Amanda J Evans is an award-winning writer of paranormal and fantasy novels as well as children’s stories. Growing up with heroes like Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones, her stories centre on good versus evil. 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. Amanda lives in Oldcastle, Co. Meath, Ireland with her husband and two children. Amanda is also the author of Surviving Suicide: A Memoir from Those Death Left Behind, published in 2012.
Amanda: I wrote my first real story when I was eight. It was called The Little Elf Fairy. It was about a young elf fairy child going off in search of his mother. I remember that it filled a copybook and I drew little pictures to go with it. My parents had it typed up and I even sent it to Penguin books. My first rejection too. :-0
I’m a big believer in dreams and the messages they can give us. In relation to writing dreams, I believe you have to have them. You have to have something to strive towards, something to excite you and keep you motivated. Whether it’s seeing your book in big name shops like Easons, or hitting the bestsellers list. You have to have a dream.
Imagination is essential for writing. I love imagining what my characters look like, how they’ll overcome the obstacles they are facing, etc. I also love imagining success and people reading and enjoying my books.
I’ll be very honest and say I don’t plan my books at all. I am what is referred to as a pantser. I pick up my pen and just write. The story unfolds as I’m writing it and I love it. I love the surprises, the twists, and the way that characters take over. I get to experience the story as a reader would even though I’m the author. I have tried planning in the past, but it never works. My characters always seem to do their own thing and I’ve learned that they know best.
There have been a few, but I think the best one was probably the most terrifying. It was after I’d finished writing Finding Forever and had sent it to beta readers. I was a nervous wreck. I was imagining all sorts, mostly negative. I kept thinking readers were going to say my story was rubbish, and who did I think I was being a writer. When the first messages started to arrive, I was afraid to open them. They could literally shatter all my hopes and dreams. I remember having a drink or two the evening I decided to read them. To calm myself down and give me the courage. The very first message I read left me with a big smile on my face. The reader loved the story. The rest of the feedback followed the same way. They loved the story and wanted more. I had readers telling me it could be a series and everyone loved one particular character. It was the boost I needed to move forward and publish my book.
One of the highlights for 2018 was being invited to take part in two anthologies with bestselling authors and being asked to write an editorial quote for Anna Undreaming.
At the moment, I’m busy promoting my latest release, Hear Me Cry. It’s a short novella that retells the Irish myth of the banshee. It’s a fantasy romance and is receiving great feedback so far. Next month I have a new angel and magic themed book releasing in an anthology. It’s called The Cursed Angels.
Don’t give up. If writing is something that you love to do, do it. Not for the money and fame, but because it brings you joy. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the talk about making loads of money if you self-publish and this should never be your focus. Write because you love it. Read a lot, and improve your skills as you go along. Don’t put yourself under too much pressure and always remember why you started writing in the first place. Don’t ever let it become a chore.
This would have to be either blue or pink, in all shades.
Thank you so much Amanda for speaking with me today. You have made my TBR pile even bigger. Thank you!
You can read more about Amanda at
Find Amanda on:
Books By Amanda J Evans
Save Her Soul – A Paranormal/Urban Fantasy Romance
Finding Forever – A Romantic Suspense Novella
Surviving Suicide – A Memoir From Those Death Left Behind
Nightmare Realities – Spooky Short Stories for Ages 9-16
Author Ann Brady, who writes historical fiction and also engaging children’s books, is my guest today on Last Word of the Week. Ann is a wonderful mentor of other writers and her caring and wise attitude can be seen in many of her books. She is adept at creating engaging characters and attractive worlds. Ann lives in Cardiff but has been known to visit antipodean shores…
Ann: I’m not really sure when the idea of being a writer first came to me. I have always been able to write whether it be fiction or fact. Perhaps that’s down to my open mind and my wild imagination as well as my being pedantic in wanting to research things deeply and clearly. I do know I have always been able to write.
I take whatever life throws at me. Sounds silly but for me life delivers such wonderful scenarios that you only need to use your own imagination to create stories. For example, many of the Little Friends Children Picture Book Stories come from my having seen children’s reactions or behaviours. Children are wonderful sources for stories.
Everyday. I just love being part of the writing world. More so in recent years as I have learnt so much more in relation to publishing. Mentoring other writers, especially younger ones, has been a delight and there is nothing more satisfactory than seeing the look of delight on a youngster’s face when they see their work in print. Even someone as young as five.
