I was delighted to be invited to chat with author, Pam Lecky on her lovely blog, Vintage Treasures.
Check out our conversation at the link below:
I was delighted to be invited to chat with author, Pam Lecky on her lovely blog, Vintage Treasures.
Check out our conversation at the link below:
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
I know that I am not alone in being the owner of a dangerously high and tilting book tower of ‘To Be Read’ titles, not to mention the Kindle!And yet, I continue to buy more and more books! So, I have decided to do something about that. Inspired by Cathy Brown and her lovely blog 747books.com – I am challenging myself to read 20 books, beginning on September 1st and finishing on 31st December. Here is my list – I will not be reading them in any particular order – and may replace some with other titles that take my fancy, but for now, this is it!
1: Her Name was Rose: Claire Allan
2: The Cruelty Men: Emer Martin
3: The Trick to Time: Kit de Waal
4: Kind Nepenthe: Matthew V. Brockmeyer
5: The Collector: John Fowles
6: The Story Collector: Evie Gaughan
7: A Head Full of Ghosts: Paul Tremblay
8: Bone Music: Christopher Rice
9: Sweet Little Lies: Caz Frear
10: The View from The Cheap Seats: Neil Gaiman
11: When You Eyes Close: Tanya Farrelly
12: What was Lost: Catherine O’Flynn
13: The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder: Sarah J. Harris
14: House of Spines: Michael J. Malone
15: The Broken Girls: Simone St James
16: This House is Haunted: John Boyne
17: Clock Dance: Anne Tyler
18: The Dead Girls: Derek Flynn
19: Devils’ Day: Andrew Michael Hurley
20: The Nightmare: F.B. Hogan
I’m delighted to share that my short film, FRAMED will screen at the following festivals in September:
Underground Cinema Film Festival: Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin
Short Programme 7: Sunday, September 2nd at 1:00pm. LINK HERE
SPOOK SCREEN Film Festival: Clonakilty, County Cork
Irish Shorts Programme: Saturday, September 8th. LINK HERE
Disappear Here Film Festival: Ballyliffin, County Donegal
28th – 30th September, 2018. Link HERE
I am a writer and filmmaker from Dublin, Ireland. Author of the novels LADY BETH which won the award for BEST NOVEL at the Carousel Aware Prize and ARKYNE, STORY OF A VAMPIRE, I have recently written and directed FRAMED, a short horror film. I have also written several feature-length and short screenplays including ADAM  and the multi-award winner, IN RIBBONS .
On Writers In Ireland this week, I’m chatting to Lindsay J. Sedgwick. A former journalist, Lindsay is a versatile and imaginative award-winning screenwriter and playwright with more than eight hours of credits for TV and film work, including a feature film, TV series and short films. Her series Punky has been recognized as the first mainstream cartoon series in the world in which the main character has special needs (Down’s syndrome). It is available in over 100 countries with around 5 million hits on YouTube. She founded the Creatives in Animation Network in 2012.
A screenwriting tutor since 1995, she regularly runs courses, workshops and masterclasses in libraries, colleges, universities and festivals around Ireland. As Screenwriter-in-Residence at Maynooth University/Kildare Co. Council Library and Arts Service 2016-7, she published Ireland’s first comprehensive guide to screenwriting, Write That Script in April 2018. Lindsay has had 14 plays produced around Ireland and the UK and has published two novels, Dad’s Red Dress and The Angelica Touch.
A prolific and varied writing career, Lindsay! So when did it all begin?
I can remember writing poems when I was six or seven; I wrote my first book when I was nine. It was 56 pages of a journal and I can remember making the words very big towards the end to fill the pages. But I can also viscerally remember the intensity and excitement of putting those words down and seeing the story build. Very melodramatic, it was about a cousin who was due to visit Ireland only a witchdoctor substituted his daughter instead. There were voodoo dolls, poisoned chocolates, mind control, the whole lot.
And your publishing journey to date?
My first feature article was published in 1984 when I was 17 in the Evening Herald, after which I worked as a freelance journo until 1997 in Ireland, Australia and also for publications in Europe, the UK and the US, while writing plays on the side. I’d been steered towards journalism by my mother, creative fiction was meant to be the hobby. In 1989, I got my first book commission from a publisher. It was a history of the Olympia Theatre up to 1990, all based on original research after the music hall era since the records had all been dumped in the ‘50s. The day after I delivered the manuscript, the publisher went bankrupt. End of first publishing break! Then I wrote a few novels between 1993-96. I got nice replies from agents and publishers that said I fell between literary and popular fiction. I focused on screenwriting from 1997 onwards, but did return to rewrite those first books, but I never felt I got them right and put one aside. The other I will return to. In 2010 or so, I tried turning some of my family features scripts into books. Again, ‘polite’ no’s. There seemed to be a very real chance of Dad’s Red Dress being published by a traditional publisher in 2016 but when that fell through at the last hurdle, I decided to self publish in 2017. I self-published Dad’s Red Dress when I was Screenwriter in Residence in Maynooth Uni & Kildare Co Council Library & Arts Service because I had the time to focus on it. Then came The Angelica Touch in Feb 2018 and Write That Script in May 2018.
Do you have an agent, Lindsay?
I had one as a screenwriter from 1998-2012. The first ten years were great but in the end he was frustrated with the deals he was able to make with Irish producers. Since he wasn’t sourcing work for me or able to make better deals, I suggested we part ways for a year.15% is a lot to hand over unless they are actively earning you more in the deals you get. He was also only ever interested in dealing with TV and film work and I was also writing books and plays. Now, when I have a number of book projects at different stages, plus some TV series that seem to be of interest and a new play, I’m looking for an agent again. I want someone who is able to cope with the range of material I write and direct my energies!
