Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Flash Review: The Soul Seekers

A few weeks back I had the opportunity to receive an ARC of The Soul Seekers, Amy Saia's debut novel. I met Amy during the April A to Z Blogging Challenge, and I'm excited to share her new book today.

Goodreads Description of The Souls Seekers...

When Emma's father dies, she and her mother move cross country to a small, boring town. Now the only constant in Emma Shay's new life is him. Beautiful, silent, him: the mysterious guy at the library she secretly calls Superman because of his dark, good looks. But Emma is puzzled and intrigued by his behavior. He speaks at her but never to her. He comes up to touch her hair and then suddenly leaves. And then one day an impulsive meeting between them uncovers a strange truth about William Bennett.

Set in Southern Indiana during the summer of 1979, The Soul Seekers is about one girl and the future she tries to deny. Can she save William from his purgatory, or is she doomed to share his fate?

My Humble Opinion...

The Soul Seekers, by Amy Saia, is a young adult paranormal romance with a sweet small-town feel and down-to-earth story that flows like a beautiful piece of music. The teenage protagonist, Emma Shay, is uprooted from her home in Colorado to halfway across the country, to the mysterious small town of Springvale, Indiana. At first glance, Springvale seems like a typical town—with the story set in the summer of 1979—but it quickly becomes apparent that the town is haunted by dark forces, forces enslaving the town in oppressive 1950s ideals.

I love the development of Emma and Jesse’s relationship, though Emma spends her free time pining over the ghostly William. With Emma being the new girl, Jesse wants to save her from the town’s iron grip while Emma wants to save William from the strange limbo he seems to be imprisoned within. He appears to be Emma’s age, but reveals he’s been frozen in his teenage body for over twenty years. Then she is introduced to the cult that is brainwashing and controlling the town for their own insalubrious purposes.

I greatly enjoyed William masquerading as Emma’s guardian angel when she’s in an accident. I spent most of the book feeling bad for Jesse though. He has the bad boy persona, but underneath he seems like a genuinely nice guy. I found him to be the most interesting character.

The Soul Seekers is a fun and fast read. The author does a wonderful job of harnessing a teenage voice that will appeal to teen readers and a vintage, nostalgic 1970s setting that will appeal to adults, making it a great YA crossover debut novel.  

A few minutes with Amy...

Thanks so much for joining me today! I very much appreciate you taking a few minutes to talk with me.

What compelled you to choose 1979 as the setting for The Soul Seekers? 
Well, for a long time I've had a weird love/obsession with that year. I think it's because 1979 is the last of a true simplicity in time. The eighties were rather cold and—forgive me, because I know a lot of people love the songs from the 80's—rock'n'roll kind of lost its soul. There was something very organic about the way people talked and dressed, even things like commercial design had a certain naivety that I love. The world was still a Woodstock generation. Plus, John Lennon was still alive.
Do you feel that being a musician influences your writing?
I've been told so, yes. When I am in the mode, things roll like song lyrics. I know a lot about writing those: find a topic that fits the melody; find words that fit topic; make it smooth; make it catchy. My favorite comment came from an older gentleman whose writing I greatly adore, he said I had a lyrical way of writing and hoped I'd fall down a flight of stairs and break my fingers. Terrible! Haha. Can't help it but I still think that's the best compliment I've ever received.
Are there specific songs you hear for certain scenes in the novel?
Any you’d like to share? I don't know if it seems an obvious pick, but "Don't Fear the Reaper" would be great throughout, especially for the scene where Jesse and Emma drive to the eclipse together. It has that urgency. There's a song from the 1950's called "The Wind" that would be perfect for when Emma wakes up in the hospital. It's a beautiful song by a Doo Wop group, The Jesters, and I love it tremendously. Also, I listened to America's first album (self-titled) a lot while writing The Soul Seekers, and so each song represents a scene from the book for me. "Horse With No Name" is like an anthem; its mood of isolation represents well the loneliness that permeates Springvale. And, of course, I'd have "Sundown" by Gordon Lightfoot for the van scene where William fades into night.

