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A: I was just about to leave the house one morning when I caught a segment on morning television about a group of teen girls at a Texas high school who had organized a group called, “Redefining Beautiful.” They were trying to encourage fellow female students to go one day a week without makeup. They were stressing that you don’t need makeup to be beautiful. I was so amazed by their bravery and confidence to go against type, especially in high school and at an age where girls feel the most awkward with themselves. A close friend of mine who is a film producer had been asking me if I had anything I was working on I could share with him. By time the segment was over, I had the basic plot in my head and before I left the house, I already knew the ending of the story. I phoned my producer friend and told him I had something, we met that afternoon and I pitched the idea to him as a film. He loved the concept and told me he was interested. Could I write the screenplay? I went to work right away. But about 50 pages in, I found these characters were so lifelike, I felt it needed to be a book, it could always be a film later. I called my friend back, said, I have to write this as a novel. With his blessing and two years later. Forever ME was published.
Q: How are teen girls responding to a book written by a guy?
A: I was concerned about that. Would they relate to it? Would it seem real to them? Or would it come across as a guy giving his version of what he think teen girls are like today? Well, to my pleasant surprise, teen girls are sending me emails, tweets, and telling me, they completely relate to the situations, they’ve said, “OMG, that is so me!” “I’m just like Hannah!” Or they know girls like Shelby and the Stilettos. Or jerk guys who treat them like property. I got plenty of praise from some parents even grandparents on Forever ME, but the real vindication comes from the teens who love it. I couldn’t ask for better than that! (Plus I have a 19 year old daughter, so I wasn’t totally in the dark.) But I did do my research.
Q: What did you learn about teen girls that you didn’t know?
A: A lot! I learned that some girls lose precious hours of sleep by getting up at sometimes between 3 and 4 a.m. to begin their daily regiment of getting ready for school to make themselves look “normal” or what they feel they must look like to their friends and fellow students. Girls are under tremendous pressure to always look a certain way, weigh a certain amount. Often it is self-imposed, even the prettiest girls feel insecure about their looks. Girls who are bullied often feel completely alone with no one to turn to. Even if schools have zero tolerance for bullying, there’s always an unspoken rule to not tell. Being bullied is embarrassing, especially when girls get publically humiliated in school and other students stand by, watching or laughing. School can more often than not, feel like prison instead of an educational institution.
Q: Speaking of Bullying, there’s quite a lot of it in Forever ME. Were you attempting to send a message?
A: Actually no I wasn’t. Not consciously anyway. My wife pointed out to me that bullying wasn’t just limited to the students. Friends bullied each other and even parents bullied their teens. It made me realize, there are many different ways for kids to be bullied, like there are as many forms of abuse. It’s not always physical but it is always damaging.
Q: I see in several past reviews Forever ME gets compared to the film, “Mean Girls.” Did that have any influence on your writing?
A: Not at all, I have not seen the film. So I’m always surprised when someone compares it to that film. I imagine since the subject matters are similar I can see how someone could draw that conclusion. It was important to me in the beginning that my main character, Hannah was not the new girl at a school. That’s always tough on a teen to be the new kid. I wanted her to have her own friends, a well-adjusted home life and content with her life as it was. It was only when she crossed the invisible line of mixing with the social elite did it present a problem in her life. Wichita Falls is a place where a girl from her side of town is often reminded it’s best if she stays there.
Thomas Amo is the author over 20 comedies and farces for the live theatre. This former full time theatrical producer has spent the last thirty years writing in many different genres, from pilot scripts for television to screenplays on independent films. Outside acting, directing and producing, his first love has always been writing. Forever ME, marks his debut into YA fiction.
And another taste of the fun ;)!
The alarm buzzed and Hannah rolled over on her back in bed and stretched. She tried to get her eyes to focus on her cell phone to see what time it was. The digital numbers told her it was 4:15 a.m. She stopped the noise and reached an arm behind her to shake Taylor awake, but the bed was empty. Surprised, she rolled over and found she had the bed all to herself. She hoped she hadn’t forced Taylor out. She had been known to be a bed hog, especially with the covers. She propped herself up on her elbows when the bedroom light flipped on. Like a vampire recoiling from the sunlight, Hannah’s hand quickly went to shield her eyes.
“Morning sunshine,” called Taylor in a chipper voice.
Hannah slowly lowered her hand and saw Taylor standing in the doorway, still wearing her father’s t-shirt but with a gator clip in her hair to hold it up.
“I thought I set my alarm for six.”
“You did, but I changed it. Hot Girl Rule Number 1: Rise early and get your face on. Only homely girls sleep in.”
Hannah let her head fall back on the pillow. “Ohhhh, let me be homely, just for an another hour.”
“Oh no you don’t,” called Taylor as she reached under the blanket, grabbed Hannah by the wrist and tugged her up into a sitting position. “Let’s get those feet on the floor, I already picked out your outfit, got the flatiron hot and made coffee.”
“I swear, if I didn’t love men, I’d probably marry you, just for the fact you made me coffee,” Hannah said rubbing her face trying to wake up.
“Yeah, don’t get ahead of yourself there, doll. You’re pretty cute, but not my type. By the way I made the coffee for me. I’m just sharing it with you. Now let’s get going, the sun will be showing up in an hour,” Taylor teased.
“Okay, Sarge,” Hannah said with a half salute. Her feet touched the floor and she recoiled. She started to climb back under the covers but then saw the look on Taylor’s face. “Okay, okay.” Hannah stood up and winced once more from the cold floor on her feet. She stumbled from her bedroom to the bathroom across the hall. Taylor had everything laid out like a display in a showroom. She was truly organized when it came to preparing for the day. Hannah examined her face in the mirror. She was prepared for the worst. She was afraid she was going to wear the after effects of Lauren’s punches for the next week, but surprisingly, there was only a small amount of bruising on the corner of her chin and up next to her right eye. Even the swelling in her lip had pretty much disappeared.
Taylor returned to the bathroom with a cup of coffee for Hannah. Hannah turned and took the cup with a grateful expression. She took a sip and instantly felt the perfectly made drink intoxicate all of her senses. She sat the cup on the vanity and wrapped her arms around Taylor and hugged her. “I love you,” she whispered.
Taylor stood being a prisoner of Hannah’s clinch. Her eyes darted from side to side. Her expression of feeling awkward reflected in the mirror. “Um—love you too, but it’s just coffee, Hannah.”
Hannah shook her head. “No, that is a cup filled with love,” she said with sleep-crusted eyes.
“Okay—are you like this every morning?”
“I just need a moment,” Hannah teased as she hugged her once more. Taylor gave the patented pity hand pat on Hannah’s back that meant, Okay, I love you too but I’m beyond comfortable now.
“How did you sleep?” Hannah asked as she took a healthy drink of coffee.
Taylor took Hannah’s hair into her hands and ran the flatiron across it. “Pretty good, but you are a cover hog.”
“I know, but in my defense you’re the first person I’ve ever slept with.”
“Yeah—let’s not share that information,” Taylor said teasing.
Thanks again Thomas for letting me participate in your debut tour! I loved Forever ME, just as I've loved your other books for such different reasons! Seriously guys, if you haven't checked Thomas Amo out yet, you're missing out on one of the greats of our time!