Saturday, March 19, 2016

Celebrating Debutantes 2016: The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith (Author Interview + Giveaway)

Hi guys! For today, we're featuring a YA contemporary novel. Based on the feedback I have read all over the blogosphere, the story - writing, most especially - is quite good. We're giving away an ARC later, so stick around! ;)

What or who inspired you to write The Way I Used to Be?
As a concept, I’ve wanted to write about sexual violence for a long time—it’s a reality for so many young people, yet there’s still so much silence surrounding this issue. But the true inspiration for the story came when I finally stumbled over the character of Eden as I was working on something else. From her perspective, I saw a chance to really explore what that silence means and feels like—and ultimately, what it might take to break that silence.

Your book is quite heavy as it deals with trauma. Did you encounter any challenges in writing this book?
Yes, because it does deal with trauma, there were points that were pretty tough for me to work through, emotionally. I found that I had to take some significant breaks from writing altogether—to recalibrate and make sure I was keeping a clear enough boundary between the world of the book and my own real-life world.

How did you mold Eden's character before and after the "incident"?
In the opening pages we get a sense who Eden is, or rather, was, prior to being raped. We get the impression that she’s been living in the background of her own life—she’s shy, a little nerdy, her world is small. But the assault shakes her whole foundation, and we see her beginning to question her old roles within her family and at school with her friends. By breaking the story down into four parts—one for each year of high school—I really wanted to show how the changes in her character escalate from one year to the next, as she tries to rebuild her identity and find ways to cope with what’s happened on her own (while not actually addressing the real problem), ultimately accelerating to the point of crashing.

Did you write the book with a specific message embedded within its pages?
There ended up being lots of messages, but I think the one thing they all have in common is self-worth: The importance of finding your voice and speaking your truth, standing up to abuse in all its forms—even the abuse we sometimes inflict on ourselves.

I have read reviews that commented on your writing. Readers are amazed with it - you're writing is raw and beautiful. Could you tell us a bit about your writing style?
Well, thank you so much! (*blushes*) I’m not entirely sure how to answer.... I actually try not to consciously think too much about style while I’m writing. Instead, I just try (as best as I can, anyway) to get inside the mind of my character, drawing on my own experiences, emotions, and senses to bring that voice to life.

Do you envision yourself trying out other genres, such as fantasy or science fiction? Why?
Great question! The contemporary “voice” feels so right to me, but I have thought I might like to try historical fiction at some point down the road. I have a master’s degree in art history, so I’m definitely very interested in time periods different from our own. As far as sci fi or fantasy...I really wish my mind worked that way! I think it would be so much fun to write in those genres, but I don’t see that happening.

What is next for Amber Smith?
I’m so excited about the book I’m working on right now. It’s another contemporary YA (slated for publication in the summer of 2017). It deals with domestic violence and tells the story of three siblings as they cope with the death of their abusive father at the hands of their mother.

Thank you, Amber!

About the Author:

Amber Smith grew up in Buffalo, NY and now lives in Charlotte, NC with her two dogs. After graduating from art school with a BFA in Painting, she earned her MA in Art History. When she’s not writing, she is working as a curator and freelance art consultant. She has also written on the topics of art history and modern and contemporary art. The Way I Used to Be is her first novel.

Find Amber: Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Book Description:

Hardcover, 384 pages
Expected publication: March 22nd 2016 by Margaret K. McElderry Books

In the tradition of Speak, this extraordinary debut novel shares the unforgettable story of a young woman as she struggles to find strength in the aftermath of an assault.

Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.

What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.

Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year.


Thanks to Amber for this giveaway!
What's up for grabs: ARC of The Way I Used to Be
Scope: US and CA

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Treat yourself to a complete #CelebratingDebutantes2016 experience. Click the image below for the full schedule and links to the posts!


  1. I think this novel deals with an issue of compelling importance today, and I expect that the tale related will move me emotionally and intellectually! Thanks for featuring this exciting new work! Cheers, Kara S

  2. I've heard great things about this book!