What challenges did you face in finding authentic teenage voices for Emma and Jesse? 
At first Emma was too young. Her voice matured a lot in the second draft to the point where I really felt I knew her deepest, most inner fears and desires. Jesse shocked the you-know-what out of me because he was so instantly rebellious and real. I mean, I literally would sit back sometimes and go, "Did I write that? What just happened here?" I think I had a lot of rebellion still left in me from my teenage years, and it found a release in Jesse. I did go out and read The Pigman by Paul Zindel and found a similarity that was nice. I wanted 1970's teen, but not like The Brady Bunch, "Groovy, Jesse!" "Far out, Emma!" It had to be honest. And with William I wanted that noble, 1950's cleanliness to contrast with Emma's hippyisms. 
What inspired you to write YA? 
Well, like many people, my high school years were rough. I remember having tons of daydreams in the years following graduation. I'd go back, but this time I'd be the Amy who knew who she was, the Amy who could wise-crack her way out of almost any situation, the Amy who didn't care, the Amy who had a car and a life. The Soul Seekers was an extension of me going back to the town where I felt so abandoned and hurt, and fighting all that had brought me down. There's probably—in all of us—a need to go back and find redemption. 
Can you please share what your road to publication like? 
Rough. But it could have been worse. I made the mistake of sending off my manuscript too soon. It was rejected and rejected. I worked my way down from dream agents to whatever and whomever I could send a query to, but by then I found out my query was an awful, stinking mess. After that there's no going back, meaning, once you've spent an agent's time for one book, it's pretty much over. You have to write another one if you want to query them again. But I just could not give up on The Soul Seekers, there was something about it that seemed so haunting and real to me. I could picture the town so vividly, the characters—there was true emotion inside the pages. A couple of things happened to keep me going: one was, I was grocery shopping when a group of men in black suits and black glasses came around the isle. I just stood there in shock while one of them walked up to me, smiled, and then they all left. Talk about a message! The last, fate-sealing occurrence happened when I was about to mail off a revision for a revise and resubmit. "The Seeker" by The Who came on the car radio on the way to the post-office. My publisher, WiDo accepted that R&R, and told me on my birthday last year. I was so happy and overwhelmed! All things in good time. 
What advice do you have for aspiring authors? 
Read as much as you can, a writer is always growing and needs fuel. Don't let people tell you who or how your characters should be. Stay true to what you know is honest. Work hard. Have fun. If you love your book, then write it, send it to every agent until you run out, be your best supporter. Not everyone is going to love what you write, but if you do, you should stick to it.

Thank you again, Amy! It has been a real pleasure sharing a post with you. Below are links to Amy's blog and Goodreads, and where you can find The Souls Seekers. Be sure to check it out. Thank you for reading. Thank you to Amy. Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Amy Saia

Pick up your copy of The Soul Seekers on Amazon (paperback / Kindle) and Barnes & Noble (paperback / Nook).


  1. Love the sound of this book! Another one for the TBR list!

  2. The late seventies did have an innocent feel to them.

  3. Michael, thank you for the fun interview and for such a wonderful review!

  4. Fabulous interview. I actually know someone named William Bennett :)

    Happy Weekend!

  5. Carol, have you ever conducted a Facebook search on your characters' names? It's pretty interesting what will pop up!

  6. Great interview and review! This sounds really cool. I love books being inspired by music, and it's very interesting when the author is a musician!

  7. I love "Don't fear the reaper" by Blue Oyster Cult. This book looks right up my alley.

  8. Sounds like a great book and it was fun getting to know Amy

  9. Thanks for the review! :)

    Great interview. I like the advice, too, especially about reading.

  10. Awesome interview and review. I definitely have to check out this book. I agree with you Amy, that '79 was a simpler more naive time. I was born at the tail end of that year so I didn't live it, but that is how I picture that era as well. I think that your line Amy about the need in all of us to go back and find redemption was spot on. The high school years are rough for 99% of the population and there is always the wonder of what could have been if you could go back as the person you are today. "How much you wanna bet I could throw a football over them mountains?"

  11. Fun interview and nice review! Thanks for sharing, as usual. ;)

  12. Amy's book sounds fascinating. I like how it takes place in the 70's. I don't remember much of it since I was too young, but I have a fondness for that decade.

  13. I hope it's okay if jump in and say a big thank you to everyone: Michael, Alex, Carol, Nick, Micheal Offutt, Heather, Miss Golden Eagle, James, NIcole, and Medeia!

    James- Indeed. I think that's why I love the movie Napoleon Dynamite so much. He literally has his epic moment right there in school.

  14. Who knew, at fifty three, I would become a big fan of YA. Thanks for the interesting book review.

  15. Thank you to Amy and to everyone who commented! :)

    Amy, congrats on your launch and thank you for speaking with me.

    I am at the SCBWI conference, so I better get back to the speakers and sessions. I hope everyone's weekend is going splendidly!


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