Anyway, I'm honored to have her as a guest here on the blog today. PLUS (it just keeps getting better) she's offered a copy of her book as a giveaway. Yep, that's right! You could be reading Seek and Hide by next week (or now if you go and buy her book wink!).
To enter to win a copy, leave a comment for Amanda below and/or share your favorite fall drink.
A little bit about Amanda...
As a child, Amanda disparaged Mary Poppins and Stuart Little because they could never happen. Now, she writes speculative fiction. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in English and has taught literature and composition to home-school students. She lives in Michigan and loves books, film, music, and white cheddar popcorn. Her first novel, Seek and Hide, is now available.
How to connect with Amanda...
Purchase Seek and Hide: A Novel (Haven Seekers Book 1)
Author Interview | Amanda G. Stevens
You and Writing
Tell us a little bit about yourself: How did you start writing? What has kept you writing?
...Story has been my deepest love since before I could read. I wrote my first story in first grade, and I’ve been writing ever since. It’s something I’ve always known I wanted to do and be. I guess I’m kept writing by the characters in my head—loving them and wanting others to love them, too.
Do you have a favorite book or work that you’ve written? If so, why?
...Any work in progress is always my least favorite when I’m drafting and my favorite when I’m editing. But if I really had to choose, I guess it has to be Book Three. I waited years to write some of those scenes. They’d taken root inside my head, and when I could finally give them life on the page, it was an emotional experience. Hopefully, when Book Four is finished, it will be my new favorite, but I’m too mired in the first draft right now to believe myself about that.
What was the hardest thing about publishing? The easiest?
...I haven’t been published long enough to comment on being published, but as for getting published … For me, the most difficult thing is networking. I’m extremely introverted. This doesn’t mean I have no use for people, but it does mean small talk with strangers takes effort. Mingling at writers’ conferences? Walking up to strangers and saying hi? The prospect of these things has made me short of breath a few times in my life. Usually (less dramatically), I just freeze. I’ve improved a lot with this, but I still have improving to do.
...The easiest thing for me is editing. Not that it’s easy, but I love to do it. Once that first draft is born, I love the process of molding it and polishing it into something I want other people to see.
Tell us a little bit about your book? Why did you write it?
...Seek and Hide, which has just released, is the first in a four-book series in which the government has taken control of the church. Only re-translated Bibles are legal, and a specialized agency called the Constabulary enforces this and other regulations.
...This book is about Marcus Brenner, a new Christian who is in awe that, after years without family, he now has one in his Christian brothers and sisters. He vows not to let this new family down and plunges into a one-man war, helping Christians flee or hide. The book is also about Aubrey Weston, who recanted her faith when the Constabulary threatened her baby. She was released back then, but now she’s targeted again, and her baby is taken into custody. Aubrey and Marcus collide in the cabinet aisle of a hardware store, one needing protection and the other determined to protect. God uses this encounter to grab hold of both of them and compel them to confront the lies they believe about themselves.
...I wrote Seek and Hide because of Marcus and Lee (who plays a secondary role in this book and whom Marcus is in love with). I’ve had these two characters in my head for ten years—their desires and fears but also the little individualizing details about them. I’ve always wanted, more than anything else, to introduce them to the world and to write them well.
Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?
...Haha, see above. If it’s between my two series leads, I have to choose Marcus. I love the earnestness with which he approaches everything he does. I love the crinkles around his eyes when he smiles. He risks himself to save strangers. He fights so hard to stay sober and loses himself so easily in his woodworking. He’s a terrible communicator and he can’t quit anything he starts, good or bad. He loves ice cream sundaes and good movies and hard work and sky-gazing.
What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
...This is a tough one, because I don’t write with themes in mind. Sometimes I can see them after the fact; sometimes readers point them out to me. I guess I hope Christian readers ask themselves what they’d do in a world like Marcus and Aubrey and Lee’s. Would they risk their freedom to tell the Gospel? Hopefully, Seek and Hide will cause Christians to examine the world around them and stop taking for granted the Bible in legally plain sight on their nightstand.
Where do you find inspiration for your story/characters? Are they based on real life or pure imagination or both?
...My characters are never based on myself or people I know. Not deliberately, anyway. For example, Aubrey values books and literacy. Marcus has no use for books. I’m with Aubrey on this one, but I didn’t give her that trait because I agree with her. It just fit who she is and didn’t fit who Marcus is. Or for example, Marcus is a ridiculously stubborn person. I know stubborn people and pliable people and people in between (we all do, right?). But that doesn’t mean Marcus is supposed to resemble the stubborn people I know. Stephen King describes writing a story as “unearthing” it, and I feel that way about my characters. All I’m doing is discovering who they already are. And my plots unfold based on what these characters would naturally do.
...As for this particular storyworld, Marcus and Lee are the kind of characters who want to be fighting a war. The storyworld grew from that.
When you write, what is your overall intention with your stories?
...I want my reader to grow to love and worry about my characters. I want to provide artistic excellence; improving my craft is really important to me. I want to tell the truth about evil and bring glory to God as the only true good.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
...Well, if you can be a happy person writing sans publishing, do that. If you really want this, if you can’t stop wanting it, then read a lot and write a lot. Work on your craft and never stop working on it; always improve with the next book. Let the story lead you. As Steven James says, “If you’re starting with a message you want to get across, write nonfiction instead.” Also, if you’re a believer, then give everything to God. Pray a lot. Otherwise, priorities get murky.
When you get an idea for a novel, what is the first thing that you do?
...Either I scribble some thoughts into a notebook (depending on how clear the idea is), or more likely I think about it for awhile before I try to write anything down. I need at least one night’s sleep. For some reason, the idea is more vivid the next time I’m awake. This is true of my scenes as well. It’s easier to write something I came up with yesterday than something I came up with today.
September is Classical Music Month (who knew?). In keeping with that theme, do you have a favorite character from a classical novel?
...Oh, no. This is too hard. Um … Okay, a list? Classic characters I love, in no particular order: Rhett Butler, Fitzwilliam Darcy, John Thornton (I confess I haven’t read this one, only seen the wonderful BBC adaptation), Atticus Finch, Long John Silver, Bigwig the rabbit, Philip Marlowe, Sherlock Holmes, Sir Percy Blakeney, Shane, Aragorn, Aslan.
What is your favorite fall snack food?
...My favorite anytime snack food is white cheddar popcorn. It’s treacherous. I open the bag and suddenly it’s empty and I have no memory of how that happened, except there’s this white powder coating my fingers….
Thank you so much for being on the blog today Amanda! Folks, I had the pleasure of meeting Amanda at the ACFW Conference last year and we ended up waiting for a flight together. It was so fun getting to talk to her about her writing aspirations, to become Facebook friends (so, "real" friends - ha!) and then to see her dream to become published turn into a reality! And then I got to interview her. How fun is that?
Anyway, I say "amen and amen" to the difficulty of networking. Being an introvert myself, it's just tough to step out of your shell (or from behind your computer) to try and convince someone that the characters who talk to you are worth selling in book form. I also think it's great that you had such a hard time picking characters from a classical novel :D There are so many good ones...
**Readers, don't forget to leave a comment below so you can enter to win the GIVEAWAY! I expect we'll be seeing a lot more from Amanda (and her books) in the future.**