Amy Christine Parker is the author of three young adult novels: GATED, ASTRAY, and SMASH & GRAB. She resides in the Tampa, Florida area where it is way too hot for her liking and dreams of fall leaves and bonfires. When she is not writing, she is reading, traveling, spending time with her family, or binge-watching horror movies and true crime stories. Visit her at amychristineparker.com.
Voyage: What was the inspiration behind your novel, Smash & Grab? What made you want to tell the story?
Amy Christine Parker: I was inspired to write Smash & Grab when I came across a fascinating news article about a teenaged brother and sister who robbed banks with their father. The girl drove the getaway car, and the boy pulled off the heist with his dad. My curiosity was peaked. What would it be like to rob banks if you were a teenager? What would it be like to have a parent who was a criminal and who you felt pressured to help? The novel grew naturally from there. The original story for this book was much darker than the finished novel, though. It only became a heist book in the vein of Ocean’s Eleven after a lot of brainstorming. As I was writing, I really liked the idea of a girl who masterminded a heist, as my character Lexi does. It was a challenge to come up with ways to get into the bank. I did a lot of research to pull it off—even touring a local bank vault!
V: When you write your stories, what is the one thing you hope readers will take away?
ACP: I hope the one thing that is always true about the stories I tell is that they bring up moral dilemmas. I want readers to discuss what they think they’d do in similar circumstances—morally and ethically speaking. I like a lot of gray and no clear right or wrong for my characters. I want them to have to make complex decisions. But I also want readers to be entertained and if possible, for their heart rate to go up! I like tension and thrills and I also like to explore fear. I’m endlessly fascinated by what drives us, both the dark and light.
V: What was the hardest scene in Smash & Grab to write?
ACP: The hardest scenes for me by far are the romance scenes. In this book, the worst one was a scene where my two characters, Lexi and Christian, flirt in a donut shop. I truly wrestle with clever banter and creating romantic tension. This is probably because I have a difficult time being open when it comes to my own heart. It makes it harder to find that truth in my characters. I’m a very pragmatic person and tend to be very direct and straight forward in a less emotions-centric way. That isn’t always helpful when creating characters who need to woo other characters—where subtlety and emotional vulnerability is needed.
V: If you could tell your younger writer-self anything, what would it be?
ACP: I would tell my younger writer self to work very hard at honing her craft, but to also leave lots of room for play in her work. If it isn’t fun at least some of the time, it isn’t worth it. I’d also tell her to balance her perfectionism with productivity. It is better to get stories done and out into the world than endlessly tinker with them. And this is where that emotional vulnerability thing comes in again. I would tell my younger self to risk herself by opening up to people more and to really pay attention when others do the same. Emotional truth in fiction is what makes a story work even more than plot in my opinion. When readers relate to a character with empathy, you hook them.
V: What are you writing must haves?
ACP: I am super particular about my writing must haves! While I can work without them, I find it so much easier to write (not to mention more enjoyable) if I indulge in my favorite things.
My writer must haves are:
- Uni-ball Signo pens.
- Moleskin notebooks for brainstorming and initial outlining. I love the paper feel and the soft covers.
- Four bulletin boards, one for each of the four parts I break my novels into. They hang on the wall across from my desk so I can look at them as I draft.
- Large lined index cards for brainstorming scenes. These remain on my bulletin boards for the duration of the time I work on my novel.
- My book bible with a cheat sheet of my character’s names and basic traits as well as the novel’s timeline and worldbuilding stuff.
- Highlighters in various colors for revisions.
- My sound-blocking headphones and the app Brainwaves. It times my writing and provides white noise while I draft.
- My compression gloves for my aching fingers.
- A candle in a scent meant to enhance concentration, like grapefruit or peppermint.
- A hand massage machine that I use every night to keep my hands from getting stiff.
- A playlist of super angsty music with lyrics that feel like my current character’s innermost thoughts. This is how I channel that emotional vulnerability I keep talking about. I play this music right before I sit down to write to get in the proper mood.
- And of course, my laptop. I got a MacBook Air last Christmas and it’s been a revelation.