Huge thanks to Amy Rose Capetta for putting together this fantastic post for us today! Her forthcoming novel, The Brilliant Death (October 30th, 2018), is a captivating and unique fantasy story filled with magic, the love and loyalty of family, a beautiful and irresistible queer romance, and a powerful reminder of the importance of being true to ourselves no matter what. In anticipation of its release, Amy has graciously agreed to join me for a Q&A about the novel and her career as a writer. Please make sure to check Amy out on her website, Twitter, and Goodreads!
Click here to check out my full review of The Brilliant Death!
How did you get into writing, and when did you decide to pursue it as a career?
I don’t remember a time before I was reading voraciously, and for me reading flowed naturally into writing. I was always story-obsessed. When I was eight years old, I went to writing camp (which, when I say out loud, people confuse with “riding camp”—but I’m not much a horseperson and I have the stories to prove it.) At writing camp, I wrote stories about opera singing yaks and sentient grocery stores. My best friend there wrote exclusively about magical pandas. I think everyone at the time thought it was a cute kid hobby, but she and I both grew up to be authors.
I decided to pursue writing as a career towards the end of college, but it took a while to figure out exactly what kind of stories to focus on. When I found YA genre fiction, I felt like I’d found my home. And when I started writing queer main characters, the stories started pouring out of me at a startling rate. Learning writing craft was important but putting my true heart in my stories was the missing piece.
What do you find to be the most challenging part of the writing process?
Feelings! I always have to go back and layer them in as I draft, because I’m usually discovering and working through my own feelings as I go. For The Brilliant Death, I had to get even more in touch with feelings about power and family and fate and gender and carving a new way forward in a patriarchal world.
I know some writers whose emotional truth pours out of them in torrents. I’m awed by those folks. I have to enter the world first, and find the cast of characters, and work my way in.
But now that I’ve written several books, it’s getting easier to cut straight to that honest place.
What inspired you to write The Brilliant Death?
Since I was young, I’ve wanted to write about my family’s history and stories of the small town they came from in Italy. Those tales always felt magical and epic in scale, so it wasn’t hard to take it a step further and add strega magic and some mafia scheming.
The other truth is that I wanted to write a story that gets underneath the idea of a “girl disguised as a boy.” I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with “pants” roles. Viola in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is the original Italian femme in slacks, and I both loved her and always felt so frustrated by the need to bring these stories back to an ending where girls are girls and boys are boys and there has to be one of each in love with each other for a happy ending. I wanted a character who goes a lot farther in terms of exploring the wide world of gender and sexuality and coming to a new understanding. It always felt like a missed opportunity to me!
When writing The Brilliant Death, who was your favorite character to create and why?
I hope anyone who reads the book will be able to see the joy that went into writing Cielo. I can’t exactly claim to have created the character—Cielo is very much inspired by my own real-life love interest (and sometimes co-author!) Cori McCarthy. There are differences of course! Cielo’s enchanted book was born when I read the Italian folktale “The Canary Prince.” And there’s a touch of an homage to Howl in Howl’s Moving Castle in Cielo as well…
What books and/or authors have inspired you the most?
I am endlessly inspired by the work of writers in YA fantasy, who are pushing at the boundaries of all of our maps.
Leigh Bardugo, Melina Marchetta, and Kristin Cashore are pillars of my collection. Libba Bray is like no other. Kiersten White and Heidi Heilig are writers I turn to for inventive stories with historical roots. In contemporary worlds, Daniel José Older’s Shadowshaper series is radically good and Zoraida Córdova’s brujas are my favorite witchy girls. Nova Ren Suma and Melissa Albert take fantasy to deliciously dark places. Nnedi Okorafor writes across all age groups, and everything she does is glorious. Malinda Lo is the first queen of YA queer girl genre fiction. Sarah McCarry has written mythical punk tales in the most beautiful prose. Alex London’s new (gay!) falconry epic, Black Wings Beating, is beyond exciting to me.
I have five queer YA fantasy novels coming out, starting with The Brilliant Death, and it wouldn’t be possible without the authors who paved that route.
I’m also a lifelong fan of Italo Calvino, whose Italian Folktales collection gave me solid ground for the magic in this series. When I was reading through hundreds of pages of old stories, I saw a thread that ties them all together: transformation. (Which is about the queerest theme out there, and one of my favorites. Maybe it’s why I was drawn to stories of magic all along.) Transformation is what breaks us out of a single, set way of seeing things and paints the world in every shade of possibility.
And I’m inspired the most, every day, by Cori McCarthy. I was a fan of their writing before we even spoke to each other. We talk craft constantly and chase stories together—but our love is my favorite story.
Amy Rose Capetta [she/her] is an author of YA fantasy, sci-fi, and mystery. Her first novel, Entangled, was a BEA Buzz Book. Her latest, Echo After Echo, is a queer love story wrapped in a murder mystery and set on Broadway. It received two starred reviews and is a Junior Library Guild selection. Upcoming: The Brilliant Death (Viking 2018), The Lost Coast (Candlewick 2019), Once & Future (co-written with Cori McCarthy, from Little, Brown’s Jimmy Imprint in 2019). She holds a BA in Theater Arts from the University of California at Santa Cruz and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from VCFA. Amy Rose is the co-founder of the Rainbow Writers Workshop, the first-ever LGBTQIAP workshop for YA and middle grade. She lives in Vermont with her partner and their young son.
Check Out The Book:
The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta
Synopsis: For Teodora DiSangro, a mafia don’s daughter, family is fate.
All her life, Teodora has hidden the fact that she secretly turns her family’s enemies into music boxes, mirrors, and other decorative objects. After all, everyone in Vinalia knows that stregas—wielders of magic—are figures out of fairytales. Nobody believes they’re real.
Then the Capo, the land’s new ruler, sends poisoned letters to the heads of the Five Families that have long controlled Vinalia. Four lie dead and Teo’s beloved father is gravely ill. To save him, Teo must travel to the capital as a DiSangro son—not merely disguised as a boy, but transformed into one.
Enter Cielo, a strega who can switch back and forth between male and female as effortlessly as turning a page in a book. Teo and Cielo journey together to the capital, and Teo struggles to master her powers and to keep her growing feelings for Cielo locked in her heart. As she falls in love with witty, irascible Cielo, Teo realizes how much of life she’s missed by hiding her true nature. But she can’t forget her mission, and the closer they get to the palace, the more sinister secrets they uncover about what’s really going on in their beloved country—and the more determined Teo becomes to save her family at any cost.