Interview With Aimee Agresti, Author of Illuminate
Please give a warm welcome to Aimee Agresti! Her debut novel, Illuminate, came out last week, and it’s absolutely fantastic. She talks about the publishing process, beautiful evil, and her teenage self in the interview below.
Illuminate is your young adult debut; what was your favorite part of the publishing process?
It’s all been pretty thrilling! I’ve been lucky enough to have an editor and agent who are as excited about the book as I am and the whole team at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has been incredible. But I suppose the one moment that really sticks out is when I first saw the cover of the book. That’s when it hit me, “Whoa, this thing that’s only been living on my laptop is now gonna be out in the world!” And I got really lucky because I can’t imagine having a more beautiful cover than this one.
How did writing a novel compare to the journalistic work you’ve previously done?
Writing a novel is so incredibly different. When I was at Us Weekly, the deadlines were so tight and, of course, you had to write the best story you could with the facts you had. But when you sit down to write a novel, there are no constraints and that freedom can be scary. You feel like there’s no excuse for it not to be perfect. It’s a daunting thing, but exciting too!
I loved your combination of beauty and evil. What inspired you to write about drop-dead gorgeous soul-stealers?
Thank you! I’ve always loved “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” it’s such a brilliant story—there’s so much glamour and horror in the world of that book. I thought it would be so much fun not only to update it but to twist things a bit. I liked the idea that Haven and her friends are among these alluring people–so many Dorian Grays!–in this beautiful place that anyone would love to be a part of but, for once, being an outsider could actually be a position of power.
If your teenage self was invited to work at the Lexington, where do you think she’d be assigned? Who would be her mentor?
Oooh, that’s such a great question! I’d probably be put to work in the library, like Lance in the beginning of the book. I’d be in there organizing all the books, setting it up, and I’d be assigned to Lucian but I’d be way too shy to talk to him so I would’ve just hidden out. I volunteered at my hometown library in high school but we didn’t have any cute soul-stealers lurking there!
What’s one thing readers would be surprised to find out about Illuminate?
The most surprising thing might be that when you take away the angels and devils, the story is actually about a girl learning to have confidence, which is something I always had to work on (and still do!)