at two in the morning with an idea and have not been to bed since. I always have music on when I write, about three songs that I put on repeat. The music is usually something that has to do with the character. I think that I wrote Forests mostly while listening to Alanis Morissette's "Forgiven" and "Perfect." I usually have no idea what is going to happen in the book until I am writing it. I have a tendency to write a scene and surprise myself with some strange detail I did not know until it fell into a sentence.
bn: Why do you suppose that we are so interested in reading about vampires and witches and otherworldly powers?
AAR: Personally, I write about Nyeusi (my word for my group of otherworldly powers) because they are so varied. Vampires, shape-shifters, and witches all have their own cultures. In general, though, I can't explain why humans are so interested in nonhuman creatures. My best idea is that we are interested in them because they are us, but aren't. [They have] ties to humanity but consider [themselves] not human. As a writer, creatures like vampires allow me to act out more than I could with human characters. [Creating] a likable human murderer is difficult (and I try to make both my protagonists and antagonists likable in some ways), but writing about a likable vampire is not so difficult. For example, if Risika had been human, many people would have been upset by her killing an innocent human in the third chapter; instead, since she is a vampire, she is given some leeway outside of normal moral boundaries. From a reader's point of view, creatures like vampires allow us to read about the more violent side of nature, but still be distanced from it. Of course, that explanation doesn't even touch on the whole romanticism associated with vampires...
bn: How did you learn about vampires? Have you ever met one?
AAR: No, as far as I know, I have never met a vampire. I was raised on a lot of vampire literature. It always shocks me when I hear of someone who has never seen the movie "Dracula," in any of its many forms. After "Dracula," Christopher Pike's The Last Vampire series really kindled my interest.
bn: Do you have plans to write more about Risika, the main character in In the Forests of the Night ? What's next from you?
AAR: Risika is in other books of mine, but not as a main character. I believe Forests said most of what needed to be said about Risika. However, she does play a part in the end of Aubrey's book and a few others that I have written.
bn: We have recently signed a contract for the next book, which is titled (subject to change) Bitter Life . While Aubrey (the antagonist of Forests ) is once again a major character, the main character is a young author named Jessica, briefly mentioned in Forests . After Bitter Life , there are other finished manuscripts that I am trying to decide between, including Aubrey's history.
bn: What did you learn about yourself as this story and these characters developed on paper?
AAR: The main thing I learned about myself as this story developed was my own vindictiveness. [Writing, and the fight scenes in particular] has given me a whole new outlet for dealing with my personal anger. My moods are reflected in my writing, though they can be seen clearest in first drafts. Also, the characters' preferences and personalities are inspired by my own preferences and dislikes -- such as Aubrey's dislike of sarcasm or Risika's love of tigers.
bn: Of course, many writers will be inspired that you were published so young. Do you have advice or words of encouragement for other young writers?
AAR: The best advice I would offer to other young writers is to not give up, and -- if they try to get published -- not to think their work is bad if it gets turned down. Also, don't write to get published; write because you like to write. It takes a lot of work to get a book into its best possible form and to do the work necessary to publish it. If you don't have fun doing the writing and are not proud of what you have done, then it is not worth it.