#16DABash: Marisa Reichardt (Interview & Giveaway)

by Marisa Reichardt
Release date: January 12th 2015
Publisher: Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux
Genres: Contemporary, mental health
Age category: Young Adult
ISBN/ASIN: 0374368864 (ISBN13: 9780374368869)
Morgan didn’t mean to do anything wrong that day. Actually, she meant to do something right. But her kind act inadvertently played a role in a deadly tragedy. In order to move on, Morgan must learn to forgive—first someone who did something that might be unforgivable, and then, herself.

But Morgan can’t move on. She can’t even move beyond the front door of the apartment she shares with her mother and little brother. Morgan feels like she’s underwater, unable to surface. Unable to see her friends. Unable to go to school.

When it seems Morgan can’t hold her breath any longer, a new boy moves in next door. Evan reminds her of the salty ocean air and the rush she used to get from swimming. He might be just what she needs to help her reconnect with the world outside.

Underwater is a powerful, hopeful debut novel about redemption, recovery, and finding the strength it takes to face your past and move on.
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When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
     I always knew. It’s really and truly the only thing I’ve ever been sure of knowing.

What book/s have influenced your life most and how did it affect you, as an author?
     I basically fell in love with every coming-of-age story I ever read. I was always fascinated with the teenage years and drawn to writing about them. It was something I wrote about as a teenager because I was a teenager, but then I continued doing it when I wasn’t a teenager anymore. There is something so raw and honest about those years, making it a time so rich to explore. As far as influences, books by Curtis Sittenfeld and Rainbow Rowell make me want to be a better writer. I really love everything they do.

This is your first book. Is this your first time writing?
     Nope. I wish I were that lucky and/or talented. Ha ha. I’ve tried—not always successfully—a little bit of everything. From poetry to tech writing to screenplays to short stories. But novel writing has my whole heart and I’m so glad to be here.

How did you come up with the idea of your book?
     The seed of Underwater came from wanting to write about a girl with severe anxiety. That spun into thinking about how debilitating anxiety can be. So then I started thinking about the idea of someone not leaving their house because of their anxiety and why that would be. The more questions I asked myself, the “who, what, why, where, and when” of the story took shape.

Your book was truly remarkable; it talks about a situation that is happening in different countries. What research did you do?
     Most of my research simply came from tapping into the emotions of being a parent and the wife of a schoolteacher. It’s impossible not to have those worries and the “what if” scenarios in the back of your mind when tragic events like the one in Underwater are happening much too often. I did talk to school administrators to find out the particulars of lockdown drills and active shooter situations. And I interviewed a psychologist who works specifically with women and teenagers dealing with severe anxiety, agoraphobia, and PTSD.

Can you describe your writing process?
     Generally, I write outside of my home, at coffeehouses, plugged into music. But when I wrote Underwater, I found myself at home with the blinds closed and no noise. I needed to do that in order to get into the mindset of Morgan Grant. But I’ve found that I’m not very productive if I attempt that same process with the book I’m working on now because the character is very different from Morgan. So my writing process is to do whatever I have to do to write whatever book I’m writing at that time.

While you were writing, did you ever feel as if you were one of the characters? If yes, who and why?
     Oh, definitely! Because Underwater is written in a first person POV, it was very easy to get into the head of Morgan and carry her with me even when I wasn’t writing. Morgan was dealing with a lot of heavy stuff, so it wasn’t always fun. But I loved and still love Morgan. I was always rooting for her so if she wanted to hang out with me, I embraced it.

If you were given a chance to change something in your book, like maybe change a thing or two, would you rewrite something? Why or why not?
     I don’t think the “could’ve should’ve would’ve” parts of writing ever leave, even when a book is published. Of course I think of things I might’ve done differently or better because that’s the nature of writing. But I can also acknowledge that Underwater is the best I could’ve written at the time and I am 100% okay with that.

If your book is going to be a movie, and I hope it would be, who would play your characters?
     Thank you for hoping Underwater could be a movie. I’m honored to hear that! I don’t have any ideas for who would play any of the characters but I’d really like to see a real surfer from Hawaii cast as Evan.

What's next for you?
     I’m working on a second book, another standalone contemporary YA novel, and trying to enjoy all the craziness of this year as a debut author. You only get to be a debut author once and it’s pretty darn amazing!


About the author:
I'm a SoCal native and high school writing instructor. I currently live in Los Angeles and can usually be found huddled over my laptop in coffeehouses or swimming in the ocean.

My debut YA contemporary novel, Underwater, will be out 1/12/16 from Macmillan/FSG and 4/7/16 Macmillan Children's UK.
I love all books and all genres. While I do keep track of all the books I've read here, I generally don't do ratings or reviews.

Author links:

One (1) finished copy of Underwater (US only) 06/28


  1. Thanks for joining the #16DABash!


    1. Thank you for having me again, this year.
      I hope you're having a wonderful day. :)

  2. I've heard great things about this one and am looking forward to reading it myself. Wonderful post.

    1. Thank you! I hope you can read this wonderful book, soon.
      I hope you're having a wonderful day. :)

  3. sounds interesting

  4. I keep hearing about Underwater. Good things.