A Work of Art is a young adult realistic novel about a young artist whose world is turned upside down.
Tera is all set to go to art school in Paris when her father is arrested under charges she is certain are false, so she uses her France funds to hire a defense lawyer. Meanwhile, Tera makes extra money waiting tables with Joey, a musician with a dark past of his own who makes her feel wanted.
At a time when everything in her life is falling apart, Tera learns to rely on her art and herself to get through a very difficult time.
I had the opportunity to interview the author, Melody Maysonet, about A Work of Art, writing, and books.
A WORK OF ART handles some tough topics. What motivated you to write about the issues that Tera faces?
Someone very close to me suffered from child sexual abuse, and I’ve seen how much she struggled as a result. I also went through something as a kid, and even though my experience seems tame in comparison to my friend’s, it still affected every aspect of my life. A Work of Art is fiction, but the feelings associated with being a victim are universal, and it’s those feelings of self-doubt and even self-loathing that I wanted to tackle in A Work of Art.
Was it difficult to write about some of the things that happen?
Once I got past the hurdle of worrying about what other people might think, writing the emotionally jarring scenes wasn’t difficult at all—the opposite, in fact. Those were the scenes that flew onto the page, maybe because I related to what Tera was going through. The disastrous date scenes with Joey were also easy to write because I remember very clearly what it’s like to be infatuated by someone to the point where you’re obtusely blind to their flaws. As an adult looking down on the situation, I wanted to slap sense into Tera even while I gleefully put her through the wringer.
Did you know how you would end A WORK OF ART from the beginning, or did it come to you during the process?
I knew very early on how I wanted it to end. I even wrote the last line of the book way before I’d finished the first draft. I was watching TV when the line came to me and I hurried to find some paper so I could write it down.
Merit Press is a small independent publisher rapidly gaining traction in the young adult industry. What brought you to the press?
I credit my agent, Tina P. Schwartz, with bringing me to Merit Press. Because Merit was so new (less than two years old when I was submitting), I hadn’t heard of it, but when Tina told me that Jacqueline Mitchard (Merit’s editor-in-chief) was considering my manuscript, I trolled the Internet and learned very quickly that Merit Press was a perfect fit for A Work of Art since they don’t shy away from edgy YA.
What are you working on next, in lit and in life?
In lit, I’m working on my next YA novel. Tentatively titled Out of Mind, it’s about a fifteen-year-old girl who thinks her dreams have come true when she moves out of the homeless shelter where she’s been living with her druggie mom and into the house of her rich aunt and uncle. Suddenly she has all the material things she’s been wishing for, but her good fortune comes with its own price tag, and she soon discovers that living with a “normal” family doesn’t necessarily bring happiness.
In life, I’ll continue trying to be a good wife to my husband and a good mom to my ten-year-old son. Part of being a good mom means getting schooled in everything from the Pokémon TCG to Super Smash Bros for the Wii U. On the flip side, my husband and I are trying to teach our son to play Magic: The Gathering, since the game is so close to our hearts. We met at the 1996 World Championships for Magic—him as a player and me as an employee of Wizards of the Coast—so it would be nice to have some family Sealed Deck tournaments.
Which books in your life have influenced you most?
My favorite book of all time—the one I re-read every few years—is Watership Down, by Richard Adams. There’s a richness and a realness to the world Adams created that I find astounding, and the rabbits have so much character that you forget they’re not human. In terms of my own writing, there are three YA books that I cherish because they broke something open in my own writing: Crank, by Ellen Hopkins; Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson; and Hatchet, by Gary Paulson. In each of those books, the voice is so strong that I keep going back to them to study how the author did it.
What are you reading now/what’s the last book you read?
I just started Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli. I’m still in the first chapter, but it got great reviews, and that’s usually why I pick up a book. I try to read widely in YA, since that’s what I write, but I read across every genre. I just finished World Gone By, by Dennis Lehane (he writes wonderful imagery and dialogue, by the way), and before that, I read Skin Game, by Jim Butcher, who I think is a genius, up there with Brandon Sanderson and Stephen King.
Amber Neva Brown is assistant manager at Main Point Books and a graduate student in Publishing at Rosemont College. She grew up in North Carolina, and her ultimate fandoms are Harry Potter and Doctor Who. She could recommend a book to probably anyone. Find her at Letters from a [Future] Editor and on Twitter @ambernevabrown.