A ‘young adult’ author who tells it like it is


During the height of the Harry Potter craze, young adult author Lisa Amowitz read books in the series to her daughter at night, employing a British accent for effect.

The Riverdalian said J.K. Rowling’s books offered both entertainment and lessons for Ms. Amowitz’s own work.

“What Harry Potter taught me is that you can write for kids, but you don’t have to sugar coat it,” Ms. Amowitz said.

She added that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 shaped her worldview and enabled her to tackle themes on the tenuous border between young adult fiction and regular fiction.

“Considering that I raise children in a post-9/11 world, I had no plans to protect my kids from the reality of the fact that they can leave in the morning, and you just don’t know,” she said.

Ms. Amowitz’s first published novel, Breaking Glass, presents a world full of risk and uncertainty. In it, protagonist Jeremy Glass works out his feelings toward a deceased paramour along with his hidden alcoholism, all while in high school. A supernatural touch — Jeremy wonders if the object of his not-quite-requited love is sending him messages from the grave — taps into the ongoing vogue for fantasy in serious young adult fiction.

Ms. Amowitz, who teaches graphic design at Bronx Community College and also goes by the name Lisa Zank, used visual terms to describe her novel. She said she culled her experience on vacation in upstate New York to invent settings used in Breaking Glass.
She created the cover for her novel, which was published by the independent Spencer Hill Press.

Ms. Amowitz described the challenge of designing covers as “distilling the soul of the book.”

Ms. Amowitz said that for Breaking Glass, she asked her daughter, now 18, and two of her friends to help pick which of three possible covers was best. With adolescent verve, they settled on the one Ms. Amowitz considered the least likely of the bunch, but which ended up gracing the novel.

Later this year, Ms. Amowitz expects to publish another novel, called Vision, about a boy who experiences hallucinations linked to a series of murders.

Ms. Amowitz is organizing events with authors from Riverdale and beyond. She is planning a regional book tour with Jennifer Murgia of Easton, Pa., Riverdalian Kristi Cook and several other writers in the fall.

“We have a lot of the same sensibility of darkness,” Ms. Amowitz said of Ms. Murgia.
Ms. Amowitz also wants to give readings at Riverdale Library in the future.