I loved reading Amy Makechnie’s new book Ten Thousand Tries about a boy coming to terms with his father’s ALS diagnosis. Besides family, this book focuses on sports and being a good friend. I loved chatting with Amy about her book, writing memorable supporting characters, and crafting stories about families going through hard times. I enjoyed this interview and I know you will too!
Amy is also giving away a copy of her book. Find out how to enter below!
Amy Makechnie on Ten Thousand Tries
Hi Amy! I’m so glad to be chatting with you about Ten Thousand Tries! What a story! I loved meeting Golden and his people. But I have to say, I found Golden’s denial frustrating on several occasions. Why did you want to write about denial as a coping mechanism for this character?
With denial playing such a big part in the grieving process, and Golden’s complete devotion to his dad, he just couldn’t bear to get to the acceptance part. In addition, his entire life he’s been told to “push through” and “work hard” and “you can achieve anything if you want it badly enough!” It’s a message we often give our kids and while it’s not necessarily a bad thing – at what point does one simply surrender?
Denial was also a parallel to the soccer season and Golden’s belief that if they just worked hard enough as a team, they would not only make it to the championship, but win it!
Obviously ALS is a huge part of this story. What inspired you to write about this disease affecting a parent in middle grade literature? And how did you ensure that you preserved joy and a degree of lightness in the story?
This story was born out of a real-life experience with my good friend, Eric, who had ALS. He too, was a writer, and I so wish he could hold the book in his hands. As the disease progressed, his daughter was playing on the same middle school soccer team as my son (that I was coaching). Knowing, working with, and coaching middle-schoolers is a fantastic antidote to sadness. Even during the hard days and the sad times, they provided so much humor and lightness and hope. I quoted extensively from their conversations and quips!
Your debut novel The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair is also about a girl in a challenging family situation. Would you say you find yourself drawn to such stories?
It’s true; I’m drawn to tragedy – but only if it ends well! I also have a great love and interest in the human body. I teach Anatomy and Physiology to high schoolers and am constantly awed by the mystery of it all. My favorite genre to read is realistic fiction that centers around family drama. Combine the two and all of my senses are piqued!
Both books began with real-life experiences with the brain. In Guinevere, a mother is without oxygen for too long. In Golden, a dad’s neurons are unexplainably shriveling. It is the frailties and resilience of the human body that I like to explore. And tragedies are endurable because of the strength of faith and family.I teach Anatomy and Physiology to high schoolers and am constantly awed by the mystery of it all. My favorite genre to read is realistic fiction that centers around family drama. Combine the two and all of my senses are piqued! Click To Tweet
Golden’s sisters were my favorite. Three very different girls who obviously love their brother and their family. Do you have siblings, or were your children more of an inspiration for the sibling dynamics?
I’m so thrilled you loved “The Squirrels”! They were great fun to write. I am the oldest of five siblings, and I also have four children. There is no shortage of arguments, making up, and quotable quotes! I’m always scribbling down something funny or poignant a kid says.
I loved that Golden’s mom goes by Coach and Mom throughout the story depending on which role she’s working at the time. I wanted to give her a hug throughout the story. She balances caring for everyone and trying to maintain normalcy to the best of her ability, but we see that the house isn’t always clean and there isn’t always food that the kids want. What did you want to highlight by showing those not-so-pretty moments?
So much of the emotional and physical labor falls on the shoulders of women and mothers. Mom/Coach preaches a team-mindset, but when it comes to herself, she has a hard time letting go, asking for help, and delegating. For home life to function at its highest level, each member of the family “team” needs to step up – just like on the athletic field. That’s something Golden, his siblings, and Mom all have to learn.
Benny, Lucy, and Golden are such a sweet trio, but Lucy and Golden have an exceptionally close friendship. I loved Lucy’s insightfulness, patience, and kindness — her entire character arc really. Do you have any tips for writing memorable secondary/supporting characters?
I rewrote this story so many times. One rewrite was a rotating Point-of-View story featuring Golden, Lucy, and Benny. In the end, I went back to only Golden’s POV because the story was becoming too big and needed to focus on Golden and his dad — but the rewrite certainly helped me get to know my characters better.
To write memorable secondary characters, I have to really know them: who they are, where they come from, what they look like, talk like, and act like. I have to know the color of their hair and the size of their rollerskates. Truly knowing a character helps me write more deeply with fewer words.To write memorable secondary characters, I have to really know them: who they are, where they come from, what they look like, talk like, and act like. I have to know the color of their hair and the size of their rollerskates. -… Click To Tweet
Golden is almost synonymous with soccer, and I have to say, your soccer knowledge is impressive and the scenes are very satisfying. Did you have to do research or were you a soccer mom at some point?
I’m definitely a soccer mom! I’ve been coaching for almost twenty years and I still secretly hope that someday I’ll be playing with the Women’s National Team #USWNT! (see? I’m like Golden :). All of my kids play – we’re soccer fiends! My son was truly obsessed with Messi as a middle-schooler, so that gave me a lot of inspiration.
Which middle grade books have you read and loved recently?
Saint Ivy by Laurie Morrison, Streams to the River, River to the Sea by Scott O’Dell, and When You trap a Tiger by Tae Keller. I’ve just started Erik VS Everything by Christina Uss (8/2021) and How to win a Slime War by Mae Respicio (9/2021), and both are fantastic!
What do you hope readers take away from Ten Thousand Tries?
That love might break your heart, but it’s still worth it x 10000. Also, no matter what, your family is forever — and that’s a mighty long time.
Are you working on anything you can talk about at the moment?
Yes! The next book is younger and lighter and all about six naughty siblings and their very dignified nanny. Think Mary Poppins with a miniature schnauzer twist 🙂
Thank you so much for your time, Amy!
Thank you for having me, Afoma!
Amy is giving away a copy of Ten Thousand Tries to one of my readers. This giveaway is open to US residents only. You can enter below.a Rafflecopter giveaway
Buy Ten Thousand Tries
Meet Amy Makechnie
Amy Makechnie is the author of The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair.
Like Guinevere, Amy grew up in the midwest, and once tried to sail to the Mississippi on a large piece of styrofoam (she didn’t make it.)
Amy attended Brigham Young University where she graduated from the college of Health and Human Performance, and minored in English. Moments after their wedding, she and her husband drove across the country in a yellow hatchback Nissan Sentra that went no faster than 55mph to work at a prep school (think Hogwarts meets Dead Poet’s Society,) where they were instant dormitory parents to twelve teenage boys (and a couple squirrels in the wall.)
Amy and her family continue to live in a small New Hampshire town where Amy writes and mothers a wily flock of children. As a lover of all things human body, she gets her fix teaching anatomy & physiology, dissecting hearts and memorizing long anatomical words.