We took some time to find out what type of novelist writes about difficult social topics. Amber Lehman has a great future trailblazing the territory of YA (young adult) social fiction. Here is our cultural conversation.
RFX: Thanks for taking time for The RippleFX Foundation today. We’re glad that you’re our Culture Today interview this quarter.
You released a novel a few years back that still emanates such a profound theme: female sexuality. At about what age did you begin writing stories? And did you take classes or have inspirations that made you begin writing?
Amber: Thank you for having me. I guess as soon as I learned to write. My early attempts were mostly fantasy stories, and didn’t make much sense, but writing always interested me. I haven’t taken any particular classes, just inspired by my teen life and experiences that affected me deeply. TORN, without a doubt was sort of cathartic for me and writing about it helped me make sense of life. The world moves fast when your a teen.
RFX: So about TORN, Krista moves to a big city and is exposed to different things, and at a critical time of her development. Was the use of a female protagonist instinctive or was there an underlying message that only a female character could provide?
Amber: I knew that writing from a female perspective would allow me the most creative license, so I knew from the start about the female character. Even though Krista is the protagonist, she is hardly the most interesting character. She was merely the vehicle through which we learn about her friends and their struggles. There were certain things we could only learn through her eyes.
RFX: We read over 50 reviews about TORN, and talked with the LGBT community about it, and one thing is clear: TORN is fresh, even today. The psychosocial struggle of lesbians~not all struggle~is not discussed in Health Classes or safe~sex platforms in all schools, and it is a subject only touched on subtly in Intro~Level psych courses in college. Are Krista’s struggles and experiences typical of adolescent development?
Amber: I wouldn’t say Krista’s are what every teenage girl struggles with or that it’s typical of adolescent development. I’m sure her character is foreign to some. But, yes, there is a percentage of girls who question there attraction to girls or struggle with the idea. This is one demographic I hope finds solace in Krista’s experiences; and you are correct, these issues are rarely discussed in schools, where it is needed, as it is an issue that could lead to confusion; it’s not talked about at home too often either, but, you know, Krista never quite resolves her own relationship with Carrie. She is also attracted to boys, too, which makes her bisexual; while not recognized by her in TORN, it is important enough that her position will be revisited in later books.
RFX: Sequel’s? Nice. Tell us about how you develop your characters?
Amber: TORN was based on people I knew, it was simple as hearing their voices and everything grew from that standpoint, organically.
RFX: How about the difficulties of the first book? What was that like?
Amber: Everything was challenging, the scope was large, and the unrelated scenes demanded that I write them immediately, so the story had no flow
at first. I simply free~wrote as the voices in my head allowed. Later, it was like a puzzle putting it together, multiple revisions…it was exhausting. It was an all~consuming experience. Once I took it as far as I could, I found a trusted editor who trimmed down the book (removing six~hundred pages). There was a publisher that wanted the book if I would have trimmed the book one~hundred more pages and dropped a character. Ultimately, I decided complete control would allow me to provide the story I wanted to tell. But, yes, the entire process was tough.