Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (1984–) Biography
Personal, Addressesh, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Work in Progress, Sidelights
Born 1984, in Silver Spring, MD; Education: Attended University of Massachusetts, beginning c. 2002. Hobbies and other interests: Cross-stitch, playing piano, gardening, cooking, carpentry, debate, learning new things.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Delacorte Press, Bantam Dell, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers citation, American Library Association, 2001, for Demon in My View and Shattered Mirror; School Library Journal Best Books of the Year designation, 2003, for Hawksong.
In the Forests of the Night, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1999.
Demon in My View, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2000.
Shattered Mirror, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2001.
Midnight Predator, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2002.
"KIESHA'RA" NOVEL SERIES
Hawksong, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2003.
Snakecharm, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2004.
Falcondance, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2005.
Wolfcry, Delacorte (New York, NY), 2006.
The "Kiesha'ra" series has been adapted for audiobook by Recorded Books.
Work in Progress
Amelia Atwater-Rhodes had an early dose of fame when, in 1999 at age fifteen, In the Forests of the Night, her first published book, drew positive reviews from mainstream critics. In the Forests of the Night is a vampire novel that the author wrote at age thirteen; finishing the book and submitting the manuscript, she signed the publishing contract on her fourteenth birthday. In the years since, the young writer has continued to produce imaginative fiction on a regular basis, including the "Kiesha'ra" fantasy series. Not surprisingly considering the author's celebrity, Atwater-Rhodes's books are popular with teen readers; whereas young-adult books normally sell in four-digit editions, In the Forests of the Night required repeat printings, and sales had reached over 50,000 copies only months after publication.
A prolific writer, Atwater-Rhodes has continued to attract critical praise, her second novel, Demon in My View, cementing critics' faith in her abilities. Despite the demands of fulfilling the contracts of her publishers for more novels featuring a mix of witchcraft and vampirism, however, the young novelist still had to navigate her teen years, which included high-school graduation and enrollment at the University of Massachusetts. "Her mother still makes her do the dishes," commented Susan Carpenter in the Los Angeles Times, describing the life of the then-sixteen-year-old writer following publication of Demon in My View.
Atwater-Rhodes was born in Silver Spring, Maryland, in 1984, but subsequently moved to Concord, Massachusetts, where she attended high school. While both parents—her mother is a high-school vice principal and her father is a public-policy consultant—acknowledged being fans of the books of horror fiction-writer Anne Rice, Atwater-Rhodes particularly credits her mother with whetting her appetite for the genre. As she told USA Today writer Katy Kelly, "She pretty much raised me on Stephen King and Dracula and aliens. She'd say, 'Just keep in mind: it's fiction. You're not supposed to take an ax to your neighbor. You're not to bite your friend.'"
The urge to create seized Atwater-Rhodes early, and she was at work on a science-fiction novel by the second grade. By age nine, she had discovered Christopher Pike's The Last Vampire, a book that, as she once explained, "served as an inspiration by pointing out that vampires do not have to fit into stereotypes." She began writing in earnest following the fifth grade, working after school, in the middle of the night, or whenever inspiration struck. Sometimes she would write sixty pages at a sitting, and while composing In the Forests of the Night she balanced a tiger Beanie Baby on her head and took inspiration from singer Alanis Morisette's Jagged Little Pill album. After reading the novel, a former teacher signed on as her agent and sent the novel to Delacorte Press. While celebrating her fourteenth birthday, Atwater-Rhodes received a phone call telling her that the publisher had accepted In the Forests of the Night for publication.
Taking place in the present day and set in its author's New England hometown, In the Forests of the Night is the story of 300—year-old vampire named Risika, who was "turned" while a teenager and living in colonial Concord. Risika's human persona, Rachel Weatere, was born in 1684; now, after centuries as an Undead, Risika has adjusted to her status, and as Holly Koelling noted in Booklist, "has grown distant from the mortal world. Humans are prey, needed solely for nourishment." Risika sleeps by day and goes hunting in New York City by night, seeking fresh blood. One night, returning home, she discovers a black rose on her pillow just as she had centuries before, on the eve of her own changeover from human to vampire. The rose is a sign, a challenge from her archenemy, a powerful vampire named Aubrey, who long ago helped Risika arrange her transformation and who she believes murdered her human brother. Risika goes into action, deciding to confront her old enemy.
