I'm happy to welcome Amanda to our blog, and I was privileged to be an endorser for this book.
Amanda, tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
I’d like to say “nothing at all,” but that’s not true. Like most authors, I know that part of me creeps into each book. While my characters are never based on real people (including myself), my heroes and heroines frequently embody my personal values. Because I believe in justice and happy endings, readers will find that my protagonists do, too. They’ll also find the recurring theme of the healing power of love, since that’s something I believe in. As for my villains, they tend to be the antithesis of the heroes and heroines, and I’d certainly like to think they’re not based on me.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
That would be participating in the annual Treasure Hunt at a friend’s summer home. What’s a Treasure Hunt? Picture twenty-five to thirty cars, each filled with six people, spending an evening driving down country roads at speeds we won’t mention, occasionally skidding to a stop. As soon as that happens, the passengers hop out, flashlights in hand, to run through fields, farms, ditches – you name it, we’ve been there – trying to find clues in coffee cans that have been buried in the ground. Whoever finds the clue runs away from the site (because no one wants to help a different team find the clue) and yells the team’s code word. That’s the signal for everyone on the team to race back to the car and start deciphering the new clue while the driver heads in what everyone hopes is the correct direction. Each clue leads to the next, with the car that reaches the final destination with all clues and the shortest elapsed time winning. What do they win? Money? Fame? No. They have the privilege of running the Treasure Hunt the next year. Yep, the winner has to draw maps, decide where to hide the clues, write the clues (Did I mention that they’re supposed to rhyme?), obtain permission to use private property, notify the state and local police. You get the idea. It’s a ton of work. So, why would anyone do that? Are we crazy? That’s exactly what we say each time we win. But it’s fun, in a crazy kind of way.
Sounds like fun. When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was seven. Admittedly, my first efforts, which included two plays that my fifth grade teacher allowed me to produce for the other classes and a very short-lived neighborhood newspaper, were less than stellar, but I never stopped dreaming of being a published author.
My first publication was a short story in the college literary magazine. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
Other than research, most of what I read is fiction. Since I’ve told you that I believe in justice and happy endings, you won’t be surprised to learn that I’m a fan of women’s fiction, romance, mysteries, suspense and legal thrillers. I also read an occasional literary book. What I don’t like are erotica, horror, and most of what is currently classified as paranormal, although I will admit to enjoying a good time travel.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
I was in my teens when I first tried my hand at full-length fiction. Since then, I’ve accumulated an impressive collection of rejection notices, but I’ve also sold a number of books, including some writer-for-hire. For those of you who haven’t tried writer-for-hire, it’s an excellent way to hone writing skills, although it does have its frustrating aspects (like being paid a flat sum rather than royalties). In the writer-for-hire mode, I wrote two novelizations of TV soap opera episodes and three books about a very famous teenage sleuth (yes, that sleuth). I’ve also published three technical books and what I describe as “enough technical articles to cure insomnia in a medium-sized city.” Trust me, you don’t want to know any more about them.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Sanity? What’s that?
How do you choose your characters’ names?
It depends. Sometimes they come to me easily, as in the case of Sarah Dobbs, the heroine of Paper Roses. Other times, I change my mind half a dozen times until I find a name that suits my character’s personality. Like many authors, I use a baby book, since there are times when I want a name that has a specific meaning to it. I’m also very conscious of choosing names that are appropriate to the time period. You’d laugh if I had characters named Tiffany or Brittany in Paper Roses, since those weren’t common names in 1856. I also have to keep myself from having too many names with the same first letter. When I started Paper Roses, I had Clay, Clint and Clifford Canfield. My critiquing partner pointed out that those names were terribly confusing. Thanks to her, although Clay kept his name, the other two men are now Austin and Robert.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Selling my first book. I turned the dream of being a writer into the goal of being published by my thirtieth birthday, although I didn’t start working seriously toward that goal until I turned twenty-nine. The next summer I received my first rejection and was so devastated by it that it took me a month to realize that if the story was good enough to send to Publisher A, it was good enough to send to another one. I did, and one week before my thirtieth birthday the second editor told me she loved the story and wanted to buy it. That book is long out of print, but I keep a framed copy of the cover on my office wall to remind me of the thrill of my first sale.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
An elephant. I’d like to say that I only possess the elephant’s best characteristic, namely a good memory, but I’m afraid that – like many writers – I also have the elephant’s sensitive skin.
What is your favorite food?
Butterscotch. Pudding, pie, cookies, cake, sundaes. You get the idea.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Surviving rejection. Although my first sale came relatively easily, I went years without a second sale. During those years there were many, many times when I wanted to abandon the whole idea of being a writer because of the heartache involved. Several times I stopped writing, but each time I did, I realized that I missed it. Oh, I didn’t miss the rejection letters, but I missed the process of writing. That’s when I changed my direction a bit. My philosophy became that a writer writes, and what’s important is the writing, not the specific genre. When my romances weren’t selling, I switched to writer-for-hire and technical books and articles. Now, fortunately, I’m back to writing fiction.
I had ten years between my first and second book publication. And I wrote a lot of other things during that time, much of it curriculum. What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
I have three pieces of advice. The first is to read extensively in the genre you want to write. That’s the best way to learn what a publisher is buying. Secondly, join a writer’s group. ACFW is wonderful for writers in the Christian marketplace, and Romance Writers of America is excellent for anyone interested in writing romance. A writer’s group provides support, networking and so many other resources to the aspiring writer that I can’t over-emphasize the importance of joining one. And lastly, never give up. Rejection is a fact of life. I won’t sugarcoat it: rejection hurts. But if you let it defeat you, if you stop sending out your manuscript just because it was rejected, you’ll never be published. Believe in your book and in yourself. Oh … that was four pieces of advice. Sorry!
What would you like to tell us about the featured book?
Paper Roses, which is the first in the Texas Dreams trilogy, is what authors sometimes call a book of the heart. Quite simply, it’s a story that I’ve wanted to write for many years. Here’s a brief description that I used to sell the book:
Socialite Sarah Dobbs never thought she’d be a mail-order bride. But, then, she never thought she’d be destitute, shunned, and her young sister’s only hope for a normal life. Drawn to the Texas Hill Country by the poetic letters she calls her paper roses, Sarah believes her secrets will be safe there. But the town is deeply divided and harbors its own secrets, including the identity of the person who murdered Sarah’s fiancé. There’s no one she can trust, not Clay Canfield, and certainly not God. He’s abandoned her.
Talented physician Clay Canfield has only one desire: to find the man who murdered his brother and exact vengeance. He’ll never marry again, especially not a woman burdened with a child. As for faith, that’s not for him, any more than it is for Sarah.
But God has plans for Sarah and Clay, plans that challenge everything they hold dear.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
My web site is http://www.amandacabot.com/ .
Thank you, Amanda, for spending this time with us.
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