Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Author Interview & Giveaway: Amy Ackley (Sign Language)

Today I'm welcoming Amy Ackley, author of the heart-breakingly beautiful YA novel Sign Language, for a small interview. Read my review of her novel HERE to find out why I loved it so much.
Thank you so much for taking your time to answer my questions, Amy. I love your answers!
Goodreads Summary of Sign Language:
Twelve-year-old Abby North's first hint that something is really wrong with her dad is how long it's taking him to recover from what she thought was routine surgery. Soon, the thing she calls "It" has a real name: cancer. Before, her biggest concerns were her annoying brother, the crush unaware of her existence, and her changing feelings for her best friend, Spence, the boy across the street. Now, her mother cries in the shower, her father is exhausted, and nothing is normal anymore. Amy Ackley's impressive debut is wrenching, heartbreaking, and utterly true.

Sign Language is a heart-breakingly beautiful story. How much did your own experiences with this topic inspire you to write this novel?

Like Abby, I lost my father when I was just shy of fourteen, after helping take care of him at home during his illness. This, of course, affected me deeply. The feelings Abby experiences in the book mirror my own recollections of what I felt like during that time, and how hard it was to try to be a normal teenager when I didn't think anyone else could relate to what I was going through at home. Sign Language is fiction, but the emotions are real. While losing my father at such a young age was traumatic, I like to think that something beautiful came out of that loss. It made me appreciate life, to live every day like it is my last, and follow my dreams today because I don't know what tomorrow will bring.  

I loved that Abby is constantly looking for signs that might answer her questions about her life. Do you share her belief in signs?

I am highly superstitious - not in a lucky-rabbit's-foot kind of way - but continue to look for meaning in everyday life, trying to figure out what it is I'm supposed to be learning from unfolding events and seeking hints from the great beyond about which path to take. I think we do get signs if we're open to seeing them. And I still talk to my Magic 8 Ball.

What part of writing Sign Language did you like most? What was the most difficult part for you?

I liked writing the character Spence. I wish I'd had a Spence when I was young and scared and confused. When Abby's normal life is crumbling away, he is her rock, the one person that stands by her despite her emotional highs and lows. He buckles up and rides the emotional roller coaster, right by her side. The most difficult part of writing Sign Language was, aside from the emotions I revisited when recalling my own father's sickness, trying to make Abby's voice authentic as she grew from a naive 12-year-old in the beginning to a more mature 15-year-old at the end, and touching on the stages of grief she goes through without the narrative feeling rushed or, alternatively, dragged out.

Do you have any favorite writers who inspired you to become an author and influenced your writing? What books do you enjoy most?

I read all genres, but I am drawn to realistic fiction. I love to read about characters overcoming personal struggles ... what they learn, how they grow. My favorite writers are Janet Fitch and Jodi Picoult. I don't try to emulate other styles of writing, but these authors make me want to be that good.

Despite dealing with the lives of teenagers, the Young Adult genre is loved by readers of many different age groups. What made you decide to write a YA novel and what do you like most about this genre?

I'm 38 and love YA! I think it appeals to many adult readers because we have all been teenagers; it's a period of our lives when we're beginning to become the people we were meant to be. We learn so much during that time, about ourselves, about others, about the world. It's a time of deep friendships and first loves and wide-open possibilities. Who wouldn't want to revisit that? Besides, I think I will forever be 16 at heart!

Can you tell us anything about other projects/novels you’re working on?

I'm currently finishing up a very high concept book that has taken me years to complete. It's a work of contemporary fiction with roots in J.M. Barrie's story of Peter Pan. All the pieces are finally falling together, and I'm really excited about what this novel has become. I tried outlining, but the characters took the story in a completely different direction than what I'd envisioned in the beginning and, as always, I think the characters were right! But maybe I should go ask my Magic 8 Ball...

I'm also very lucky to tell you now that the lovely Amy sent me a signed hardback copy of Sign Language to give away to one lucky winner.

To be able to enter this giveaway you need to be a GFC follower of Fictional Distraction and at least 13 years old. This giveaway is open internationally and will close on October 26th, 2011 mightnight EST.

The winner will be notified via e-mail and has 48 hours to respond before another winner will be chosen. Once I have sent off the novel, I cannot be held responsible for what happens with it.

Fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter. Comments are very welcome, but aren't counted as giveaway entries.


  1. Can't wait to read it!!! Thanks for the giveaway!!! =D


  2. I really like the sound of this book, thanks for the chance to win.

  3. This is such an excellent interview. I found myself nodding along because I have so much in common with Amy. My dad died of cancer when I was 10, after a very lengthy illness, and that was the basis for my own debut novel. I'm also superstitious and always looking for signs, and I loved what Amy said about YA and why it appeals to people of all ages - so true! Thanks for this great interview, and the giveaway too. :-)

  4. Looks like an amazing book!
    Thanks for the giveaway! :D

  5. Please count me in, and great interview!

  6. Thank you for the giveaway, sounds a great book.
    New follower here.
    Lindsay @ The Littlereader Library

  7. This book looks SO good! Great Q&A!

  8. Thank you for this great giveaway!
    I'd love to read this, it's definitely my cup of tea. :)

  9. Thank you so much for the opportunity. :)

  10. HI:) Thanks for this great giveaway! I've been seeing posts about this book lately and have been eager to read it.

    Sarah Bibi Setar


  11. How sad that you lost your father at such a young age. =( But that is cool that the novel is inspired by it in a way. Sign Language sounds phenomenal and emotional so I must read it!

  12. Wow. The story sounds amazing. I would love a chance to read this! Thank you!

  13. This book sounds amazing ! would love to read it ! thanks for this awesome giveaway !

    gfc : Ifrah

  14. Great interview and thanks for the fantastic giveaway! I can't wait to read this.

  15. This book seems amazing! Thank you for the giveaway!

  16. brill book, thanks for doing the giveaway

  17. That sounds a great book! something different!

    Thanks for the post.

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