Welcome to the four hundred and thirty-ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with paranormal romance and fantasy author Amanda McLain-Young. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Amanda. Please tell us something about yourself.
Amanda: I moved a lot over the years, from Texas to Mississippi to Louisiana. I finally settled down to marry my soulmate in a beautiful renaissance themed wedding in 2006. We now have two sons. I have a degree in English from the University of New Orleans and have worked in a variety of jobs, including accounting, marketing, physical therapy and sales. I learned something from every job and every place I’ve lived.
Morgen: I’ve only moved one county but took various evening courses when I moved to Northampton (computing, languages, car maintenance!) to meet people, then I spotted creative writing in the prospectus and the rest, as they say, is history. How did you come to be a writer?
Amanda: I began writing when I was twelve years old. I was always drawn to artistic endeavours. I like to draw, paint, sew, etc. When I was twelve, the summer between sixth and seventh grade, I started writing a short story. Unlike many of my other projects that remained unfinished, I finished my book. It was short, only 30 pages, and I did the artwork myself. When I finished that story I knew I was a writer. All my questions of what I was meant to do were answered. This was the first thing I ever started and finished. This was my destiny. I wrote scenes and dialogue for random books, and a sequel to my first story, over the next five years. Then, when I was seventeen years old, I saw a Halloween show on T.V. and came up with an idea about a story with werewolves. That was the beginning of “Wolf of the Past”. My original concept changed many times over, but the story began there. I expected to jot down a few notes and move on to the next idea, but I kept getting ideas for this story. Over a decade later, and I am still following those characters I met that Halloween night.
Morgen: “When I finished that story I knew I was a writer.” I love that. Even reading back-to-back Stephen King in my teens didn’t make me twig that writing was an occupation. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Amanda: I prefer to write paranormal romance and fantasy. That is what I usually read, as well. I am a fan of Star Wars books and Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter series. I also read a lot of Jayne Castle and Maggie Shayne.
I doubt I will ever write horror or tragedy. I may have some horrific elements in my stories, but I generally like everything to have a happy ending. It may not be a perfect ending, but if I am creating this world I write, I want to create a world where good matters and things eventually turn out for the best.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Amanda: I published “Wolf of the Past” in 2006 and “Wolf of the Present” in 2010. I write my paranormal romances as A.D. McLain. I just published my fantasy book “Suriax” through Smashwords and Createspace eStore. It is a joint project with my husband. For my fantasy books, I write as Amanda Young.
Morgen: Both every popular genres. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Amanda: I’ve had my share of rejections. They were disappointing, but I just let them encourage me to keep trying. I know I’m meant to write. Now, with the ebook revolution, I don’t have to wait for a publisher to choose me.
Morgen: It has certainly opened a lot of doors and I love the whole process of eBooks. Have you had any competition success?
Amanda: I won a short story contest at a local bookstore when I was in high school. I also won an essay writing contest my freshman year of college. I don’t really enter many contests anymore. I’m too busy writing my books.
Morgen: That’s what we should be doing with our time. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Amanda: I have an agent. They helped me get my second book critiqued, which helped me a lot with learning how to edit properly. An agent may be useful if you are dealing with movie deals, but at far as just publishing, I don’t think they are really necessary anymore. Authors can easily self-publish now without the stigma doing so once carried.
Morgen: They can although I see, almost every day, talk online of the market being saturated with substandard books. It’s true that there are bound to be a lot out there (there was a LinkedIn thread recently where someone had said he could self-edit but was quickly overruled ) but that’s what reviews are for. Are both your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Amanda: “Wolf of the Present” is available as an ebook. I had to pay a one-time fee to my publisher for the conversion. My first book, “Wolf of the Past” is not currently available in ebook format. Once I am out of contract with that publisher next August, I plan to re-edit it and re-release it. I will self-publish as an ebook. I prefer to read paper books. I’ll read stuff on my computer, but to sit down and enjoy a good book, it has to be paper.
