Latest News

Author Interview: Amy Spalding and INK IS THICKER THAN WATER

Today we are so pleased to welcome author Amy Spalding to the Highway! She was kind enough to join us for an interview about her second YA contemporary novel, INK IS THICKER THAN WATER, which is out TODAY! 

 About the book:

For Kellie Brooks, family has always been a tough word to define. Combine her hippie mom and tattooist stepdad, her adopted overachieving sister, her younger half brother, and her tough-love dad, and average Kellie’s the one stuck in the middle, overlooked and impermanent. When Kellie’s sister finally meets her birth mother and her best friend starts hanging with a cooler crowd, the feeling only grows stronger.

But then she reconnects with Oliver, the sweet and sensitive college guy she had a near hookup with last year. Oliver is intense and attractive, and she’s sure he’s totally out of her league. But as she discovers that maybe intensity isn’t always a good thing, it’s yet another relationship she feels is spiraling out of her control.

It’ll take a new role on the school newspaper and a new job at her mom’s tattoo shop for Kellie to realize that defining herself both outside and within her family is what can finally allow her to feel permanent, just like a tattoo.

Order INK from IndieBound, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon.

The Interview:

1. Before we talk about the book, can we talk about the gorgeous cover? I know that you helped with the design of THE REECE MALCOLM LIST cover. Did you help with INK, too? What was that like?

Thank you so much! Yes, like with REECE, I helped with the cover design for INK. Knowing going into it that I was going to, we actually planned out even more. The INK photographer and cover designer Jessie Weinberg and I spent a lot of time looking at photographs of tattoos and talking a lot about what kind of shot would work best. Then my publisher and Barnes & Noble gave feedback off of our mockup, and we took it from there. The goal was to portray the title as a tattoo without the book coming off dark or edgy—as it’s actually a pretty light read.

To get a realistic tattoo design, I actually approached tattoo artist Mike Erwin, who’s inked me multiple times, and he designed the title as if it were an actual tattoo. He got tips from a Hollywood makeup artist to make it look as real as possible.

The model, Kristen Williams, is actually a friend of Cassandra Morris, who was the model for Reece. Together they run a style blog, Style Smoothie, and when I saw Kristen’s photos, I knew she would make a great Kellie.

2. The copy for the book says that for Kellie “family has always been a tough word to define.” Can you tell us a bit about Kellie’s role in her family and how it’s shaped her understanding of herself and relationships?

On one hand—Kellie’s family makes a ton of sense! Her parents love her, and she gets along with her siblings. Living the dream, right?

But, also: her parents are divorced. It was amicable, but it still happened. Her mom’s remarried, and she and her husband have a young son…and own a tattoo shop. Her dad has a girlfriend—though he won’t admit it—and constantly compares Kellie to her older sister Sara, who’s the one who seemingly is perfect at everything. Sara was adopted, but within the family she’s never been treated as anything less or different because of it.

So, it’s messy. They don’t “look” like the typical family. But they’re full of love for each other, and people generally have good intentions. And it was fun for me to write this, because whereas a lot of teenagers chafe at boundaries set by their families, Kellie for the most part just really loves being around hers. It was a fun dynamic to portray…and therefore screw with once drama entered the picture.

3. Tattoos obviously play a part of the story. What is their significance in Kellie’s journey?

Kellie’s mom found her new path in life via tattoos and becoming a tattoo artist. So they’ve been something for years now that Kellie’s seen as almost tangible proof of figuring out who you are. On top of this, the tattoo shop is her family business. When I was in high school, my parents had a family business (a restaurant, however, NOT a tattoo shop!) and I really liked portraying what it was like when this entity kind of owns your family, and what a great and what an annoying thing that can be.

4. What was your favorite scene in the book to write? What was the most difficult?

The final scene (no spoilers, I promise!) was my favorite. The most difficult was that originally, I didn’t write Kellie and Sara as very close, but my editor, Stacy Abrams, suggested making them much closer. I knew it was the right call, but shifting that relationship was very tough for me. I finally got some good advice from someone who was close to her sisters, and that was invaluable to me.

5. What has been the most surprising thing you’ve learned about the publishing process?

The hard parts never necessarily get easier, but also, the exciting parts always seem new.

6. Can you tell us about your upcoming books?

My next book, Kissing Ted Callahan (And Other Guys), is out Spring 2015. It’s a romantic comedy set in L.A.’s eastside (my own neighborhood) about bands, friendship, and, of course, hooking up. It’s the most fun I ever had first-drafting a book in my life, and I am so, so, so excited for people to read it.

7. Other than tattoos, what is permanent in life?

You know what I love? That lots of things aren’t. When I moved to L.A., people said, “What if you hate it?” And I’d shrug and say, “Then I’ll move back. Or to somewhere else.” I actually love how much of life is changeable. Relationships change and shift and we all (hopefully!) grow and learn.

Fast Five

1.    Last movie you saw. – The Punk Singer
2.    Last non-YA book you read. – Manson (yeah, THAT Manson)
3.    Dream vacation destination.  – I’ve never been to Europe, and I want to go with a boatload of cash
4.    Favorite coffee drink. – This time of year? Eggnog latte all the way.
5.    Any tattoos of your own? – Any? Nearly twenty! Yup.

Thank you so much for joining us, Amy!

photo by Jessie Weinberg

About the Author:

Amy Spalding grew up outside of St. Louis. She now lives in Los Angeles with two cats and a dog. She works in marketing and does a lot of improv. She has more tattoos than she can count.

Amy would love for you to visit her online at or on Twitter @theames.

Stephanie Kuehn

Stephanie is the William C. Morris award-winning author of Charm & Strange, Complicit, Delicate Monsters, and The Smaller Evil.

Posts by Stephanie

website twitter

  • Blogger Comments
  • Facebook Comments


Comments are moderated on posts two weeks old or more -- please send us a tweet if yours needs approval!

Item Reviewed: Author Interview: Amy Spalding and INK IS THICKER THAN WATER Rating: 5 Reviewed By: stephanie kuehn