St. Louis Author's New Novel Sets Teen's Story of Identity, Family in Webster, South Grand

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Amy Spalding - Jessie Weinberg
Jessie Weinberg
Amy Spalding

Need a holiday gift idea for a teenage girl that's not princess-themed?

Franklin County native Amy Spalding comes to St. Louis from her home in Los Angeles this week to sign and read from her new young-adult novel set in Webster Groves, South Grand and the Loop.

"I knew I really wanted to set a book in St. Louis," she tells Daily RFT. "I think a lot of times books are about this big life change that is happening, but I wanted to focus on what it's like when things happen to other people, because it doesn't mean our own life slows down."

Spalding's sixteen-year-old main character Kellie Brooks lives in Webster Groves with her hippie mom, her tattooist stepdad and an overachieving, adopted younger sister who is reaching out to her birth parents. As her family fractures, her best friend starts to gravitate toward a "cool kids" crowd, and a college boy shows interest in Kellie.

"It's about forming your identity," Spalding says. "It's about the family you choose versus the family you're born into."

Left Bank Books is hosting a release party for Spalding's novel, Ink is Thicker than Water, at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Spalding's book is directed at teenage girls, but she says she can relate to the instability that comes with big life changes, even in her thirties.

"I really like writing about teens with experiences that can be metaphors for other points in your life," she says. "There are a lot of points in life where we have to re-figure out how we fit into something or when we want to try something new. I like to think women of all ages will be able to find something to relate to."

The Riverfront Times even gets a shout-out in the book when a reporter covers Kellie's stepdad's South Grand tattoo shop.

"It's a big deal to them. It's framed in the front room of their shop," Spalding says. "It's the cool paper, obviously. When I was the age of my character, that's where I was looking to see where all the shows were, everything cool."

One of the highest compliments she's received about the book so far is that it makes readers want to visit the Lou. Her characters have tacos on Cherokee Street, hang out at Mokabee's, eat at the King and I and even play at Pin-Up Bowl.

"There's a lot of very specific local flavor," she says. "When I was sixteen, there were so many cool things to do in St. Louis. I wanted to convey a little of that feeling."

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at [email protected].

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