The Dark Days of Fall 2013: THE BROKENHEARTED by Amelia Kahaney

A teenage girl is transformed into a reluctant superhero and must balance her old life with the dark secret of who she has become.

Prima ballerina Anthem Fleet is closely guarded by her parents in their penthouse apartment. But when she meets the handsome Gavin at a party on the wrong side of town, she is immediately drawn into his dangerous world. Then, in a tragic accident, Anthem falls to her death. She awakes in an underground lab, with a bionic heart ticking in her chest. As she navigates her new life, she uncovers the sinister truth behind those she trusted the most, and the chilling secret of her family lineage…and her duty to uphold it.

Amelia Kahaney grew up an easily sunburnt child in San Diego, CA and Hilo, HI. At age 12, self-exiled from surf camp due to lack of coordination, Amelia sought refuge in her local library and spent the rest of her summer filling up yellow legal pads with her first attempts at fiction. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in English, she lived in Portland, Oregon and Quetzaltenango, Guatemala before landing in New York City with a giant suitcase and high hopes. Nine apartments and a dozen jobs later, she began to study fiction writing at Brooklyn College. Her short stories have appeared in Best American Nonrequired Reading, One Story, Crazyhorse, and other literary magazines. She wrote most of The Brokenhearted in a coffee shop that has since gone out of business, and is currently testing out new locations in which to dream up superpowers for book two. She is still a fan of libraries, and is also partial to bicycles, art cars, fire, hermit crabs, voices harmonizing, flash mobs, hot springs, and voracious readers of all ages. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and son.

1)    Can you tell my readers about Brokenhearted?

It’s a fast-paced thriller about a 17-year-old ballet dancer named Anthem Fleet, a privileged girl in a city with a stark divide between rich and poor. She falls for Gavin, a boy from the poor side of town, but then he gets kidnapped. In the process of trying to get him back, Anthem nearly dies, gets a bionic heart, develops superpowers, and gains a sense of brokenhearted justice.

2) What was your inspiration for writing Brokenhearted?

Anyone who reads it will see that I’m a huge fan of the Dark Knight franchise. For me, the city of Bedlam was a huge character in the story. When I was working on an early draft at home in New York, the Occupy movement was exploding here. People were suddenly talking a lot about income inequality, and there were mass protests around the country, many of which were met with frightening crackdowns by the police. I was fascinated and horrified by footage of students staging a sit-in on the lawn of their university who were deliberately and slowly sprayed in the face with tear gas by an overzealous police officer. A lot of that found its way into the book, though of course in the book the effects of the gas are different. 

3) Anthem is this story's protagonist. Initially she seems clueless and naive but as circumstances change she becomes this kick-ass character that I could not help but cheer on. How did her transformation come about?

I wanted Anthem to have a strong inner core but also to have been so hemmed in by the rigid routines of her life that she almost can’t cope when things start to go wrong. She’s never had to face challenges to her safety and security before, and suddenly she loses everything that matters to her, including her human heart. But ballet dancers are strong and disciplined, and over time she uses that discipline to build up her physical and emotional strength. When she faces the ultimate villain at the end of the book, it’s as a much stronger and wiser person than she once was. She does even more of ass-kicking in book two, where she has to confront her real identity and defeat a new set of baddies.

4) Anthem is a Ballerina turned super hero. What research did you have to do for her character?

When I was trying to figure out Anthem’s heart, I asked a friend in med school about chimeric heart technology and what effects a supercharged heart might have on a human being. He was incredibly helpful in figuring out what it might mean if someone’s heart could beat far faster than normal. And I also read a lot about the organ trade and cloning. It turns out science isn’t too far off from cloning organs for use in humans. It’s crazy to think about how close we truly are to the kind of technology Jax (the scientist in the book) uses to save and enhance Anthem. Of course, I doubt anyone will be signing up for a hummingbird-caliber heart anytime soon. As you know from reading, there are dangers involved!

5) What is your favorite passage in Brokenhearted?

