And now, without further ado, here's Amy!
YA Guy: Hi Amy! Welcome to the blog. To start out, I'd love to hear about your journey to publication.
Amy Allgeyer: “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” That’s how it feels anyway. I decided to write my first book twelve years ago. I landed an agent with that book, but it didn’t sell. Since then, I’ve written many more books, lost an agent, found a dream agent, worked through revisions with agents or editors only to have them change jobs or leave publishing for good before we were finished. All in all, I had pretty much the same journey most authors have. We all get those wicked near-misses and crushing lows. Then we turn around and pour all that into the next book. Or we give up and don’t become authors at all. I very nearly did that, and the only things that kept me going were my crit partners.
YAG: I'm glad you stuck with it, because DIG TOO DEEP tells a really important story. Can you tell us about mountaintop coal mining? How did you get interested in it? How much of a problem is it?
AA: Mountaintop Removal Mining started back in the 1970’s. By 2009, over five hundred mountains had been blasted away. Nearly a million acres of forest are gone. The health issues speak for themselves: people living in MTR communities are fifty percent more likely to die of cancer, and babies born near MTR mines are forty-two percent more likely to have birth defects.
I was born in Kentucky. When I was seven, I moved to North Carolina with my parents but my six brothers and sisters (all older) stayed in KY, so I spent a lot of time driving back and forth through Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky. The Appalachians represent home to me—even now when I live a thousand miles away. So it’s heartbreaking to see them blown apart, and know some special places are gone forever. And since MTR mining creates fewer jobs than traditional mining, it means these communities are stuck with less money, fewer jobs, more sickness, more death… It’s really awful.
YAG: So this sounds like a very important book to you. What was your research process like for DIG TOO DEEP?
AA: Involved! Even beyond the MTR research, there are aspects of the book that I (thankfully) don’t have personal experience with: prison, water testing, meth addiction, extreme poverty. My writing process was like: Write two pages. Google whether prisoners have access to email. Write another page. Google side-effects of methamphetamine addiction. I also depended a lot on my sister’s experiences volunteering in mountain communities in Eastern Kentucky. Her stories were so insightful and gave me a current and realistic picture of what poverty looks like in that area of the country. The cancer…that I know all too well, as my mom died of cancer. Those scenes where Liberty is caring for Granny were some of the hardest I’ve ever had to write.
YAG: They're also some of the best scenes in the novel, and I can tell they come from a very personal place. To shift back to the environmental issues: I’m from Pennsylvania, a major coal-producing state. What would your answer be to someone who said, “We need to continue mining coal to keep the economy strong and to supply the nation’s energy”?
AA: Yes, Pennsylvania has MTR issues, too, as well as fracking, which is another huge concern. To me, the biggest argument against our dependence on coal is just common sense. It’s reported that we have enough world-wide coal reserves to power us for another twenty-three years. Given that we’re going to have to depend on something else so soon, why would we continue to destroy the environment and sicken communities by expanding the search for coal? We should be focusing on alternative energy and what we’re going to do when the fossil fuels run out. The fabrication of products and infrastructure that use alternative energy (like wind, solar, hydro) would create manufacturing and light industrial jobs to replace the mining jobs that those communities so desperately need. It seems like a no-brainer that we should be weaning ourselves off coal now…not continuing to destroy the environment and expecting our kids to come up with something better once they’re the grown-ups.
YAG: I couldn't agree more! So, what’s next for you as a writer?
AA: Well…I have an option book due to my publisher later this year. I’m currently working on a contemporary Southern-gothic YA novel that’s beginning to feel overly epic and out of control. Think “The Thorn Birds” meets “The Sound and the Fury.” Some days, I think I’ve got things under control. Other days, it feels like I’m trying to lasso a rhino with wet spaghetti. So…typical writer’s journey!
YAG: Yes, that sounds painfully familiar! Thanks, Amy, for being on the blog and sharing your stories. Readers, if you want to find out more about Amy and DIG TOO DEEP, here's where to start digging:
Amy Allgeyer was born in Kentucky, the youngest of seven kids. As an architect, she spends her days remodeling hundred year-old homes in Idaho, where she lives with her son, a pound cat named Nightmare, and a fake owl named Alan. She hates chocolate, loves vegetables, and could easily live on hamburgers for the rest of her life. She has a Bachelor’s of Architecture from North Carolina State University, is a member of SCBWI, and an alumnus of the Nevada Mentor Program. She’s represented by Danielle Chiotti, Upstart Crow Literary.
DIG TOO DEEP
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Release Date: April 1, 2016