Developing my knowledge and passing this on through the new workshops that I am creating. Unlike a lot of people, I believe in sharing and am not jealous of their success. Perhaps that due to my age or just the fact that I have achieved so much I am happy in my own skin.
Persevere, be patient and grow a thick skin. There are a lot of people out there who are very willing to be criticise thinking they know the answers and yet they haven’t got a clue. If they had they would be the ones I would be saying this to.
Wow this was a hard one as I’m not sure who I would be. I think it would have to be a woman who is as strong as I am now. Who doesn’t put up with any nonsense and one who could be successful regardless of the time or era she lived in? If I were a factual character, I suppose the closest I could come might be Queen Elizabeth 1 or maybe Queen Victoria. Both were strong no nonsense women determined to be equal to men. Now that sounds a bit weird, even to me ha ha!!
Ann’s important links:
Hannah Lynn, author and genre hopperand therefore very much one of my tribe
Hannah: I have always been someone who writes. At school I was writing silly limericks when I should have been working in lessons, and I spent a long time writing short stories and stories for children before embarking on novels. I don’t think there’s ever been a point when I realised I was a writer as such though. It has simply always been a part of me.
A combination of planning and imagination. I need to know where I’m going to, otherwise I lose my focus and drift, but often my stories and characters takes twists and turns that I really didn’t see coming.
The highlight has definitely been winning the Kindle Storyteller Award. It was total unexpected and was such an amazing event. That would take some topping!
Getting all my ideas down on paper. I love writing, so the more I get to do it, the happier I am.
Keep reading, and keep going!
Definitely a strong minded, independent woman. Perhaps Lady Door from Neverwhere.
Author Alex Marchant is first and foremost a Ricardian – yes, read on for more information. Alex also has a background in archaeology and publishing. When she’s not writing, she strides about the moors devising ways to help the rest of us learn about the real Richard III – not the maligned chap of Shakespeare’s telling, but the actual king whose skeleton was recently discovered under a carpark in Leicester.
That’s quite a difficult question, but there were probably two main occasions – the first at the age of about seven or eight when I began to write my first ‘book’ (I was convinced that I could do as well as C. S. Lewis, who was my favourite author at the time – the main differences being that I had a horse-emperor rather than a lion and a magic fireplace for the children to go through instead of a wardrobe!). The second I guess was when I published my first book, The Order of the White Boar, and the first five-star reviews came rolling in. I have to admit to being rather older on the second occasion than on the first…
Good grief – and there was me, thinking it was perhaps odd for writing to be regularly inspired by dreams, but you’ve placed it first in your question! I wouldn’t say I rely on them, but dreams have fed into my writing at important times. Particularly those ‘between sleeping and waking’ types of dreams. Often an issue that’s been bothering me for a while is resolved in that way – just as I surface from sleep in the morning, or perhaps during the night. I don’t imagine I’m the only writer who always has to have a notebook and pen by the bed to catch ideas, just in case. Otherwise a large proportion of my ideas come while I’m on autopilot in the shower or walking the dog on a familiar path across the moors. Nowadays I do plan more than I used to, to ensure a decent structure for the ideas that come at odd moments like that.
A single highlight is difficult to pinpoint. Having come rather late to writing seriously, I’ve been enjoying almost every part of the process of independent publishing. The enthusiastic reception of my books – among both people already interested in my lead character, Richard III, and people who previously had barely given him a thought – has been fantastic, and meeting readers at various events is always a buzz, particularly children, as the books are primarily aimed at young people aged 10 and above.
One of the best was when a young student remembered me from a school author visit, and came up to my stall at an event months later and in a completely different county, a big grin on her face, asking me to sign the sequel. Another highlight was being asked to King Richard’s 566th birthday party at Middleham Castle as special guest to cut his cake, while a very early confidence boost came when I was notified that my first completed manuscript, Time out of Time, had won the Chapter One Children’s Novel Award.
