Fantastical Reads for Your YA Book Club

Fresh Voices: Q&A with Amanda Linsmeier, author of Six of Sorrow

“Christopher Pike and Riverdale vibes will entice readers looking for subtle supernatural romance and small-town drama, all topped with a face-off against a menacing secret from the past.” Booklist

What inspired you to create SIX OF SORROW?

I was just coming off of writing STARLINGS which has some pretty heavy themes of generational trauma and sacrifice, lots of death, etc, and I wanted to create something light and fun! The funny thing is, this always happens—my stories begin as a response to a previous story that went darker than I anticipated and has left me *slightly* emotionally exhausted. So, I start the new, shiny ideas and inevitably, through the process of drafting and revisions, end up in the exact position I was trying to crawl my way out of! Now, there is lots of fun in SIX OF SORROW—it’s got a kind of nostalgic lightheartedness of 90s teen horror/thriller novels that I loved growing up—but there are certainly some more serious threads woven throughout as well. There are girls fighting an evil entity, witchy magic, sickly cheerleaders, a dramatic school dance scene, and more—those are some “fun” elements that carried over. And I’m so glad they stayed! But personally, I think one of the best things about it is the contrast between those elements and the other side—the eerie atmosphere, the lurking villain, the body horror. Those ideas combined is what makes this book what it is. And the cover is such a perfect representation of the story. That gorgeously-girly hot-pink—complete with a little blood.

What was the most difficult part about writing the book? What part was the easiest? 

The most difficult? Loaded question! I definitely suffered from “second book syndrome” like a lot of authors. I had this idea in my mind of what the story was, not just the tone of it, but the plot points. Through revisions—many, many rounds—I realized a lot of things had to change. My first few drafts were too complicated, too many elements. Multiple villains, multiple layers that didn’t quite melt together. It didn’t feel cohesive and I had a ton of worldbuilding issues. I couldn’t answer important questions, and that weighed down the believability. With the help of my editor, I was able to unravel these threads and simplify. It was all worth it in the end! But of course, during the process, my self-confidence and my confidence in the story took a big hit. I kind of doubted we would ever see the end of the process, so to be here, just two weeks out of publication, feels pretty amazing. I’m really proud of this book.

What element of the story do you identify with the most and why? 

There really is so much of me in this story. So many of my loves threaded into it. My editor said it feels like “an ode to being a teenage girl” which I just had to repeat in the acknowledgments (and now here too, I guess), but really, to me, it feels like an ode to being teenage me. So many things that helped form me, so many past (and current) obsessions, made their way into the story. It’s like a dash of this old book, and this old book, and this old book. The vibes of this movie and that movie. The feeling I had while reading/watching/singing/listening to that, that, that. The ache of first love and the complexities of growing up. It’s all kinds of experiences and loves and delights rolled up into one and wrapped in some of my fears, too. And so much of it wasn’t even intentional! I am still discovering moments within it that light up a bulb in my memory. It is the kind of book that would have delighted me at fourteen—and still does at forty-one!

What do you want kids to take away from this story? 

I’d love them to fall in love with the friend group, to find them as precious as I do. To champion the sweet queer love story. To find a favorite character that they resonate with. Mostly, I hope that teen readers enjoy the book. I hope they have a good time with the story. And I wouldn’t be mad if they got goosebumps once or twice.

What are you currently reading? 

Last night, I finished I WISH YOU WOULD by Eva Des Lauriers, a fellow Writing With the Soul alumni—a perfectly-angsty summer YA second-chance romance. So that means today I get to start LEGENDBORN by Tracy Deonn, which has been on my TBR forever. I just know I’ll love it!

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

In the end, I hope I’ve captured the complexities of friendships, particularly those we develop as adolescents. I hope I’ve portrayed these girls authentically—because they sure feel real to me. None of them are perfect, and their relationships with each other certainly haven’t always been. But we know humans aren’t perfect. That’s why we are interesting. That’s why we want to read stories about other humans. If everyone made the right decisions all the time, the smartest decisions all the time, there’d be no growth. No story. Nothing worth fighting for or reaching toward. Their history is messy and full of mistakes, which I think a lot of readers will resonate with, but it’s also full of love. I hope that shines through the pages.

The Fresh Voices series is in coordination with the RHCB DEI Book Club committee.
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