Q&A with Amy Efaw
1) What inspired you to write this book?
A: I first became interested in “dumpster babies” while living in Philadelphia. One winter day, the big news story was about an off-duty police officer and his pit bull who stumbled across a trash bag that was left with some garbage cans at the curb. The dog just wouldn’t stop barking, so the officer tore open the bag and found a newborn baby inside, still alive. Then a couple of years later, when I was living in Washington State and pregnant with my fifth child, my Army prosecutor husband got his own “dumpster baby” case to try. At that point, I knew that I had to write a novel involving the issue.
2) Is this story based on a real case? Is Devon a real person?
A: After is not based on any one particular person or case. But after spending many hours researching the issue and reading hundreds of newspaper accounts, I found that most “dumpster baby” stories shared some basic characteristics. Out of those characteristics, I was able to compile a profile of the type of teenage girl who might conceal her pregnancy and then throw her baby into the trash. That profiled character became the main character, Devon Sky Davenport.
3) How did your own experiences—personal, professional, or both—impact the writing of this book?
A: I’m very lucky to have worn many “hats” thus far in life—elite college athlete, West Point grad, Army officer, attorney’s wife, mother, freelance reporter, and novelist. While wearing those “hats,” I’ve picked up a lot of important tools that came together for After—soccer knowledge from hours spent on the sidelines as a soccer mom, details of pregnancy from my own five pregnancies, access to my own legal expert (my husband), the ability to track down details from my reporter days, a strong work ethic from my West Point and athletic training, and a pretty good imagination.
4) In After, Devon does a horrible thing—why did you want to tell her side of the story?
A: One afternoon many years ago while I was listening to public radio, Amy Goodman (a foreign news correspondent) said something that has stuck with me. She said, “Go to where the silence is and say something.” At that moment I felt as if I had received a sort of mission statement. As a writer, “going to where the silence is” means to me that I should try to write about the things that haven’t yet been explored. Telling the story of a young girl who had thrown her baby into a trash can definitely fit that category!
5) What would you like readers to take away from After?
A: I definitely would like to bring more awareness to the “dumpster baby” phenomenon. But even more than that, I would like readers to realize how important it is to get involved in other people’s lives. Take a risk and reach out to others even if a mere gut feeling tells you that something is wrong. And don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. More often than not—whether you offered help or asked for it—you will be happy that you did.