I sell a lot of my books at events and I’m again attending a range of medieval festivals over the summer, including Bosworth and Tewkesbury – sites of two iconic battles in King Richard’s life. Only one of them features in my books – and last year it was very emotional to be able to read an excerpt from The King’s Man only yards from the site of the king’s death. I’m also looking forward to reading all the entries for the new anthology I’m editing which will be sold in support of Scoliosis Association UK – a follow-up to last year’s collection of Richard III-inspired fiction, Grant Me the Carving of My Name, which has proved so popular. (Details of how to submit can be found at https://alexmarchantblog.wordpress.com/2019/02/24/call-for-submissions-to-new-richardiii-anthology/, deadline 19 May)
Never give up! Keep reading, keep writing, believe in yourself, tap into all the positive energy flowing from fellow authors, and don’t take no for an answer from agents or publishers.
Will Stanton, lead character of Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising – the original boy who wakes up on his eleventh birthday to discover he’s not ordinary after all. We all need that sort of magic in our lives. (J. K. Rowling is apparently also a fan…)
Buy links: mybook.to/WhiteBoar
Dawn Reno Langley – writer, traveller, blogger, teacher – provides today’s fascinating Last Word of the Week. Dawn has a PhD and loves gardening, and is a natural-born writer. Immediate connections! I’m so pleased to have the opportunity to speak with Dawn and find out a bit more about her. All those mysterious writing aliases, for example…
Dawn: It was so long ago! My first article was published in the local newspaper when I was 9, and I knew even then that I wanted to be a writer. I’d already read everything in my little local library, and my imagination had already begun creating my own stories. So, I guess I could say I realized I was a writer around the time I started putting sentences together.
You know, I was thinking about this just the other day. I’m a planner. I create outlines and know where the story is going, but I add to that with the dreams/imagination and keep me awake at night. When I’m writing fiction, I can rip into the story and totally take it apart, then put it back together again in a very different manner. Usually my imagination is more likely to be employed at the beginning of the process of writing (to birth the story) and during the rewrite process. That’s the time for long walks in the woods where I can’t get connectivity . . . .
There are two, actually. One, during the peak of my nonfiction career, I wrote the first book on African American art and collectibles, and when my book Collecting Black Americana was introduced in Washington, D.C., I had the front page of the Living Section of the Washington Post – and when the doors were opened to the antiques show where I had a tableful of books, people ran to the table. Ran! I still can’t get over that.
The second one is when I introduced my last novel, The Mourning Parade. I travelled across the United States via Amtrak, stopping at 18 different cities and visiting friends, family, and old students of mine along the way. I started the trip in my hometown, a small city near Boston, and I invited all of my family and friends to a local art gallery for a big launch party. It was the first real launch party I’d had in my career (and by that time, I’d been making a living as a writer for about 30 years and had written more than 30 books), and it was simply amazing. Almost everyone from my graduating class gathered to celebrate with me, and it gave me wings to do my cross-country trip.
Right now, I’m working on a rewrite of a novel that had its genesis when I was doing my PhD. My agent has suggested some changes that gave me the impetus to find a lot more depth to the story and exploded the main character. I’m excited about working on it and can’t wait to finish it. What I’m looking forward to most is my agent’s response to the changes I’m making.
Read the best writers. Gain experience. LISTEN to other writers, editors, and readers. Read. (Did I say that already?) Take classes, go to free readings, write things that make you uncomfortable. Read poetry if you’re a fiction writer. Read memoir if you write poetry. Read novels if you’re a memoirist.
That’s more than one thing, huh? Okay, the most important is to read.
This one’s easy. Sherlock Holmes. He’s got a distinctive character, is amazingly complex, and has equal parts humour and drama. Besides, I think brains are sexy, don’t you?
Dawn’s important links:
This week it’s all about the fabulous blog tour … The Stars in the Night is visiting the real world of readers and bloggers.
Many great links will be added here so you can see what happens when you go on tour. This time, what goes on tour comes home very happily!
Jo at Jaffa Reads Too: https://jaffareadstoo.blogspot.com/2019/04/blog-tour-and-giveaway-stars-in-night.html
Dragon Rose Books Galore Reviews: https://dbgreviews.blogspot.com/2019/04/blog-tour-stars-in-night-by-clare.html
Cheryl M-M’s Book Blog: https://cherylmmbookblog.blogspot.com/2019/04/blogtour-stars-in-night-by-clare-rhoden.html
My thanks to Harry’s travel agent, the lovely Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources.
