Author Interview: Kim Askew and Amy Helmes

Title of Book: Puck

A short description of book:

Following in the tradition of our other Twisted Lit titles — Tempestuous, Exposure and Anyone But You — our fourth novel, Puck, is inspired by one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. Our title character is an emotionally-guarded foster kid who thinks her life can’t get any worse, until she’s abducted in the middle of the night and taken to every troubled teen’s worst nightmare: brat camp!

What inspired you to write? And what was the inspiration for this book?

As former English majors, we’re both huge fans of classic literature, so reimagining Shakespeare’s plays as YA novels felt like a very natural leap for us and really gave us that initial push to start writing together. For Puck, we were inspired by the trouble-making fairies who wreak such unprecedented havoc in the forest in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Yanking the story into the 21st century, we decided that a rehabilitation wilderness camp for juvenile delinquents would give us the perfect framework. It all fell into place from there.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Like many authors, we have “day jobs.” (Amy is an editor for a soap opera magazine, and Kim is director of content for FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising). We work on our books once our official work day ends, but contrary to what many might think, we don’t actually write together. After initially brainstorming the story and characters, we take turns working on alternating chapters. Having such similar personalities and life experiences, our writing styles converge into one seamless voice, which is why we work so well as a team.

How long does it take to write a book?

The process typically takes about a year from start to finish.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

We’re both serious suckers for a posh afternoon tea. Sometimes we’ll take our laptops along and work on our latest project, but it’s really all about being indulgent. It’s our go-to tradition whenever we want to celebrate our collaborative milestones.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

In our case, having a writing partner has proved incredibly motivating. Whether it’s blogging, contributing to a school paper, or writing the world’s most wildly entertaining Yelp reviews, it’s so important to just keep putting your work out there. Finally, remember that even the most celebrated and successful writers had their fair share of rejection letters, so never stop believing in yourself!

Do you have an interesting writing quirk? If so what is it?

Amy: I am at my most creative while the rest of the world is sleeping! I typically get out of bed in the middle of the night (anywhere from midnight to three in the morning) and write for several hours, then I’ll catch a few more winks until it’s time to start my day at 6:45 a.m. I may be part vampire.

Kim: I no longer believe in “writer’s block.” Whenever I get a little stuck, I do something active — like jump on my mini trampoline — and before you know it, I’m unstuck.

What is the last book you read?

Amy: The Museum of Heartbreak, by Meg Leder, who was actually my college roommate once upon a time! And I’m currently reading Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow.

Kim: I just finished Tana French’s The Trespasser, and I’m deep into Matthew Pearl’s The Technologists, historical fiction with a science bent set in Boston at the inception of MIT.

Who is your favorite author?

Amy: Jane Austen. Her wit and understanding of the human heart is second to none!

Kim: Henry James. I wrote my dissertation on The Wings of the Dove, and even after months of living and breathing James, I’m still a diehard fan.

What are your favorite books?

Amy: Don’t make me choooooooose! Okay, well, for pure entertainment value, I’ll give it up to Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love and Love In A Cold Climate, just because they made me laugh so hard I had tears in my eyes. (And I’m also fascinated by the real-life Mitford sisters.)

Kim: Geek Love by Katherine Dunn is unforgettable. I fell in love with my boyfriend while reading his favorite passages of Infinite Jest, and the Javier Marias trilogy, Your Face Tomorrow, is perfection.

After all of your hard work, what does it feel like to be published authors?

We still get as geeked-out and giddy about the process as we did when we landed our very first book deal, but at the end of the day, the most satisfying part is taking the journey together. There’s nothing better than having a “Eureka!” brainstorming moment, laughing over inside jokes or finding out that the really poignant chapter you just wrote reduced the other person to a mess of tears (oh, yes — it happens!) We also love interacting with readers and fellow book lovers, so don’t hesitate to give us a shout; we’re always eager to know what you think of our books!

For more information about Kim and Amy and their Twisted Lit books, visit twistedlitbooks.com.

Rachel Beyer

I am a full time engineer and a part time blogger/writer. I am passionate about reading, writing, biking, volleyball, and my pets.

Wisconsin