Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Guest Post with Amy Plum, Author of Die for Me & Giveaway


Yesterday we posted an interview with Tara Hudson, author of Hereafter (check that out HERE if you haven't already) and today we are continuing the Dark Days fun with another amazing author, Amy Plum. 

Amy's guest post is truly awesome! She tells us how art and writing came together in her life and it's just a great story. Plus, look for the bold words for links to see for yourself what has inspired Amy. So neat! We hope you enjoy it! 

Oh, and there's another giveaway down below. :-) 

Books and art have always been my life’s two great passions. I started reading when I was four and have never stopped. During painful periods of my childhood I hid inside books, immersing myself in their worlds to block out the real world.

And I have always loved art. But there was one earth-shattering moment where I knew I would have a particularly close relationship with it. I was probably eighteen, and was visiting the Birmingham Museum of Art. I remember two paintings specifically—an Albert Bierstadt monumental painting of Yosemite and a John Singer Sargent life-sized portrait of a woman in a black ball gown. I stood in front of them and felt my roots being ripped up from where they were and replanted firmly in the rich soil of the arts. At that moment I knew that art—and a quest for beauty—would be the basis of my life, and it has been ever since.

Those were my beginnings in books and art. But your question about writing made me go dig through some old boxes to see just when I started. I found one of my poems printed in the school paper in 1st grade. (About a turkey that didn’t want to be eaten on Thanksgiving.) A poetry prize in 3rd grade. My high school English teachers were very supportive of my writing. And in university I did a couple of movie reviews for the school’s arts magazine, but I took their rejection of my poems very hard and stopped writing for anyone but myself at that point.

I worked in a couple of art galleries after university. And then—once in Paris—I began haunting museums non-stop. I found an essay that I wrote on how Japanese art influenced French Impressionism for a contest given by the Japanese Embassy in Paris. That’s the first example I have of art and writing coming together in my life.

Finally—at age 28—I decided to leave a good job in Paris to go back to school. I agonized for a whole year over whether I would study writing or art history, and finally decided that I would do art first. If I didn’t like whatever career came from that I would return to study writing.

However, I was applying for graduate school in art history with no previous art historical training. (My B.A. was in psychology.) So to pad my application, I walked down the street from my apartment to my favorite museum, The Cluny (the National Museum of the Middle Ages) and sat down in front of a 16th-century German wood carving of the head of John the Baptist on a plate. I went to a library and did some research on it. And then I just kind of winged it, leaning heavily on my descriptive skills since I had nothing else to offer.

My writing opened doors for interviews in universities that I didn’t have a hope in hell of getting into. All of my interviewers said how impressed they were with the paper. And when I got my acceptances, I knew that could be the only reason I was offered a spot in every place I applied. Even Oxford University. In the end, I chose the Courtauld Institute, and I spent two years in London studying in their hallowed halls acting all serious and studious, but feeling like I was in hog heaven.

I focused on medieval Italian painting. And for my thesis, I was given a set of six paintings of saints that had been found in a little English country church. The National Gallery had identified them as medieval Italian. My task was to figure out where they were from, who had painted them, which saints were depicted, and what enormous altarpiece they had been a part of before it was sawn apart and the pieces sold separately. I spent months researching libraries and museums both in England and Italy. And then I wrote up a thesis giving my opinion. It was one of the most exciting endeavors I’ve ever worked on, and it involved the two things I love most: art and writing.

After my M.A. I got a job offer from Sotheby’s New York. My duties there were mostly administrative, and although I used all of my breaks to see the art on exhibition, I missed writing. I offered to write articles in my spare time for Sotheby’s website, and they published several, including one on Degas’s Dancers. After that, I organized a poetry reading for an Allen Ginsberg auction, and hosted the star-studded event, which included Paul Simon, Winona Ryder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, John Ashbery, and John Heard, amongst others. Lou Reed showed up to read and asked me, “Can my girlfriend read too?” (His girlfriend being Laurie Anderson, who I worshipped, so I had to pick my jaw up from the floor to say yes.) Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell and Kate Hudson hung out backstage and everyone was having so much fun that I had to finally kick them out so we could close the building down. Now THAT was one of the most thrilling combinations of the art and literary worlds for me.

After leaving Sotheby’s I did consultant work in the art and antiques world, managed an antiques business, and then began buying and selling paintings myself. When my husband and I moved back to France my plan was to buy paintings there and sell them in the States. However, just as I got started the dollar dropped precipitously and I had to close my business. That is how I found myself unemployed in the middle of the French countryside. And that is when I began to write in earnest.

Isn't this great? We think it's so cool how these two passions came together for Amy. Plus, her book, Die for Me, is soooo good.
Die for Me is released on May 10th--How would you like to win an ARC of Die for Me? Read below!

Giveaway Rules:
  • U.S. Mailing Addresses Only. (Sorry!) 
  • You are not required to follow BCM but if you are a blog follower you will receive +1 entry as a thank you.
  • Plus +2 entries for liking Die For Me's Facebook Page. CLICK HERE to like.
  • Giveaway ends at midnight on Monday, April 25, 2011. 
  • This is not required but we'd love it if you could help spread the word via twitter, facebook or your blog. 
  • Fill out the form below to enter. Good luck!

7 comments:

  1. Great interview. My mum's an artist and although I am nowhere near as talented I love art.

    I am looking forward to reading this book, sadly I will just have to wait until it is published in the UK.

    Great post

    Jules

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  2. I enjoyed this interview. Studying art in London must have been a great experience.

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  3. Thanks for the chance!! I shared onFB!!!

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  4. Thanks for this giveaway :) I've been wanting to read this book, but my library isn't getting it :(

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  5. I have written an article which was posted as a guest post on a blog. Another blog owner is interested in putting that article on his blog. Would that be a good idea? I would appreciate some other thoughts on this?

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