Author Interview: Kim Askew and Amy Helmes

I’m joined by authors Kim Askew and Amy Helmes for this month’s Author Interview! Their book, Puck, is part of their Twisted Lit series where they give Shakespeare’s plays a modern retelling.

New to this blog: I’ll be hosting an Ask the Author Twitter chat later today from 5 to 6pm CST! This is a chance for you to ask your own questions of the authors, whether these are about the book or if you’re looking for writing advice! To participate, all you need to do is tag myself @spinesinaline, the authors @kaskew and @amyhelmes, and use the hashtag #asktheauthor. See the Ask the Author page for more details.

If you’re not able to join us at this time, you can still ask your questions! Either do the above, just earlier, leave your questions on this post, or you can ask them over on our Goodreads group and I’ll make sure they get asked during the chat!

Looking forward to talking with you all later tonight, but for now let’s get on to the interview!

puck-image
Puck
by Kim Askew and Amy Helmes

Genre: YA/Contemporary

Life isn’t always fair, and no one knows that better than fifteen-year-old Puck. When she’s unceremoniously booted from yet another foster home, this city kid lands at DreamRoads, a rehabilitation wilderness camp for juvies. Her fellow campers include a famous pop star with a diva attitude, a geeky, “fish out water” math whiz, and a surly gang-banger with a chip on his shoulder. The program’s steely director aims to break Puck, but she knows that every adult has a breaking point, too. Determined to defy this realm of agonizing nature hikes and soul-sucking psychobabble — even if that means manipulating four lovestruck camp counselors and the director’s dim-witted second-in-command — Puck ultimately gets much more than she bargains for in this “wondrous strange” outdoor odyssey inspired by The Bard’s most beguiling comedy.

Get it here: Amazon | Indie Bound

Sam/Spines: Let’s start off with a little game to learn more about you: what are two truths and a lie about yourselves?

Amy Helmes: I was once a contestant on Jeopardy; I used to work in a library; I played Ophelia in a college production of “Hamlet.”

Kim Askew: I’ve ridden camels in Germany and Jordan; I drove an ice cream truck as a summer job in high school; where I was head cheerleader.

S: How did you both get started in writing? Have you always wanted to be a writer?

KA: I once wrote an epic poem about a unicorn during nap time. I always dreamed about being a writer. My first post-college career was in publishing, and I started getting my short stories and articles published soon after. When I’m writing the world makes sense.

AH: I enjoyed writing from a very early age, often turning “boring” school assignments into creative challenges that would make my teachers laugh. By the time I was a reporter for my college newspaper, I knew I wanted to write for a living. I was lucky enough to land a magazine gig in Los Angeles when I graduated, and it’s been full steam ahead from there.

S: What are some of the benefits or challenges of working collaboratively on a novel?

AH: The “work” becomes fun when you’re collaborating with your best friend. We’ve spent countless hours laughing, having manic brainstorming sessions, agonizing over plot  dilemmas and celebrating our successes together. It’s so much more gratifying to share the process with someone else.

KA: Amy said it perfectly. It’s more fun when you’re sharing it with your best friend!

S: You write many Shakespeare-inspired books for your Twisted Lit series; how did you first come up with the idea for this series?

KA: We knew we wanted to write a book together, so every day we would send each other ideas for projects. One day I was getting on a plane and I sent Amy a few ideas, including one for YA Shakespeare adaptations. Amy knew right away that was what we should do. She’s smart like that!

S: Can you tell us a little about your book, Puck?

AH: Our heroine, Puck, is a fiery, sometimes manipulative young woman who’s sent, against her will, to a rehabilitation wilderness camp for juvenile delinquents. There, she sets about gaming the camp counselors and draconian director to get her way and (she hopes) escape this maddening limbo of psychobabble and boot camp drudgery. Ultimately, she must learn to understand the equally troubled souls in her midst and come face-to-face with some hard truths she’s been desperately avoiding.

S: How did you decide how to reinvent this story?

AH: We were initially inspired by the troublemaking fairies in Shakespeare’s play. Who would be their modern-day equivalent? What kind of characters could stir up all kinds of sh#! but still, at the end of the day, be charismatic and wildly entertaining? Focusing on society’s rejects — the brattiest of brats — gave us so much potential for creating a novel that was as colorful and comical as the Bard’s original version.

S: What are each of your favourite Shakespeare plays?

AH: I think I’ve always been most drawn to “Macbeth,” which may be why that play inspired our first novel, Exposure. It’s a relatively short play, but there’s so much dark, intense drama that evokes some pretty complicated emotions. Our goal is to write novels that even people who think they hate Shakespeare really enjoy.

KA: “Hamlet” is my favorite. I’m pretty sure we’ll get around to adapting that one someday.

S: What is your favourite thing about being an author?

AH: Just getting lost in the writing process and feeling as though I’m truly creating a whole different world.

KA: The act of writing is pure joy. I also love brainstorming with Amy.

S: What are you working on next?

KA: We are working on another collaborative project with some kick-ass heroines; more on that soon!

S: And now for some fun questions: What is your Hogwarts house?

AH: Gryffindor. I’m pretty sure Hermione and I would have been besties.

KA: I’m definitely in the same house as Amy and Hermione.

S: Favourite flavour of ice cream?

KA: Chocolate.

AH: Mocha chip.

S: Dogs or cats?

AH: Cats, because they just seem cool and collected. Dogs are such spazzes.

KA: Dogs. I have a terrier named Macbeth and a shepherd mix named Dolce.

S: And finally, where can we find you?

AH: You can check out our books at twistedlitbooks.com, like our Facebook page or follow us at Instagram. I’m on Twitter at @amyhelmes and Kim is @kaskew. Thanks so much for getting to know us! (P.S.: In that first question, our final facts were the lies!)

About the Authors: Losphotobooth shoot with authors Amy Helmes and Kim Askew Angeles-based writers and bffs Kim Askew and Amy Helmes have been writing together since 2007. Askew’s work has appeared in Elle, The Wall Street Journal, and other magazines as well as the anthology The May Queen. Helmes is the author of several books, including The Wisdom of Nancy Drew and Betty and Veronica: A Girl’s Guide to the ‘Comic’ World of Dating. Her essay “Searching for Mr. Darcy” was featured in the Los Angeles Times.


Thank you so much to both the authors for sharing your thoughts here! Don’t forget to join us tonight to learn even more about them during our Twitter chat!

Just remember the hashtag #asktheauthor!

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