Ever wondered if celebrities read YA? I’ve always suspected there are fans lurking everywhere, but I was still tickled when I suddenly realized that the Ameriie I’d been chatting with on GoodReads for months was the Ameriie–you know, superstar recording artist and actress. No big deal. I enjoy peeking in to see what she’s reading from time to time–she’s got eclectic taste, ladies and gents–and I love that she actively uses it as a reader and as a fan.
I also discovered that she’s got some very exciting bookish projects in the works, so I thought it’d be fun to invite her to tell us a little more about what she’s planning, as well as to give us a peek at her bookshelves and favorite reading spots in her house. Ready to peer over her shoulder? I know I am!
The Reading Chair
I read here most of the time. At the corner or beneath the chair, I like to keep books I’m dipping in and out of. I’m currently making my way through Clive Barker’s Books of Blood: Volumes 1-3. I rarely read a short story unless I feel I’m in the hands of a master, and Mr. Barker is definitely masterful, accomplishing so much in so few pages. I don’t usually have my ipad sitting there “open” to a book, but I figured it was a great way to illustrate 1) how much I rely on ebooks and 2) how much I love Michio Kaku.
The Writing Desk
This is where the magic happens, the sacred place. ;) I usually wake at 4:30-5:30am, but if I’m recording (studio is 12pm-12am for me), it’s more like 7am. Rising early is a good way to get my workout in and have a satisfactory writing session. This is as bright as it ever gets in here, as I like to keep the curtains (black-out!) drawn. I record in the dark, too. The world exploded from the void so it makes sense that darkness is perfect for creating art. My tbr pile lies on the floor. My mom gave me the lamp on my desk because she knew I’d love it—we’re chandelier addicts and I love having this at my fingertips (“There’s a chan-duh-leeah. Here’s a chan-duh-leeah.” Haven’t seen Scarlett Johansson’s chandelier SNL skit? OK, moving on.)
Michio Kaku’s Physics of the Future is always here, a perpetual re-read. My plan for GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire books was to overtake the HBO series, but that’s just not happening; currently I’m only on book two. So, yeah. I have Christina (who is my friend and critique partner besides being my partner in LitLush) to thank for the ARCs of King’s fantastic Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future and Black’s The Darkest Part of the Forest, among others. Christina is so generous, both as a critique partner and as a friend.
Somewhere online, Lev Grossman recommended Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer. I often add books to my tbr if authors I admire rave about them or find them important. I’ve heard so many great things about Carey’s The Girl with All the Gifts, I’m almost afraid to start. Half a King is Joe Abercrombie’s first YA novel, and I’ve seen some say it may be his best, which is why I figured it’d be a great place to start my Abercrombie experience.
I keep my writing space uncluttered. It’s just me and the story.
The books that always remain on my desk are: Stephen King’s On Writing – it’s Stephen King; Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet – great for feeding your creative spirit; C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia – arranged in original order of publication; L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables – my sister, Angela, picked this up for me at Liberty department store in London. We loved this story growing up. “Kindred spirits” and “depths of despair” were among our favorite phrases back then; The Complete Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales – My Precious. My parents bought me this leather-bound edition for Christmas when I was seven years old and we still have footage of me holding my sister hostage as I read from this book that morning. I never went through the shock of learning what fairy tales were really about, thanks to this book; I was a kid who knew how deliciously dark and bloody magic could be. Thanks Mommy and Daddy!
The books at the end rotate and are ones that, at the moment, inspire me with their greatness. Those little flash drives are Mimi Magic and CiaoCiao, and that’s Piggy, their pet. A sweet fan made that little clay pig for me. In a way, the three have come to represent me and my sister and our late Yorkie, Jean Pierre. They keep me company when I’m writing.
Favorite reads I keep nearby, to the left of my desk. NOS4A2 made a Joe Hill fan of me. Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall is magical; I couldn’t put it down. And Vicious? V.E. Schwab killed it.
I still love my well-worn U.S. versions with artwork by Mary GrandPré, but I had to have the new HP box set illustrated by Kazu Kabuishi. So soft, too.
A top shelf in my library. All things religious and spiritual. Below are childhood favorites, classics, and Korean-English translations my mother gave me of Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Shel Silverstein works, among others. Confession: I saw the movie, but never read William Goldman’s The Princess Bride.
