When I say that FYA HQ is counting the days until Amelia Diane Coombs’ debut novel, Keep My Heart in San Francisco, drops on July 14th…I mean that we are seriously Sharpie-X’ing out the days on our caticorn-themed wall calendar. We’re still a little over a month out from her pub date, but Amelia was generous enough to stop by the FYA lockers to give us the scoop and play a quick game of MASH!
The Actual Book-Related Questions
Keep My Heart in San Francisco is, in part, a love letter to the city. Did your passion for the city come from growing up there, or were you drawn to its steep streets later in life? Of all the iconic places you referenced throughout the novel, is there one you wanted to highlight that you couldn’t quite fit in?
I actually had a complicated relationship with San Francisco when I was younger! I grew up in a small town in the Wine Country, about forty-five minutes north from the city. Both my parents loathed going into San Francisco (the traffic! no parking! too many people, etc), so I rarely visited as a kid. I didn’t experience the city until my late teens and early twenties, when I began driving into the city for concerts. I ended up going to graduate school in Oakland, and during those years, I developed a deeper appreciation for the Bay Area.
As for iconic places, I wish I could’ve included a scene on the Golden Gate Bridge! That or more scenes outside the city, in Berkeley and Oakland.
Mental health is a big theme within Chuck’s journey, and, according to your author’s note, within your own life as well. Even though we are only now (slowly!) starting to place a stronger emphasis on representation and mental health awareness in YA publishing, what books did you read as a teen that spoke to you and helped you feel seen? Are there any recent works you’ve enjoyed that you would recommend to readers who are interested in diving deeper into these topics?
Looking back, I can’t think of many YA novels that spoke to me as a teenager. Mental health wasn’t a focus in the books I read, which probably made me feel even more alone in high school. As I got older, I began seeing mental health in YA—but usually with characters dying by suicide. They weren’t uplifting or positive stories, but felt like cautionary tales, or mental illness was only thrown in as a plot device. I wish I could’ve had books where characters go to therapy, take medication, thrive with their mental health management!
I’m so happy that mental health rep has become more prevalent in YA in the last few years. I really enjoyed ONLY MOSTLY DEVESTATED by Sophie Gonzales—it has great rep for anxiety. I’ve heard such good things about the mental health rep in VERONA COMICS by Jennifer Dugan, which is next on my TBR. OCD LOVE STORY by Corey Ann Haydu is another great one, as is STARFISH by Akemi Dawn Bowman.
Chuck is hustling to save her family’s business: an outdated but beloved bowling alley. When Jennie first told FYA headquarters about your manuscript, we were all very intrigued by this unique-to-YA setting! So tell us: Why bowling? And inquiring minds want to know–what’s the highest score you’ve ever bowled?
Oh man, I wish this book had a better origin story! But the truth is, I was in a really bad writing rut in early 2017. I was also quite depressed and binge watching a lot of TV. One day, I was watching some silly sitcom that had bowling in it, and I thought it’d be a fun topic! I love the kind of cheesy retro-ness of bowling—the neon, the outfits, the atmosphere. But the first drafts of KMHISF were very, very different than the soon-to-be published version. The hustling element didn’t come until later when I was doing some research and stumbled across an article about it.
Sadly, I’m not a very good bowler. I accidentally threw the bowling ball behind me once, to give you an example. Beckett’s bowling skills are a closer match to mine than Chuck’s. But, if I’m remembering correctly, I think once I bowled a 160 or something? Not very impressive! I don’t have great hand-eye coordination.
I now have a huge crush on Chuck’s former-BFF-and-unrequited-crush, Beckett! That date, sa-woon! He can totally join FYA’s legion of best book boyfriends. What inspirations (real or fictional) did you draw from to create his character? Who was your ultimate book boyfriend as a teen?
Why thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed Beckett—he was a delight to write!
I’m pretty sure I subconsciously squirrel away all my favorite book/tv/movie boyfriend traits and tuck them away for future use! I’ve always been a sucker for a good romance! I wanted Beckett’s strengths to compliment Chuck’s weaknesses, which really shaped his character. Chuck’s hard, so I made him soft. Chuck doesn’t like talking about her feelings, and Beckett’s an open book. The way Beckett communicates with Chuck and supports her with her mental health is, in part, inspired by my partner. (He even lets me plagiarize some of his sweeter sentiments! I’m quite lucky!)
As a teen, I loved loved loved Seth Cohen from The OC (not from a book, but STILL, and let’s be real, I still love him) and Marcus Flutie from Megan McCafferty’s Jessica Darling series was probably my favorite book boyfriend growing up. Also, any of the love interests from Sarah Dessen gave me forever heart eyes.
Chuck refurbishes vintage clothing and loves fashion design, and even hopes to attend the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising when she graduates. Do you have a favorite outfit you described in the book? What’s your favorite outfit that you’ve ever worn?
