Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Amy Makechnie

Amy Makechnie is the author of the critically acclaimed debut novel, The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair. Her second novel, Ten Thousand Tries, was written for all the kids, the ones who have ever had the audacity to try and try and try again.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Ten Thousand Tries immediately alludes to a theory that Malcom Gladwell made famous and which my main character, Golden, seizes upon: that you can master anything by doing it ten thousand times. (Gladwell also says this does not apply to sports, but I wasn’t about to tell Golden that!) Golden is convinced that with enough effort, he can take his team to the soccer championship, stop Lucy Littlehouse from moving away, and prevent his dad from losing to the three worst letters in the alphabet: A-L-S. The title is wonderfully alliterative and works well, but the original title was When We Were Golden. Even now I am still a bit partial to the original.

What's in a name?

Whenever I meet people with interesting names, I write them down. This is what happened with my main character, Golden. As soon as I heard it, I knew I’d have to use it someday! For an 8th grade boy, “Golden” can be a tough one. His frenemies give him all sorts of nicknames, “Goldfish,” “Golden Macaroni,” “Goldilocks.” Despite the teasing, Golden feels destined to do something great in his life. His name represents so many hopes and dreams that we have during the middle school years. Benny Ho is Golden’s best friend with Chinese ancestry. Lucy Littlehouse is the next door neighbor best friend with long blond braids and rollerskates. I love the alliteration of her name, and “Littlehouse” is just cute.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

A huge reader, she would be shocked and awed that her future self was writing novels! She would also love to read it - I’m sure of. Perhaps I’ve never truly grown up.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I have a pretty good idea what both the beginning and ending will be, but I tweak and edit the beginning much more than the ending because I know I must pull the reader in right away if I want to keep them reading. With Ten Thousand Tries, I looked forward to and dreaded the ending because there are so many feelings going on. In fact, I cried quite a bit writing it - but not because it’s all sad! There’s just a lot of heart.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

My characters definitely begin as a part of me. I relate to them on a very personal level. In the beginning I feel I’m often writing from my POV exclusively, but by the end, each character has morphed into their own separate identities, separating from me.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

For Ten Thousand Tries, I was hugely influenced by three factors: my good friend who had ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), my “golden boy” middle-schooler son who was obsessed with Lionel Messi, and the co-ed middle school soccer team I coach. In more general writing terms, my mother and husband have greatly influenced me for the better. My mother because she’s such a terrific storyteller, and my husband because he’s a walking dictionary (it drives me crazy and has been spectacularly helpful).
Visit Amy Makechnie's website.

--Marshal Zeringue