Today we’re introducing the talented Amy Noelle Parks, author of The Quantum Weirdness of the Almost-Kiss! Amy is not only an author but an associate professor at Michigan State University. When she’s not using One Direction lyrics as a writing prompt, she’s helping future teachers recover from the trauma of years of school mathematics. The world needs Amy! And—her books.
Here’s a taste of Quantum Weirdness: Seventeen-year-old Evie Beckham has always been too occupied with her love of math and frequent battles with anxiety to want to date. Besides, she’s always found the idea of kissing to be kind of weird. But by senior year, thanks to therapy and her friends, she’s feeling braver than before. Maybe even brave enough to enter a national math and physics competition or flirt back with the new boy. Meanwhile, Evie’s best friend, Caleb Covic, has always been a little in love with her. So he’s horrified when he is forced to witness Evie’s meet-cute with the new guy. Desperate, Caleb uses an online forum to capture Evie’s interest—and it goes a little too well. Now Evie wonders how she went from avoiding romance to having to choose between two—or is it three?—boys. It sounds like….a kissing book! Perfect for the new year!
Katherine Rothschild: What we really want to know is, Amy: what inspired this book about almost (and actual) kissing?! Tell us everything.
Amy Noelle Parks: I started writing after the 2016 election as a way of trying to find a little joy. The first book I wrote was a terrible, terrible fantasy. And then I was riding my bike to work—listening to One Direction, as one does—and I realized that not only did I have the wrong genre but also the wrong love interest. My mathy main character Evie needed to fall in love with her best friend, not the mysterious new boy. I changed the book to a contemporary romance and added a second POV, which really made the story. Because Evie is so anxious, telling half the story in Caleb’s golden retriever-like voice shifted the whole feel.
KR: We want to know everything—I mean it. Did you have an almost kiss, a kiss, several kisses, or what. Details. Now.
ANP: One of my favorite reader reviews so far said that she liked the book because it made her think about all the almost kisses in her life that might actually have happened in some other universe. I love this idea. I think we’ve all had some near misses, and it’s nice to think that somewhere out there, we’re living our best lives with the ones that got away. (The possibility for almost-kisses to get realized is my favorite practical outcome of quantum theory, by the way.)
KR: When you think about writing The Quantum Weirdness of the Almost-Kiss what stories, books, or characters inspired you? (Other than One Direction…!)
ANP: I often say that my book is what would happen if Gilbert Blythe fell in love with Meg Murry from A Wrinkle in Time instead of Anne Shirley. I adore the smitten boy-oblivious girl energy that Anne and Gilbert bring, but the big ideas of A Wrinkle in Time never fail to captivate me.
KR: Going more into the process of writing this book, what did you already know, and what did you need to research?
ANP: I suppose you could say I’ve spent a lifetime studying falling in love with my best friend, so I didn’t need to research much there, but I did read a ton of books about quantum physics and the mathematics related to it. My heroine, Evie, is a mathematical genius so it was pretty challenging to write someone so much cleverer than I am. My favorite book I read for research was Max Tegmark’s Our Mathematical Universe, which makes such a credible argument that there are parallel universes inhabited by other versions of ourselves that it will blow your mind.
KR: When you were a teen, what books were the ones you gravitated toward *most* (because I know all authors are like: I read everything even menus and sometimes ads for window dressing and blinds.)
ANP: I have a handful of books I read until the bindings cracked. The Anne of Green Gables series—particularly Anne of the Island, for sure. I also loved The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. And then, maybe a little more unusually, the Amelia Peabody books by Elizabeth Peters, which are cozy mysteries about an intrepid Victorian archeologist. Peters had a PhD in Egyptology and I loved the mix of academic trivia, romance, and adventure in her books. Now that I think about it, she’s probably my biggest influence, although she wrote for adults.
KR: Can you give us a teaser and tell us one of your favorite scenes from your book, and why it’s a fave?
ANP: One of my favorites happens early in the story when Caleb and Evie go to the library to play a game they call “can you help me find?” It was created by one of Evie’s therapists to get her to talk to strangers, and Caleb turned it into a game where they challenge each other to ask different librarians for increasingly embarrassing books. I love the moment when Evie sends Caleb to ask an older girl he’s been casually flirting with to help him find A Boy’s Guide to Girls: Thirty Pointers You Won’t Get from Your Parents or Friends, which is a real actual book. For me, this whole scene perfectly captures their dynamic.
KR: Finally, can you tell us something about this book that we can’t learn from reading it? Maybe about how you wrote it, or how you meant it to be, but how it turned out instead?
ANP: Well, as I said the book started as a fantasy, but when I finished, I knew it wasn’t where it needed to be, so I started doing all this side writing to figure out how to fix it. In this process, I kept writing all these scenes where Evie had to kiss her best friend, so when I heard Last First Kiss, which is a perfect song about one friend longing for the other, I knew I had to strip the book down to the characters and the boarding school setting and rewrite.
Congrats on the release of your debut novel, Amy! You can visit Amy’s website to learn more and follow her on Twitter, as well as order THE QUANTUM WEIRDNESS OF THE ALMOST-KISS on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Indiebound. And don’t forget to add it on Goodreads!