How much of a contribution do you make to the marketing and PR of your work?
All of it. Trouble is I concentrate on it for a while but once I start writing, it gets put aside. This is definitely a mistake because then I lie awake at night thinking of all the opportunities I am missing by not sending the books here and there, not pushing them properly. I keep promising myself that I will organise my time better – put certain hours aside to do marketing and nothing else, but it hasn’t happened yet. When I do focus on it, it seems to take up the entire day and I go to bed frustrated at not getting enough creative work done!
Did anyone – famous or not – inspire you to write?
Eilís Dillon. I did a short course of hers in Listowel during Writer’s Week, in the late ‘80s or early 1990s. I missed one class – food poisoning – and when I came in the next day, I was greeted with, “So does anyone know who this Lindsay Sedgwick is”. Turned out they’d discussed my work at length the previous day, mostly flash fiction, possibly a play and she had been raving about it. When I told her I’d written for TV too, she turned around and said that basically the novel was all that was left and why didn’t I write one? I started two while I was there for the week but neither of them were strong enough to finish.
Have you formed any structure to your writing time?
Not really. Everything begins longhand. Then I’ll print it out and edit those pages. If I can’t settle into it or haven’t slept well (which is often), I sneak down to a local cafe with a chapter or two and scribble over a flat white. Then I find I’m itchy to get onto the computer and type it up and that gets me back into the world. I need chocolate nearby and walk the dog when I’ve been sitting too long. If it’s going well, I forget to eat and end up ravenous. That’s when pizza becomes the reward! I’m always burning food because I get wrapped up in work so I’ve learnt to put the timer on my phone. I can remember my daughter, when she was still quite young, maybe 8 or 9 appearing at my office door – at that time I worked in a shed in the back garden – asking me shouldn’t I have told her to go to bed. I’d lost track of time. But those are magical days when the work flows. A lot of time gets taken up with marketing, emails or trying to break the work I want to do into small chunks so that I can feel I’m making progress. Editing and re-editing seem to take so much more time than fresh writing. I have really productive days and days when I’ve achieved nothing. If I’m teaching, prep time for that will eat into the day too. I can be distracted easily most days and a good book will steal hours from me too! I often tend to take a bit of work that’s proving tricky to bed and force myself to brainstorm or edit it. It’s often the clearest time to work things out. On a good day I could be working at 8 and still working at 11 but there will be big glumps of time when I’m not doing anything remotely connected with writing in between and I only really have those days when my husband is away!
And on average, how long does it take you to complete a book?
Write That Script took a year, from the day I began to the day I received my proof copy. Dad’s Red Dress, which had been around in an earlier draft, I think I worked on it for about 6 months but then I had spent a few months on it earlier in 2016 and in 2015 so that’s not very accurate. The rewrite of Angelica, which had also been around in a very basic draft, took about 8 months but I was working on a lot of other stuff at the time. The current book, Moving On, is the sequel to dad’s Red Dress. I’ve been it at since July 2017 but I had the ending of it for about a year before that. I brainstormed ideas for it until September or so because I was working on Candlemist but I’m hoping to have the first draft finished by September 2018. Candlemist is my other book – and that goes back to 2005; I get a few months to work on it intensively and then something else comes up and I put it aside. At about 110,000 words unfinished, it has a dozen of more threads and I know that each of them needs to be tracked and traced through the book to make sure it all holds together. I worked on it from September to December last year, and now it’s like a sweets jar I can’t wait to dive into when I have a reasonable space of time to do so. So it varies, I guess. Another book, part memoir, has been around in some form from 2008 but I haven’t found the right narrative structure to underpin it yet.
In terms of genre, how would you describe your writing?
My first two novels don’t seem to fit a genre. I’d describe them as general fiction/ humour but because the main characters and 13 and fourteen respectively, bookshops have chosen to categorise them as YA. I think you have to write the stories you are passionate about. I do feel life would be less complicated if I wrote genre, just from a marketing pov but so far it hasn’t happened and I don’t think you can force it – unless someone is offering you payment; then you can write in any form and with passion, as I know from being a professional writer for 30 odd years! I do have two TV series that would make good genre novels/series and I’m actually really curious to know if I could make them work in prose because I love the characters and stories, but there are about five books in between waiting to get finished.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Writing is a muscle you have to keep using. Even when you don’t feel like it. Grab ten minutes here and there and make yourself write. On the bus, during a tea break, waiting for someone. Deliberately arrive early for a meeting or to pick your child up and write while you wait. Don’t expect to write brilliant or even good stuff each time you sit down – you have to write the bad stuff too but at least then it’s not in your head anymore.
Last question, Lindsay – is there a book by another writer that you wish you had written?
Love in the Time of the Cholera by Gabriel García Marquéz.
I highly recommend Liz Nugent’s SKIN DEEP and John Boyne’s A LADDER TO THE SKY. Both are psychological thrillers with intriguing character studies and unique themes – the type of books you will not want to put down. AND, once the full horror of these character driven stories had time to really sink in, I was struck with a rather creepy thought as I imagined what the ‘love child’ of Nugent’s ‘Delia’ and Boyne’s ‘Maurice’ might be like – but you’ll have to read the novels to fully understand what I mean by that!!