Morgen: eBooking isn’t that hard; once you have a template you just slot the text into the shell (that’s how I do it anyway), and I love designing the covers. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Amanda: I do pretty much all my own marketing.
Morgen: Most authors (if not all) do which many say is a “necessary evil” but it does mean we speak directly to our (potential) readers. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Amanda: Most of my really favourite characters haven’t been introduced yet. I’ve got outlines for around 16 other books I have yet to sit down and write. I never really think about which actors would play my characters. I don’t really see them as name actors. I wouldn’t want the hype from famous actors to distract from the characters of the story.
Morgen: 16 books… wow wee! Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Amanda: I designed my first two covers and sent the proof to the publishers. They used my proof in the covers they created. I came up with all my own titles. I feel it is very important to have a say in how your books are presented to the world.
Morgen: I agree and that the great thing about small presses; you’re bound to have more of a say. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Amanda: I am working on “Wolf of the Future”, book 3 in my werewolf series.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Amanda: Even when I can’t physically write, I’m always thinking about my characters and getting into their heads. I think that is just as important as actually putting words on paper. Occasionally I get stuck on a scene. I usually skip to another scene or work on another book for a little while until that scene works itself out. I also like to throw in other little projects and chores to break up the monotony. I maintain my husband’s art website, posting pictures of his creations. I am also currently helping my mom edit one of her books so I can help her publish that one. Between all that and two small children, I have a lot to keep me busy. My husband’s art website is www.goblinjester.webs.com.
Morgen: How lovely to have your family involved. You obviously think a lot about what you’re going to write, do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Amanda: Both. I generally start out a story by getting ideas for a random scene or plot elements. I write down all my ideas as they come to me, whether they are out of order or not. Then I gather together all those random scenes and put them in order. From there I see what is missing in the story and work from a plot outline.
Morgen: Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Amanda: My characters tend to develop themselves. As I write, I learn who they are. As for their names, some I make up off the top of my head. Other times I pull out the old baby naming book and start flipping pages until I find something that sounds right. When I am unsure what name to chose, I look at the meanings and try to find something that fits the character.
Morgen: Do you write any non-fiction, poetry or short stories?
Amanda: I wrote essays in college. I was pretty good at it, but that isn’t really my passion. I’ve written some poetry over the years and a couple of short stories, but I really enjoy writing longer books and having the time to really develop the characters.
Morgen: And don’t they feel like real people… I love that. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Amanda: Since I worked with the critiquer on “Wolf of the Present”, I learned a lot about editing. I actually want to go back and re-edit “Wolf of the Past” with all the things I now know. I have found that the more I write, the more I correct myself as I’m writing it the first time, and the less I have to go back and correct later. I still go through my rough drafts and edit once myself before sending it around to my close family and friends who serve as beta readers for my stories. Then I take in all their comments and go through the book again.
Morgen: Me too (plus I have a great editor). Do you have to do much research?
Amanda: I do some research from time to time. It varies. I did a lot of research early on in this series for some things that haven’t even been revealed yet in my books. Of course, I am always learning and always finding new things to look up and incorporate into my writing.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking?
Amanda: I prefer third person, but I tend to shift to multiple points of view in my romances. I shift from one person to another character in the same scene. Basically whoever has something relevant to observe, that is the head I want to be in.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Amanda: I hope not. Even my first science fiction story I wrote when I was twelve has a place in my heart. I would like to revisit that story once I am done with my wolf series.
Morgen: I’m the same with my older pieces (she says “old” but I only started writing properly seven years ago). One day I’ll go back to them and whip them into shape. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Amanda: I love the freedom of writing and the experience of having someone read something I wrote and love it. I only wish it was easier to market writing. I grew up before the internet age and believed that once I found a publisher I could sit back and write and they would do the rest. Having to learn to market and the disappointing setbacks that can entail have been tiring. I was very surprised this past year to learn about how easy it is to self-publish now. It is very exciting to think I can get my work out there and have it read without having to go through a publisher first.