Bone Lines, Stephanie Bretherton’s debut novel, considers what it is to be human by engaging us in the lives of two women, separated by millenia. Stephanie is a wonderful communicator who has a fascinating backstory of her own – Born in Hong Kong to a pair of Liverpudlians, she is now based in London, but manages her sanity by escaping to any kind of coast, particularly far west Cornwall.
Stephanie: Probably the first time I got an A for a school composition! Those kind of dopamine hits can become as addictive as sugar. Just as well, really, as I have struggled with ‘numbers’ all my life. Words, on the other hand, have been my friends. It’s amazing what you can do with them, from creating and escaping into your own imaginary worlds, to coming back out into the ‘real’ world and communicating ideas, forming friendships, entertaining people, making them feel good.
If I had lived in the times of the prehistoric character in my book, Bone Lines, I would have been a rubbish hunter but would probably have made myself useful as the storyteller of the tribe.
I use all three. A dream might inspire, or help solve a problem, but that’s more passive. Active imagination is the key driver. Planning tends to come retrospectively, if that makes sense. I reverse engineer the planning once I have a character, a world, a theme, an idea that has been allowed to run free and take its own shape.
I have always worked with words, communication or ‘storytelling’ in one form or another, and there have been quite a few thrills and spills along the way, from reading the weather report on Hong Kong television to building my successful ‘boutique’ communications agency. But creative writing fiction in particular has always been my first love and publishing a book was a lifelong goal. So undoubtedly bringing my debut novel Bone Lines out into the world last September, as exciting and terrifying as that journey has been, has to be the highpoint so far
Three weeks unbroken chill at my bolthole in Cornwall in the summer, to rest, write, walk and play. I am very blessed to have found a corner of the world that fills my soul. I’ve had a rather nomadic life since childhood (though I have always been drawn to a coast) and I while recent generations of my family are not from Cornwall (we are misplaced Scousers) and I’d never spent much time there before, I had the strangest sense of ‘coming home’ when I visited friends near Land’s End three years ago.
I had a small inheritance after my widowed mother had died, and I found a tiny place near the sea that weekend, put in an offer on the train back to London and knew it would gradually become ‘my soul’s landscape.’ I still have to spend a lot of time in London for work, but whenever I can get back to Cornwall, it’s just magic. The perfect place to write. (And I really need to crack on with book two.)
If it’s what you want to do so badly that you are prepared to make sacrifices of your time, ego, cash flow, personal life, and sometimes what feels like your sanity, then just keep writing – whether you are ever published or not.
If you have something that has to be said, a story that has to told, a head full of characters demanding to written about, if you feel most ‘yourself’ (and at peace with yourself) when you are writing, then write, write, write. But there are no guarantees. Anything can happen and you can get lucky, but it’s a hard profession in which to make either headway or money. On the other hand it’s also a wonderful profession to be a part of. You can also self-publish – but do that as well as you can too. All readers deserve your best, most professional work.
Do the work, learn the craft, take advice from those whose track record speaks for itself. Work with a good editor. If you can, pick a genre. I haven’t really yet, so am no example, but it will help when it comes to selling to the industry and then marketing – and know that marketing is a huge part of being an author too, so start to learn those skills as well. Nothing will just come to you though. Take rejection on the chin. You are unique, but you are not ‘special’ (yet) – writing is graft, but worth every minute, at least it has been to me.
Atticus Finch, and Scout. The father in The Road, and his kid. Cathy and Heathcliffe. Pip, Abel Magwitch, and Estella. Or Joe and Biddy. Luke, Han and Leia. And Chewie. My Dr Eloise and all her lost lovers, and John, the priest. My ‘Sarah’ and all her ‘children.’ Aren’t we all the characters we have ever loved, learned from, or imagined?
LWOTW: Indeed we are! Writers and readers are the most changeable, and perecptive, of humand. Thank you so much for speaking with me, Stephanie, it has been pure joy.
Stephanie’s important links:
Stephanie’s Website is at http://stephaniebretherton.com/
Bone Lines is available online at all the usual places such as Book Depository
In this episode of Last Word of the Week, I’m excited to speak with Maisie Porter. Maisie works as a wedding photographer in Australia. We should make it clear right now that she has neither abducted nor been abducted by any competitors (something that *might* happen in her novels…). Maisie is an author at Crooked Cat Books.
