The Teen Press Corps is excited about the Buzz Book this month, Tease by Amanda Maciel, and they are getting the inside dish on the author who is behind the buzz!
TPC: Could you tell us a little bit about Tease?
Amanda Maciel: Tease is a novel about bullying and its consequences, told from the perspective of an accused bully. When Emma Putnam commits suicide, Sara Wharton and several of her friends are brought up on criminal charges for bullying Emma. Sara feels wrongly accused, but as time goes on, she must confront her actions, and ultimately find a way to heal from the tragedy that has forever changed her life.
TPC: This book is sure to stir up some serious discussions in the YA community, why did you feel the need to write a book from the bully’s perspective?
Amanda: There have been a lot of stories like Emma and Sara’s in the news lately, and I’ve found them all very upsetting. When a friend of mine was closely involved in a similar case, I started to notice how vicious people allow themselves to be toward an accused bully—essentially, once someone is accused of bad (or terrible) behavior, the rest of us turn into bullies ourselves, peppering comments sections with sweepingly cruel remarks. I started wondering if anyone ever sees themselves as the bully in any situation. What if we’re all so busy reacting to each other, and trying to draw the lines of acceptable behavior, that we’re actually losing track of how we’re treating each other?
TPC: What inspired you to write Tease?
Amanda: As I mentioned, a very close friend was working at a school where a girl like Emma took her own life. That case was very, very different from the story I tell in Tease, but it got me thinking on a more personal level about the kids involved, and the community destroyed, when events as shocking as suicide and criminal prosecution take over.
TPC: We LOVE the cover of the book! Did you have any input on the decision for the final cover?
Amanda: I love it too!!! No, I was happy to let my publisher and their incredible design team figure out the cover art. I actually work as a children’s book editor, so much of my day job is spent on cover concepting and design—I was happy to take a break for my own novel!
TPC: Are you a careful planner or do you let the story guide you?
Amanda: I let the story guide me. So far, I haven’t been able to outline anything I’ve written—usually I have a general idea for the overall story, and a strong impulse for how the opening chapters should look. Then as I write, I think about the characters, where they’d go and what they’d want or try to do.
TPC: What was the most difficult part in writing your book?
Amanda: Just getting it done, really. I have a full-time job and a toddler at home (who was a baby when I wrote Tease), so time management was a huge factor.
TPC: What inspired you to become a writer?
Amanda: Everyone says it, but—I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I loved reading from a young age, and I thought being an author would be the greatest job. Over the years I’ve studied poetry, worked in journalism, and ultimately found a home in children’s publishing, so I’ve been writing in one way or another this whole time. But it took me a while to figure out how to be a novelist—which, if I’m being honest, is what I really wanted to be all along!
TPC: What is your favorite scene or line from Tease?
Amanda: I love the scenes with Sara’s little brothers, Tommy and Alex. I don’t have younger siblings myself, and I really enjoyed getting to know those guys. At one point Tommy is in Sara’s room, talking about the trial, and it touches her very deeply. I have to admit, I find that scene very moving, too.
TPC: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Amanda: I’m a runner, and often run with my husband. During a race several years ago, the elite (super-fast) runners passed us as they finished a lap, and he said something very wise: “The great thing about running is that we’re all working as hard as we can.”
That’s writing. It’s hard for everyone, but if you’re on the road, moving forward—writing—you’ll get somewhere.
TPC: Do you have any other books in the works? What are your future goals?
Amanda: I’ve just handed in a draft of a second novel to my editor, and right now I’m working on something new. I really love contemporary YA fiction, so I’m focusing on that. And of course there’s still the day job and the small child at home—I’m keeping busy!
TPC: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Amanda: Yes, but I think it’s the same message any writer is trying to convey: I want people to sympathize, to appreciate the complexity of the world and the people around them. I want that for everyone, not just the people who read Tease. We are just naturally quick to judge, and that can be dangerous and destructive. Even if you can’t forgive someone’s actions, you should still try to recognize your shared humanity. At the end of the day, I think that’s all we really have, and we should treat it with more care and kindness.
TPC: Do you have any advice for those who are the bully/being bullied?
Amanda: Bullying is such a specific, case-by-case problem, I don’t know that any one word of advice can really help. Reaching out to trusted adults in your community, hanging onto your friends—those are your best immediate resources. For people who think they might be the bully, I’d recommend the same thing.
We could all try being less afraid, too. I think fear is a terrible motivator in our lives. Fear of rejection, of loneliness, of being different—it can ruin your life. It’s important to fight back against fear, however it manifests.