As a child, Amanda G. Stevens 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 debut, Seek and Hide, was a 2015 INSPY Award finalist.
Connect with Amanda...
Purchase: Seek and Hide, Found and Lost, Take and Give, Far and Near
Get to know Amanda...
You and Writing
Tell us a little bit about you and writing...
Fiction is one of my great life-loves. I’ve been writing since first grade. It’s such a part of my identity, I can’t even answer the question “why do you write?” I just do. I couldn’t stop if I wanted. The characters are what keep me at it, the irresistible journey of unearthing their souls one big question or little quirk at a time. My goal is to capture them in such a way that the reader will feel a depth to them that draws him to walk alongside them as their stories unfold, the way he’d walk with a friend through shadow and sunshine.
Let's talk about your books...
Tell us a little bit about your book.
The Haven Seekers series is a four-book adult dystopian series (now complete!) in which the government has taken control of the church and retranslated the Bible. Marcus Brenner, a new Christian, will do anything to protect his church family from imprisonment and starts a one-man resistance, helping others to hide or flee. Over the course of the series, God grabs hold of Marcus’s life in many ways he never expects, turning a loner into a leader.
What made you choose the setting for the book?
I like to call myself an “accidental” speculative fiction writer. I had no plans to write a dystopian series. I began with two characters (Marcus and Lee) who, in author vernacular, “wouldn’t shut up.” My mind kept unearthing new details of who they were: I knew the worst moment of Lee’s life (which happened when she was eighteen); I knew Marcus was an alcoholic (sober now but still wrestling). I knew a hundred things about them but had no plot. Over time I determined the best story to uncover their layers would be some sort of war or conflict in which they were resistance fighters. But now what—Underground Railroad? French Resistance in WW2? Historical fiction, are you kidding? That’s one genre I can’t write; I’d be terrified of committing an anachronism. My only option then was to create my own world.
What’s the theme? How did you come up with it?
Any theme in these books happened organically as the story was written. Typically, I finish a manuscript with no idea what my themes are, and I ask my critique group what they see in it. When someone identified Christian community as a theme of Haven Seekers, I was thrilled with that. The series has a lot to do with relationships among Christians—that we need to cultivate those, that they will never be perfect because we’re fallen people, but we need to deal with each other in our brokenness because we aren’t meant to walk through life alone. Marcus especially has a lot to learn about accepting help from others.
Emilie here: All I can say right now is, Oh Marcus... *happy sigh* just love that guy!
What’s your favorite snack while writing?
Dark chocolate and Gevalia iced coffee (the stuff in the carton). The caramel flavor is my favorite.
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Let's talk about writing...
What does your writing process look like?
My writing process involves deep abiding hatred for the blank page and deep abiding delight for the editing process. I adore word economy and aspire to improve at it as long as I’m a writer (which will be as long as I’m alive), so one of the fun things about editing for me is seeing how many extraneous words I can cut.
How I create a character—I prevent stereotypes by creating contradictions in their souls. I dig deep into their pasts until I know not only what they do, but why. And I pepper them with unique individualities: what music and food does she enjoy, where does he feel most relaxed, what does she do with her body when she’s nervous, what would he rescue from his house if it was on fire? It’s an intuitive process that Stephen King says is like unearthing dinosaur bones. I would agree. I never really feel like I choose who the character is inside; it’s more like I discover what’s already there. As for plot, I’m neither “plotter” nor “pantser.” I know some of the signposts but never how I’m going to get there, and I’m sometimes surprised even by where the story chooses to end itself.
Emilie here: I think I kind of do the same thing for my characters - it's like I know them but have to get to know them better...
What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing? How do you grow in your writing craft?
I’ll try to be a little more original than “keep writing” and “read all the time” (though both these are necessary!). Getting a novel published requires creating unique, realistic characters. (tweet this) The reader needs to believe in these people and care about them. I’ve listed a few ways to do that above, but another important one is to listen to people around you. Dialogue voice is one of the most important things about writing individual characters. Train yourself not to hear voices but to see them. What does actual speech look like on the page? After you know that, you can mold it into fictional speech. You’ll also need to be able to edit yourself without pity, and the only resource you need to learn this skill is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King. My advice is to read this book and do what it says. Without pity.
I guess I grow in my craft the same way now that I always have, namely by writing a lot and reading a lot (I know, I know…). A recent example—I read The Sun Also Rises this year for the first time. Hemingway is so subtle, it’s easy to miss not only what he’s doing but how he’s doing it. That book taught me about cultivating reader sympathy, because there were moments I cared but I had no idea why. I had to stop and study. When you discover a book is creating visceral reactions in you, study that author’s craft—not to imitate them, but to learn from them. Practice the skills they use until you can wield the same skills in your own way.
Emilie here: Great advice here Amanda! I've definitely becoming a convo-creeper (just made that up) and I love that "without pity" party because, it's rough but necessary to cut things out!
What is a favorite memory you have of your mother?
My mom was also my home-school teacher for twelve years, so our relationship as I grew up had an added dimension of teacher/student. Today I can honestly call her my friend. I can’t think of a single favorite memory, but my mom is a dedicated teacher, a lover of dogs and flowers and American history, a meticulous housekeeper, and an example of unselfishness and what can happen when a person allows God to work through difficulty to create beauty. I’m proud of her and privileged to have her.
If you had to choose one type of food, what kind would it be?
Only one? That’s impossible. I love Mexican. And Italian. And Panera—that counts as a type of food, right?
Emilie here: Ha! YES!
What are you currently reading?
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler (I love Philip Marlowe). I just finished What’s Mine’s Mine by George MacDonald. I had read him before, but this book was something special, and I now consider myself an official George MacDonald fan. The fiction genres I read most are crime/noir, speculative, and literary; but I’ll read any genre if the characters and dialogue are believable.
Emilie here: Thanks so much for being my guest Amanda! Readers, I love this girl!!! We connected my first ACFW conference when I did headshots for her and our friendship has grown since then. I cannot recommend her books (and her amazing writing) enough! Make sure to enter the giveaway and know that the series is supposed to be read in order so if you win and haven't started it, I'd recommend book one (it's fantastic!).
Sandra was on the blog last week talking about From Bags to Riches and she offered a few copes! Our winners are:
Connie Hendryx & Meghan Gorecki
Congrats ladies! I know you'll enjoy this book!