Monday, October 15, 2012

Apocalypse Now: An Interview with Carrie Arcos, Author of OUT OF REACH

I recently had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of Carrie Arcos's debut novel, Out of Reach, which is available tomorrow from Simon Pulse.  Just last week, this book was named a National Book Award finalist. Not bad for a debut author, eh? Here's a bit about the book...

How do you find someone who doesn’t want to be found? A girl searches for her missing addict brother while confronting her own secrets in this darkly lyrical novel.

Rachel has always idolized her older brother Micah. He struggles with addiction, but she tells herself that he’s in control. And she almost believes it. Until the night that Micah doesn’t come home.

Rachel’s terrified—and she can’t help but feel responsible. She should have listened when Micah tried to confide in her. And she only feels more guilt when she receives an anonymous note telling her that Micah is nearby and in danger.

With nothing more to go on than hope and a slim lead, Rachel and Micah’s best friend, Tyler, begin the search. Along the way, Rachel will be forced to confront her own dark secrets, her growing attraction to Tyler…and the possibility that Micah may never come home.

And now, without further ado, here's our interview with the author herself. Welcome to the Lucky 13s blog, Carrie!

1. First of all, you deal with a lot of difficult issues in this book: not just Micah's meth addiction, but also Rachel's sense of isolation, and the things she witnesses in her search for Micah.  What was the most difficult part of this book for you to write?

I didn’t have too much trouble with the difficult thematic aspects of the book, but I did have some issues structurally. The most difficult was probably the middle. In earlier drafts I had a whole biker gang thing going on, turning it into a part time thriller, which wasn’t quite fitting the tone. Once I decided the structure of present time with flashbacks of Micah and Rachel’s relationship, it made everything come together nicely.
2. Is Micah based on anyone you know?  If not, what kind of research was necessary for you to get the details of his addiction accurate?

Micah is based somewhat on a family member who we have walked with in regards to addiction for a number of years now. So I know first hand about addiction from the family perspective. As far as research goes, I also looked a bit into AA and how that’s run as well as the effects of meth on the body. I purposely stayed away from other things out there involving meth addiction like Breaking Bad, as it started when I began the book, even though everyone who knows me recommended it. I’ve finally started watching it and it’s good, really good.

3. Talk to me about the religious element of your book.  Rachel doesn't come across as a particularly religious character, but she does believe in a higher power whom she calls "Frank," and she finds comfort in rituals that are both religious and not.  Was it always your intention to have religion and ritual play such an important part in Rachel's story, or did that come later?

It wasn’t intentional, but I knew I wanted Micah to have some kind of AA/NA experience so I looked into the 12 Steps. I was really surprised by them. I had no idea that they were so grounded in the idea that addiction is really a spiritual disease. Just as Micah is supposed to be “working the steps,” I thought it would be interesting to have Rachel deal with the steps and this idea that there is some kind of higher power. She is struggling because of her own pain, and just like most of us when we’re in pain, we ask the tough questions. Why me? Where are You, God? If there is a God, then why does He allow all of this suffering? Or we even say, Please God...please God and start bargaining. 

I do believe that human beings are spiritual in nature. We have to confront the idea of faith and God or whatever we think connects us in the universe, maybe not once, but even multiple times in our lives, and I know for me that was a huge part of my own journey as a teen.

4. I thought the ending of Out of Reach was surprising -- and surprisingly effective.  Did you always know that Rachel's story would end the way it does, or did you figure it out along the way?

About half way through I knew how it would end, in regards, to Micah and Tyler, but I wasn’t really sure how to present it. Then I got this image from a previous scene. I thought yeah, that's it, and I cried, so it basically solidified it for me.

5. What was your road to publication like? Was there anything about the process that you found particularly surprising?

I’ve wanted to publish for years, but it wasn’t until I learned the discipline of writing that I got serious about it. I read a book that basically kicked my butt, that I have to recommend, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. After I had something I thought was good enough, I researched and queried agents before signing with Kerry Sparks of Levine Greenburg Agency. She helped me clean up the manuscript some more before sending it out. What surprised me was how fast it sold to Simon Pulse, only a couple of weeks. In the time since it’s sold, I have had a huge learning curve when it comes to the business side. But it’s great. I have nothing to complain about.

6. So what's next for you, writing-wise?  Do you have another novel in the works?

I do. I have one I’ve completed about a girl who has to go to Baja for the summer and gets involved in a mystery from the 1930s. I'm currently writing about a boy dealing with grief. So, we’ll see.

7. And finally, since this is the Lucky 13s blog: Do you have any favorite superstitions or good-luck charms, particularly with regards to writing?

I like to write in the mornings on my laptop in the same spots: the table in my living room and/or a certain table at my local coffee shop.
Now I’m wondering if my writing will go more smoothly if I always pick the same table at my coffee shop. Hmmm…. Anyway, thanks for stopping by, Carrie! 

Carrie Arcos lives in Los Angeles with her family. She writes young adult literature and is an adjunct professor. You can find more about her at

This interview was conducted by Lindsay Ribar, author of The Art of Wishing (Dial, March 2013), as part of an ongoing series of interviews with the Apocalypsies—YA, MG, and children’s book authors with 2012 debuts.

1 comment:

  1. Great interview. Looking forward to reading OUT OF REACH! Also, you had me at 1930s mystery in Baja...