Ashley Hope Pérez
Ashley Hope Pérez is the author of the YA novels Out of Darkness (Carolrhoda Lab, 2015), The Knife and the Butterfly (Carolrhoda Lab, 2012), and What Can’t Wait (Carolrhoda Lab, 2011). Her debut novel What Can’t Wait won a spot on the 2012 YALSA Best Fiction for YA list, and The Knife and the Butterfly was included in the 2015 YALSA Popular Paperbacks list. Ashley grew up in Texas and taught high school in Houston before pursuing a PhD in comparative literature. She is now a visiting assistant professor of comparative studies at The Ohio State University and spends most of her time reading, writing, and teaching on topics from global youth narratives to Latin American and Latina/o fiction. She lives in Ohio with her husband, Arnulfo, and their son, Liam Miguel. Visit her online at http://www.ashleyperez.com/.
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.