The Book of Your Heart Series: Amy Reed

thebookofyourheart-FEATUREDWhen an author says a book she’s written is the Book of Her Heart, what does that mean? In this completely irregular ongoing blog series, I’ve invited guest authors to reveal what they consider the Book of Their Heart—and share why this book holds a distinct and special place apart from all others they’ve written.

Here, to help celebrate her book birthday for her new edgy, contemporary YA novel Damaged, I have Amy Reed opening up for the first time about the book of her heart…

Guest post by Amy Reed

A Reed author photoAll of my five books have a piece of my heart in them. My new book, DAMAGED, will always be special to me because I was in my first trimester of pregnancy when my husband and I embarked on the cross-country road trip that would serve as the basis of the story. I battled a combination of morning sickness, carsickness, and weird food aversions (including water), all for the sake of art. My daughter was with me, the size of a blueberry, as the story of DAMAGED was born.

But I think the true books of my heart will always be my most autobiographical. BEAUTIFUL is by far the most autobiographical of my books, based on my experience moving from a rural island to a suburb of Seattle in seventh grade, experiences I’ve been very open about in the past. I’ve been less open about CLEAN. It is also very much autobiographical, but I’ve remained vague in interviews about how close I was to the story. After publishing five books, maybe it’s time to open up about why CLEAN is the book of my heart.

clean-coverCLEAN is based on my own experience in rehab when I was sixteen. I wrote it during my first year of sobriety after my second rehab, at age twenty-nine. I am now over five years sober and the happiest I’ve ever been, and I think my recovery plays a huge part in all of my novels since. I started drinking and using in much the same way as Cassie in BEAUTIFUL—I was thirteen, lonely, terrified, and I wanted to be cool. I fell in with a group of “friends” who were unlike anyone I had ever met, and I did whatever I thought I had to do in order to fit in. I had no foundation of self-esteem to help me say no, or to even ask myself what I actually wanted. I was addicted from the very beginning. I didn’t get high for fun like everyone else. I did it because I had to. It was the only way to keep myself from feeling all the horrible feelings that kept piling on the more I went in the wrong direction and the more I kept hurting myself.

By the time I was sixteen, I was exhausted and battling depression in addition to my drug abuse. I finally asked my mom for help, and after an evaluation, it was decided that month-long in-patient treatment would be the help I needed. I remember being scared, but more than anything, I remember feeling relieved. It felt good to let go of that secret, to ask for help, to stop trying to do everything on my own.

I learned a lot in rehab and I was clean for over a year afterwards, but I didn’t stay sober. To me, sobriety means much more than just being free from drugs and alcohol; it requires a whole shift in thinking, it requires growth and change and constant active effort to repair broken behavior and thought patterns. I did none of this. I was doing everything the same as before, just without drugs and alcohol. All the feelings I had been pushing away came back with a vengeance, and I was without the only tools I ever had to deal with them, and I wasn’t learning any new tools. I was miserable.

I relapsed shortly after high school graduation, and the next decade of my life was spent riding the downward spiral of addiction and alcoholism. I had gotten into the college of my dreams, but I dropped out just weeks before the end of sophomore year because of depression and an out of control cocaine problem that stole my soul. When I moved to San Francisco at age twenty, that’s when my drinking really took off, and I spent the next several years just barely getting by. Fortunately, I think some part of rehab stuck with me through these dark times, and I’d manage to pull myself out of serious trouble before it got too bad. But I’d always inevitably fall back into it again.

By the time I was in my late-twenties, I was exhausted. I decided to get help. Again, the feeling of relief that I didn’t have to do it alone. This time, I was serious about getting sober. I had too much to lose—a husband, a career, a home. This time, I knew I was going to have to change everything if I wanted to keep anything.

And so, CLEAN was born. I was able to access the raw vulnerability of the characters because I was going through the same things they were. I think of the main female characters—Eva, Kelly, and Olivia—as three parts of myself as a teenager, and it was healing to get in touch with them. I was Eva, the depressed poet misfit. I was Kelly, the pretty girl who didn’t know how to say no. I was Olivia, the perfectionist. In writing their stories, I got to let them go.

Style: "Porcelain vivid"So now, five years and four novels later, I have a life beyond my wildest dreams. I am wife to an amazing partner who inspired me with his love to become a better person. I am mother to the most astonishing 18-month old girl who teaches me new ways to love and laugh every day. She has never seen me drunk or high, and hopefully she never will. I am blessed to be able to do what I love for my profession, to write books and reach teens who are a lot like I was, lost and scared but full of heart. I get the most amazing letters and emails from readers who are going through similar things as my characters, and I feel so incredibly honored to help them feel less alone, to inspire them to get help. Everything I have in my life now is a result of my getting sober and changing my life. It is an honor and privilege to share it with you all, and I am forever grateful.

