Monday, May 2, 2011

Eleven Up: Interview with Amy Fellner Dominy

Welcome to the May 2nd interview with Amy Fellner Dominy, author of the newly-released, funny and fast-moving book, OyMG! Amy’s young adult book debuts later this month. The publisher is Walker and Company.

What it’s about:

It’s the summer Christian Society Speech & Performing Arts camp and Ellie Taylor can win it all: a scholarship to a private high school, a chance to compete on the best speech team in the country, and Devon—the insanely hot guy who’s also her hottest competition. There’s just one catch. If the private scholarship donor finds out she’s Jewish, Ellie could lose it all.

1. Hi, Amy. What made you decide to write a YA. Aren’t you a playwright?

I guess you could say I’m a writer with multiple personalities. Actually, it’s my playwriting that drew me into writing for YA. During my MFA program, I got interested in Theater for Youth. I decided to write a play for children. After that, I was hooked.

2. How does your background in playwriting affect your choices as a writer of a novel?

As a playwright, you’re not just dealing with characters on a piece of paper. The writing will come to life on a stage with real people—actors—who want to know, “Why am I saying that? Why am I crossing the room? Why am I even in this scene?” (I once wrote a play and after I saw a first reading, I deleted two characters. They were standing around like scenery!) If characters don’t have clear motivations, it’s obvious in a play. I try to remember that when I’m writing a novel and create characters with strong goals. I have to admit to one other strange habit I have from my years as a playwright: I tend to give characters “props”. When I did a little acting, I never knew what to do with my hands. I loved it when I had a prop to work with. So I often give my characters things to do: holding file cards, doing their nails, fiddling with a necklace, etc. You’ll see that in OyMG.

3. I see your book is coming out with Walker and Company. What’s the story behind finding your publisher?

I wish I could take credit for finding Walker. But I have a wonderful agent, Caryn Wiseman, with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. When the book was ready to go out, I told Caryn to deliver it to the right hands. And she did.

4. How was your experience working with an editor?

It seems to me like two things are crucial for a good relationship with an editor:
1. Good communication;
2. A similar vision for the book.
I’m fortunate to have found both with Stacy Cantor Abrams at Walker. In my mind, an editor’s job is to help you improve your book (not completely re-imagine it), and right away I agreed with nearly all of Stacy’s suggestions. She seemed to “get” the heart of my story. That was hugely important for me. Though we’ve never spoken by phone, she’s been very available by email. I’ve always felt our communications have held mutual respect and trust—like any good partnership.

5. Can you share any changes to your book between initial submission to final copy?

There were many! One of the more difficult suggestions from Stacy regarded a new scene for OyMG. Ellie is at a Christian camp, and Stacy wondered if there could be another scene where Ellie might feel left out because of her religion. My first response was NO! It’s a speech camp and I already had a scene with morning prayer—what else could I do? Then I talked it over with a friend who told me about sing-alongs. So, I wrote a new scene where the campers all join in to sing a Christian song. Except, of course, for Ellie.

6. Without giving any secrets away, I loved the twist at the end regarding the antagonist’s motive. I didn’t see it coming. Can you share your thoughts on antagonists?

Here’s what I learned about antagonists from writing this book: A good antagonist is someone who thinks they’re a good person and doing the right thing. It’s easy to create pure evil. But people are mixtures of good and bad—if you forget that, you end up with one-dimensional characters. That’s exactly what I had in early versions of this book. My antagonist was evil, but she was also boring and stereotypical. So I forced myself to get to know her. To look into her heart and discover what really mattered to her. And she came to life for me in a whole new way. I hope she’ll surprise readers because she also surprised me.

7. Your main character comes across as likeable and sympathetic. I wonder if that was hard to pull off as a writer, given Ellie’s decision throughout the book to hide her faith?

I didn’t worry about Ellie being a sympathetic character—it almost scares me now that I think about it! What if she’d turned out awful? But Ellie was just Ellie. Strong, and willful, but like many of us at that age, trying to figure out who she is and where she fits. I think that’s what makes her sympathetic.

8. I admit this question is self-serving, but do you have any good advice for upcoming debut authors about self-promotion or social networking?

My best advice: You don’t have to do everything. (And you shouldn’t even try!) If you attempt to do Twitter, Facebook, keep up a daily blog, follow 30 other blogs, and comment on all the comments on all the blogs, you’ll never sleep. More importantly, you’ll never get another book written. Figure out what you like the best and do it. If you love writing a blog, then go for it. If not, then maybe contribute to other blogs as a guest. If Twitter makes you happy, then connect with people that way. Same with Facebook. There is no one right or wrong way. I know successful writers at all ends of the spectrum. The single best thing I did was join Class of 2K11 as well as Elevensies. These online groups are meant to help with marketing, but just as importantly, these have become my online therapy groups. Surround yourself with people who can share what you’re going through. It makes for a much happier journey.

I wish you lots of luck, Amy. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your book, and I’m sure you will have many fans very soon! Thanks for your time.

Thanks! I look forward to following you and your own debut next year!

Here's some fun facts about Amy: She has extra bones in her feet. She was a hula hoop champion in junior high. She submitted her first story for publication when she was thirteen. And oy, she married a goy! To learn more about Amy Fellner Dominy and her debut novel, OyMG, check out her website at


  1. that's great advice! And a great interview! My copy will be here in a few days! I can't wait to read it!

  2. Great interview! This sounds like an awesome read. :)

  3. Great interview! I read and loved OyMG.

  4. Great interview, Amy! Didn't know you were a playwright.

  5. I was already a fan, but now even more so. I know I'm going to love this book. I only wish it was on sale this minute. Great interview. :)