I’m so excited to welcome critically acclaimed YA science fiction author, Amy Rose Capetta. Amy Rose is a fellow VCFAer who inspires me with her commitment to writing, her talent for photography, and her openness to trying new things, such as co-producing the NerdBait Guide You Tube channel with YA author of Breaking Sky and The Color of Rain, Cori McCarthy.
Entangled and Unmade are part of a (I love that she calls it this) “YA space duet,” about seventeen-year-old Cade, a human essentially alone in the universe who discovers that she was created in a lab in the year 3112 and then entangled at a subatomic level with a boy named Xan. Armed with her cherry-red guitar, Cade steals away on a living ship with a band of outlaws on a quest to find and save him. In the sequel, Unmade, Cade has discovered a few things about herself, namely that she has a gift that just might save the human race. These novels are gorgeous, steeped in poetry and music, reminiscent of a space opera.
Amy Rose Capetta holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from VCFA.She is the author of a YA space duet, Entangled and Unmade, both out now from HMH Kids. For unfathomable reasons, she lives in Michigan.
Melanie: When you first conceived of this story, did you know that it was going to be a duology? How did you approach the overall themes and story arcs to make sure that things were consistent?
Amy Rose: When I first started Entangled, I only knew the premise of the story, the main character, Cade, and a small glimpse of the universe we were in. It was only when I got about two-thirds of the way through my first draft that I knew there was a larger story. I take a lot of photographs when I’m not writing, and I had a sense that I often get when I work with my fixed focal length camera lens—the one that doesn’t zoom. When I was writing Entangled, I was happy with the picture that I had, this zoomed-in perspective that was really focused on Cade and her experience. But I found myself wanting to run backwards and get the whole view. The bigger story. I wanted both of those pictures to feel complete—so that if the reader only had Entangled, they would feel like they got a full story, but if they went on and read Unmade, they would get a sweeping perspective more like a landscape, one that encompassed the first novel and opened up to something larger.
Melanie: Cade’s gift is something almost intangible, being able to communicate and hear people’s essence through song. What were some of the questions that emerged as you tried to describe this?
Amy Rose: Writing about Cade’s enhanced abilities felt like a natural extension of writing about music. And that was one of the few things that I knew when I started the story—that Cade understood the world largely through the medium of music. Writing about something that can’t be seen or touched is strangely delightful to me, since I have a brain that seems to naturally work by webs of association and the constant construction of metaphors. I never had a hard time going into music mode! And the character connection made it easier, too, since it’s the way that Cade functions. So I started to wonder—what is it like to see the world mainly through one screen, through one overarching metaphor? How does that affect how you move through the world, and interact with other people? How does it open you up, how does it limit you? In what ways is her interaction with music unique, and it what ways is it universal?
Melanie: When writing in a particular genre, like science fiction, there are particular tropes, how did you work with these so that they felt new to you and to your readers?
Amy Rose: In this case, I was really excited about working with some of the traditional tropes of space opera, because it’s a genre I’ve always loved and, at the time I started writing Entangled, almost no space opera had been published in YA. Now it seems to be everywhere—which makes me very happy as a reader! So I was really going headfirst for the tropes in these books with a constant hope of both putting them to good use and putting a spin on them. I had to be comfortable thinking about it from a reader standpoint. Would this make me crazy, or would it give me that happy surprise of seeing an old story element used in a different way? I had to climb outside of the writing perspective a bit and think about it as someone who loves genre stories, but has to be won over with a little bit of originality, playfulness, or invention.
Melanie: I am so intrigued by the universe you built. What is your approach to world building, and how did this evolve as you wrote?
Amy Rose: People have been so nice about the world-building in these books, and I have to admit, that was the part I mostly did as I went along. One thing I loved and will definitely do in the future is letting theme guide a lot of my world building choices. I knew that I cared about the idea of connection, and lack thereof, so everything I showed the reader, whether it was a character or a planet, had to play some variation on that theme. (Sort of like music!)
Melanie: There is a real vulnerability about Cade, particularly around Rennik and Lee, how were you able to get to that place with your character?
Amy Rose: I think Cade’s vulnerability is actually the flip side of her badass exterior. She’s developed that to keep herself safe—so the second it’s gone, she’s very open. Which is scary and exhilarating. I tapped into a lot of what I went through in the transition from being a very sheltered malcontent of a teenager living on one side of the country, to moving all the way to California where I didn’t know a single person within two thousand miles. All of my defenses fell away, and I had to rebuild myself, and find out what was actually me and what was leftover armor from high school. What helped me through this process was a number of great friendships with strong amazing girls like Lee, and relationships, a few of which were particularly helpful in creating the character of Rennik :). So a lot of that does come from straight from me.
Melanie: Were there things in this story that you were hoping to use that never made it in?
Amy Rose: Oh, absolutely. I had to destroy an entire planet full of aliens who sort of eat peoples’ memories. It was killing the pace and it had to go—although I did get one trade review that said I missed the opportunity to write crazy aliens and I wanted to say, “But THEY ATE MEMORIES!”
Still, in the end it’s okay because Rainbow Rowell told me I’m Darth Vader. I would destroy a thousand planets for Rainbow Rowell to compare me to a Star Wars character, even one who breathes funny.
Melanie: One of your reviews highlights that “Firefly” feel of your book. If Cade was on Serenity what do you think she would do?
Amy Rose: Oh, this is one of my favourite questions ever! While I didn’t have Firefly in mind when I was writing, I love that anyone would connect those stories. If Cade was on Serenity she would immediately pick a fight with Jayne, scheme with Zoe, and play her guitar so loudly that Mal would grumble. And I think Cade and River would be wary of each other at first, but then they would have chemistry through the roof—Rennik might have to watch out!
Melanie: Indeed! Thanks so much, Amy Rose for dropping by.