Amy Reed is the author of the edgy, contemporary YA novels BEAUTIFUL, CLEAN, CRAZY, and OVER YOU. Her new book DAMAGED released yesterday, October 14, 2014.

Find out more at

Buy DAMAGED at your local indie, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon

Buy CLEAN at your local indie, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon 

Thank you, Amy, for sharing the Book of Your Heart with my readers. Happy Book Birthday to Damaged, which is now on sale as of yesterday… everyone, go grab it!

The posts in the Book of Your Heart series:

The Book of Your Heart Series: Andrea Hannah

thebookofyourheart-FEATUREDWhen an author says a book she’s written is the Book of Her Heart, what does that mean? In this completely irregular ongoing blog series, I’ve invited guest authors to reveal what they consider the Book of Their Heart—and share why this book holds a distinct and special place apart from all others they’ve written.

Here, to help celebrate her book birthday this week for Of Scars and Stardust, I have Andrea Hannah sharing the deep heartache that inspired her book…

Guest post by Andrea Hannah

AndreaHannahTomorrow, the book of my heart releases into the world. I’m thrilled and emotional and blissful and a whole bunch of other things that I expected to be when I’ve imagined seeing Of Scars and Stardust on the shelves. What I didn’t expect is the sheer terror.

Writing this book saved me from self-destruction in the same way Goosebumps saved me in fifth grade, and Speak saved me my senior year of high school. The only difference is I wrote this one. And now everyone can see it. Everyone can see me.

Growing up, my childhood was the definition of chaotic. My parents split when I was four, and my mom and I moved around a lot. As an adult, I can see my mom’s dependence on me was pretty unhealthy, but at the time I thought that this intense pressure to be what she needed—what everyone needed—was normal. Past Andrea didn’t yet realize that she spent hours and hours every single day devouring stories that were so unlike her own life so that she could escape the pressure of the one she already had. So in flooded the talking Chucky dolls and aliens and a team of rag-tag teen entrepreneurs documenting their adventures in babysitting.

In high school, my mom was diagnosed with a terminal illness. A different kind of pressure, this time to figure out how to navigate the world without my primary parent. More books, only these ones laced with themes of loss and guilt and grief and confusion and all those you’re supposed to feel when someone you love is about to die.

The thing is, I didn’t feel anything. Not yet. So while books gave me permission to feel terrified and heartbroken, I just…couldn’t. There’s a paragraph in Of Scars and Stardust that actually talks about this delayed reaction, right after Claire finds out her sister is missing. She says, “I waited. And I felt nothing.” That was true for me, too.

All of those things came years later, as a newly-married adult, and the guardian of my little brother. Only they didn’t show up right after I signed those custody papers when my mom got too sick to care for my brother and quietly passed away; they came about a year after that. Everything had been settled; my brother was stable, and everyone else in my family had done their grieving while I held space for them. That’s when I let myself lose it.

Of Scars and StardustOnly I didn’t have the emotional tools or supports to deal with the unexpected grief. I imploded, which translated into exploding all over everything I’d built up around me. I was angry, and I made sure everyone knew it. After a particularly horrible day, I sat down at my computer and began angry-typing out a story. No one was home for me to be furious with, so my only relief were the keys.

I wrote about two sisters, one who loved the other so fiercely that she would follow her into the mouths of wolves and past the depths of her own understanding and sanity. Claire wanted her sister back so badly that she would put herself and everyone else she loved in danger to do it. Her desperation was palpable in those first few pages, her sadness cutting. I cried for the first time in years. Then I kept going.

I fought through every ounce of grief to figure out how to live without my mom while I was writing this book. And at the end, I was less angry. Somehow more stitched together than I was before. It’s weird that a book about sisters was actually about processing my relationship with my mom, but Claire’s feelings of grief and undying hope all mixed together are what I imagine are part of the human experience when they lose someone they love, whether it’s through death or mythical wolves with snapping, yellow teeth.

This book will always own my heart because it’s the story that put it back together, that helped me figure out who I actually was when I wasn’t my mother’s daughter anymore, at least not in the physical sense. I don’t know if I’ll ever write anything that I cherish as much as this story (I haven’t yet), but I’m extremely thrilled this is the first one on the shelves. And even though I feel incredibly transparent and naked and terrified about letting the mass public in on Claire’s progression through her grief, I’m grateful that this story is out there for anyone who needs it, whenever they’re ready for it.

Andrea Hannah lives in the Midwest, where there are plenty of dark nights and creepy cornfields as fodder for her next thriller. She graduated from Michigan State University with a B.A. in special education. When she’s not teaching or writing, she spends her time chasing her sweet children and ornery pug, running, and dreaming up her next adventure.

You can find her at and on Twitter @andeehannah.

Thank you, Andrea, for sharing the touching, emotional story of the Book of Your Heart with my readers. Happy Book Birthday to Of Scars and Stardust!

The posts in the Book of Your Heart series: