Saturday, September 3, 2016

Author Interview: Amanda Kool, Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction Author

This week's feature author is Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction Author Amanda Kool.
Amanda Kool has been writing stories since she was eight years old, starting on her mother's old typewriter. While her day job as a Technical Writer keeps both her menagerie (two dogs, one cat, and eight chickens) and her mortgage fed, she spends her downtime writing Crime, Speculative, and post-apocalypse fiction.

Her first solo novel, "Tallwood", is available now, released by Satalyte Publishing. Her second two novels, "Wires", and "The Murderer's Cloth" are coming soon...

Amanda also co-authored 1000 Mettle Folds with Australian Horror writer Steve Gerlach and wrote the children's story, The Paper Fox (illustrated by her brother, Jeremy).

Can you tell us a bit about you as an author?
I write Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction (and one straight-out historical crime fiction!).
As a writer, I'm a bit scatty to be honest. I can't tell you where the ideas come from, but they usually start with some image or scene in my head that I build around. I write on a paper, initially. I find that much more creative – I can cross things out, draw lines from one thing to another, write in the margins. It becomes a melange of idea fragments and I find it helps my creativity.

I only start writing on the PC when I have a sure idea of where I am going with the story.

What are the hardest part of being an author? 
Writing. I'm only being a little facetious, here. When it's working, it's great. When it's not, it's like all the tension goes into my jaw and my teeth start to grind and my head aches and I doubt myself and really, what are words good for anyway?!

The actual hardest part – selling the book. For introverts like me, it's hell. And it's essential. I went the traditional publishing route to avoid the bulk of that – turns out you cannot evade hell no matter how hard you try :)   

What do you enjoy most about being an author?
When it works. When the world finally coalesces in your head and you start to think and feel like the people who inhabit it. When you're in that zone and you start dreaming about the next thing that happens, it's amazing. The downside is, I get distracted and neglect the people in 'real world'. We all do that though, right? Right?  

What authors/books have had an influence on your writing?
Michael Shaara, Shelby Foote, Stephen King, Ursula Le Guin, Cormac McCarthy, Umberto Eco, JRR Tolkien, James Ellroy, Banks (both M and sans M), Val McDermid, James Blish.… That's a list I have on stand-by to copy/paste. You can pretty much divide that list into the two main reasons I love them and they are totally different reasons:
  1. Paucity of words, brevity, a sparse, poetic style.
  2. Lush world-building, complex scenarios and long, descriptive passages.

I wish there were more women in that list, but these are the writers that have had the biggest influence on me when I was first starting out.

Do you ever get Writer’s Block? If so, how do you deal with it? Do you believe there is such a thing?
Not so much 'block', as 'paralysing fear'. I was cool writing four books in isolation, then I got published and suddenly people were reading my work. This book I'm writing now? I'm second-guessing every word, every action, every phrase. I really need to get over myself and just write the damn thing. I didn't write for a whole year because of that. I'm getting back to it now. Imposter Syndrome is real! (Check out the Writing Excuses podcast – they do a great episode on Imposter Syndrome.)

Do you have a particular place that you like to write?
My study. I'm surrounded by the items of the story/genre I'm currently writing and glancing up will give me inspiration. I have a proper desk, a PC and reference material everywhere. I also have "Freedom", a program that blocks the internet for however long I specify. No distraction, no Facebook, no email, no looking up something. I put that on when I need to focus. It's like a slap on the wrist for me.

Do you have a favourite time of day to write?
Any time I can write is my favourite time of day. I have so many things in my life (friends, family, work, animals, chores, etc.) that if I can carve out any time at all to write, I consider that my favourite time.

If I had my druthers, I'd write at night, but as I need to get up at 5.20 am for work, it's not practical at all :)

How do you like to reach your readers? (Social media? Book signings? Blogs etc)
Any way I can. I don’t 'like' it, as I'm really shy. But right now, Facebook is my main outlet for sharing my book information. I only just created a website (bare bones) but hopefully that will become the main port of call for folks who want to know about me. I'm heading up to the Sydney Expo in October to promote Tallwood and meet other authors and publishers. That's really exciting and TOTALLY out of my comfort zone! (I hope they have wine...) 

Can you tell us about your latest book? (is it part of a series, genre)

Tallwood is my latest published work. It is a Science Fiction story set well after the world as we know it now has ended. Scant humans live in pockets of underground safety and a roving menace on the surface keeps them down there; for the most part, anyway. It's a standalone book, and at least twice the size of anything else I've written.

How long did it take you to write the book?
A few years. I can't tell you exactly as I work full time and started somewhere in 2006 and finished somewhere in 2009.... I would love to write full time. To have the time and money to do that would be incredible.

Do you have a favourite character/topic in your work?
I like ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Very few of my characters are cops, or specialists in a field, or superheroes. I like to fling chaos at ordinary folk and see how they react. In Tallwood, Llewellyn is the 'everyman' if you like. He's new to the world up top. He gets into serious trouble pretty quickly and my other, seasoned characters are the ones to help him out.

What was your process? Did you plot out the entire book, or just let the storyline flow?  Do you write in chronological order?
I tend to be a big old pantster. I tried to plot a book once and it killed the creativity for me; started to feel like homework, like I'd already written it in notes, so what remained was boring and held no surprises. I got 20k in and shelved it. I've thrown away the framework and will come back to it later when I can be fresh and just...let it happen.

I always know where I'm heading. I sometimes have a set-piece in mind for the ending, then write semi-chronologically as I go. (I sometimes jump ahead if an idea strikes me and the mood is there, then fill in the gap later.)

Do you have plans for further instalments?
More than a few people have asked for a sequel. I'm not sure I have another epic Tallwood SF in me, to be honest, but you never know...

Do you have a plan for your next book?
I have two at the moment; the one I have shelved for the time being, and one I am struggling with. Neither has really grabbed me by the throat yet, and that's what I need to finish these things. Hopefully, when I have time to really devote to it, I can get into the 'zone'.

Ebooks vs Physical books? Do you have a preference when reading?
If I love a book, I will buy it in paperback/hardback. My favourite authors are always a physical purchase, no question. Books like "S" have to be physical because of all the glorious "bits" that are included in the mystery. (Don't know what I'm talking about? Google "S" by J.J. Abrams, Doug Dorst – a mind-screw of the most enjoyable kind).

My e-book purchases tend to be anthologies (though some I will then buy in paperback), new authors, books that I don’t know if I'll like, omnibuses that are on sale or classic books I want to re-read. Clive Barker's works are among these. On only read e-books on my train into work, never at home.

Self-publishing vs traditional publishing? What are your thoughts? Do you feel that the industry is changing?
Honestly, I don’t know enough about the industry and its machinations to comment on its changing ways. I do know that I went the traditional publishing route because my publisher would lead the charge when it came to garnering interviews, reviews, publicity etc.

I was totally willing to participate, but selling myself cold is not what I'm good at. I wrote four books before I even considered letting them out to see the light of day. I was quite happy to put each in a drawer and start the next one. It was my family/friends and beta readers who told me to get off my butt and get out there :)

My traditional publishing experience has been somewhat mixed in any case.

And finally, what advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Write. Write all the time, when you can – and FINISH something. It's so easy to start many things and not finish and tell yourself that you're a writer (and you are, because writing), but starts are easy. 

Hell, endings and middles can be easy, too, but having all three and finishing a complete work is hard. Finish an entire work, then start another one as soon as possible.

Read. Read all the time. Good fiction, bad fiction, your genre and similar genres. See what other people are doing and feel good about your own work. 

How can readers find out more about you: (Fb, Goodreads, website links and such)

Thank you so much Amanda for dropping by, this has been a fantastic chat today. 

Killing Time Blog note: I always love having speculative fiction authors drop by, they have a way with words that I always love to read. 

Thank one once again for coming to read my author  interviews on Killing Time Blog. If you're interested in being interviewed, or have a really cool story to tell, please send me an email.  Don't forget to also subscribe for future interviews. 


Amanda Howard

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