Neverwas is truly a family affair. Not only is it a story about family but it is also written by one. Kelly Moore began writing Amber House a long time ago but finding no true inspiration, she locked it away. Twenty years later, her daughters Tucker and Larkin found the manuscripts and together they built the tale we now all read.
This series is more than just a gothic young adult novel. It is more than just a paranormal, a romance, a mystery. It’s about family love, family grief and resentment, family dysfunctionalities, family history. It also deals with sexual and racial discrimination, and offers a sweet, touching glimpse into caring for someone with autism.
Read below the very personal and sentimental explanations behind some of the issues brought up in Neverwas. Learn more about the story and the voices behind it.
Kelly, on the inspiration for Amber House:
We are often asked about the inspiration for Amber House, and we often try to explain the many influences that came together in our story, but there was one particular thing that started me in my long ramble toward Amber House more than thirty years ago.
My mother gave me a tiny toy cow that was about a century old. It was all of four inches long, three inches tall, made of calf hide glued and tacked over a carved wooden form, complete down to horns, tail and udder. If you felt the hide carefully, you could make out the cow’s ribs and musculature, all rendered faithfully by some man, some father, for his child — both of whom long dead. I loved that cow. I loved the care put into its creation. I loved how it spoke to me of the man and the child. There was a sadness caught in that small piece of folk art, sadness that felt like a long thrumming note pulled from a cello. It vibrated inside me — this longing to know the man who made it, the boy who played with it. That was the start of Amber House.
Years later, I sat at dinner with a friend and her Indonesian husband. He told us of the belief he was raised with — that everything has soul in it, that those who use a pen or a chair or a table invest these items with spirit. Yes, I thought, yes. There is spirit in my little cow. And that became part of Amber House too.
I tried twenty years ago to tell the story of Amber House, but I couldn’t find the tale that held that cello note, that allowed it to sound clearly. My daughters, Tucker and Larkin, discovered my old failed efforts and wanted to try again, building in Gothic elements of secrecy around the notion of the past resounding through the things it has been captured in. And they chose to fix it all in a romance that played that same plaintive note — a romance which required the building of a bridge between the past and the future, so that the girl and the boy could cross time to reach each other.
My daughters helped me find a way to give Amber House a voice, to bring the story full circle. I am grateful to every reader who has taken the time to visit, to share with me a love for that which survives.
Larkin, on why the protagonist’s brother, Sammy, is autistic:
We have felt so fulfilled to see the number of people who have respond positively to Sammy. There are two reasons, really, why we chose to depict Sam as a high functioning autistic child.
First, we wanted Sam to be lovable, so we based him on the little boy the three of us loved most — our own boy, my little brother Sinjin. My brother falls within the autism spectrum and, when he was young, manifested the same kinds of behaviors as Sam. He learned to speak through echolalia, using lines from movies to speak for him for years, until he was able to make the rapid kinds of mental connections that speech requires. He fixated on certain social rituals that he learned and insisted everyone observe faithfully. He was, and is, enormously kind and generous-hearted, without a mean bone in his body. He went through several different phases of intense devotion to specific subject matters — dinosaurs when he was little, superheroes when he was older, Sherlock Holmes now in his teens. He is also ferociously honest to the extent he had a hard time learning how to censor himself from saying things that might have been a bit too honest. All of these behaviors can be found in Sammy’s repertoire, and all are true to high functioning autistics.
Second, we were glad to have the opportunity to personify a different kind of autistic character — someone who was not so impaired by autism that he could not function in the world, but instead someone you might not even recognize as autistic unless you were very familiar with the syndrome. My little brother encountered a lot of prejudice growing up, with outsiders assuming his peculiar behaviors were signs he was “just stupid” because he “couldn’t be autistic” because he didn’t “act like Rain Man” (those are, unfortunately, direct quotes). When crafting a book, an author is provided an opportunity to present readers with a different world, a world they are not familiar with. It was extremely important to us that part of that “new world” was a realistic depiction of an individual with moderate autism.
