A Life of Books with Amy E. Casey, author of The Sturgeon’s Heart

Amy E. Casey, author of The Sturgeon’s Heart, lives in Wisconsin and has had her stories and poetry published in Split Rock Review, Psaltery & Lyre, Club Plum, NonBinary Review, and Bramble. Her debut novel is about three people who begin disappearing in different ways.

Debutiful had the author answer the recurring A Life of Books questionnaire so readers could get to know her better.

Is there a book or series that, when you think back, helped define your childhood?

I remember my mom reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe out loud to me and my younger brother in the evenings. That was big… I don’t know if any of us ever get over our first trip to Narnia! I was captivated by the idea of forgotten worlds and magical creatures, and the local library furnished me with a steady diet of books about things that were monstrous or fantastical–unicorns, dragons, griffins, and such. Anything with adventure and fantasy was my jam. James Gurney’s Dinotopia and The World Beneath still hold a treasured place on my bookshelf. I spent my book fair money on every subsequent novel in the Dinotopia series.

What’s your philosophy on what children read?

Reading to children and providing them with a text-rich environment is crucial for the development of their literacy skills and their ability to imagine. There are few things more important than making sure children have ample access to books. There’s a reader inside every kid just waiting to be unlocked. They should be encouraged to read about things that fascinate them! I also believe that censorship of literature in schools (or anywhere) is folly, but that’s another discussion. 

Moving to your school years: what book did you read in high school and hated (or skipped reading at all) that you learned you loved later in life?

This kind of thing did not happen to me. I loved English class and adored my English teachers. I always did the readings and loved discussing them. The book that really, really unlocked things for me was Toni Morrison’s Beloved, which I read when I was 17. I knew immediately that I was witnessing the most incredible writing I had ever read in my life. That novel affected me deeply, and still does. I always come back to it.

What about the opposite way? One you loved in your teens, but realized you didn’t love it so much later on?

So, I had a long phase, which still is kind of happening, of reading pulp paperback Star Wars novels. (We’re talking the old canon, Legends, for those who know.) I remember buying these books with great excitement at the mall, back when the mall was the cool place to hang out. And look, some of these books are terribly written. However, I still love them! It’s okay to love trash.

Are there any books that you read while writing your debut that helped shape the direction you took your own book?

I owe a lot to the wonderful advice of the best craft guide I’ve ever encountered: Thrill Me by Benjamin Percy. Beyond that, I’m always inspired by things I read that are so bold and so strange, they leave me dazzled. There are too many of these to name, but the titles that rise to the top right away are Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders and Borne by Jeff VanderMeer.

What is a book you’ve read that you thought, Damn, I wish that was mine?

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. 

What have you been reading or do you plan to read during your debut book tour?

I have a section on my website called “What I’m Reading” where you can see an up-to-date list of what I’ve read most recently! You can find it over at http://www.amyecasey.com. I try to read 35 – 45 books a year. At the time of this interview, I’m finishing The Changeling by Victor LaValle. 

And, finally, I have to ask… I’m sorry. What’s next? But wait! Only use three words.

Another novel? Trying!

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