“Clicks,” the debut novel by Jersey City writer Amy Evans, indirectly poses an interesting question: Do female characters in fiction only become strong and heroic when the Apocalypse is nigh? In reading popular series like “The Hunger Games” the answer would appear to be yes.
But Evans, a mother of two, including one daughter, wanted to change that literary assumption and create a fictional world in which strong girls, both physically and in other ways, are taken for granted, not something that evolves or comes about through catastrophe and calamity.
Thus, while the world Evans creates in “Clicks,” the first book in a trilogy, involves its own apocalyptic possibility, the women and girls are strong in mind, body, and spirit from page one.
“I started thinking,” said Evans, “what do we need to teach our daughters now to make sure the world stays safe and doesn’t become like ‘The Hunger Games’?”
But, true to the young adult genre in which Evans is writing, “Clicks” also includes a love story and a coming of age tale, two main staples essential to young adult fiction.
‘The book is about instincts and first love and those moments when the universe stops to tell you what’s going to happen next and you’re the only one who can hear it.’ – Amy Evans
Evans admits that “Clicks,” and the second book in the series, “Echoes,” have a strong environmental and ecological bent throughout their plots, part of which centers on what happens to the world when certain laws and principles are out of balance.
Because the book presents female characters working in such nontraditional fields as marine biology, Evans hopes the series might one day be incorporated into the New Jersey core curriculum. (Many school districts are trying to broaden student interest in science, technology, engineering, and math, known collectively as the STEM subjects.)
Things are not what they seem…
(Spoiler alert!) The book takes place on a fictional island called Pinhold, but, Evans said, things are not what they seem on the island, which it turns out to be built on top of a volcanic fault line. The tension between the island’s beauty and the underlying danger is borne out more fully in Evans’ second book than in “Clicks.”
A fan of the popular young adult lit genre, Evans admits she used to be a little embarrassed to be reading books on the PATH train that were written for girls half her age. But the success of the “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” series, she said, has made it acceptable for the post-adolescent crowd.
“The young adult genre has really taken off in recent years, I think, because a lot of other fiction had become stagnant,” said Evans. “When the young adult genre was still new it attracted a lot of great writers who didn’t want to be forced to do very formulaic books. Ironically, as a result, I think, that’s where some the best fiction writing was happening. A lot of writers who maybe years ago would have only written books for adult audiences were now gravitating to young adult because that was where there was an real opportunity to be creating and cutting edge with your writing.”
The young adult genre also attracted a sorority of renegade female writers who were keen on publishing their own work rather than going through a traditional publishing house, a route Evans ultimately took herself.
“You know, I had a lot of editors who expressed interest in my book. But I could tell they were looking for a book that was like whatever was selling at that moment,” said Evans. “They weren’t interested in something that was different or new. And I understand that. I know that’s the way the business works.”
But in the meantime, “Clicks” was going nowhere until Evans found herself on a writers’ panel with other young adult novelists in Nashville.
“This one rather prominent writer came up to me after that panel and she said, ‘Look, would you rather spend the next year of your life getting rejected by publishing companies, beating your head against a wall – or would you rather be publishing your book?’ Right at that moment, I knew which sandbox I wanted to play in.”
Exactly a year after that conversation Evans self-published “Clicks” and began getting reviews, feedback, and interviews.
“I’m glad I just went ahead and did it myself so that I didn’t lose the last year,” said Evans. “The first book is out and it’s in people’s hands.”
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.