Author Amy Spalding's debut novel The Reece Malcolm List was praised by RT reviewer Jaime Geraldi as being "hilarious and awesome," and we have a feeling this might have something to do with protagonist Devan's talent. Spalding's heroine has a passion for musical theater. But when Devan moves to L.A. after her father's death to live with her bestselling author mover — a woman Devan has never met — she must balance her love of performing arts with getting to know her mom. We went to the author to learn more about her experience writing a "theater geek," and here's what she had to say:
When I started writing The Reece Malcolm List, I wanted to give my main character Devan a way to really shine. After all, her mother was the critically-acclaimed, bestselling author Reece Malcolm. Devan couldn’t be ordinary.
I’ve been in love with musicals as long as I can remember, but this was cemented the day my family and I watched The Sound of Music. I loved emotion expressed as song. I loved the dancing and the costumes and the sense that this was bigger than life. I loved how exciting it was. And that’s what I wanted for Devan.
I myself am an uncoordinated person with a voice that’s great for karaoke but not going to sing out from any Broadway stages. I still got to take part in choir, and in backstage crew work. And, luckily, there are still so many great movies that capture the excitement of live music.
When you’re writing a book about performing arts, that excitement is definitely a challenge. There’s no sound or motion — it’s all words. How would I convey how Devan’s show choir sounded or what it was like backstage opening night of the school musical?
While working on the first draft, I worried that at times, Devan’s love for choir and performing would come across a little geeky. But the more I wrote her character, the more I realized…I didn’t care if it did! Choirs and musicals can of course be painted with that geek brush. But, also, people love them.
I saw the film Pitch Perfect with a group of friends the week it came out … and again only a week later with other friends who’d also already seen it and couldn’t wait to see it again. If — for some reason! — you haven’t seen it yet, Pitch Perfect is, in short, about a ragtag a cappella group determined to win the national a cappella championship.
I’m not exaggerating that people loved it — it’s the second-highest grossing musical comedy movie ever. And of course the movie’s success isn’t only due to its musical numbers. The script is hilarious, the cast — especially scene-stealer Rebel Wilson — is fantastic, and the end is really swoony.
But let’s be real: the music is awesome. I was sold the second the Bellas began their rendition of “The Sign,” but it was during the Riff Off that I got completely wrapped up into it. Live music is, of course, awesome, but portraying that real excitement is too.
So this is what I thought about while writing The Reece Malcolm List. No, readers can’t actually hear Devan’s choir or watch her musical. But they can read how it feels for her, how the crowd sounds, and what it’s like to gather backstage before the curtain goes up. And thanks to musicals on screen, it’s fun to be on the cool side of geeky.
- Amy Spalding