More Michio Kaku. The books on shelves below are science and history non-fictions by Stephen Hawking, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Leonard Mlodinow, Jonathan Black, and others. Also below are what I call “rabbit-hole” books, books I don’t mention unless I’m having a conversation with someone who is into the same. These books run the gamut from hidden history and “forgotten” knowledge to anti-gravity lines and sacred geometry. The rabbit hole runs deep.
A bookcase just outside my library.
I keep paperbacks on the topmost shelf, both adult and YA. I was obsessed with mermaids as a kid, and I’ve heard terrific things about Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama. Other books I’m especially looking forward to are Perfume by Patrick Süskind, Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, and Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan.
Growing up, I loved drawing maps and making up stories about fantastical lands and people, so Mapping the World was a nice find. Speaking of fantastical worlds, two more books and my UK Harry Potter set will be complete. I’m anticipating a creepy read in The Circle by Mats Strandberg and Sara Bergmark Elfgren. A.G. Howard’s Splintered was wonderful, a “Let me tell you what really happened” kind of retelling I enjoy so much.
I get sleepy if I read in bed, so I prefer to read non-fiction here since I’m able to complete a section or two by the time I doze off (a chapter of HP is great for winding down, too). On the floor are back issues of W and V, which I was flipping through for inspiration for an upcoming video shoot.
Thank you so much for having me, Wendy Darling! It’s been a lot of fun sharing with The Midnight Garden my passion for reading and writing and all things books.
5 Questions with Ameriie (Okay, 8)
1. When do you do most of your reading? How do you find the time with your busy schedule?
I always have a book with me. At the very least, I have ebooks on my iPhone (I have the ibooks, Kindle, nook, and Overdrive library apps on both my phone and ipad), so I can read any place, any time. I do most of my reading in the afternoon or early evening, and I try to get in one or two hours of reading daily.
2. Do you prefer an e-reader or physical books?
I adore physical books—their weight, their ink-and-paper scent, the rustling of their pages—but I’ve come to appreciate ebooks for their convenience. Still, I don’t feel like I have a book when it’s in ebook form; it doesn’t feel part of my collection. Although I get a little rush when my ebook tells me how far I’ve gone into the story, I miss the tactile satisfaction of dog-eared pages and watching my bookmark make its way toward the book’s back cover.
3. Tell us some of your favorite YA or MG books, ever and from this year.
Let’s begin with The Chronicles of Narnia. I read the series when I was seven; my best friend’s mother was from Wales, so I was put on to all things British at an early age. Day in and day out, Georgiana and I wrote, critiqued, watched something British, went back to writing. Repeat. So that series has always been special to me. There’s Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. More recent loves would be The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb (actually, Wendy, it was your review that led me to this book so thank you for that), Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin, Feed by M.T. Anderson, Planesrunner by Ian McDonald, and the amazing Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King. Half my reading includes adult fiction, and although this series isn’t technically YA, The Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman is one of my all-time favorites and does contain eighteen-year-old characters. Dark Eden by Chris Beckett is another great adult novel, and probably could have been marketed as YA.
4. One of the things I really like about you is that you actually use GoodReads to interact with other readers. Why do you find it useful/enjoyable? Are people surprised when they realize it’s really you? (I know I was!)
Discovering the online book community has changed my reading life. Sites like Goodreads enable me to see what my bookish friends are delving into, what they’re excited about. If my interest is sparked enough, I’ll download an ibooks excerpt. But I don’t like knowing too much going into a story; I’m an extreme No Spoilers type, so I skim the beginnings of a review and barely read flap copy. Even “Wow! The twist!” or “Sheesh! The ending!” are spoilerific. But if I’m so interested I can’t help myself, I’ll scan most the review and a bit of the comments. After finishing a book, though, it’s fun to revisit reviews and share thoughts. As to whether or not people are surprised to know that it’s me me, I don’t know because it rarely comes up. Usually I assume they don’t, but even in person, I’m surprised to know people are able to recognize me under a hat or behind a pair of shades, so what do I know lol.
5. What are your favorite books that you’ve discovered through GoodReads? I know I rely on friends for my book recommendations much more than I do professional reviews, so I’m curious if you feel the same way.
