Interview with ASTRID AMARA
Astrid Amara lives in Bellingham, Washington, and when she isn't writing, she's either riding horses, sleeping, or working as a civil servant. She is a Lambda Literary Award Finalist for her novel THE ARCHER’S HEART, as well as the author of numerous other titles including HALF PASS, the HOLIDAYS WITH THE BELLSKI’S series and the shared world anthology IRREGULARS. Her newest novel, THE DEVIL LANCER, will be released this fall by Blind Eye Books. More information at www.astridamara.com.
What are you reading right now?
VICIOUS by Victoria Schwab - enemy superhero story.
What first sparked your interest in writing?
I've always written since I was a kid. I had a story called "Tattle Tale Terry Always Tells Tales" published by the University of Washington back when I was in first grade or something, so I decided early on I wanted to spend my life writing.
What do you love the most about writing? The least?
I love being inside the head of my characters, imagining their reactions to their situations, visualizing the scenes. I hate the agony of explanatory chapters - the "getting to know you" chapters or backstory, for the most part. I love writing the action scenes, sex scenes, melodrama, but writing the more subtle interactions of characters is much harder for me.
Generally I start mulling over an idea or theme I want to explore, like an illness, or a magical ability, or a setting. Right now I'm trying to come up with a story with a guy getting shanghaied onto a space vessel. Once I have the idea then I start working on developing two characters that are interesting and hopefully a little different than any of the other ones I've written. I like to also come up with an overarching theme of some sort: family acceptance, redemption, etc. And then I start to plot it out. I have a very supportive writer's group that helps me brainstorm the overall plot arc. Once that's done I make an outline - very detailed for some stories, just bullet points for others. I then write chronologically, but also occasionally skip around and write those scenes I can't wait to write first, especially when I'm dragging my feet.
What inspires you?
Ooh that's a big one and hard to answer. Animals really are a big part of my life and always inspire me - that they can look past abuse and still come to love a person wholly, that they have so much forgiveness built within them, so much tolerance...I wish I could be half as noble as most of the dogs I know.
Story-wise, I love plot lines that explore battles of conscience or unintentionally becoming a monster, demon, or bad guy (Yes, I couldn't wait to go see the new Robocop, because that's my favorite story arc...man destroyed, brought back as something terrible).
Fantasy allows you to tackle subtle human issues in big, explosive, melodramatic ways. Instead of saying, my heart is on fire because I'm so alone, you can have a person whose actual heart is on fire. I love that.
I never thought I was the romance type. But then I realized every story I read I was waiting for the two main characters to get together, or cherishing every moment they interacted, and that was really the highlight for me. Besides which, a good plot can make your mind whir and your pulse race, but a good romance also makes your heart clench and brings little *meep* tears out of you...
How was “No Life But This” born?
When Nicole Kimberling first brought the idea of doing a shared-world anthology at Blind Eye Books up with me, she explained that she would be writing a story as would Josh Lanyon and Ginn Hale, and I got really excited about it. I started thinking about what world I wanted to make up, and it seemed like the perfect time to follow up on an old interest in Aztec culture. A long time ago I wrote a short story about some Aztec gods and the culture was so unique and visual and visceral I fell in love with it. So I then set about spending the next few months reading everything I could on the Aztec and Maya religious worlds. I took copious notes of elements I thought were so cool they had to be incorporated into a story (calendars, magic pens, blood sacrifices, serpents with one head in this world, the other in another, little spy birds, etc).
Then as a theme I decided I wanted to explore the feelings of culture shock and how sometimes we yearn for things that are bad for us, just because they are what we know. Deven came out of this. Silas August was my attempt at a severely damaged individual who keeps it together through rudeness and efficiency, all hiding the fact that he has seen some messed up sh*t in his life and will never get over it.
What was it like writing a story for a shared world anthology?
SO FUN. As much as it seems strange to say it, I love limitations - I feel like my most creative moments are when restrictions are put on my writing, and the shared world requires we all play ball to the same rules. That said, we were given a lot of freedom at first - all basically starting our own stories individually and then working afterward to tie them all together.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
I feel like so many people get hung up on the whole "being an author" thing and reading advice and promoting and designing their catch phrases and branding...but really what it all comes down to is: write a story you want to read. Forget everything else. If you could read the most epic, wonderful, heart-shattering, perfect tale for yourself right now, what would that look like? Start there, and forget everything else. And then force yourself to write to a schedule. The hardest part is just doing it. Even I, who's been working on a novel continuously since I was 23, will do practically anything to get out of writing. You know its bad when I decide to do laundry or clean the house instead!
Then, when you have written something, don't get hung up on every word. Know that if it goes to an editor, things are going to change, sometimes drastically. That's okay. It's usually for the better. If you go into the editing process resentful or believing every word you penned is golden, you will be upset by the process and end up with a worse story at the end. Editing is your friend because you are too close to your work to take a scalpel to it.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?
I feel bad that I suck so hard at self-promotion and all the social aspects of being an author, but it comes from good intentions - I love to write more than I love being a writer. When I'm not on Facebook, or blogging, or even participating in chats, it's because I'm truly working on the next novel./span>
And also I fell in a manhole once. That's worth something, isn't it?