Published February 23, 2022

Amber McBride, author of Me (Moth), teaches English and writing at the University of Virginia. Her work has been published in PloughsharesThe RumpusDecomp and more. Me (Moth) is her debut novel and was a finalist for the 2021 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. McBride practices Hoodoo and loves reading.

Get to know Amber in this Q&A and then see her at the Festival discussing her work in two FREE in-person events on March 19, Family, Friends & First Love: Young Adult Fiction at 12 PM ET and NBF Presents: An Afternoon with the National Book Awards at 4 PM ET.

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What motivated you to become an author? 

I wrote my first poem in the third grade. I remember very clearly—it was about a unicorn. Unfortunately,  in the third grade you are “taught” to want to be a doctor, dentist; maybe even a veterinarian when you grow up. You are not taught that being an author is a realistic career. So, I kept writing and reading and when I got to college, I took creative writing classes. Specifically, a life writing class with my first Black professor Dr. Joanne Gabbin. We read so many novels by Black writers and those writers help me realize that I could be an author. So, Black writers motivated me to become an author—they motivate me to keep writing too.  

Who or what are some of your creative influences?

Black writers like Toni Morrison, Gwendolyn Brooks and Audre Lorde. Music inspires me, I always have music on while writing. Specifically, for Me (Moth), Misty Copeland and her musicality when dancing influenced the poetry in the novel and how it looked on the page. I’m a curious person so really everything influences me creatively—for example did you know trees communicate with each other through complex root systems? Did you know the Greenland Shark can live 300-500 years—very vampire-of-the-ocean vibes. That’s a story right there.

What was your favorite part about writing your latest book?

Learning more about Navajo creation stories from my aunt was such a privilege. I also got to learn about the different species of moths. I wrote this book after my grandfather passed away. So just like Moth goes through the life cycle of a moth, I feel like I went through the stages of grief and having a book to look back at, something I created in that grief, is comforting.

Do you have any sources of inspiration that you come back to while writing?

Music. Always music. That is why there are playlist at the end of all of my novels. 

What impact or takeaway do you hope your work will have for readers? 

I get asked this question so much and I never can put it into words; It’s hard to articulate. I hope people just get this feeling, this feeling that we are connected. You know, that goosebumps-might-cry feeling? Not because something is simply hard or sad, but because it represents life. I hope readers finish my books and give themselves permission to feel

What is something that you’ve read recently and would recommend to others?

I am obsessed with Mahogany Browne’s new novel Vinyl Moon. I love the novel What Should Be Wild by Julia Fine. I’ll recommend Jericho Brown’s, The Tradition all day, everyday!

What are you working on next?

My second novel in verse, We Are All So Good At Smiling comes out in January 2023. The novel uses an extended metaphor to investigate clinical depression—a condition I have. My debut poetry collection, Thick With Trouble, will be published in 2024 and I have a few other secret things in 2023. Right now I am working on an adult gothic novel.

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