Author Spotlight: Amanda Sellet

April 24, 2020

We are excited to feature author Amanda Sellet and her debut YA novel, BY THE BOOK (HMH Books for Young Readers, April 22, 2020). 

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illustrator: Monique Aimee; cover designer:  Andrea Miller

Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for teens.

My first career was in journalism. I aspired to be a film critic at the worst possible time, as newspapers all over the country were cutting arts & entertainment staff or shutting down completely. I came close (theater critic with a video column on the side), but after my husband got a job as an archaeology professor, we moved across the country and I started freelancing while staying home with our newborn daughter. Once we were all sleeping through the night, I decided to make a serious attempt at writing fiction, something I’d always dreamed of doing in a nebulous “later” that never seemed to arrive. As the daughter of a librarian I’d grown up reading YA long before it was supposedly invented in the TWILIGHT/DIVERGENT/HUNGER GAMES era, so I naturally gravitated toward books for teens. 

Congrats on your debut YA novel, BY THE BOOK. Tell us about it and what inspired you.

The first spark of an idea for BY THE BOOK was imagining the culture clash between a young woman whose experience of the world comes mostly from 19th-century novels and the reality of a modern high school. I thought the contrast would be funny, though as the story progressed it was equally interesting to see how many things hadn’t changed, once you looked past the surface level of gloves and lace and calling cards. The pressure to be perfect, an emphasis on status and social power, intricate courtship rituals – many aspects of the adolescent experience have remained constant over the last few centuries, despite the shifting fashions! 

Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?

Long enough that the baby mentioned above is now a teenager with definite reading preferences of her own. For anyone feeling discouraged about their slow progress toward publication, take heart: You are almost certainly setting land speed records compared to me. 

What are some of your favorite recent YA picks?

JACKPOT by Nic Stone, YOU’D BE MINE by Erin Hahn, LAST TRUE POETS OF THE SEA by Julia Drake, TECHNICALLY, YOU STARTED IT by Lana Wood Johnson, A CONSTELLATION OF ROSES by Miranda Asebedo, DON’T DATE ROSA SANTOS by Nina Moreno, SONG OF THE ABYSS by Makiia Lucier … I could go on, but a lot of the great things I’ve read lately aren’t out yet. (Like CROWNCHASERS by Rebecca Coffindaffer and SOULSWIFT by Megan Bannen, both fall 2020 releases.)

What projects are you working on now?

I’m working on what I hope will be my next book, another YA about family and romance with a literary twist. 

What advice would you give to your former self. Is this the same you’d give to aspiring authors?

“Hang in there.” Complete with old school kitten-in-a-tree poster. My advice to fellow aspiring authors would be to remember that everyone has their own path, and you never know what’s waiting around the bend. For all the waiting we do in publishing, things can change in an instant (or however long it takes for an email to appear in your inbox).   

What is one thing most people don't know about you?

In high school I was voted Most Likely to Succeed. Unfortunately my 30th reunion was last year, so I can’t show up with a finished copy of my book and say, “See? It’s finally happening!” 

Where can people find you online?

I am sporadically present on Twitter and Instagram as @amandajsellet and can always be reached through the contact form on my web site,

Debut author Amanda Sellet had a previous career in journalism, during which she wrote book reviews for The Washington Post, personal essays for NPR, and music and movie coverage for VH1. She has an M.A. in Cinema Studies from NYU. After a mostly coastal childhood, she now lives in Kansas with her husband, daughter, and cats.  

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  1. This book is high on my want to read list. Thank you for the interview.

  2. Sounds like a terrific read. Like the cover.

  3. I'm so excited for this gorgeous book, especially after reading the interview!
    Megan S. :)

  4. A perfect book nerd... love Mary!! And the tag "A Novel of Prose and Cons" hints to the humor of the book. Can't wait to read it!

  5. This sounds like a great book to read! Congrats!

  6. This is one of my most anticipated books of the year! I can't wait to read it. And I LOVE the cover.


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