Ashley Hope Pérez
Ashley Hope Pérez is the author of award-winning books for young adults, including What Can’t Wait, The Knife and the Butterfly, and Out of Darkness. Out of Darkness was described by The New York Times as a “layered tale of color lines, love and struggle” and was named one of Booklist’s “50 Best YA Books of All Time.” It also won the 2016 Tomás Rivera Book Award, the 2016 Américas Award, and a 2016 Printz honor for excellence in young adult literature from the American Library Association. When she’s not writing or hanging out with her two beautiful sons, Liam Miguel and Ethan Andrés, Ashley teaches world literature at The Ohio State University. Visit her online at www.ashleyperez.com or find her on Twitter and Instagram: @ashleyhopeperez.
What was your favorite book when you were a child?
I think it would have been The Boxcar Children. It probably seems incredibly old-fashioned now, but I remember being fascinated by the idea of children living on their own and making do with the things they found. As a teenager, I think I learned about half of my “grown-up” vocabulary from Margaret Atwood novels, especially The Handmaid’s Tale.
What’s your favorite line from a book?
This one, from Annie Dillard’s wonderful Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, which has the very best metaphors for intense happiness: “I feel as though I stand at the foot of an infinitely high staircase, down which some exuberant spirit is flinging tennis ball after tennis ball, and the one thing I want in the world is a tennis ball.”
Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators?
In the world of YA fiction, I’m finding new favorites all the time. A couple of the books I’ve loved recently are Jenny Downham’s Before I Die, Matt de la Peña’s Ball Don’t Lie, and Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief.
Why did you want to become an author or illustrator?
I’ve been writing stories and poems since my teens, but I only began to seriously consider writing a novel when I was teaching high-school English in Houston. I believe that everyone likes to read, but a lot of people don’t know it yet. I spent a lot of time helping students find books that were right for them, and that led to many conversations about what they hoped to find in a book. All it takes is figuring out what it is that a person will enjoy and giving them the book that will open the door. The two novels I have written so far are actually quite different from one another, but each one aspires to be the “gateway” book for a certain kind of reader.
Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators?
Don’t be afraid to write (just) for fun. In college, I almost took a job as a baker for a trendy organic grocery store. At the last minute, I realized that if I baked for money, making cookies would probably never again be something that I could do just for fun with family and friends. I think writing can and should be a part of everyone’s life, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be a profession. You can write for yourself or write to share with friends and family. Writing professionally—while also very exciting—is a different experience and requires radical commitment.