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If you’re looking for a book with a relatable protagonist who is involved in a realistic teen relationship, check out The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig by Don Zolidis. Read on for my review and a little bit of background about the author.
A Little Background
When I’m not traveling with my family and dreaming of Disney, I’m working at my “real job” of teaching English, speech, and drama while coaching our speech team at a small high school in Missouri. And trust me, “working at” is the correct phrase here. I’m always five steps behind trying to survive whatever situation I’ve willingly put myself into. I’m currently designing the set and larger props for our spring musical, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. And by “designing” I mean that I’m rummaging through my supply of platforms, flats, and…whatever to see what I can make while purchasing as little as possible. I keep “working at” it, though. Someday maybe I won’t feel like some kind of theatre fraud.
At the same time, I’m coaching my little speech team. Anyone who has judged humorous or duo interpretation at a high school speech tournament has probably judged a student doing a selection from a play written by Don Zolidis. When I heard that his debut novel was coming out this fall, I was really excited. I pre-ordered the novel, and soon after the release date, it arrived! When I told my students about the book, they were pretty excited, too. In fact, I now have a class waiting list for this novel because so many kids want to read it. They can’t wait to get their hands on it!
It’s not too late to get your hands on a copy of the book before Christmas! Click the Amazon link to order yours today!
In 2013, my students and I met Mr. Zolidis when he visited our class period for our speech team. I’m so grateful that he took time out of his schedule to meet with the kids and answer their questions. It’s a great teaching memory for me, and my current students often look at this picture and say, “You met Don Zolidis?!!!” Then they freak out again when I pull out my autographed copies of his plays.
Student Interview Questions for Don Zolidis
My current students were excited to have the opportunity to submit interview questions to Mr. Zolidis. They came up with “The Seven Interview Questions for the Author of The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig.” Here is that interview.
1. What motivated you to become a writer?
I always wanted to be a writer, for as long as I can remember. The other day, my Mom sent me a copy of a little book I wrote when I was 11, and I had written “copyright 1986” on the cover page! So clearly I knew what I wanted to be.
2. Where do you get ideas for stories?
Really, from everywhere. It could be from a billboard I see, or a commercial, or just a funny way to think about things. Sometimes I start with characters who have a problem, or other times I start with things that I want satirize or make fun of.
3. Did anything inspire this story?
Yes. This book is roughly autobiographical. The first girl I fell in love with dumped me 6 times (sadly, I broke up with her the 7th time.)
4. We love your plays! Why did you decide to write a novel?
This is actually my 5th novel. The other 4 didn’t sell, so this is the first one I’ve sold. I wrote this as a play initially, and a school from South Carolina took it to Scotland to perform. While I was in the audience watching it, it just felt like the play wasn’t telling enough of the story; there was a lot more to tell and I wanted to tell it. It seemed like a novel was the best way to go.
5. We love the cover of the book! Did you have input on the cover?
I didn’t, actually. I didn’t know what they were going to do, so I was surprised by what they came up with. What’s cool now is that I’m seeing the covers from the foreign editions (the book is being translated into 7 languages, so there will be 8 different covers), so I love seeing the other ideas from other places.
6. How can we become published writers someday?
Practice, practice, practice. I know that’s a boring thing to say, but it’s really the only way to get better at things. I used to write terrible fantasy novels in high school that I never showed to anyone; but I thought of them as practice, like taking free throws. Eventually, you get better at it!
7. Do you have any suggestions on how to find the stories within ourselves?
Be truthful and honest. I think this book is an attempt on my part to tell a somewhat true story in the most honest way I can, and then it becomes unique and interesting. When you tell a specific story, the more specific you get, the more people can connect with it. (It’s weird the way that works.)
My Review Without Spoilers of Any Kind
As I look at Mr. Zolidis’s answers to the questions, I can see why I connected to this book. It is an honest look at relationships, especially those first ones in our teen years. We can all relate to trying to navigate these relationships, but I continue to see these stories play out right in front of me daily as a high school teacher. When we travel to a speech tournament or are in rehearsals for a show, I spend even more time with these kids. Because Mr. Zolidis told the story in an honest way, it’s easy to identify with Craig, even if we don’t agree with all of his decisions and actions. I love that Craig and Amy are far from perfect.
One of the best things about this young adult novel is that the voice of the central character, Craig, immediately draws you in like a friend telling you a story. It’s easy to forget you’re reading fiction; Craig doesn’t hold back on his real thoughts and feelings. His voice in this novel is amazing.
If you have a teen in your life, or if you’re into reading young adult literature yourself, give this one a go. I enjoyed it, and I was sorry it ended. I wasn’t ready to let the characters go, and I found myself still thinking about what the future held for them long after I finished the book. Thanks for another great story, Mr. Zolidis.