Photo Credit: Breukellen Riesgo

Amy Herrick is amazed to think that when she was growing up there were no cell phones, computers, or video games, and TV only had seven black-and-white channels. She still remembers it as one of the best times in the world. In the summer, she and her friends biked and ran and played hide and seek, and traveled to imaginary realms all day long. When they got tired they climbed into trees and read books.

Herrick remembers being embarrassingly skinny and tall. In addition, when she was with strangers, she was burningly shy. Being at home or with friends was much easier for her. Then she was talkative and even bossy. She used her vivid imagination to frighten her pals with ghost stories and tales of the dragons who lived down in the laundry room. It was when she was around eight years old that she discovered writing. This was a magical discovery. A pen, a piece of paper, and pulling whole stories and worlds into being, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of an empty hat!

As a grown-up she does lots of different jobs, including being a teacher and mom. But she saves as many hours as she can for sneaking into her workroom with her dog and sitting down at her computer to work on a story.

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Author Q&A

1. Favorite books/authors who inspired you?
I have a shelf near my work table where I keep all my favorite books—the ones I return to when I’m stuck in my writing or my spirits need lifting. Some of these are C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Katharine Briggs’ Hobberdy Dick;Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time;E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web;L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables;and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. I love these books because they are full of beauty, transport me to places far from home, and tell stories about how friendship is one of the most interesting and powerful parts of being alive.

2. What’s your writing routine?
I make a cup of tea, I call my dog, and we go into my workroom and shut the door. My workroom is painted all different shades of green so that the dog and I will feel like we are in the forest. The dog goes to sleep in the sun and I reread the last page I wrote. Getting myself warmed up to write isn’t always easy. Sometimes I picture that I am walking around and around a little house that is deep inside the woods, deep inside my head. I knock on the doors and I try the windows and wait to be let in.

3. What part of your book was the most fun to write?
There were so many scenes that were fun to write, but maybe my favorite was the scene where Feenix wakes up in the witches’ gingerbread house. I loved trying to imagine what the three sisters would look like, what their relationship to each other would be, and how Feenix would be rude to them even though she knows they have all the power.

4. What part was the most difficult?
The hardest part was trying to figure out what the world would look like if time was being stolen from it. I knew that, first of all, I wanted to recreate the feeling of being really rushed and stressed and not having enough time to get everything done. But then I needed to create a frightening visual and physical feeling of collapse for the young people, which was trickier. To come up with ideas, I did a lot of reading about theories of time and what role it plays in the shaping of the universe. 

5. Is there one particular character in your book who you relate to the most?
We all have so many different selves! Many of the characters in this book are representations of parts of myself or of people I would like to be. But the character I most relate to is Edward. Ever since I was a young girl I have been very suspicious about what is real and what isn’t. Edward’s tendency to stand off to the side, not really participating, but just watching and thinking about the nature of the universe, is very familiar to me.

6. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Read a lot! Pay attention as you walk through your day. Stories can pop up anywhere—on the street, in your imagination, in the conversations you have with other people. Take risks. We learn just as much from our failures as we do from our successes. 

7. Dogs and Cats?
I have a dog named Autumn. She is what I call a “Brooklyn Deluxe,” a mix of many different breeds. Every morning, she and I take a long walk in Prospect Park looking for adventure. She is my best pal.

8. If writing weren’t a daily part of your work, what career would you like to have?
I already have another career going since I have been a teacher and school administrator for many years.   For the last decade I have been the assistant director at a nursery school in downtown Brooklyn. It’s the perfect job for me since it keeps me happy and grounded in the real world. I get to give tours, feed the lizard and the frogs, watch over the budget, and tell stories to the children.

9. Which author, living or dead, would you most like to spend the day with?
There are so many writers I’d love to sit down and have a cup of tea with, but if I had to choose one, I think I’d pick Katharine Briggs, who wrote Hobberdy Dick, a novel about a “hob,” a friendly but mischievous magical spirit who has been guarding an old English manor house for many centuries.  Katharine Briggs was a great expert on English folklore and fairytales and I’d love to ask her some questions.

10. What is your secret superpower?
Some days I’m going along, doing all the usual stuff.  Everything seems normal and regular and then the next minute something shifts. It’s as if the world has come awake in a way that it wasn’t a moment before.  The trees, the fire hydrants, a bird on a fence, they all look as if they’re about to speak. This shift doesn’t usually last long, and I don’t have much control over it, but I believe it is a secret power. I always have the feeling that I have just gotten a glimpse of the world in the back of the world.