I am delighted to welcome fellow Urbane and BritFic author, Amanda Saint, on the blog today.
Amanda is a nomad who writes for magazines when she’s not writing stories. Many of her articles are about developments for helping with climate change and sustainability. In the past 16 years or so she’s lived in a tiny village on Exmoor, in London, the Lake District, Brighton and Lancaster, and also spent three years in New Zealand and six months in Ireland. She roamed up and down England on a canal narrowboat for several months too and travelled around the South Pacific coconut islands, Australia and Asia. Amanda studied Creative Writing and Literature with the Open University and her short stories have appeared on the Fish Flash Fiction prize longlist, on the Ink Tears Short Story Competition longlist; in the best-selling Stories for Homes charity anthology, and in literary magazines. Her tiny story, Stained Red, won the Editor’s Choice competition at 101 Words. Amanda’s debut novel, As If I Were A River, is available now on Amazon, Waterstones, and the Urbane website.
Welcome, Amanda, Tell us a little bit about you…
I’ve been working with words for a long time – as a freelance features journalist for the past six years, and before that in various communications management and magazine editor roles. But what I love to do most with words is make them into stories and I’ve been writing fiction on and off since I was a child. When I started writing it properly again in my early 30s, I knew that this was what I had to do and have been pretty obsessed ever since. I write short stories as well as novels and all of the different places I’ve lived and travelled, and the many different jobs I did in my hedonistic youth, appear in them.
While I was writing my debut novel, As If I Were A River, I started to have some success with my short stories – getting long and shortlisted in prestigious prizes, published in literary magazines and included in a best-selling anthology, Stories for Homes, so I started to realise that I really could write fiction that people wanted to read. This spurred me on to get the novel finished and sent out into the world.
Your inspiration for As If I Were A River?
The idea for As If I Were a River sort of crept up on me. I kept coming across news items about people going missing and noticing how differently a missing child was portrayed in the media to a missing adult. It was also around the time that there was a big news story about the man who was presumed dead in a sea kayaking accident being alive and living off the insurance money in South America.
Then I saw a documentary about missing people and there was one story on there that really set me to thinking. It was about a woman whose husband had gone out with his friends one night, called her at around midnight to say he was on the way home and then was never seen or heard from again. The documentary had been made seven years later and she still didn’t know what had happened to him. This is where the idea for my main character, Kate, came from, and wondering how you would deal with it if your husband just vanished one night.
What’s the toughest part of being a debut author?
I’m not sure that I can really say that there’s anything tough about it! I’ve had my dream come true of getting a novel published and sharing my words with readers. I get to talk about As If I Were A River to lots of people and have been invited to appear at events. Working with Matthew at Urbane has been brilliant and I’m really excited about how he’s been promoting me and my book.
I suppose getting the book noticed is the hardest thing, with so many books being published all the time. But I’m lucky in that I have a large network of supportive friends and other authors, and quite a large community of writers involved in my creative writing venture, Retreat West, and it does feel like As If I Were A River has had a real buzz around it as the launch date approached.
Where and when do you write?
I don’t have any set routines. I live a very transient lifestyle – always moving around and travelling quite often. So I write in my notebooks and on my laptop whenever and wherever. I do like to get away to a writing retreat as often as possible though as there’s something about removing myself from the everyday and knowing that I have that dedicated time for my work that really helps me to get a lot of words written.
Are you a planner or a pantser?
I’m both! As If I Were A River was written purely as a pantser but the novel I’m working on now, which has a working title of All Be Forgotten and will be published by Urbane in late 2017, has been approached quite differently and before I started writing I spent months thinking, doing exercises to get to know my characters, and I made a plan. That said, I haven’t stuck very rigidly to it!
But it has been good to have it there and even though I have that plan, the pantser in me is still coming through. I’ve just started running an online novel writing course through Retreat West actually and the very first element is all about this. How you can be both at the same time.
Do you do any research? If so, any sites or sources you care to share?
For As If I Were A River I did some research into how missing people are dealt with. I spoke to the police in my local missing persons unit and to the Missing People charity. All Be Forgotten has involved a lot more research – the main character, Evie, is an environmental and social activist who then becomes a herbalist so I’ve been reading a lot about different plants and their healing properties and keeping a keen eye on all the protest groups that are active in the UK at the moment.
The story is set in a future that looks more like the past and Evie is facing persecution as a witch so I’ve also been reading a lot about the witch trials in medieval England and America too.
Do you read inside your genre or out when writing?
I read all sorts at all times! The main genres I read in are literary fiction, science fiction, psychological thrillers and women’s fiction. But I do also dip into other genres, like crime and historical fiction, quite often. I read a lot of non-fiction too – recently I’ve been reading a lot about the development of the human race since the industrial revolution and the move away from spirituality to science.
Your author heroes?
There are so many. Margaret Atwood has been a huge influence and I have read most of her novels, short story collections and non-fiction essays. I also really enjoy the novels of Maggie O’Farrell, Tim Winton, Helen Dunmore, Stephen King, Maggie Gee, Damon Galgut, Isabel Ashdown…I could go on for hours!
Thank you, Amanda, for joining us today.
As If I Were A River is available now.
‘A compelling, intricate, psychological exploration of the lies we tell ourselves and the truths we run from. Beautiful.’ – Angela Clarke, best-selling author of Follow Me
‘Amanda Saint’s intricately plotted debut novel is a juicy Pandora’s box of mysteries and revelations.’ – Alison Moore, Man Booker Prize shortlisted author of The Lighthouse