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Illuminating an Author’s Dream

Aimee Agresti always wanted to be a fiction writer.

So she spent years writing short stories and even a novel that was never sold.

Last week, however, Agresti, who lives in Washington, D.C., crossed that elusive threshold from aspiring novelist to published author when her first young adult novel, “Illuminate,” was released by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

“Illuminate,” the first book in the Gilded Wing Trilogy, is the story of high school overachiever Haven Terra and her two classmates. The high-schoolers have been chosen to spend a year working at an exclusive internship at a luxury Lexington Hotel in Chicago.

At the Lexington, Haven finds herself surrounded by gorgeous, powerful people, who are also, um, after her soul.

It’s cool, though, because as time passes, Haven and her friends grow into badass angels.

“I always wanted to write novels,” Agresti tells HOH. “I always grew up reading everything in sight.”

But being a novelist felt like a lofty ambition for Agresti, especially because she had a day job as a reporter for the now-defunct Premiere magazine and later as staff writer at Us Weekly. Somehow, with the breakneck pace of a deadline writer, she did finish several short stories and a novel for adults.

“Publishing is a lot like falling in love,” she says. It all comes down to timing.

She says she began culling  her experience as a celebrity reporter and her favorite books growing up, and the story just came naturally.

Agresti is married to Brian Weiss, communications director for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), so she’s no stranger to the world of politics.

The “Illuminate” author clearly draws from her position as an observer of both the political world and celebrity world.

It is appropriate, therefore, that the central question of this series is: “What would you sell your soul for?”

“That’s a very Washington question,” Agresti says.

In D.C., she says, there are always those moments when you witness someone veer off course.

“There is always a feeling of soul-selling.”

This is also true with the high-glamour, high-pressure world of Hollywood, where she witnessed celebrities become caricatures of themselves.

One thing is for sure: Both Washington and Hollywood have a lot to learn from how Haven and her friends deal with ambition and morality.

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