Reviews of In the Forests of the Night were generally favorable, albeit with some reservations. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly cited Atwater-Rhodes as "skillful at building atmosphere, insightful in creating characters and imaginative in varying and expanding upon vampire lore," while also noting a strain of "easy, adolescent cynicism." In Booklist, Koelling dubbed the novel's storyline "derivative" and "meandering," but went on to comment that Atwater-Rhodes's "use of language is surprisingly mature and polished for a thirteen-year-old writer." As Koelling correctly predicted, "Both the book's subject and the age of the author will ensure its popularity, especially with middle-schoolers, and it may encourage other young writers to pursue the craft." Kendra Nan Skellen, reviewing the novel for School Library Journal, wrote that In the Forests of the Night "is well written and very descriptive, and has in-depth character development…. This first novel by an author with great ability and promise is sure to be popular." New Yorker contributor Melanie Thernstrom summed up critical response by writing: "Amelia has an uncanny understanding of the kind of narrative that makes for a successful potboiler: she's skilled at creating characters the reader easily and instantly bonds with, and she's resourceful when it comes to putting them in jeopardy…. No one in the world of young-adult publishing has managed to come up with an analogy to Amelia: other early-teenage writers simply don't write coherent multiple-character, time-weaving, metafictional novels."
Atwater-Rhodes served up another slice of her favorite genre—horror—in her second novel, Demon in My View. Like In the Forests of the Night, Demon in My View chronicles a portion of the elaborate genealogy of vampires and related supernatural beings created by the author. By 2001, Atwater-Rhodes calculated, she had written the equivalent of over twenty-five novels, and had dozens of story ideas saved on her computer. As Thernstrom noted, "It will require a dizzying number of books to straighten … out" the histories of the young novelist's elaborate character genealogy, some 260 and growing. "Unless Amelia manages to achieve the immortality of her characters, her imagination has already extended beyond her own life span," the critic added.
Demon in My View focuses on Jessica Ashley Allodola, a high school student who briefly appeared in In the Forests of the Night. Writing under the pen name of Ash Night, Jessica has just published her first novel, a vampire tale titled Tiger, Tiger. At school she is an outsider, something of a misfit, but writing takes her into a dreamlike state in which she can describe the world of vampires and witches in vivid detail. Jessica marvels at the way her fertile imagination works; what she does not realize is that these visions are, in fact, real. As a reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted of the novel's plot, the vampires "aren't too happy that she's spilled their secrets and wittingly alerted vampire-hunting witches to the location of their undead village, New Mayhem." To gain vengeance, Aubrey—the nemesis of In the Forests of the Night—appears at Jessica's high school disguised as a new student named Alex. Attracted to Jessica's aura, Aubrey is then torn between a desire for revenge and the wish to turn the young writer into a vampire like himself. Jessica, too, finds herself attracted to Aubrey. Meanwhile, the plot thickens with the arrival of another student, actually a witch of the Smoke Line, Caryn, who has arrived to protect Jessica from the vampires. "The clash between the witches and the vampires and the truth of Jessica's birth take the plot down many twisting and suspenseful paths," according to Jane Halsall, writing in School Library Journal.
A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented that in Demon in My View "fantastic fights will keep readers turning pages quickly," and concluded that "Atwater-Rhodes exercises impressive control over the complex lineages she has imagined, and she comes up with creative solutions to advance her story. Readers will drain this book in one big gulp." Not all reviewers were quite so enthusiastic about the young writer's second outing, however. Ellen Creager wrote in the Detroit Free Press that the book "is nowhere near as polished as the first," lacking its "compelling plot" and "immediacy." Creager further noted that Demon in My View "is a bit too close to [the television series] 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' for comfort," and Halsall wrote in School Library Journal that the second novel "is not as tightly plotted or generally as well written as … [the] first."
Atwater-Rhodes's vampire and witch saga continues in the novels Shattered Mirror and Midnight Predator. Shattered Mirror tells the story of Sara Vida, a high school student and witch who must grapple with her upbringing and values when she befriends brother and sister vampires Christopher and Nissa. When Sara learns that Christopher's twin brother is Nikolas, a notoriously evil vampire who murdered one of Sara's own ancestors, the tension and suspense build. Midnight Predator finds relentless vampire hunter Turquoise Draka joining
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fellow tracker Ravyn on the trail of notorious undead Jeshickah, even though the creature's trail leads into the vampire realm known as the Midnight Empire.
While a Publishers Weekly contributor found that "some of [Atwater-Rhodes's] writing … is over the top," in Shattered Mirror the young author "chooses an interesting theme … and she builds some creative elements around it." Similarly, School Library Journal contributor Elaine Baran Black commented that with Shattered Mirror, "Atwater-Rhodes does another fine job of building a suspenseful mood and sustaining it throughout." Black further remarked that, "though the ending isn't necessarily a big surprise, readers will be racing to reach it as they devour this compelling tale." Praising Midnight Predator for its "thoughtful" conclusion, Molley S. Kinney noted in School Library Journal that Atwater-Rhodes's "plot and characters are … skillfully intertwined," and "the harshness and violence" of her story are balanced by "the soulful searching" of the tale's central protagonists.
