Amy's book is called Forget-Her-Nots, and it's the story of a teenaged girl named Laurel who discovers that she has a special, subtle gift of magic which expresses itself through flowers. When Laurel makes a bouquet for herself or one of her friends, she must choose carefully, because the flowers she chooses influence the recipient's perceptions and emotions. Laurel's magic can bring joy and romance into the hearts of those she loves, but she can also create havoc if she does not choose her flowers wisely and carefully!
When I first heard about this premise for a book, I loved it -- it's so fresh and original. I was familiar with the Victorian idea that flowers are their own "language" and that each plant or herb sends its own particular message to the receiver, because I'd referred to that language myself when choosing plant names for the female faeries in Spell Hunter and sequels. I knew, for instance, that white bryony (Bryony being Knife's original faery name) is poisonous, an irritating purgative, and that the herbalist Culpepper described it as a "furious martial plant" -- how fitting for my fierce faery heroine! But in Forget-Her-Nots the language of flowers is a kind of magic in itself, which Laurel must discover and learn to use.
Forget-Her-Nots is a sweet, thoughtful book ideal for older tweens or young teens who are just beginning to be interested in romance but don't want anything too heavy yet; who like the idea of magic operating subtly in the midst of ordinary, everyday life; who appreciate the beauty of the natural world in general and flowers in particular. It also touches upon Laurel's strained relationship with her father after her beloved mother's death, and the grieving process they must both go through -- but it's gently and thoughtfully handled, rather than oppressive.
Another thing I appreciated about Amy's book is that (to me anyway) the most attractive boy in the book, the one that I instantly liked and was hoping would get together with Laurel in the end, is Asian. And it's not made into some big deal that takes over the plot, he just is, and he's a real, believable character and not a stereotype, which I loved.
So please say hello to Amy Brecount White!
Q: FORGET-HER-NOTS is a book about the magic and romance of flowers, but it is also a book about grief, as Laurel struggles to deal with the loss of her mother. What drew you to that particular theme?
Honestly, I didn’t set out to write a “dead mother” book, but I knew when I started to think about my main character that Laurel had experienced tremendous loss. She needed healing, which she finds through flowers and her gift. Grief is an unavoidable part of the human experience, something we all have to deal with at some point, including me. (I lost my father and a beloved mother-in-law.)
Laurel’s sense of longing and grief make her more open to pursue and explore her gift of flowers. It sort of floors me sometimes when FHN is described as a “light” read. Much of it is light and fun, but Laurel’s grief and how she copes with her loss is a deep strain of the novel.
Q: Tell us a little about your journey to publication. If you could go back and give your pre-published self a tussie-mussie, what flowers would be in it and why?
I like to say my publishing journey was a long and winding road with lots of potholes. I’d been publishing articles and essays in newspapers and magazines for years, so I expected the process to be quicker than it was. It took about eight years from conception to shelf. Now, I’m just glad I got here.
I’d give myself snowdrops for hope which every author needs; cedar for strength to rebound when there are the inevitable disappointments; mountain laurel for ambition, because you must be ambitious to succeed in this biz; and orange crocuses for mirth to keep it all in perspective.
Q: Your book has a lovely, appealing cover (or at least I think so, and I don't normally find myself drawn to pink!). What was your reaction on first seeing it?
At first I was surprised, because I expected forget-me-nots, which are tiny and blue. However, I soon fell in love with the cover, especially the way the pink poppies wrap around the jacket. Paul Zakris, the art director at Greenwillow, did an amazing job, because the book looks like a gift. I certainly hope everyone who reads it feels that way!
Q: Your website describes your work as "Fresh and hopeful stories for a blooming world." What gives you hope?
Anything blooming gives me hope and raises my spirits. Flowers are ephemeral but persistent creatures. Lately, my readers and bloggers also give me great hope, because they clearly want to connect to the world in new ways and make it a better place. So many people have told me they’ll never look at flowers exactly the same again. I taught for many years, and my students always gave me hope for the future, too. I’m looking forward to doing lots of school visits – both spreading and receiving hope.
Q: Tell us about your next project, String Theories. What I've heard you say about it ("...about the physics of relationships, a girl who gets in over her head, a stream, some dogs, and getting even") sounds brilliant -- when can we expect to see it?
Wow, thanks! My agent will send it to my editors soon, and then we’ll see. I’m hoping it comes out in 2012. It’s a departure from Forget-Her-Nots, but still about connecting to each other and to the natural world. After that, I’m hoping to revisit the characters and setting of FHN again.
Thanks for answering these questions, Amy! Best wishes for your success now and in the future!
Thanks so much for having me, R.J.!
If you're interested in learning more about Forget-Her-Nots, you can Browse Inside the front cover, flap copy and first few chapters at the HarperTeen site. You can also visit Amy's personal website, friend her at amybre_white, or check out some of her many other interviews.