Author Amy Hatvany’s novels are always fraught with emotion, but her latest release, Safe With Me, is a rollercoaster that surpasses all expectations. Ms. Hatvany was kind enough to chat with us about the inspiration for Safe With Me, her writing techniques and her upcoming projects. Read on for the full interview.
The Daily Quirk: The characters and situations in Safe With Me are so realistic and full of emotion. Where did you draw your inspiration from?
Amy Hatvany: Well, initially this is actually an idea I had over a decade ago. I had read a story about a woman in New York who was having her brownstone remodeled. When you have workers in your house, you start to talk to them and kind of get friendly, and she started talking to one in particular and really got along with him and shared that her husband had a kidney transplant a year before. And the worker said, ‘Oh really? Because I donated a kidney last year.’ And they checked dates and times and hospitals and doctors and it turned out that this random worker was the man who had donated his kidney. I mean, in this huge city of millions of people, the fact that they connected like that – it really stuck with me. And I wondered what it would be like if two people were connected through organ transplant, and maybe one wouldn’t say who she was right away for whatever reason. I wasn’t really sure back then what it was going to be. But it kind of has been stewing in my brain ever since. So it was inspired by real life, and I just added in my little writer’s twist of ‘What if they don’t know who each other are right away? How would that play out?’ That’s my favorite part of writing. Playing the ‘what if.’
TDQ: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?
AH: I think the hardest part is writing about the loss of a child. I’m a mother, and that first scene where Hannah loses Emily, that first chapter, especially the initial scene where she hears the screech of tires and the crunch of metal, I mean, that scene was so vibrant in my mind for such a long time. I did a lot of research and interviews and things like that. But as a mother, having to write so viscerally about what it would feel like to have to let your child go and making that decision so quickly in order to save another child’s life, how hard it would be to make that decision. It was heart wrenching and gut wrenching to write about. I felt grief afterwards just because as a mom I can’t imagine – you just can’t imagine. I think one of the most interesting things I discovered – and this is something I hadn’t thought about until Hannah started thinking about it, and I know that sounds crazy – but if a child loses a parent, they’re an orphan. And if a husband or wife loses a spouse, they’re a widow or widower, but there is no word for a parent who has lost a child. I mean, there just isn’t one. And I truly believe that’s because the grief you experience – one word just can’t describe it. So I wrote about 100,000 of them!
TDQ: Did you have to do a lot of research to learn about Maddie’s disease, how people respond to loosing a child, or what people go through when trying to leave abusive relationships?
AH: Yes, I did do quite a bit of research. I think the area where I did the most was in regards to organ transplant. I wanted to make sure I was capturing sort of the facts and the process. I took a little creative license here and there in terms of speeding it up for dramatic purposes, but I did meet with a local Seattle organ procurement organization. I wanted to make sure I go the process right, but more importantly I wanted to make sure that I adequately expressed what it’s like for both sides to go through – the people who end up losing someone and donating their organs and the people who are saved. Just really the wrenching emotional process it is for both of them.
TDQ: Was there any particular scene or character you especially enjoyed writing?
AH: Well, I adore Maddie. I know I’m not supposed to have a favorite, but something about her – I just love how she has dealt with this illness and has felt so different and separate and then had to go in and sort of deal with the real world for the first time other than her illness in the hospital. The teenage navigation of things. She was so plucky, and I loved writing her. She was so much fun. I have a 14-year-old daughter, and I pulled a lot of her attitude from my daughter. But I loved writing Maddie, and I loved the scene where Maddie shows Noah her scar, and just the vulnerability of that. And I sobbed, oh my God, I sobbed so hard. I don’t normally sob while I’m writing, but something about that scene just struck me because she’d been so guarded and so protected and so, what a big deal that was for her to trust someone and be vulnerable like that. So I was sobbing. My husband came in to check on me and make sure I was okay. I loved her. There were plenty of challenging scenes, but I really loved writing her chapters and I loved her point of view. I have great hopes for her that she’ll be fine [after the events of the book].
TDQ: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
AH: I am an avid cook. I love to cook and bake, and I’ve worked in restaurants and bakeries, and I decorate wedding cakes and things like that. Cooking is a real stress relief for me, it kind of gets me out of my head and gives me something tactile to do when my brain isn’t still busy with words and images and everything I do when I’m writing. I have two glorious black lab mutts that we rescued from the pound that I spend a lot of good time with. We go walking and like to throw the ball and all that. I’ve got kids and keep very busy. Very, very busy.
TDQ: I really enjoyed the alternating perspectives in the different chapters, and I’ve noticed it’s a technique you’ve used in other books as well. Do you find there are any advantages to using this format for telling a story?
AH: It sets a structure, first of all. It lets me go, ‘Now it’s this person’s turn, now it’s this person’s.’ And it also kind of creates a 360 degree view of whatever issues I’m trying to explore. I’ve written from first person only for Best Kept Secrets, and then when I branched into the alternate point of view for Outside the Lines, it just felt like I was giving the reader a clearer perspective. And myself, even, it helped me see things from different angles when I was thinking, ‘Ok, now how is this individual character speaking?’ And I think it opens kind of a broader canvas for other people. They may not agree with how Olivia behaves, but they might have an affinity for Hannah for whatever reason. So it gives the reader an opportunity to connect with other characters in a more specific way.
TDQ: How did writing this book compare to writing your previous novels?
AH: My pattern tends to be I have one book that comes fairly easily and then I have a book that’s really hard. Luckily, Safe With Me was one of the ones that came easily. I wrote it in about 8 weeks and I didn’t have to do a ton of revisions. It was probably about three or four weeks after my editor got her hands on it. I don’t know what that is. I wish I did so I could make all of them easy. I’m currently working on the next one and it’s harder. I’m not really sure what I did differently. I just think sometimes I tap into something. With Safe With Me, I felt those characters so strongly from the get go. I just, I don’t know. They spoke to me so much. I didn’t even have to think very hard, to be honest, about what happens next. I would just be like, “Okay, it’s Hannah’s turn. What is she going to do today?” So I think the difference was I felt super connected to all three of those characters for various reasons.
TDQ: Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?
AH: I’m in process on the next, so I have a hard time talking about it when it’s not fully formed yet. It will change so much. I’m excited to get this next one out there. It’s a little bit different. Still from multilple points of view, but in a different way. That’s really all I can say right now. And after that, I’m very thrilled, I’ll be working on a story about adoption. Drama, of course. Drama is my favorite. But I’m excited to get started on that one, too.
The Daily Quirk would like to thank Author Amy Hatvany for taking the time to chat with us! To find out more about Amy, visit her Official Site, “like” her author page on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
- Book Review: ‘Safe With Me’ by Amy Hatvany
- Book Review: ‘Heart Like Mine’ by Amy Hatvany
- An Interview with ‘Heart Like Mine’ Author Amy Hatvany
Hi! I’m Abbie. I’m a Wisconsin girl who just completed a degree in journalism, which I hope will help me achieve my goal of reading books and writing about them for a living. In my free time, I enjoy reading, watching Doctor Who and hanging out with my boyfriend and his two cats.
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