Reviewed by Melissa Arnold
Some of us have spent 2020 learning to make sourdough bread from scratch, catching up on TV, or working on our post-quarantine figures. Fourteen-year-old Ariana Glaser, on the other hand, has been putting the finishing touches on her newest novel.
The Smithtown High School East freshman published her first major story three years ago, when she was just 11 years old. Now, she’s back with She Remembers, a compelling story for teen readers about life after death, second chances, and family ties. The book was released on Nov. 16.
What was your childhood like? Were you very creative?
I was always a very avid reader — my mom would say I’d read books in my crib. When I was in 2nd grade, I wrote a book that was around 15 or 20 pages. It was called Fairies, Fairies, Fairies, and each page was about a different fairy. Obviously my writing style has changed a lot since then, but my second grade teacher really inspired me by saying there was a [distinct literary] voice in my writing, and that made me think, “Hey, maybe I’m not too bad at this!” I also do a lot of drawing and theater on the side.
What kinds of books do you like to read? Which authors inspire you?
I love all genres of fiction, but I really enjoy dystopian stories. My favorite books right now are a series called The Selection by Kiera Cass. I’m also really inspired by Lois Lowry — her book Number the Stars has been a favorite of mine for a very long time.
When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
In 4th or 5th grade, I completed my first novella, and I knew it was something I wanted to continue doing for as long as I could, to perfect my skills.
How did your family respond?
My parents and grandparents were always the first to hear about my ideas, and they were huge supporters from the beginning. And the reality is that none of this would have been possible without their support and encouragement, not just practically but emotionally, too.
When did you write your first book? How did you go about getting published?
It was called The World I Never Knew. I finished writing it at the end of 6th grade after working on it off and on for about two years. We waited about a year after it was finished, and then we found Kindle Direct Publishing (from Amazon). I wasn’t looking for it to be a best-seller or anything, but I wanted to be able to say that I published my first book when I was 12.
How did it feel seeing your name in print for the first time?
It was a weird feeling! We were waiting for the mailman to deliver my copy of [my first book], and when he came, we were there to meet him and everyone was excited. The mailman said to my dad, “Oh, did she get a book she wanted?” and he said, “No, she wrote this book.” It was surreal to hear that and to hold my book for the first time.
Did you publish this book the same way?
No. We submitted She Remembers to traditional publishers. I got a lot of rejections simply because of my age — most places won’t accept a manuscript if you’re under 18 — and I also didn’t have a literary agent. But I didn’t want to sit around and wait to turn 18 when I had good stories that were ready now. Someone on Facebook recommended Foundations Publishing, and when I sent it to them, they said the story had potential and they’d be happy to have me on their team.
Tell us a bit about She Remembers.
When I was younger, I was very into American Girl dolls, and I joined an online community for others who liked them. One of the girls I met through that community was named Bella, and she was very popular. She also had cancer and ended up passing away. That had a big impact on me, and in 2019 I started to write She Remembers, about a girl who dies of cancer. She gets a chance to live another life, and discovers that she still has memories of her old life and family.
How do you find the time to balance writing, school and your social life?
You know, time management is always something that I struggle with. I have a lot of extracurriculars that take a lot of work, so in the course of a week I can spend hours on stage, dancing or singing. And then there’s all of my homework, spending time with my friends, and trying to write in the middle of all that. But every student struggles with that, even when they’re not a writer. I try to take advantage of pockets of free time, even if it’s 20 minutes at lunch or at night.
Is there a message you want people to take away from reading this novel?
It’s all about hope — the main character, Amber, comes to realize that good things can come out of bad experiences. We might not know what happens after death, but it’s important to have hope and to keep the memories of the people we’ve lost alive.
Is there a recommended age group?
There’s a range, from 12-year-olds looking for a character they can look up to, all the way up to 18 or even older readers who just enjoy a unique, interesting story.
Do you have any upcoming events?
It’s been tough with the pandemic, but we’re talking with Barnes & Noble about having some kind of event, whether that’s a virtual meet-and-greet, something in person, or just a table with books and information about me.
What’s next for you? Are you planning to write more books?
I actually finished writing my third book during quarantine. I have so much more to say, and the good thing about writing is if one book doesn’t go over well, you can keep writing. You never know when you’re going to have a big moment. I’d love to make the New York Times Best Seller List!
She Remembers and other works by Ariana Glaser is available on Amazon.com or your favorite online bookseller. Keep up with Ariana on Instagram, Twitter and TikTok @ArianaNGlaser.