Meet the Author of THE BALLAD OF AMI MILES, Kristy Dallas Alley!
What inspired you to write the book?
Just about every summer since I was in college, I've driven through Alabama to get to the Gulf Coast beaches in the Florida panhandle. The route has changed now, but for years we passed by this abandoned trailer dealership on an otherwise empty stretch of highway, and I started thinking it would make a great setting for a post-apocalyptic novel. I would bounce ideas off my husband to pass the time on those long drives. Separately, I had always thought it would be fun to write a sort of updated Huck Finn story with a female character who has her own "All right, then, I'll go to hell" moment over a more contemporary inner conflict. Eventually those two ideas came together to form the basis of this book. And of course, some aspects of Ami's journey reflect my own experiences, but they take a different form in her story.
How did you come up with the music referenced in the story?
I wish I could say that I had a soundtrack like the cool kids, but I probably thought more about the way that finding new-to-us music can be such a big part of reinventing ourselves as we grow up. And the person who introduces us to that music is often someone who excites us, someone we want to be closer to. When Jessie introduces Ami to the music she loves, she's giving her a piece of herself. I also thought about the ways we listen to music, and how it's the old, simple mechanics of a needle on vinyl that would hold up the best after the collapse of technology. So I needed music that would exist on vinyl, and luckily that gave me The Go-Gos and The Beatles and Nina Simone and those old folk recordings of Appalachian ballads.
What is your favorite (non-spoilery) moment in the book?
That's hard! I really love the moment when Ami first sees her whole self in a mirror. But of course, that moment when she first meets Jessie is my favorite. I had a clear picture in my mind of how it would go, but I write in a very linear, beginning-to-end fashion, so I had to wait to get to that. It was a carrot I dangled in front of myself during the harder parts of writing.
Who would play your characters in a movie?
Ami: There's a potential spoiler embedded in Ami's appearance, so I think she would need to be a new, unknown actress.
Jessie: Hailee Steinfeld. She looks the part, plus she can sing. And her accent in True Grit was convincing.
Elisabeth Miles: Reese Witherspoon looks and sounds right, plus she's doing amazing work on both sides of the camera right now!
Will: Colin Ford and Charles Vandervaart both have Will's golden boy look, and they were both great in Every Day.
Melissa: Since we're stealing from the cast of Every Day, Angourie Rice would be great as Will's twin sister, Melissa.
Nina: Amandla Stenberg is fabulous and looks just the way I picture Nina.
What makes you swoon?
As an overly serious and analytical person, what makes me swoon is having an instinctive, uncontrollable response to a person or a moment that doesn't make sense to me. I like to be moved without my busy brain understanding why. It's hard to catch me off guard, so when it happens, it really gets me.