Maisie: As well as writing, I work as a wedding photographer. In 2017, in between weddings, I began writing a story. At that time I had a desire to create something that wasn’t as fleeting as a photograph. So much work is put into creating visuals for social media (especially in the photography industry) that I was becoming disillusioned at the dispensability of photos. These days you can take a wonderful photo that has to be replaced immediately with another to feed the social media monster! So I started to write a story. It was a private and satisfying effort.
All three! In that exact order, I dream up the story, imagine it as I am writing, and plan and organise all the parts so it all fits together.
The highlight of my career is my first book No Reception being published by Crooked Cat Books.
I have just finished writing my next book, so I’m looking forward to when I dream up my next story.
I would say, get your book written and find a good editor to look at it for you. Then get it out there; either traditional, small press or self publishing. But don’t get to hung up on writing the story because the hard work of marketing your book is still before you.
Yikes! Now I’m truly scared 🙂 Thanks for speaking with us, Maisie, and all power to both your writing and photography careers.
Maisie’s Book Links:
Maisie on Twitter: https://twitter.com/eyeointment
Maisie on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/maisieporterauthor/
Jamie Paradise has written a debut novel that takes crime to an audacious new level. Night Time Cool has been described as flamboyant, comic, and energetic: a tale of Christmas time in 2015 London with all its colour, exuberance and the odd swathe of violence. It’s the underbelly of Shoreditch and the characters, particularly Detective Inspector Frederick Street and his son Elvis, revel in their complex, seedy setting.
In the day time – when not hunkered down in a dark mansion surrounded by old family skulls and writing comic crime – Jamie is also a sports journalist called Jamie Jackson. He writes about football. “Soccer” to those of us in Australia who adhere to Aussie Rules.
Jamie: Good Question – I have a memory of being around nine and thinking, yes, writing for me – then at 21/22 I knew – after reading Henry Miller.
Imagination all the way – get an idea/opening scene/etcetera then away I go – so much fun.
Having my first novel compared to Martin Amis, Anthony Burgess, and it being reviewed by The Observer (the world’s oldest Sunday newspaper) as a “rip-roaring debut”.
The current novel I’m writing – about 2/3 in of 1st draft.
Read all the time, write all the time and keep DREAMING.
Peter Pan – I’m never growing up anyway. XXX
Barbara Quinn is an award-winning short story writer and author of a variety of novels including her latest, The Summer Springsteen’s Songs Saved Me, a novel about the healing power of the music of the Boss.
A longtime Springsteen fan, and native New Yorker with roots in the Bronx, Long Island, and Westchester, Barbara lives with her husband in Bradley Beach, NJ and Holmes Beach, FL. She has travelled to forty-seven states and six continents where she’s encountered fascinating settings and inspiring people that populate her work.
Barbara’s many past jobs include lawyer, record shop owner, reporter, process server, lingerie sales clerk, waitress, and postal worker. She enjoys spending time with her son and his family, planning her next adventure, and listening to the Boss.
With that background, I can’t wait to hear how Barbara approaches writing. ‘I’m sick of sitting right here trying to write this book’ (Dancing in the Dark) seems to be one line from the Boss that doesn’t apply!
Barbara: As a child I was drawn to books at an early age. I became lost in stories my parents read to me of far off lands and fairytales. I started writing stories and plays that my brother and I performed for family. I never stopped. My first produced play was for my Girl Scout troop. That was a fractured fairytale about a good wolf and an evil Red Riding Hood. Ah, I can still feel the joy caused by the audience clapping.
I have a vivid imagination. I can’t control it but have learned to depend on it and to suddenly be taken someplace new and unexpected. Once there, other skills take over.
Having my latest novel The Summer Springsteen’s Songs Saved Me published brought me so much pleasure. What a kick to see it out there. But the part that really made me happy was the incredible fan mail I received. There’s simply nothing like having complete strangers connect with my work to the extent that they are so moved they write and tell me about it. We are all human and that need to connect is real and is so rewarding when we accomplish it.
I’m looking forward to finishing another novel so stay tuned! And to traveling more now that my husband is retired.
Read widely. Write often. And find a place to share your work.
Alice in Wonderland! I so would love to jump down that rabbit hole.
That does sound like a great place to travel Thank you so much for talking with me today, Barbara. I can’t wait for news of the new novel.