Interview with Debut Young Adult Author Amelinda Bérubé
Something is waiting to pull us under, indeed. THE DARK BENEATH THE ICE by Amelinda Bérubé debuts on August 7th, 2018 from Sourcebooks Fire. With buzz worthy reviews from School Library Journal, Kirkus, and Booklist, this haunting novel is about to take our breath away. But before it does, we asked Amelinda some questions about how this story came to be and what advice she has for aspiring young adult authors.
Question: What are you most excited about THE DARK BENEATH THE ICE being published right now?
Amelinda Bérubé: Well, it’s definitely exciting to have it coming into the world while YA is experiencing such a boom, when YA horror in particular seems to be having a moment, and when there seems to be an appetite for some genre-bending, such that you can try a quasi-literary approach to speculative elements like ghosts and magic. And I think the current drive for authenticity and accurate representation, especially in YA, has taught me a lot; if I’ve managed to write at all honestly about mental illness or questioning sexuality, it’s thanks to the guidance I’ve found in online discussions and wise friends.
More personally, I’ve had starry-eyed publishing dreams for as long as I can remember, and to be honest, if I could tell sixteen-year-old me how this all shook out, she’d be glaring at me and demanding what the hell took me so long. But I couldn’t have written this book in my teens, or even my 20s — it involved taking a long, hard look at some uncomfortable questions I was in no way ready to face. And the extensive edit letters, rewriting under deadlines, self-promotion, and criticism involved in getting a book into the world? Forget it. It would have been panic city. This is a great time to be publishing a spooky YA book, and I’m absurdly lucky, because this also happens to be when I was capable of it. It’s nice when things come to you when you’re ready.
Q: What’s been most challenging to you with publishing THE DARK BENEATH THE ICE?
Amelinda: I’ve been a little shocked, all the way along this process, at how vulnerable an experience it is, how much it feels like putting your heart in your hands and holding it out for judgment. I’ve been a little proud of myself for finally managing to put some little piece of my heart on the page, but sending it out there where anyone could see it? It turns out that’s pretty terrifying. The only thing scarier than no one ever reading the thing is, well, everyone reading the thing.
Q: How did you come to write this story?
Amelinda: I wanted to write a ghost story like the ones I loved so much as a kid — something with Canadian roots, for preference, and something that maybe had a little more going on than meets the eye; the sort of thing you could talk about in English class. The nighttime spookiness of my riverside neighborhood and a famous Nova Scotia poltergeist case were my original inspirations. I kicked the idea around for a few years without really knowing how to make it work…and then my parents split up, seemingly out of the blue, and when it occurred to me to put that in the mix for the story, it catalyzed everything.
Q: What’s the one thing you hope a reader would take away from reading THE DARK BENEATH THE ICE?
Amelinda: Mostly I wanted this to be a book that leaves readers thinking. Maybe it might inspire them to let go of a little bit of self-loathing. But honestly if they just set the book down thinking “well THAT was cool and spooky,” I’ll consider that success too!
Q: For young adult writers just getting started, what is the single best piece of advice you could offer them?
Amelinda: Combine stubborn optimism with an understanding that the road — to repurpose George RR Martin’s adage — is long and full of terrors. And it’s dangerous to go alone. Find your people, whether in person or online; they’ll be the ones who pull you through.
Q: What’s one thing you wish you knew earlier in your writing career that you know now?
Amelinda: That taking a break, even a long one, doesn’t mean you’re not a “real” writer. Life happens! And if it didn’t, you couldn’t write about it.
Q: What’s up for you next in your writing career?
Amelinda: I’m at work on revising my second book, HERE THERE ARE MONSTERS, another YA stand-alone whose scariness I’m pretty excited about — it’ll be out in August 2019. And I’m chipping away at drafting what will hopefully become a third book as well. After that, who knows! But my career goals are probably best expressed as “track down and write about spooky weirdness from all over Canada.” I am discovering, to my delight, that there’s a lot of it.
Amelinda Bérubé writes about ghosts and monsters and other things that go bump in the night with a liberal sprinkling of weird Canadiana — her favorite source of inspiration — and the occasional zombie metaphor.
She is an eternal fangirl for YA and SFF, including horror, but any book that makes her laugh, makes her cry, or creeps her out will have my heart forever. Her very favorites tend to have a thinky, supernatural flavor and don’t explain too much.
In my other lives I’m a public service editor, a mother of two, and a passionate gardener. I live in Ottawa, Ontario, in a perpetual whirlwind of unfinished projects and cat hair.