In 2003 Atwater-Rhodes introduced her "Kiesha'ra" series with Hawksong. A shapeshifter who can move from human to hawk form, Danica Shardae is heir to the throne of her kingdom. Hoping to end the war between her kind and the serpiente, she agrees to wed Zane Cobriana. Professing an equal commitment to a peace between their two shapeshifter races, Zane nonetheless presents a real threat to his bride while in his alternate cobra form, forcing Danica to keep removed from him in private. As some attempt to end their alliance, Danica and Zane try to forge a bond of trust in a novel that School Library Journal contributor Saleena L. Davidson dubbed an "engaging fantasy" that is both "a love story and … an intriguing look at a world that is teeming with tension and danger and beauty." While a Kirkus Reviews writer bemoaned Atwater-Rhodes's use of a "stock romance plot," the critic added that Hawksong is "enjoyable for that genre," and in Publishers Weekly a critic praised the author for "creat[ing] … impressively complex cultures for both the avian and serpiente people."
Atwater-Rhodes continues her "Kiesha'ra" saga with Snakecharm, Falcondance, and Wolfcry, which continue to detail the fragile alliance between avian and serpiente shapeshifters. In Snakecharm Danica and Zane hope that their heir will strengthen the bond between their peoples, until Syfka, a member of the falcon clan, arrives and begins to stir up discontent in the Wyvern court. Falcondance finds falcon Nicias Silvermead isolated from his kind and living amid the avians and serpientes as a guard to Danica and Zane's daughter, Oliza Shardae Cobriana, in the Wyvern court. Haunted by visions of his home in Anhmik, Nicias finally returns to his homeland, hoping to find the powerful falcon who can help him harness his growing magic powers. Back in the Wyvern court, Princess Oliza comes of age and hopes for a peaceful future, until her kidnapping by a wolf band forces her to realize that peace in her kingdom is a fragile thing. According to Lisa Prolman in School Library Journal, Snakecharm contains a "compelling" story in which "there is enough suspense to keep readers interested," while the tale unfolding in Falcondance is "detailed and intertwined with [falcon] myth and legend," according to Janis Flint-Ferguson in her Kliatt review.
In an interview with Kellie Vaughan for Teen People, a then-fourteen-year-old Atwater-Rhodes offered an assessment of her creative strengths as a younger writer: "As a teen, I bring a different perspective to writing. I can offer immediate emotions, experiences and insight that adult writers often have to reach back and find in order to write about them." Her advice to other would-be writers is shared by older, more experienced authors: "Write when you feel like writing…. Write because you love to write. Write for yourself and no one else."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, June 1, 1999, Holly Koelling, review of In the Forests of the Night, p. 1812; September 1, 2001, John Peters, review of Shattered Mirror, p. 96; August, 2002, Debbie Carton, review of Midnight Predator, p. 1948.
Book Report, November-December, 1999, p. 65.
Detroit Free Press, July 16, 2000, Ellen Creager, "Fifteen Year Old Is on a Roll with Her Second Novel," p. E5.
Entertainment Weekly, March 26, 1999, p. 80.
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2003, review of Hawksong, p. 855; September 1, 2004, review of Snakecharm, p. 859.
Kliatt, September, 2005, Janis Flint-Ferguson, review of Falcondance, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times, July 30, 2000, Susan Carpenter, "Teen Author's Novel Approach," p. E2.
New Yorker, October 18-25, 1999, Melanie Thernstrom, "The Craft," pp. 136, 138 140-142.
People, August 9, 1999, William Plummer and Tom Duffy, "Author Rising," pp. 103-104.
Publishers Weekly, May 24, 1999, review of In the Forests of the Night, p. 80; April 24, 2000, review of Demon in My View, p. 92; September 24, 2001, review of Shattered Mirror, p. 94; June 30, 2003, review of Hawksong, p. 80.
School Library Journal, July, 1999, Kendra Nan Skellen, review of In the Forests of the Night, p. 92; May 1, 2000, Jane Halsall, review of Demon in My View, p. 166; September, 2001, Elaine Baran Black, review of Shattered Mirror, p. 223; May, 2002, Molley S. Kinney, review of Midnight Predator, p. 146; August, 2003, Saleena L. Davidson, review of Hawksong, p. 154; October, 2004, Lisa Prolman, review of Snakecharm, p. 154; September, 2005, Sharon Rawlins, review of Falcondance, p. 198.
Seventeen, June, 1999, Curtis Sittenfeld, "Freshman Debut."
Teen People, February, 1999, Kellie Vaughan, interview with Amelia Atwater-Rhodes.
USA Today, May 6, 1999, Katy Kelly, "A Writer Grave beyond Her Years," p. D1.
Random House Web site, http://www.randomhouse.com/ (April 26, 2006), "Amelia Atwater-Rhodes."