Morgen: Marketing is usually the answer to “what’s your least favourite aspect of writing?”… it’s just so time-consuming. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Amanda: Write. Write as much as you can, even if you don’t have a publisher or aren’t ready to self-publish yet. That way, once you have the connections and website or blog or fan page all set up, you can jump right in and grab your readers. Don’t just write one book and wait for it to succeed to write another. You may not be successful until the third or fourth or fifteenth book. But when it does happen, you will have all those other books already available for your fans to find.
Morgen: C.S. Lakin recently wrote a guest piece for me entitled 10,000 hours can feel like 10,000 miles in which she mentions Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers’ referring to Bill Gates, Robert Oppenheimer and The Beatles, as some who put in the requisite 10,000 hours into their field or craft. I’m not sure how many I’ve done over the years but four NaNoWriMos, a Script Frenzy, two Story a Day Mays and a short story a day since June 1st (plus 100+ shorts and three years’ worth of fortnightly writing workshops) must be a fair chunk. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Amanda: Jesus, George Washington and my dad. I would hire a private chef to cook whatever my guests want. Everyone could eat whatever he wanted.
Morgen: I’d have my dad too. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Amanda: My favourite quote comes from “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. “I took the road less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.” That is what I live by. I don’t let anyone tell me I can’t succeed at writing. Other people live their dreams. So can I.
Morgen: Absolutely (and I am). Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Amanda: I used to write articles for newsletters and such, but lately, I’m trying to put as much focus as I can into my writing career so I can spend more time with my children.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Amanda: What don’t I do? I like creating photo projects in photoshop, from party invitations to scrapbook pages. I love photos and capturing important moments with my family.
Morgen: Ah, then you can design your own covers. Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful?
Amanda: I’m met a lot of great people who have helped me through shelfari, linkedin and facebook.
Morgen: I think I’m registered with Shelfari but not done anything with it yet (ditto Klout and Goodreads)… a lack of time thing at the moment. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Amanda: Ebooks will greatly shape the future of writing. It is exciting and a little sad. I will still always buy paperback and hardback books. I like the feel of a book in my hands, the smell of the paper. I love seeing my name and my cover in print. I miss walking up and down the isles at the bookstore, looking for covers that catch my eye. A digital copy can’t match that. But this is an exciting time to be a writer. Ebooks reach readers quicker than print ever could. It has freed writers to be in control of their art. We don’t need access to a printing press or lots of money to publish a book. All we need is a computer and an idea. The future is whatever we chose to make of it.
Morgen: Very few authors I’ve spoken to have said they favour eBooks over pBooks completely, most (myself included) are reading both. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Amanda: I could never have accomplished half of what I have without the love and encouragement of my parents and husband. When the rest of the world wanted me to pursue a practical career, they never did.
Morgen: Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Amanda: How did you develop your blog and get such a high readership?
Morgen: A lot of hard work. They say you get out what you put in and I’ve put in over 1,100 postings over the past 15 months and many visitors (I get 200-300+ a day) find me through keyword searches so I guess I have lots of keywords. Of course it wouldn’t be what it is without all the guests so I’m grateful to every one. Thank you, Amanda.
Having completed her first story at the age of twelve, Amanda knew at an early age that writing was her passion. She attended South Jones High School in Ellisville, MS and graduated from the University of New Orleans in 2003 with a degree in English. She currently resides in Louisiana, where she is married to her soulmate, Raymond. They married in a magical, Renaissance-themed wedding ceremony in 2006 and had their first child in May 2008. They welcomed a second child in 2011.
Update December 2012: “I’m working on two books at once right now. I also helped my mother to publisher her first novel, ‘Rich Man’s Daughter’, and was able to help my uncle publish a book of short stories before his recent death to cancer. Learning to self-publish has been a blessing to me and my family. I am just grateful I was able to be there for my family and help them to fulfill their dreams. My mom’s website: http://www.bettyjeanmclain.webs.com, My uncle’s book: https://www.createspace.com/3984638.”
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