Friday, March 4, 2011

Interview With Amy Goldman Koss

by Susan Berger

Meet Amy Goldman Koss the multitalented writer of MANY books for mid grade and YA.  You can find a list of her titles on her Amazon page.

I became aware of Amy as a writer when I attended the Flintridge Bookstore multi author signing on January 31, 2011.

She immediately fascinated me.  Amy has had two careers as a children’s writer – BC  (before children) as a picture book writer/illustrator and AD (after diapers) as a prolific writer of mid grade and YA novels.
I was unable to find any of the picture books at the Santa Monica Library.  Amy told me they had been out of print for some time.  That’s too bad. I have only seen one of her illustrations– the self portrait on her website – and I would love to see more.

So far I have read only two of Amy’s books. I will be reading more. Amy has a wonderful voice. It is fresh, funny and, when I read her books, my mind instantly identifies with her character's mind.  

Most of all I love the humor. How can you be funny about cancer?  Well, read Side Effects and find out

Side Effects is about the pain, fear, and unlikely comedy of 15-year-old Izzy’s journey, told in her own powerful and authentic voice. It is Izzy’s story -- screams and all.

This is a book that needed to be. Note to reader: The heroine, Izzy, (like 86% of the children who contract childhood cancer) does not die.

Side Effects received the American Library Association 2006 BBYA (Best Books For Young Adults),New York Public Library Recommended List for Young Adults, Junior Library Guild Premier Selection Pick, Kirkus -- Best Books of the Year,St. Louis Missouri Read It Forward 2008, It was also nominated for Rhode Island YA Book of the Year Award 2008 and the Georgia Peach Book of the Year Award 2008 and Hilde’s top reads for 2010

Is the current recession funny? It is when Amy writes about it. 
This is a timely, warmhearted novel about life in hard economic times. I loved Jacki and her family.  I thought it was a wonderful accessible story of what it feels like to go through a recession from a child’s point of view.

And that Amy, brings up my first question:  There is a LOT less on the to be found on the internet about The Not-So-Great Depression I loved this book.  I thought there should be a lot more buzz about it.

Is your publisher cutting back on publicity, and if so, how are you handling that? 
They don't do squat! I am handling it by over-eating and wallowing in self pity. Is there some other way???? 

I know you have a MySpace page   which has links to many of your books. Do you feel that social media has helped sell any books for you?
It's impossible to tell. 

Do you have any advice for a first time author going to do a school or library visit?
Know that some visits are great fun, the kids are prepared, enthusiastic and engaged, meaning the teachers or librarians have prepared them, and they've had a chance to read your books -- and some gigs leave you feeling like Willy Loman. Just treat the kids like people and give it your best shot. Alexis O'Neill is the School Visit Guru. I suggest you stalk her. 

Back to Side Effects for a moment.  This is an amazing book.  One of the things I took away clearly was’ Izzy’s talent as an artist. I felt the horror of her experience being lessened a little by turning it into art.  The fact that you are an artist shines through this book.

Is your daughter also an artist?
Yes, she is, but not like Izzy. Side Effects was based on her cancer, medically, and many things are congloms from that horrific experience, but my daughter and Izzy are not really the same kind of kid.   

What is she studying now in school?
Anthropology. She spent some time in Africa at an animal orphanage caring for baby baboons and that's the kind of pee-drenched work I can see her being happiest with.  

How does she feel about Side Effects?
She read it before it left the house and approved whole heartedly, or it never would have gone out. Now, it has been so long since she had cancer (she was 14 then and is 21 now) that I think some of her memories are confused with the novel!

Your bio says you teach.  Where? When?
I teach two independent groups who meet around town. (One at IHOP and another at Conrads so we can be waited on while we work) And I teach at Vroman's Bookstore. 

How I saved Hanukkah
I am a first page fanatic.  If you hook me on the first page, I will probably read the book.  (I am not reading any more of your first pages now because I already have to read 
The Girls
Poison Ivy
and your rhyming easy reader Where Do Fish Go in Winter )  

Out of all of your books, do you have a favorite first line or paragraph?

You say on your web page “I have a pretty little studio out back where my dog and rabbit and I work in spurts -- all day and night sometimes, and not at all others.”
What are you working on right now (Please don’t say you are taking a break. I want more books!!!) 
Let me know when you finish the ones you have, and maybe by then I'll be ready to tell you what's next. (Which is to say I'm taking a wee break) 

Do you have any upcoming events?
I WISH I had way more gigs to report, but I have basically none. Maybe that's why my poor little baby The Not-So-Great Depression is doing....well... not so great. (sigh)
Some people can do both, write and self-promote (see Lisa Yee self-promotion queen) and some of us can't. (see me)

I am in awe of Lisa Yee, but I am on your side of the teeter totter.  I have three books out and I don’t seem to be handling promotion effectively.  I truly hate it.

Thank you very much for this interview, Amy.  You can meet Amy on her Amazon page and on her website


  1. Great interview. I'd also like to say that the covers for these works are very snappy.

  2. Where do fish go in Winter?? I guess I will have to read the book to find out!

    I have to say the whole Pen and Ink makeover is truly dramatic, unless it’s just the fact that my old computer cannot display the color Orange anymore. Love it guys!

  3. Amy (and all), come to my Warp Speed book party on March 13 at Vroman's and I'll introduce you and tell everyone to buy your books!

  4. It's unusual to find kids' fiction books on topics like cancer and economic problems, but there's certainly a need for them, and it sounds like these books will be fun to read. I hope Amy can get the word out so they'll sell well.

  5. Thank you Michael, Lee Rae, Lisa and Janet. I plan to be at Lisa's book party next Sunday. and I hope Amy comes too and gets introduced.

  6. What a fun interview -- and so interesting to get the back story behind Side Effects. Thanks Amy and Susan.

  7. Amy makes a great pirate.
    Lupe "Wooden Heart" Fernandez


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