I really like the moment when Anthem is not yet aware of her powers and reacts to her ex-boyfriend, Will, in anger, essentially breaking his face by accident. Writing that scene was the first time I realized how exciting and dangerous it would be for her to have super-strength and not be in control of it.

6) What was the most difficult thing to write in Brokenhearted?

It was really hard to nail the love relationship between Gavin and Anthem in so few chapters. I wanted to spend forever with those two as they fell in love, but Gavin also needed to get offstage fast for the rest of the action to unfold. It was a puzzle that took several drafts to solve.

7) How many books are planned for the Brokenhearted series?

It will be a two-book series, but there is more than enough action in the second book to fill three books.

8) What soundtrack were you listening to when you were writing Brokenhearted?

That’s a great question. I put together The Brokenhearted Playlist on Spotify so you can listen for yourself. “Hot Knife” by Fiona Apple, “Generals” by the Mynabirds, and many of Nikki Minaj’s songs on Pink Friday were on repeat on my headphones whenever I was stuck and needed to get outside for a walk.
9) You find out that Brokenhearted was optioned for a movie and you alone can pick the cast. Whom would you select?

Oh gosh. Jacqueline Emerson, who played Foxface in the The Hunger Games, has great hair for the role of Anthem, but I’d love an unknown actress even more—preferably someone with a background in ballet. I was picturing Taylor Lautner when I wrote Ford, ubiquitous as he is. As for Gavin, Ezra Miller is an amazing actor who could nail his split personality, both his vulnerability and what comes later.

10) What were you doing when you found out that Brokenhearted [Part of this question is missing!]

When I got word of The Brokenhearted selling to Harper Teen, I was standing the parking lot of a Marshall’s in Miami, alone in the sunshine at a strip mall. I remember sitting down on the ground next to my rental car and absolutely losing it with joy—tears, screaming, the works—for a few minutes. Then I drove home to tell my family.

11) What made you decide to write Young Adult fiction?

I came to Young Adult fiction by way of ghostwriting. I had a new baby and was looking for a job that would allow me to spend time with him. I heard about a ghostwriting job through a friend for a new series by a popular author. I “auditioned” for the author and won the job. After ghosting three books, I was ready to try one under my own name.

12) What are you writing now? And can you talk about it?

I’m hard at work finishing Book Two of the Brokenhearted series. In Book Two, Anthem is forced to grow into her superpowers when the city of Bedlam is threatened by a new villain. We also find out a lot about Anthem’s origins. She uncovers a dark secret in her family that will change everything for her.

13) What is on your nightstand now? And what can you recommend to read?

I’m reading the Pure series by Juliana Baggott right now, which has this astonishing imagery unlike anything I’ve ever seen or imagined. It’s a dystopia set after nuclear detonations that cause humans to fuse with animals, with the earth, and with objects. The hero is a girl who has a doll’s head for a hand. Her love interest has living birds fused to his back. I cannot recommend it enough. I also just read Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis, who I’m so excited to be joining on the Dark Days tour. It’s a stand-alone book about a girl defending her home and her water supply in the drought-ravaged countryside of a futuristic Ohio. The heroine, Lynn, is a gun-toting badass, and the details about frontier life (smoking meat, purifying water, etc.) are rendered so skillfully. I’m a huge fan.  

14) How can fans find you?

Visit to find my tumblr, twitter, and facebook details. I love to hear from readers!

15) What do you do when you have writers block?

Mostly I commit terrible acts of time-wasting on the Internet. But when I’m being smart, I remember to get up and move. A run, a yoga class or a long walk unstick a stuck head like nothing else.

16) What writing advice do you have for future writers?

Read, read, read. Widely and passionately and constantly. Then do whatever it takes to stop being afraid and start writing. Rinse and repeat until the pages pile up. Then find a group of trustworthy souls to show the pile to. Writers are everywhere, it turns out. A community of likeminded people all committed to putting words on paper has been invaluable for me.

17) How do you feel about going on tour for the Pitch Dark reads?
Let’s just say there has never been a woman more excited to visit Ohio than this one right here.


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