We are very fond of — and very protective of — the character of Sammy, and we have been so grateful that many of our readers are fond of Sammy, as well. It is a comfort that a character like Sammy is out there for readers like my brother to find.
Tucker, on the importance of women’s issues in Amber House:
One of the opportunities that most excited us about Amber House was that it provided several centuries of female characters the possibility to conspire with each other — to combat and even defeat — the systems of oppression they suffered under.
Deirdre Foster, the ancestress in the 1770s, is the unwanted, undivorceable wife locked away in the attic. Maeve McCallister is the old maid, undesirable due to her unladylike political activism, and her refusal to compromise her beliefs for a man. Fiona Warren is the sensitive artist whose opinions are so easily dismissed as hysterical before she is shipped off to an asylum to be abused (physically and perhaps even sexually) and ultimately lobotomized. Ida McGuinness is the grieving mother so crippled by depression she fails to fulfill her expected duties as a wife and is ultimately abandoned by her bitter family members. Sarah’s mother Anne is the self-protective product of that shattered childhood, so ready to be disappointed she is literally incapable of forgiveness once she is “proved right,” once she is “betrayed” by the people she dared let herself rely on. And Nyangu is the woman abducted from her homeland, forced to adopt customs that are not only alien but sometimes in direct conflict with her own — and is assaulted by her oppressor and forced to bear his child.
I gravitated to these issues in the project as someone who had experienced some of the same kinds abuse and violence, and who had met many women who are still experiencing these same injustices. To me, this book was not a period piece — not a simple exploration of historical issues. It was a collection of the pain inflicted on women on a global scale, occurring right this very moment, here and there and everywhere.
And while the book does champion women’s ability to work together to combat oppression, it simultaneously introduces male characters willing and able to work with the female characters to change what has happened and what might happen, to build a better future and even, perhaps, a better past.
Win A Signed Copy of Neverwas!
Our thanks to the authors for kindly providing a signed first-edition hardback copy of Neverwas. (Please note: this is a separate contest from the one on the other stops of this tour.) Enter by leaving a comment below telling us what appeals most to you about this book. Then fill out the Rafflecopter form. It’s that easy!
Open to US and Canadian residents aged 18 and older, or 13 and older with parental permission. Please see the contest form for complete rules. Good luck!
About the Authors
KELLY MOORE is a New York Times best-selling author, former litigator, and single mother of three. Her latest project, the young adult fiction series THE AMBER HOUSE TRILOGY, co-written with her two daughters and based loosely upon her own family history, examines fourteen generations of Maryland women and their ties to the past, present, and future. The first book in the series was nominated for the 2014 Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award for its realistic portrayal of characters with autism; Moore is outspoken about her inclusion in the autism spectrum, and is dedicated to autism awareness.
TUCKER REED is an award-winning fiction and nonfiction writer. She has been recognized on the national level for her short stories, essays and poetry. She is also a notable political blogger and has appeared on CNN, CBS, ABC and HuffPost Live, as well as featured in articles published by TIME magazine, Marie Claire magazine, Ms. magazine, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and The Guardian, among numerous others.
LARKIN REED is a professional photographer, currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in filmmaking. In 2013, Reed established her own multimedia production company, and has subsequently produced and directed several short films.
Neverwas Blog Tour
Visit the other stops on the Neverwas Blog Tour, which offers a separate contest and game!
Whispering Pretty Stories
Marie Loves Books
Books Take You Places
Annette’s Book Spot
Zach’s YA Reviews
The Quiet Concert
Books and Cupcakes
The Musings of ALMYBNENR
Books Live Forever
Must Love Books
Words Are Inner Music
Books and Whimsy
The Reader’s Den
Refracted Light Reviews
The Midnight Garden
Our thanks to Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed and Larkin Reed for joining us at the Midnight Garden!