I enjoy professional reviews in addition to reviews on Goodreads, but I skim them as well because I don’t want to know in advance plot points, themes, metaphors, etc. One of the books I discovered on Goodreads was The Magicians by Lev Grossman. The interesting thing to me concerning how I found this book is that its reviews on the site are so polarizing. People either love or despise it, and I was so intrigued, I broke my own rule and read several reviews in full (although I watched for any mention of spoilers). Some readers who disliked the book were quite detailed about what didn’t work for them, and those specific elements were the draw for me. I thought, OK, you didn’t like it, but this sounds like something I need to read. And so I read The Magicians and it is one of my favorite books ever; I’ve read it four times in the last two years. What didn’t work for others worked wonders for me. That is the power of a great review, whether the reviewer liked or disliked the book. That is the power of the reading community.
6. Do you get teased for reading YA? Or are you lucky enough to have people in your life who understand your love for it?
I don’t get teased for reading YA, but I’m surrounded by people who read strictly non-fiction; they have this perception that they aren’t nourishing themselves with a fiction diet. Until the last few years, I’d spent the previous seven reading almost exclusively non-fiction science/history/spiritual books, so I understand the appreciation, but my challenge is getting my friends to understand how important fiction is, to see how we’re able to address things in fiction people are afraid to touch in real life. Some think YA isn’t serious, that it’s fluff. But there’s plenty of fluff in adult fiction. What I love about great YA is what I love about any great book: layered characterization, well-crafted world-building, thought-provoking insights, etc. But what I think is particular to YA is that nine times out of ten, the story moves; it goes somewhere. Also, the story tends to end with at least an inkling of hope. Again, I could say that about great adult fiction, though the writer is allowed to meander and explore more (sometimes too much) in say, literary adult.
7. From what I understand, you have a couple of fun book-related projects in the works. Tell us about this new website you’re working on.
Christina (of Christina Reads YA) and I have been working on a new social media site for readers called LitLush. There were some elements we really wanted out of a reader-based social media site, some small and some overarching; I, for one, was jumping between websites to get exactly what I was looking for. We’ve been creating something clean and modern yet extensive, a site that works hard for the reader. It’s taken a bit longer than expected but it has been more intensive, programming-wise, than we initially anticipated. But the longer wait should pay off. I’m incredibly excited about LitLush, but don’t want to say too much about it just yet (I apologize for being vague but I usually am about anything I’m working on until it’s “time.”).
8. And perhaps most exciting of all…you’re also working on a YA novel of your own?
Yes, I am a writer. I write YA and adult, and I’m pretty compulsive about it, so generally, I write every day. People who don’t know me are often surprised, since they know me exclusively for my music, but my friends and family know I’ve written all my life. I earned my BA in English at Georgetown University, and in that time I wrote stories and pursued my music career (I traveled to New York City on the weekends; I matriculated at Georgetown partly due to its proximity to NYC aka Big City of Dreams). Right now, I’m in various stages with four manuscripts; I won’t say more because it’s early days and I’m currently in revisions with my agent (Joanna Volpe of New Leaf Literary—she’s amazing!). But I will say the stories allow me to explore things I think of most: what makes us human; where we’re going with technology and what that means for how we view spirituality and ethics and morality; the What Ifs and What Happens Whens.
Ameriie is a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter (“Why Don’t We Fall in Love,” “1 Thing,” “Gotta Work,” “What I Want”) and writer of YA and adult fiction. She graduated with a BA in English from Georgetown University and is currently creating two new albums (BILI and Cymatika). You can find her online at www.Ameriie.com, Twitter: @itsAmeriie, Instagram: @itsAmeriie, Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/Ameriie, Tumblr: www.itsAmeriie.tumblr.com, and LitLush twitter: @LitLush.
Are you surprised to hear that Ameriie is on GoodReads? Are you curious about the book she’s working on, and any theories on what it could be about? Since she’s a lover of science and fantasy, I would bet some good money that it might fall into one of those categories. Pure speculation on my part, though!
Let’s face it, we hear about a lot of people who want to be authors, but I’m firmly convinced that the very best authors are the ones who actually read–and especially those who read across a variety of genres. After hearing Ameriie talk about what’s on her shelves, I don’t think there’s any doubt that she’s a true lover of the written word. I am personally very much looking forward to reading this book she’s working on when she’s ready to show it.
If you’ve enjoyed this mini tour of Ameriie’s bookshelves, be sure to check out her profile on GoodReads! Our thanks to our lovely guest for visiting us on the blog.