Anna-Marie McLemore here, and today I’m thrilled to interview Annie Cardi, whose debut blends a contemporary setting, captivating history, complicated family life, and new love. Here’s a little more about THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN:
Driver’s ed and a first crush should be what Alex Winchester is stressed out about in high school — and she is. But what’s really on her mind is her mother. Why is she dressing in Dad’s baggy khaki pants with a silk scarf around her neck? What is she planning when she pores over maps in the middle of the night? When did she stop being Mom and start being Amelia Earhart? Alex tries to keep her budding love life apart from the growing disaster at home as her mother sinks further into her delusions. But there are those nights, when everyone else is asleep, when it’s easier to confide in Amelia than it ever was to Mom. Now, as Amelia’s flight plans become more intense, Alex is increasingly worried that Amelia is planning her final flight — the flight from which she never returns. What could possibly be driving Mom’s delusions, and how far will they take her?
A-M: Thanks for stopping by to talk about your fabulous debut, Annie! How did the idea of a girl whose mother thinks she’s Amelia Earhart come about?
Annie: I get a lot of story ideas from random lines or phrases that pop into my head. This one began when I was spending the summer in Chicago. I was walking around when the line “My mother thinks she’s Amelia Earhart” came to mind. I was really intrigued by who this narrator was and who her mom was and what kind of disruption this would cause in a household.
A-M: Alex’s mother may have dreams of piloting Amelia Earhart’s plane, but Alex doesn’t even want to take driving lessons. What inspired you to write a character who’s so reluctant to get behind the wheel?
Annie: Although I didn’t have Alex-levels of paranoia, I had a lot of driving-related anxiety when I was a teen. My parents were kind of baffled that I didn’t want to get behind the wheel and drive off into the sunset. Driving is seen as a rite of passage for teens, but it’s also a big, powerful machine and the road can be so chaotic–there are a lot of pressures associated with driving. At the beginning of the novel, Alex is feeling lost and overwhelmed, and the driving thing seemed to be the perfect challenge for her.
One of the unexpectedly fun parts of having TCYWR out in the world is that so many people have admitted they hate driving, too, and had a horrible time with drivers ed. It’s way more common to freak out about driving than most YA novels or teen movies would have you think!
A-M: I know I wish I’d had a Jim Wiley teaching me to drive! How did the romance between Alex and Jim take shape during the writing process?
Annie: Would that we all had a Jim Wiley for driver’s ed! 😉 I wanted to see Alex and Jim come together naturally, both as people who are attracted to each other and as people who are dealing with rumors at school and issues at home and their own sets of secrets. I started off knowing that Jim was an artist and that, for some reason, he’d driven into the side of his house. It was fun to see them come together as characters who feel like they’re both kind of on the outside of a lot of things.
A-M: TCYWR not only features Alex’s mother’s struggle with mental illness, it also has another character with a neurological difference. Without giving too much away, what inspired you to write a character dealing with this?
Annie: I knew this character had something going on that wasn’t what everyone else thought they were dealing with, but it wasn’t until I was in the middle of the first draft that I realized the “secret” was a neurological difference. (It’s not even a “secret” really, in that it’s not a big dramatic reveal and it’s not something the character is hiding, but it’s not generally common knowledge.) For me, it was a reminder that people are dealing with all sorts of differences and challenges all the time without the rest of us necessarily knowing about them. For Alex’s mom, her delusions and depression were a big deal. For this other character, it was a small deal. So much of what I want readers to get is that everyone is dealing with something, and that mental health issues or neurological differences are totally common.
A-M: Each of the chapters in THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN opens with an Amelia Earhart quote. Do you have a favorite?
Annie: I’m a big fan of chapter 7’s quote: “I didn’t realize it at the time, but the cooperation of one’s family and close friends is one of the greatest safety factors a fledgling flyer can have.” I totally feel this in my own life and writing career–surrounding yourself with people who love and support you can make a huge difference when you’re putting yourself out there and taking risks.
A-M: So true, and what a wonderful quote to take from TCYWR! What are you working on next?
Annie: I’m currently working on another contemporary realistic YA novel. This one is also about a teen girl dealing with family drama and changes at home and what it means to claim your own identity, but (I hope) the tone is a lot more comic. I’ve had this character’s voice in my head for a while, so it’s been a lot of fun to write.
A-M: As this community is fearless: what’s something you’re afraid of and something you’re not afraid of?
Annie: I’m a total arachnophobe. I don’t even like seeing pictures of spiders! When I went to see The Hobbit 2, fellow YA author Emily Kate Johnston warned me in advance of when the giant spiders would appear and when it was safe to watch again. I also get unreasonably nervous about a lot of things, like pumping gas (I’m afraid something is going to spark and I’ll blow up) and driving places I’ve never been before and calling people on the phone.
Something I’m not afraid of is being alone. I almost never think “I’m bored or lonely, I need to hang out with someone.” I love being by myself! It’s when I get to dance around the room to cheesy pop music.
A-M: Thanks so much for sharing about THE CHANCE YOU WON’T RETURN, how you write, and your solo dance parties, Annie! 🙂
Annie Cardi holds an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College and a BA from the University of Virginia. Her short stories have appeared in The Georgetown Review, Vestal Review, Juked, and other publications. In 2011, PEN New England selected her as a winner of the Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award for the manuscript that would become her debut young adult novel, The Chance You Won’t Return. Annie lives near Boston with her husband and a portrait of a sea captain. You can find her sharing funny gifs and pictures of corgis at: Blog Facebook Twitter Tumblr.
|Anna-Marie McLemore writes from her Mexican-American heritage and the love for stories she learned from her family. She lives in California’s Central Valley with a boy from the other side of the Rockies. Her debut novel THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a YA contemporary love story with a magical twist, will be released in 2015 from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. You can find her on Twitter @laannamarie.|