Please welcome another from Down Under! The lovely Amanda Kool!
Were you good at English?
Reel gud! I was much better at English than any other subject. Especially maths. I love the idea of maths and the complexity of equations and I really admire people who excel in it and understand the universe with it. I’m rubbish at it.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I just want to write stories I enjoy. A terrific bonus would be if these stories resonate with others and they enjoy them too. My ambition is not to be ambitious. My publisher (Satalyte Publishing) will probably hate me saying that, but ambition and career are different goals from writing stories. If I can sit down and actually complete a story, that’s as good an outcome as I can hope for.
Which writers inspire you?
Michael Shaara, Shelby Foote, Stephen King, Cormac McCarthy, Umberto Eco, JRR Tolkien, James Ellroy… Honestly, there’s too many to list. All writers inspire me – even ones whose work I don’t enjoy or *gasp* didn’t finish. I’ve sat in the chair and wrestled to complete a story. I’ve doubted and cried and laughed and poured celebratory whiskey, so in my book (pun intended), anyone who’s written a story I’ve enjoyed, or has frustrated me, or gut-punched me (I’m looking at you, Kim Stanley Robinson), inspires me. Here’s some more: JK Rowling, Suzanne Collins, Ben H. Winters (holy crap, he wrote a magnificent trilogy), and Blake Crouch. I’ll think of more as I go. I’ve probably forgotten my most influential authors and mentioned some of the most trivial; welcome to my brain.
So, what have you written? (*Include books, novellas, short stories, poems, blogs, awards or anything of interest.) * 1000 Mettle Folds: Published by Arcane Wisdom (May 24, 2011). Period horror piece (co-authored with Steve Gerlach, Australian Horror writer).
* The Murderer’s Cloth: Forthcoming Satalyte Publishing book. Period crime story set in 1880s, London. * Tallwood: Science Fiction published by Satalyte Publishing. * The Paper Fox: An interactive story for IOS devices, won critical acclaim for its artwork and design, and garnered the 2014 iKids award for best eBook. Published by Bento Box Interactive, LLC. Trailer here.
* Wires: Forthcoming Satalyte Publishing book. A weird tale of another world that can only be reached if you are killed by a certain gun.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
My main characters in Wires are special because they are NOT special. They are each thrust into a situation they must escape or resolve and each is drawn to the other because of one, horrific event. I’m a big fan of writing characters that are ordinary people who must rapidly evolve or adapt to changing circumstances. Or die trying. And dying happens a lot in my stories.
My main characters in Tallwood are ordinary for the world they inhabit. But that’s a future, god-blasted world full of inhuman predators and human fiends. In contrast to my usual “normal” characters, this cast was born needing to survive at a young age. They were born prey; no longer at the top of the food chain. To avoid making any giveaway sounds, they use sign-language to communicate, crossbows to defend themselves, and have learned much about the natural world that is bent on destroying them. But to them, that is normal. I do like my ordinary folk.
What are you working on at the minute?
Two stories at present. Working titles: “Mother” and “Sadie”. One set after a civil war, and the other set in a decaying city and a hotel that doesn’t want to let go.
What draws you to this genre?
Science Fiction or Weird fiction has so much scope for going completely crazy with ideas. I’ve written one story that’s set in the real world and has ZERO supernatural or magical elements in it. One. And even that story is set in 1889, London. So it’s not technically ‘of the now’
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
I cast all my characters. I have picture files for them that I refer to constantly. Or, I just make a desktop image with all of them so it’s always there for me to refer to. This is mainly because my memory is terrible and I like to ensure my descriptions are consistent and my brown-eyed protagonist suddenly doesn’t change to a blue-eyed wonder half-way through the book. That hasn’t actually answered the questions, but I write ensembles so… we’d be here a while.
How much research do you do?
A lot. That doesn’t mean it’s all perfect in the end product or I haven’t mucked something up in the translation, but I do a lot of research on anything that’s in a book (crossbows, guns, foods, language, religion, farming, drugs…).
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I grab what chances I can – on the train on the way to work, in the evenings, if I’m not exhausted from work, on the weekends when chores allow. Snippets of time here and there where the muse is talking and the red wine is in easy reach
My days as are structured as the outlines for my novels. That is to say; not. I’m a panster through and through.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I start with a character or two and they take me where they need to go. I can mostly see where I’m aiming so I steer them in that direction. I’m constantly surprised by where my imaginary friends take me (and how many of them are willing to jump in front of a bullet!)
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Everything! Look, when it flows and you’re in the zone and your characters are talking to you, it’s like bliss.
Every other part is hard. The sentence structure, the music choices (I like to listen to soundtracks when I write), the narrative connections, the words (omg the wurds!), the plot, the crux of your book; is it original/good/interesting? The doubt monsters that sit behind you while you’re trying to wrangle another 99 monkeys to the other 99 typewriters; “This is shit. You’re so derivative. This is the most unoriginal idea you’ve come up with yet!”
Sometimes you wonder if you could ever conjugate a verb in the first place.
And then…bliss. It’s all worth it.
Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
No. It took me a year. And I agonised a lot. In the end, I just had to start from a fresh mindset. Don’t think about what other people will think. Write what excites you. Write what you want to write and what you’re interested in.
And try not to think too much. I started grinding my teeth. Not cool.
Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors.
I try to read as much as I can, but don’t have many hours in the day. I read 1 hour a day on the way home on the train. I have “comfort” authors, that I go back to again and again. King, Barker, Ellroy, Stephenson and Banks (both M and sans M).
Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about. Who designed your book cover/s?
My brother, Jeremy Kool, is a graphic and 3D artist. We worked together at Krome Studios and he did the artwork for The Paper Fox that ended up winning quite a few awards for the art. He’s extremely talented and, thankfully, is a terrific collaborator for my covers. I am very grateful for his skill and patience.
For Tallwood, he read the book and made notes. He then asked me to highlight the most important themes/scenes of the books. After a while, he produced a series of thumbnail designs. We picked three to work up and from those three, selected one to do a full concept.
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Absolutely. Even for me as a reader. There are some cover styles I can’t stand and I literally won’t even pick up the book. That’s harsh, but…human.
Thanks so much for joining us Amanda! Be sure to follow her and check out some of her work!
Author Page at Satalyte Publishing: