Q & A with author Amanda Linsmeier

Blog_AmandaL_authorpicHi Amanda. Welcome to the blog! Twitter is a great place for writers to connect and that’s how I met you! I was lucky enough to win a copy of your short story collection, Beach Glass and Other Broken Things—which I loved! 

The collection is described as twenty-three stories about girls and women on the cusp of self-realization. I also found it to be about hope. Different women facing different hurdles in life—whether it be an abusive marriage, the loss of a loved one, falling in love, aging, etc. I truly connected with your characters. For example, my heart raced when Erin ripped the phone out of the wall and packed her backpack in Running and I cringed when Diana met her ex-husband’s younger lover, Calista, in Tears and Desire. I found myself rooting for your characters—a true credit to your writing ability. 

First of all, thank you for having me! Secondly, I’m so glad you loved Beach Glass & Other Broken Things. It was a true labor of love, and something I’m really proud of.

1) This leads me to my first question, when you craft short stories, do you write with the theme of a collection in mind? Or do you write first and then assemble similar stories together?

Blog_Amanda_coverpicWell, I had this heap of flash fiction stories I’d written over six or seven years but I had no clue where to start and no theme in mind. A former critique partner scrawled over the top of my stack “these stories are about women on the cusp of becoming who they are” and I was like, ah-ha! There’s my theme! From that moment on I had a strong feeling of the collection and it grew from there. Usually when I write a short story it’s because I was inspired individually, but after crafting several I may see a theme immerge. The next collection I’m working on ventures much more fantastical, about how humans interact with nature. I’m calling it The Ways We Collide. I didn’t know that was going to be a collection until I realized I had a recurring theme in several stories, so I’m building that slowly. As far as my most recent release, Déjà You, the anthology created with my “Book Besties”, we picked the theme first then wrote the stories. In a way, that was harder.

2) In addition to writing short stories and contributing to anthologies, you’ve also published a novel length work of women’s fiction called Ditch Flowers. Writing a novel means staying with the same characters over a longer period of time. How did you know that Julia needed a longer time to tell her story? How is writing a novel different than writing shorter stories?

Blog_Amanda_coverpic2Oh boy, ha. Novels are more difficult for me. My strength is definitely in short forms. Although some stories can’t be summed up in a small word count. I almost always know right away whether or not it will be a longer work like a novel, or short. I don’t know if it’s instinct or a lucky guess, but I haven’t experienced many “oops, I need to turn this novel into a flash fiction piece instead” moments. The only time I’ve altered an original lenth of a work is if I had to cut something for a submission, or just wanted to go more in-depth. Running, for example, was much shorter when I placed in the WOW! Flash Fiction Contest but when I decided to publish it as a free e-story, I wanted to expand on Erin’s story. I do have readers tell me that story frustrates them (usually with a wry smile) because they wish it was a novel! Some stories demand to be longer, like Julia’s, and I just have to go with it. It’s rewarding for me no matter the length, it’s just that I can write a flash fiction piece in an hour; novels take at least a year…or longer.

3) My blog focuses on KidLit, which brings me to my next question. I discovered that you are working on a YA novel inspired by the fairy tale The Light Princess. I must confess, I love this fairy tale (I even drafted a PB using it as inspiration). The idea of a YA novel with a retelling of this tale is so exciting to me! How far along are you in the process? What can you tell us about your approach to the retelling? How did you know you wanted it to be a story for the YA audience?

Oh my goodness. I love, LOVE that you know The Light Princess! I fell in love with it when I was younger, upon reading it in an anthology of fairytales. I re-read it a couple years ago and decided I definitely want to do something with it. I’ve never found anyone else who knows it! I started writing it as an upper-middle grade novel. I queried it for a short time, and had a professional manuscript analysis and realizet it just wasn’t quite right. I also felt like because the protagonist in my version is 16, it would fit better for the YA crowd. And I admit I wanted to go a little bit darker in some parts. I wish I could say I was further along, especially as I have an agent waiting on my revision (yay!) but after beginning my YA re-write I realized I was starting in the wrong place for my story. A brutally honest writer friend convinced me it all felt like backstory. I’ve since updated it to start when Ailsa is fifteen and already has been cursed to live without gravity, so the reader is immedietly thrown into this unconventional situation. It is so much stronger, and I can’t wait to keep going, although I’m only about 10,000 words in to this draft. The good thing is the almost the whole chunk of my MG version is usuable. I “just” have to switch it all over to an older voice and change the 3rd person point-of-view to four alternating first person POV. Easy, right? As far as my approach, I’m trying to modernize the voice a little and update the style for YA readers. I’m also staying true to the heart of the story, the humor, and definitely the romance. At the end of the day my story is about the bond between two sisters (one good, one evil), love and sacrifice, and girl power.

4) Can you tell my readers about your experience getting published? 

Sure! I knew with Ditch Flowers I wanted to be traditionally published. It was a goal I set and I did not give up even after 2.5 years and over 200 rejections from literary agents. I made the newbie mistake of querying before the manuscript was ready, and it was only toward the end that I actually had a friend read it all! She red-inked most of my story and I cut over 20,000 words. With her help, and a slightly altered goal of finding a small publisher, I signed with Penner Publishing. Since then I’ve become a hybrid author after self-publishing a few e-stories on Kindle then venturing into books. I love the freedom of self-publishing, being able to pick my own cover art and all that, but it is so much more work. I am not good at all the details. I’d much rather write than learn to format. So I hire out the parts that are over my head. So far, it’s been exhausting, but also wonderful. I am crossing my fingers my next book finds a literary agent.

5) Do you have critique partners or beta readers that you rely on for feedback? 

I think I’ve got the worst luck with real-life critique groups because I must have gone through at least ten of them. People miss meetings (and sometimes they are legit excuses!) or life catches up and writing takes less priority. It’s a bummer when that happens. I have found immense support from a small group of their other Penner authors, who have become real friends. They’ve been there for hundreds of late night Twitter chats when I needed help with a manuscript and I really rely on their feedback. It’s not the same as the energy you get from an in-person group, but it’s invaluable nonetheless. I also have local friends and family who are there for me when I call on them. I am lucky! Getting feedback and help from other writers, and readers, is SO important.

6) What does a typical writing day look like for you?

Ha ha. I wish I had a typical writing day! I sometimes write in the morning (my preferred time), or during nap time, or late at night after the kiddos are in bed. I am usually zapped creatively at the end of the day, so I prefer editing at night (or reading for pleasure). I also try to spend time “writing in my head” while working at the library or doing the dishes or driving, so I am getting ideas and working out scenes while I am otherwise busy. If I could plan a dream writing routine: The house is empty and quiet. I grab a gigantic, iced coffee, turn on background music, and write for several hours at a time in some comfy leggings with the view of the woods from my window. Doesn’t that sound amazing? It’s rare if I get more than a solid hour of writing time now. When I do write, I want it to be productive, and I try not to overthink. I love when the ideas flow so fast my fingers can hardly keep up. That’s when the burst of creative energy is almost magical. That’s one of the best feelings in the world.

Thank you, Amanda! It has been a pleasure talking to you!

Thank you so much! It was fun!

For more information about Amanda Linsmeier, please visit her website: https://amandalinsmeier.com

Or find her on Twitter @AmandaLinsmeier

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