Welcome, Amanda. Tell us a little about yourself. (How did you get started writing? What do you do when you’re not writing? What is one thing that would surprise us?)
I was raised in a teeny tiny vineyard town in Northern California (population about 1,000, no traffic lights, annual tractor parade). I currently call the ever charming and eclectic City of Berkeley my home, which is a fantastic hub of art and creativity. I mean, there are actually local book stores in Berkeley!
I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil, honestly. I had a wild imagination as a child and absolutely loved to read. I played with my creative fiction my entire life but didn’t rally the courage to get serious about publishing a novel until my 20s. It actually took finishing my graduate thesis to realize I had it in me. When I’m not writing I try to lead an active life, I travel as much as I can manage. I’m a runner and fitness junkie. I’m also a serious foodie and wino so the fitness comes in handy.
One thing that might surprise you…I am a total country girl at heart. I have a big ol’ soft spot for country music, cowboys and trucks.
Is this your first book? How many books have you written?
Yes, Rebel Song is my first published novel (although I have piles of unfinished manuscripts laying in waiting).
What genre is it and what is it about? Rebel Song is a Young Adult novel—a bit dystopian, a bit romantic suspense. It’s set in a fictional (but realistic) country in Europe that’s on the brink of its second rebellion in two decades. It’s the story of Rogan—the son of an infamous rebel leader and traitor—and Elyra, the heir to the throne who is at odds with the direction the current government is going. The novel follows two paths. On one hand, it’s a love story between the two protagonists. But the overarching plot is about a budding rebellion against the monarchy and the roles Rogan and Elyra must play in it.
What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always been drawn to star-crossed lovers and stories of underdogs fighting evil—classic themes really. I’m also a huge fan of European history and the constant struggles of traditional monarchies against modern governments. Funny enough, the general plot line came from a book I wrote when I was 15. Needless to say that first attempt left something to be desired, but some of the key elements gave birth to Rebel Song 15 years later! The real meat of the story, however, was inspired by my world travels. Countries all over the world continue to undergo revolutions and government reform.
How did you come up with the title of your book or series?
The title actually comes from a line in the book.
Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?
Peter O’Connor from Bespoke Cover Designs across the pond. I wanted to capture both key plot lines of the story—the love story and the rebellion. I think Peter did a great job of showcasing the two main characters so that you know there’s a romance here, but the background is the city crumbling.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
I think names are tremendously important and it’s one of the most difficult things for me. I often give a character a name and they resist, then I have to wait for them to tell me what their name is! Many of my characters have changed names multiple times, where others have been the same from day one. I name characters based both on the sound and the meaning. With Rebel Song I wanted to come up with some creative names—many of which are old names of European origin—but nothing too difficult to pronounce or remember. If you’re struggling, a baby name book or website is a great starting point.
Do you read your reviews? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I do read each and every one of them. I do thank the reviewer for taking the time to not only spend time with my book but taking the time to offer honest feedback. Reviews are one of the most powerful marketing tools an author can ask for. Although I’ve been fortunate to have received fantastic feedback so far on Rebel Song, I do get an occasional comment that stings. I never argue with the reviewer or try to defend against whatever they didn’t like. A review is just an opinion after all. One of my weird exercises is to look up my favorite books on Goodreads and read the negative reviews. This reminds me that writing is art and art is subjective. You can’t please everyone. Even the most acclaimed books of all times are going to have their haters.
So, when I receive a negative comment I have to take a step back, consider the merit of their comment (Do they have a good point? Was the genre just not their cup of tea?) and take it as an opportunity to improve my writing. In the end we as writers have to have thick skin. This isn’t a profession for the overly sensitive. We put ourselves out there, bare our souls, expose our wounds—we have to expect those wounds to sting sometimes.
What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
Review! Tell your friends! Word of mouth is extremely important for any book, but especially for the Indie Author. We don’t have major marketing budgets or store front displays at Barns and Noble. Reviews, blog features, Tweets—any way you can, spread the word about a book you love!
What is the most difficult thing about being an author?
The most difficult thing for me is that dreaded writer’s block. Any writer—really any artist—knows the deafening silence when your muse skips town. It’s like a build-up of pressure that your body just can’t release. And it can last for hours days, or even months. I’m not sure there is any other profession where your brain literally doesn’t allow you to do your job.
Do you have any scars? What are they from?
I have many! Most notably, I got stitches in my chin from falling from a tree when I was three. (Apparently I was part monkey.) I took a cleat through my shin during an aggressive kickball game. I have a burn scar on my arm from my college waitressing days. I also sliced my finger open cooking.
What were you like as a child? What was your favorite toy?
I was a strange child really. I was kind of a hippie kid—a bit of a tomboy, very artsy with a wild imagination. I was a vegetarian who boycotted McDonald’s. I loved to read controversial books, enjoyed learning, loved history—couldn’t have cared less about being a girl scout. From a young age I was involved in every activity imaginable—dancing, soccer, theater, even cheerleading. I had a thirst for life; I don’t think that has changed! I was also a born romantic. I had my first crush at age five—Travis McGee. (If you’re reading this Travis sorry, but I think you always knew). If Travis didn’t pan out, I was certain I would marry Elijah Wood or Johnny Depp.
My favorite toy until I was about 8 was probably my American Girl Doll. In those days they were all historical with accompanying books—my favorite was Felicity the Revolutionary War doll. I wonder if I still have her—would it be strange for a grown woman to dress her dolls? Don’t answer that.
What book are you reading now?
I’m currently reading IQ84 by Haruki Murakami, who is my new favorite author. It’s kind of a magical realism, dystopian love story.
Amanda always wanted to be a writer. Always, always, always since she could first decipher Dr. Seus. Her first story went something like, “Once upon a time, there was a cat and a dog. They were friends. The end.” It was a good start but she likes to think she’s progressed.
She finished her first book when she was 10, the second when she was 15. They were both…um…less than New York Times winning. But hey, no one makes the major leagues their first little league season. In high school she entertained her classmates by writing custom short stories about them during study hall (or detention—she got that a lot). She was once kicked out of economics class for circulating steamy short stories. Oops.
She spent her undergraduate years honing her craft as an English and Journalism major, writing for literary magazines and the school newspaper. In her spare time she wrote fiction stories. All kinds of stories. While she worked up the courage and discipline to actually finish novel she actually felt she could share with the world, she tried her hand as a journalist. Then a PR writer. Then an HR employee communications writer. Then she decided she would just be a professor and teach other people to write. So she went back to graduate school to get a Master’s degree in Mass Communications. As she placed the final period on her 400-page thesis, she had an epiphany. She had just researched and written a 400 PAGE MANUSCRIPT. If she had it in her to do that, She could write a book. So she did…
These days she hangs her hat in Berkeley, CA. When she’s not staring at a computer screen, she spends most of her spare time plotting world adventures, wine tasting, hiking, eating, running, traveling, playing kickball (yes she’s an adult), and reading…lots of reading.