This week on ‘Writers In Ireland’, I am chatting to Amanda J Evans, an award-winning author writing paranormal and fantasy romance novels as well as children’s stories. Amanda lives in Ireland with her husband and two children. Her first novel Finding Forever won Best Thriller in the 2017 Summer Indie Book Awards and her second novel Save Her Soul won Silver for Best Paranormal in the Virtual Fantasy Con Awards 2017. Amanda has a publishing deal with Handersen Publishing and her first children’s book, Nightmare Realities was released on the 25th of September 2017. Her latest story, Hear Me Cry, a fantasy romance telling of the old Irish myth of the Banshee won the Book of the Year Award at the Dublin Writers Conference 2018.
Growing up with heroes like Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones, her stories centre on good versus evil with a splice of magic and love thrown into the mix. An early tragedy in her life has also made its way onto the page and Amanda brings the emotions of grief to life in her stories too. She is the author of Surviving Suicide: A Memoir from Those Death Left Behind, published in 2012.
Welcome, Amanda and congrats on your multiple awards! So, how long were you writing fiction before you were published?
I joined a writers group in early 2016 and this gave me the motivation to start writing every week. I’d always wanted to write for myself and have the confidence to put pen to paper but self-doubt always got in the way. In July 2016, we began a page a day challenge and that led to my first complete story, Finding Forever. I didn’t have the confidence to submit it to agents or publishers and after some great feedback from beta readers I chose to self-publish in January 2017. Finding Forever later went on to win Best Thriller in the Summer Indie Book Awards.
And did anyone – famous or not – inspire you to write?
No, writing has always been my go to for comfort and enjoyment for as long as I can remember. I spent hours in my bedroom writing as a child, filling copybooks with stories and scripts for new episodes of my favourite cartoons. Teenage years were spent writing poetry, and as life went on, writing took a backseat. It was always my go to though if I got down or needed answers and I love the joy that comes with putting pen to paper and just allowing the words to spill out. It’s therapeutic and I’d love to see journaling being added to school curriculums.
Do you write every day?
Yes. I write every morning, Monday to Friday. I usually get up at 7am and once I’ve checked all my social media and emails, I sit down with my iPad and type for about 40 minutes. I use my iPad because I have no distractions and no notifications. It’s just me and the screen and it works really well. Once I’ve completed my own writing, the rest of the days is taken up with client work. I am an SEO content manager for a large company in Canada so my days are spent typing up reviews and website content.
And you enjoy writing in multiple genres?
I think it might get boring to stay with the same genre forever. I don’t know any readers that only read the same genre of books, so I think it’s okay for writers to experiment in different genres too. Even Stephen King writes in different genres and everything isn’t just horror anymore. He mixes genres in a number of his books including epic fantasy, westerns, sci-fi, and more.
What are the themes you explore in your writing, Amanda?
I write YA and adult romance in a number of subgenres. I love happy ever afters and this is something I strive for in my books whilst still focusing on dark themes. I focus on the struggles and the pain of finding that happy ever after. In Finding Forever, my main character Liz is quiet and can’t make a decision for herself. When her husband goes missing, she is forced to rely on herself and find her own strength as she fights to get him back. In Save Her Soul, a paranormal romance, my main character Kate is a very strong, independent, young woman who is hell-bent on getting revenge on the people who murdered her sister. Hear Me Cry, my latest novella is a fantasy romance retelling of the Irish legend of the Banshee and deals with a lot of dark and deep emotions as well as reminding readers about the important of time.
How long does it take you to complete a book?
That all depends on characters and how willing they are to dictate their stories. In reality, it takes anywhere from 2 to 3 months to get a first draft done and depending on how busy my editor is, it can take another month or two to get the book polished.
Given that you have received so many, literary competitions and awards are obviously worthwhile?
I think literary competitions and awards are great for getting your name out there and getting recognition. I’ve read many interviews with authors who got their big break after winning a literary competition.
And your thoughts on Indie publishing?
I think indie publishing has turned the publishing industry around. It has given serious writers a way to get their stories out in to the world and have more control over the entire process. It also has a negative side in that anyone can publish a book and this, in the beginning, led to a lot of poorly edited and badly written books being published. It tarnished self-publishing and many people assumed that if you were self-published it was because you couldn’t get a “real” publisher. This is not the case and there are quite a lot of traditionally published authors who are choosing to embrace the self-publishing model too. I think on a whole it’s a wonderful way to get your stories out there, but it’s a lot of hard work too and you need to ensure that your book is the best it can be. This means having a professionally designed cover, paying for a professional editor, and taking the whole thing very seriously.
Do you have an agent?
I don’t have an agent at the moment as I have been self publishing, but I am working on a novel called Winterland that I plan to submit to agents and publishers in 2019. I don’t think it’s necessary to have an agent but I would love one. I think their expertise and knowledge of the publishing industry is invaluable and with an agent by my side my writing could reach a bigger audience.
And marketing and PR?
I do all my own marketing and PR work as a self-published author and it’s extremely difficult. I’d love to have a marketing or PR company to help me with this.
Thoughts on social media for authors?
Social media is a necessity in today’s world. It is expected of authors and part of your marketing. It’s time consuming too, but it has its benefits such as being able to engage with your readers.
Do you read your reviews, and if you have received any, how do you handle negative ones?
I had one negative review (1 star) for Finding Forever. The reviewer stated that they read the sample and enjoyed it so bought the book only to be disappointed to find the F word in the second chapter. Initially, I was gutted and considered rewriting and removing the F word, but after speaking with a number of other authors, I realised that my book won’t be for everyone. Surprisingly, when I mentioned that I’d received a 1 star review in one of the book groups on Facebook and the reason for it, my sales soared.
Name six people, living or not, that you would like to share your favourite beverage with, and why?!
First off it would have to be my dad. I miss him so much and would love to be able to sit with him and talk about my life. After that, Roald Dahl because I loved his books growing up. Also Stephen King because I’d just love to get inside his mind and see how he comes up with his story ideas. Others would be Enid Blyton, Charlotte Bronte, and one of my writing friends, (they could argue about it themselves and choose who would come along).
And is there a book by another writer that you wish you had written?
There are a number of books that I’ve read over the past couple of years that have had a profound effect on me. Carnage by Lesley Jones, Bright Side by Kim Holden, and A Thousand Boy Kisses by Brittany Cherry, all showed me the power of emotions and allowing the reader to feel them. These were the first books to ever make me cry and after reading Carnage, I couldn’t even tell anyone about it without breaking into tears.
Tell me about your latest work and what inspired it?
I have a number of projects on the go at the moment. One of these is a second collection of short spooky stories for children aged 9+, called Nightmare Realities 2. This is for my US publisher Handersen Publishing. I’m also working on a new paranormal romance series, The Cursed Angels. Book 1, Visions, is complete and available in the Angels & Magic Collection until January 2019. I’m working on Book 2, Power. This series came about following a called for angel and magic themed stories. Once I read the post I immediately had an idea about two cursed angel brothers and a witch.
And finally, Amanda, do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Don’t give up. Write as much as you can and as often as you can. Just go for it whether you’re a planner or a pantser, without words on the page you don’t have a story, and without a story you have nothing to work on. Get the first draft written and be proud of that. There are so many aspiring writers that never even get as far as completing a first draft so praise and congratulate yourself every step of the way. Once you have your first draft you can decide what you want to do next. Another very important thing – Enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy writing, the publishing world isn’t for you.
You can find links and more about Amanda’s books HERE