Catching up with Amber Smith

Article | Issue: Nov 2023

AMBER SMITH is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Way I Used to Be. Good Reading for Young Adults caught up with Amber to talk about the much anticipated sequel, The Way I Am Now.

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

The-Way-I-Am-NowThere was a time, the darkest of times, when Eden thought the only person who could save her was Josh. He was everything that was good in the world – a trusting heart, a loving touch, a kind smile. But he was never meant to be her saviour. Eden had to do that on her own. Now Eden has started college and faced up to her rapist, it seems like they might finally be in the right place at the right time to make a relationship work. But as the trial that will determine if Eden gets the justice she deserves looms, opening unhealed wounds, can their love withstand the pressure?

 

Q&A WITH AMBER SMITH

 

What inspired your foray into writing? 

I have always had a love of books and storytelling – when I was a child I would spend hours writing and illustrating illustrate my own ‘books’ out of pieces of paper stapled together – and for many years I seriously considered becoming a children’s book illustrator. As a teenager, I started writing poetry, which sparked my love of reading … first poetry, then fiction. I kept journals all through college and grad school where I studied art, but it wasn’t until I was working in the art world and publishing nonfiction pieces on other people’s art that I began to think seriously about creating my own again, this time in the form of fiction.   

 How has the writing process of this sequel compared to that of your debut The Way I Used to Be? 

The biggest difference in the writing process was that I had years of getting to know these characters inside and out before I started writing the second book. I feel like I didn’t have to write my way into the story as much as I did with the first – where I spent years and many, many drafts just trying to understand Eden as not simply someone I had made up, but as if she were a real person who had existed already. Knowing these characters and their motivations and personalities so well helped me to focus on the story from the outset.  

 What can readers expect from Eden and Josh’s journey in this novel? 

This book leans into the romance element, much more than in the first book. Still, it’s a love that is complicated and messy at times. I really wanted to show what healing from trauma could look like through the lens of this relationship between two people who each have their own baggage and healing to do, both together and separately.  

Through your character Eden you look at the journey of moving forward after trauma. Why was it important to you to look at themes surrounding healing and resilience?  

Personally, it was important to me to write not only about the injury of trauma but also the healing process. I wanted to highlight how healing is not a linear or straightforward path, but one with many twists and turns, ups and downs, and that journey is ongoing. I also hoped to show how important it is that we support one another; survivors of rape, assault, and abuse need a strong support system. Trauma affects not only that individual but also the people closest to them, and, in turn, their loved ones and supporters need support too. 

 How has your work in advocacy for increased awareness of gendered violence helped shape your novel?  

I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with many survivors of different forms of violence and abuse, to hear their stories, and to have honest, open communication with people from so many walks of life. It has been incredibly validating for me personally, but this kind of anecdotal research also came to shape parts of this new book, not only on an emotional level but even in the legal elements and depictions of the court trial that Eden takes part in. I’m very thankful to have had so many people willing to share their experiences and stories with me; it is an honour and responsibility I do not take lightly.  

 What messages or reflections do you hope to convey through your novel?  

I hope that the big message that comes through to readers is the importance of empathy and love – for oneself, as well as for others. Love is never perfect because people are not perfect, but it can be healing, and healing from trauma is an ongoing process that requires a lot of empathy, patience, and compassion. 

 What did you find most challenging or rewarding about writing this novel? 

This novel was influenced, first and foremost, by the questions I received from readers through the years when they’d ask about a sequel: What happens next? Will Eden get justice? Will she ever have a second chance with Josh? I took these questions to heart and built the book around them. This was simultaneously the most rewarding and challenging aspect of writing this book. Rewarding because I felt like I was connecting with these characters I had created years ago in a brand-new way, but also challenging because I knew I needed to take care that this next chapter of Eden and Josh’s journey felt earned and realistic for each of them, both together and separately.  

Which authors or books do you admire? 

Over the last few years, as I was thinking about writing The Way I Am Now, I read several memoirs that truly bolstered my resolve to tell this next chapter of Eden’s story. They were Laurie Halse Anderson’s Shout, Chanel Miller’s Know My Name, and Tara Westover’s Educated. I’m so thankful that these important stories of survival exist; they each helped me in different ways, as a writer and as a person.  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amber Smith_Deborah TriplettAmber grew up in Buffalo, New York and now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her wife and their ever-growing family of rescued dogs and cats. Fueled by a lifelong passion for the arts, story, and creative expression, Amber graduated from art school with a BFA in Painting and went on to earn her master’s degree in Art History. When she’s not writing she’s usually reading, but can also be found in her studio making art or freelancing as an editorial consultant.

Visit Amber Smith’s website

 

Author: Amber Smith

Category: Children's, teenage & educational

Book Format: Paperback / softback

Publisher: Oneworld

ISBN: 9780861546824

RRP: $19.99

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