Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Q & A Time!

I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because the trapdoor in my house that takes me to my quiet place is broken and I didn't trust myself to proof-read under the current circumstances (world war three going on around me right now - thanks kids). Ugh. What are the odds?

I was struggling for a blog post this week, so I thought I'd throw it over to you all to ask me anything you liked. Ten points to me for delegating, right? So here's what you wanted to know:

How much of your story lines are completely fictional and how much are drawn from your own life experiences? (Danielle)

One hundred percent of my stories are fictional, plot-wise.  There are facets here and there that are drawn from my own experiences, but usually they are tweaked and moulded so much to fit the story that I can barely recognise them myself!

What do you think people search for when they're reading a book?  How does what you write help them find it? (Danielle)

Honestly? I have no idea what people are looking for. I basically write a story I would want to read myself. If others like it too, that's great!  I've found that if I try to see it from outside of my own perspective, it just clouds things until I lose my focus completely.  You can’t be all things to all people, you have to be true to yourself and trust your judgment.

What advice would you give to people who "run out of creativity" when writing? (Danielle)

I think trying to find an answer to this one is like trying to nail jelly to a tree!  I have a feeling it’s different for everyone.  For me, when I get creatively blocked, I’ve learnt that distance works wonders.  I walk away.  I do other things.  Usually, the answer comes to me.  Don’t get me wrong – it isn’t easy, in fact it bugs the hell out of me.  I’m no quitter!  But sometimes being too close to a problem stops you seeing the solution (the whole forest/trees scenario).  I think the trick is not to take too much distance – if it hasn’t come to me within a week, I try to skirt the problem and carry on with the story.  Too much distance creates its own issues.  Like I said though, the solution may be different for everyone.

How do you create your characters? Are they (loosely) based on people you know/tv/movie characters, or are they totally from your imagination, or both? (Vicki)

This question is multi-faceted, and so is the answer.  The characters mostly come from my imagination, but what sparks my imagination can vary.  Sometimes a particular facet of a movie or TV characters personality will fire me up and I build an entirely new character from that one facet.  Sometimes a character is created to be the complete opposite of another character, just to make things interesting.  I’ve never yet created a character from someone I actually know, although sometimes things friends/family say can find their way into the mouths of my characters (shhhhhh!).

Views on the 10 most influential books, movies in your life. (Scott)

Pretty sure this was meant as tongue-in-cheek (thanks Scott!).  Since this blog post would be super long if I decided to detail each title with my views, I’m going to skirt the question slightly and just answer what my top ten are. 

Books (in no particular order): 
Outlander series (Diana Gabaldon)
The Heart and the Fist (Eric Greitens)
Lifes That Way (Jim Beaver)
Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)
The Magic Faraway Tree (Enid Blyton)
The Time Travellers Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
A Thousand Acres (Jane Smiley)
An Angel at my Table (Janet Frame)
A Game of Cards (Witi Ihimaera).  
(I know that last one is a cheat because it’s only a short story, but it’s still a fave!)

I can’t dwindle it down to 10 (I can’t even dwindle it down to 100!).  I have 30+ years of movie-watching behind me…where does one even begin?  Let's just say I'm a big fan of movies.  I prefer action movies to rom-coms, but there are some exceptions where I go all girly and can't watch without a box of tissues beside me.  I like gritty films and dark humour.  Not a huge fan of comedy for it's own sake.  Hate slapstick.  Love heist movies.

Do you insert yourself into your characters, live the story with them, and develop the plot/characters/emotional trails from feeling what they feel? Or are you completely bipartisan!? Do you feel the emotions you are writing about?  (Leanne)

Another great question!  Whew, this is harder than I thought!  Firstly, I mostly plot the story out before I begin to write (if not totally, then at least loosely), so I know where the characters are going before I start (to some degree).  As to whether I feel the emotions as I write them?  Absolutely.  I don’t think it’s possible for me to detach myself emotionally – I think if I did, my writing style would be very different.  I know that when I get to a particularly emotional part of the story – when the plot has come to a head and its make or break time for the characters – it can get emotionally draining for me, too.  I liken it to listening to a friend tell you their woes – you love them, you can’t listen to what they’re saying without becoming emotionally invested yourself.  At least, I can’t.

Have you written about how you were "discovered" yet? Or when/how you decided to take the plunge from 'spare-time' to 'I'm finishing this book and it will be awesome dangit!' writing? (Maria)

I think this first question has already been covered in the newspaper article that came out in May, but as to the second question?  The contract I signed with my publisher, then the looming deadline, pretty much took care of the “finishing” part.

So thanks to you all for playing - hope this was sufficient to satisfy your curiosity!

Don't forget to visit my new website, too -  And if you have any comments and don't want to use this blog to air them, you are welcome to pop back over to my Facebook page instead.

~ Amanda


  1. A fantastic way to gain insight into your writing style and what drives you Amanda. I look forward to adding your books to my collection :)

    1. Thanks Bobbie :) I can't wait for "Absolution" to come out so you can judge properly! x

  2. This may well have been asked and answered so apologies in advance if this is the case :) But as you know I did start to write a book myself propelled by a personal event. I wondered at what point did you say to yourself I am going to write a book and follow it through. Was it spur of the moment or something you always knew you'd do ? Tracy x

    1. No worries Tracy :)

      As to your question, I just kept writing until it was done. That's it - no big "eureka!" moment or anything. I just wanted to finish it, for my own sake - to know that I could finish a story. Then, I put it in a drawer (figuratively speaking) and went on to my next story. After I finished that, I realised that I wasn't quite done with this one I went back to it, and began playing around with it and editing it and changing things (in a wholesale fashion - it's hardly recognisable now, compared to that initial draft). And then the publishing contract came, and I realised it was now or never - time to get it ready for the world :)

      So I guess I was just stubborn - I wanted to know that, after years of half-finished stories, I could finish one. It was the catalyst for my own self-confidence. Now I know I can do it, there is no holding me back!

      I think everyone has their reasons for finishing a book - whatever it is for you, dig deep and fish out that reason, then hang onto it and let it propel you forward.

      Good luck! xx

  3. Hope you don't mind another question Amanda. Descriptive writing doesn't come naturally to me for example - making an argument between two characters real and plausible, Did you struggle with any aspect of writing Absolution and if so how did you overcome it.

    Tracy xx

    1. I never mind questions, Tracy - ask away!

      As it happens, I did struggle with some parts of the story. I found research helped me out a lot though - I was trying to talk about things I knew nothing about, but once I had some knowledge under my belt, it really helped.

      Also - with your particular issue, try reading. See how the masters do it - I find that often helps me. There are definite techniques to these things! Practice makes perfect (or close to it, anyway).

      Hope that helps - just my 2c worth :)