Author Anne Heltzel discusses her book Charlie, Presumed Dead, if there will be a sequel, and her adventures in traveling.

About ‘Charlie, Presumed Dead’

Charlie Presumed Dead Cover

After Charlie’s plane crashes and his bloody sweater is found amongst the ruins, his family and friends attend his funeral in Paris. There, Lena and Aubrey meet each other for the first time and realize they’ve been dating the same person. The girls decide to find out if either of them really knew him at all.

Lena and Aubrey are keeping their own secrets, though. They dig into Charlie’s life, hoping to find any evidence that will tell them why he used them and why he was in the plane when it crashed.

Even more shocking? Lena doesn’t believe Charlie is really dead at all.

Anne Heltzel interview

Tell us 5 random facts about yourself.

1. I have an addiction to chocolate peanut-butter ice cream.
2. I have only one full kidney.
3. I had to bribe government officials in India the equivalent of $10 to get my dog back to the U.S.
4. I have two tattoos, each related to writing or literature in some way.
5. In my early 20s I rented a room in the same historic building where Conan O’Brien, Cyndi Lauper, Joan Didion, Al Pacino, Lena Horne, Nora Ephron and Rosie O’Donnell all resided at some point in their lives.

What inspired this story?

When I was in my mid-twenties, I found out that the guy I was dating had a girlfriend on the side. His girlfriend discovered me by snooping through his phone, and she sent me an email outing him. From there, we exchanged about a dozen emails, comparing stories and uncovering his lies. It was the supportive, compassionate tone of our exchanges that led me to wonder about the possibility of a powerful female duo stemming from a traumatic betrayal that might have caused enmity.

Do you relate more to Lena or Aubrey?

I don’t relate much to either, but both embody some aspects of my personality. I can be very impulsive like Lena; and when I was young I was sheltered and naïve like Aubrey.

Have you visited all of the cities you mention in the book?

Yes! One of my favorite parts of writing the book was recapturing some of the cities where I’d once lived or traveled. I’ve been very fortunate in terms of travel — I was lucky to live abroad twice, and from there I was able to see quite a bit of Asia and Europe. I’ve only been to Montreal once, but I loved it so much that I knew it needed to make a cameo too!

Why did you decide to focus a good part of the book on the ladyboys of Thailand?

I wanted to write Bangkok as I experienced it. I was only there for a few days, but it offered my first exposure to the ladyboy culture. When I was writing Dana’s character, I knew she would be an estranged sibling that no one mentioned and the girls may not have heard about. It made sense that her socially rigid family would oppose her sexuality, and that she would flee to Thailand, where she’d once lived and where she knew other trans people are accepted (if exploited as well). It also gave her character the ability to hide. So in a sense, I used what I’d seen in service of my narrative — but it fit seamlessly, so it was an organic development.

Please tell us there will be a sequel!

No sequel in the cards as of yet!

What’s easier to write, the first line or the last line?

For sure the first line. It usually just comes to me at some point during the character development process. I’ve always struggled with endings — I rewrote the ending to Charlie several times!

Which YA book do you wish you had growing up?

I know I would have loved reading The Book Thief growing up. I was ready at an early age for darker, difficult subjects; and the way Markus Zusak handled his narrative is masterful.

About the author

Anne Heltzel

ANNE HELTZEL is a Brooklyn-based author and editor of children’s books. Anne was born in Ohio, has been a voracious reader since the age of three, and credits her careers in publishing and writing (both lifelong dreams — just ask to see her childhood journal) to a serendipitous coffee shop conversation during her senior year of college. Anne was on a law school track until the aforementioned fateful conversation prompted her to switch gears and move to New York City, where she entered an M.F.A. program.

In 2007 she began her first job in publishing. In 2008 she graduated from The New School with a master’s degree in Writing for Children. Anne has since lived in India and Paris, and has taught writing and reading workshops in each of her former homes. More recently, she participated as a mentor in NYC’s Girls Write Now program. When she is not writing, Anne is furiously (and passionately) editing novels for a Manhattan publishing house. She is represented by Stephen Barbara at InkWell Management. Anne also writes under the pseudonym Anna Collomore.

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