I love Chuck’s weirder outfits (overalls and sequin platforms!) but personally, I’m not very fashionable. But I love vintage clothes, and in college, I developed quite the extensive vintage cardigan collection, with pieces ranging from the 1950s to the 80s!
What kind of stories can we look forward to seeing from you next?
My second book Between You, Me and the Honeybees releases in Summer 2021! It follows Josie Hazeldine, who is determined to take over the family beekeeping business instead of going to college. During the summer after graduation, she plans to convince her mom she’s ready to take the helm at Hazeldine Honey—but those plans are complicated when she falls for Ezra, the son of her mom’s local rivals. I jokingly called this book a Montague and Capulets romance set in the world of backyard beekeeping when I pitched it to Jennie. It’s a very sweet (har har) story and, in my opinion, very swoony. If you have a huge crush on Beckett, you will absolutely love Ezra!
The YA Questions
If your real-life adolescence was a YA book …
What would you, the main character, be like?
I’d be the quiet bookworm who everyone thinks is standoffish but I’m really just super-constantly-anxious, and all I want is someone to eat lunch with at my new high school.
Who is your secret crush?
The aloof artsy guy who always thought I tried too hard. He undoubtedly peaked in high school.
What is your number #1 source of angst?
Is everything an answer? I was a very angsty teen!
At what point would the reader pump his/her fist in victory?
I struggled academically in high school (I even got a D in English! GASP!) due to undiagnosed mental health problems and a learning disability. My teachers thought I was a lazy slacker, but in junior year I transferred into independent study. There, I flourished and I tested out of high school when I was sixteen and never looked back!
And who would play you in the film adaptation?
Oof, I’m not sure! Maybe Isla Fisher? Not quite right for a YA adaptation, so maybe another petite redhead?
The actual Amelia!
The Slumber Party Questions
What is your secret power?
I’m bizarrely good at those claw-machine games at movie theaters and bowling alleys haha. I’ve won several stuffed teddy bears in my lifetime.
What is your #1 favorite food?
French fries! Or coffee, because that totally counts as food, right?
Tell me about your area of expertise.
Ooh, outside of writing? Probably beekeeping!
If you could assemble your own Ocean’s 11 of fictional characters, who would you pick and why?
Leslie Knope (Parks and Rec)
Sterling Archer (Archer)
Professor Mcgonagall (Harry Potter)
Dipper and Mable Pines (Gravity Falls)
The Doctor (Dr. Who, preferably the 10th Doctor because David Tennant)
Rick C-137 (Rick and Morty)
Buffy Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Veronica Mars (Veronica Mars)
Louise (Bob’s Burgers)
Trevor and Sypha (Castlevania)
Clarice Starling (The Silence of the Lambs)
What is your best karaoke song?
I’ve never ever sung karaoke!
Tell me something scandalous!
I’m lactose-intolerant, but when I could eat cheese, I hated it. I really don’t understand why/how people find cheese appetizing…? It’s mold!
What is your favorite adult beverage?
I actually don’t drink and haven’t really since high school. I’m big on coffee though, and I’m an avid water drinker. I’m one of those annoying people who takes a water bottle with them everywhere.
What book have you read the most number of times?
Does The OC count? Because that’s my answer/the truth.
YA authors are so cool. Who would you give a BFF charm to?
Can I give BFF charms to everyone? The YA community is so incredibly kind and supportive—they all deserve charms!
Out of all of the characters you’ve written, which one do you most wish you could be?
I am, more or less, Chuck, the main character of my debut haha. I think I’d love to be Josie, the main character in my second book. She’s pretty damn fearless. The fact that she has a pretty swoony summer romance doesn’t hurt!
If you were invited to the FYA slumber party (and, obvs, you ARE), what pajamas would you wear, and what is the most crucial snack food and/or movie you’d bring?
I’d definitely bring popcorn and M&Ms to mix together (so good) and a bunch of sheet face masks!
OMG, I never attend an over-nighter without sheet masks for everyone! We are kindred spirits.
And Now, MASH!
Amelia made three picks for each category, and I added a fourth. The magic number (chosen by a random number generator) was 3.
M A S H
Adam BrodyRiz Ahmed David Tennant
Duckie from Pretty in Pink
Backpacking through a National Park
An Ice Hotel
Anaconda hunting in the Amazon
# OF KIDS
All the cats
One adopted, well-behaved girl
YA AuthorEnglish Teacher Heiress Who Naps All Day
Bowling Alley Shoe Cleaner
Animal Crossing Bells (currently playing New Horizons, so this would come in very handy)
Paid in bowling games and bowling alley nachos
Small Town in Northern California
Toad Suck, Arkansas
Sea MonkeysA Unicorn/Cat Hybrid A Corgi
An Afghan Hound that requires constant grooming
The Bluth family staircar from Arrested Development
Dracula’s castle from Castlevania
VW Convertible Bug
A covered wagon
Thanks for stopping by, Amelia!
Keep My Heart In San Francisco will be available July 14, 2020. Be on the lookout for our review to come soon!