You might have a minimalist home and an online shopping cart full of minimalist holiday gifts, but that doesn’t mean your books have to be muted too. This week, we’re shouting from the rooftops about Amy Rose Capetta’s Echo After Echo ($18), a haunting and romantic YA novel that takes on the magic of the theater. When Zara lands her dream acting role, she’s thrilled — until people start dying, each under more mysterious circumstances than the last. Come for the suspense, stay for the romance between Zara and Eli, a badass lady lighting whiz. We caught up with Capetta to chat inspiration, creativity advice, and books on her must-read list. Scroll on to learn more from this brilliant author!
B+C: Describe your book in six words or less.
Amy Rose Capetta: Girls in love + murder mystery + theater!
B+C: Where and when do you do your best writing?
ARC: I write most and best in the morning. As the legendary Rita Williams-Garcia told me, “Write when your brain is still bendy.” This will probably mean different times of the day for different writers!
I just moved to Vermont so I’m setting up a new rotation of kitchen table/library/coffee shop, but I can write almost anywhere as long as I can carve out a little personal space and listen to my writing playlist.
B+C: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done for book research?
ARC: I climbed a redwood tree at dawn, wearing a cocktail dress, in the company of a person I didn’t know terribly well but thought was cute. I didn’t know it was book research at the time — sort of reverse research? By the time I finished climbing down I had the feeling I would put it in a story someday, and I kept it in my back pocket for years. It finally found its home: the opening of my next novel with Candlewick, The Lost Coast, about witchy queer teenagers in the redwoods of Northern California.
B+C: What’s your go-to cure for when you’re stuck in a creativity rut?
ARC: Whenever I’m really, truly stuck, I need to read more. It’s not about finding a way back into writing, or even specific craft techniques, although those can come up too — it’s usually that I’m losing the forest for the trees. In this case, the trees are the sentences I’m putting down, the deadlines I’m looking ahead to, the mechanics of pulling a new story together.
The forest is that feeling you get when you read. The wonder, the fear about what will happen, the pull of possibility, the scope that’s bigger than any one scene, the feeling that this is ultimately about connecting with another human being to create some kind of meaning. If you lose the forest, you lose the story. Trees don’t thrive without a forest, and even the prettiest sentences and most fascinating characters are going to need a story to make them rich and alive in the fullest sense. When I have that feeling back, as a reader, I can usually write again.
B+C: What two lady heroes do you turn to for inspiration, and why?
ARC: I actually share a collection of lady hero action figures with my partner (Cori McCarthy, who’s also a YA author)! We add one whenever something good happens, writing- or publishing-wise. It’s a reminder that (a) women already kick ass in many ways, in many stories, and (b) representation still has a super long way to go.
One of the lady heroes I turn to most right now is Wonder Woman because I can see how she’s reshaping the narrative. Two years ago my partner and I were upset because our five-year-old son had already internalized the message that superheroes were boys. No matter what we said, that wasn’t what he saw when he looked at the big movies. Now he runs around town wearing a headband of power, using an invisible lasso of truth. Thank you, Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot! (And if you haven’t checked out the YA novel Wonder Woman: Warbringer ($19) by Leigh Bardugo, you’re in for a treat.)
The other lady hero I’ve been thinking about a lot and loving fiercely is Wynonna Earp, the titular character of a show that WAY more people should be watching. It’s a woman-powered story in a way that I still think is exceedingly rare in mainstream media. Wynonna is all about whiskey and putting down the undead demon versions of the people Wyatt Earp killed (yes, you heard me), but she’s never the token one-dimensional “strong female character” that pastes traditionally masculine traits on a conventionally attractive lady and calls it a day.
The showrunner Emily Andras gets women involved in every aspect of production — and it makes a difference. Wynonna is allowed to be so many things, and here are just a few: staunchly there for the people she loves, believably messed up, sexual on her own terms, goofy-hilarious, caring and vulnerable and open, and completely steely-eyed in the face of trouble. She takes on complicated and ever-evolving roles in family and relationships, but her own personality is always front and center. Plus, the show features some of the best secondary characters (Wayhaught! Dolls! Doc!), quick-draw storytelling, and banter in the business.
Joss Whedon got an enormous amount of credit for doing probably a tenth as much with his female characters; Wynonna is revolutionary in a way that not many people are paying attention to. And it doesn’t escape my notice that it’s probably because the show is a genre party run by women. When men do the same kind of storytelling, it’s considered accessible to everyone — when women take the helm, it’s somehow seen as only for a certain subset of feminist and queer nerds. I’d love to see Wynonna Earp get more widespread love.
B+C: What’s your latest Instagram obsession?
ARC: I don’t usually follow celebrities on social media, but I couldn’t help when it comes to Gina Rodriguez (@hereisgina). I love her positivity, but at the same time, she doesn’t hide her struggles. She’s socially aware in a way that’s completely integrated into everything she does. Her “Movement Mondays” posts on Instagram are particularly awesome. I’m so glad that she’s got a range of projects coming out, including producing new shows and playing queer characters in upcoming movies!
B+C: Can you name a book that you think deserves a little more love + recognition?
ARC: I’m in love with a contemporary YA retelling of Much Ado About Nothing called The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You ($19). This book is heaven for a Shakespeare nerd who’s pretty much addicted to banter. It’s my favorite YA rom-com, plus Lily Anderson is a badass human and a writer to get excited about.
B+C: What’s next on your to-read pile?
ARC: Soooooo many things. But here are two that I’m particularly looking forward to. Wild Beauty ($18), Anna-Marie McLemore’s newest YA novel, with her special blend of magical realism and impossibly lovely prose, is softly but insistently calling my name from the shelf. And Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties ($16) is something I’ve been waiting to sink into since I first saw the book announcement. I’ve read a few of Carmen’s (brilliant, funny, strange, sexy, dire, genre-splicing) short stories before, but this is her first collection and I’m going to savor it.
B+C: What advice do you have for aspiring creative ladies?
ARC: We talk a lot about the joys of creating things, but I’ve been thinking lately about the joys of using art to destroy things too. We can use a story to tear down old narratives that aren’t serving us — that in a lot of cases are actively harming us. A lot of Echo After Echo is about this: destroying the notion that a love story between two women will end in tragedy, going even further back to confront the idea that an epic love story won’t be between two women in the first place. Digging up the roots of the untouchable male genius myth, which is so often used to shelter predators. In your art, you can take apart whatever is holding us back in society.
I want to encourage women and femme people to create with one hand and destroy with the other. It’s not a binary system — the more I learn to balance these, the more I love and deeply care about my stories. Especially right now, when there’s so much to work against.
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(Photos via Cori McCarthy/Syfy)