I’m pleased to present you with Amanda McCrina, novelist and history geek! I met Amanda in the dark ages (aka when I still was on LiveJournal) and soon I became very interested in her work. One thing I love about the stories she writes is how character-centric they are, but without losing the vibrant tapestry of the worlds she’s created. Her first book is His Own Good Sword and I’d recommend it to readers who enjoy fantasy adventures that are light on magic and heavy on history.
Without further ado, here’s the interview! (Gah, that was a terrible rhyme. I apologize.)
Guest Interview with Amanda!
1. Describe yourself in four words.
I aim to misbehave.
2. How did your writing adventure begin? (When did you know you wanted to be a writer?)
I can’t really think of one defining, angel-chorus moment when I knew I wanted to be a writer. My goals have evolved over the years–starting in 2007, when I first won NaNoWriMo, I knew I wanted to be a published author–but it seems like I’ve always been writing, whether or not I thought anything would ever come of it.
3. What stage of your noveling adventure are you at right now?
The hectic stage! I’m about to move to Japan for a year to teach English, and I’m scrambling to finish this draft of my WIP before I go, because I’m not sure how much time I’ll have for writing once I’m there.
4. What book or writer has inspired you?
Ernest Hemingway, stylistically. I love his prose. I love that he can take huge concepts and emotions and put them in simple, powerful words. I also owe a great deal to Rosemary Sutcliff in the way I approach history in my writing. She writes characters and settings that feel very familiar despite being historically distant, but she doesn’t compromise the alienness of the past, either.
5. What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a historical-fantasy novel called Blood Road, a prequel to my first novel His Own Good Sword. I actually started writing it just as a no-pressure way to take my mind off another manuscript which didn’t seem to be going anywhere. The seeds for the story were planted while I was writing His Own Good Sword, and I took it as a chance to flesh out some of my characters and their world. Basically I treated it like writing fanfiction for my own novel, and it really seemed to get me out of the rut I was in. It started out as a novella but the story kept unfolding further and further and taking unexpected turns and I realized there was no way to do it justice at novella length.
6. What inspired you to write this book?
There were certain scenes that were vivid as a movie in my head. I started writing because I wanted to figure out how the characters might have ended up in those situations.
7. What’s a quick, three-song playlist for your book?
Hm, that’s hard. I mostly listen to soundtracks when I want writing music; Hans Zimmer’s Black Hawk Down soundtrack has been my go-to for Blood Road. It’s an amazing, eclectic palette of music. Three specific songs, though–“Mothers of the Disappeared” by U2, “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley.
8. Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?
Plotter, definitely. Pantsing can be liberating, but after the initial exhilaration I usually find myself aimlessly meandering. I don’t need to know exactly how I’m going to get there, but I do need to have a clear idea of where I’m going. Otherwise I lose motivation.
9. What’s your favorite part of writing?
Finding creative ways to plug plot holes. I like outsmarting myself.
10. What’s one piece of advice you’d like to give to fellow adventurers?
I don’t really like giving writing advice, because there’s no one right way to do it: what works for me probably isn’t going to work for you. In that sense writing is very much an individual experience. But I will say that nothing helps me write more than reading.