I’d like to welcome Amanda to my blog today. She’s a member of a wonderful organization I recently became a part of called World Literary Cafe. Great place for writers. Why not go and check it out? But not before you read through Amanda’s interview.
What first got you interested in writing? What has kept you doing it?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to write, so this is a little hard to answer. When I was in third or fourth grade I begged my parents for a typewriter for Christmas (yes, I’m showing my age). I knew then that I wanted to write books. What has kept me writing is the feeling I get when I write, even when I write something that is strictly for my eyes only. I don’t feel complete or like “me” when I’m not writing regularly.
Do you have the support of your family and friends? Has that support always been there, or has it changed since being published?
Yes, I’m very lucky to have the support and encouragement of family and close friends. I can’t say their support has changed since being published, but I think it made a few people realize how serious I am about writing, and understand that for me, it’s more than just a hobby, it’s my career now.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? Strangest habit? Is there anything you have to do before you start writing?
I love writing in a loud environment. I think this comes from being a journalist. I got used to working in a noisy newsroom. My brain just doesn’t function as well without something else going on in the background. If I write in public I do my best work in a noisy cafe and when I’m writing at home, I listen to music.
What advice would you give to a new writer?
1. Read as many books as your schedule allows. 2. Edit, edit, edit and edit some more. 3. Writing is complex; it’s creative and analytical at the same time. It’s an art form and a skill. Study it, practice it and never stop learning about it. 4. Find a critique partner you trust and work well with.
What has been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
As far as my career goes, I’m still a newbie, but the biggest challenge so far has been overcoming my own self-doubt. It took years for me let someone else read my writing.
Has a reader ever complimented you on your writing? What was the best thing you ever heard, and who told it to you?
Yes, a reader wrote up a wonderful Amazon review about my two published books, Finding Justus and Love in Greener Pastures. The best thing this reader said was that I write with an intelligent, witty voice, through characters that are fully developed and easy to like. That meant the world to me because when I read a book, that’s what I look for, a character that resonates with me, and one that feels like my friend by the end of the story.
What are you working on now? Could you give us a little taste?
I’m currently writing my third book, with the working title of Love, Simplified. My favorite part of a love story is the moment when boy meets girl, and that’s what I’m sharing today. My character has just arrived at her family’s old, abandoned cabin at the Lake of the Ozarks after travelling across the country. She’s tired and ready to turn in for the night, but she gets a surprise visit from her hunky neighbor.
Cecile’s black Hummer took the steep incline to her parents’ cabin as though it were a mere dip in the road. After fourteen hours in the car, Cecile was glad to be on the gravel drive leading up to the house. As she heard the crunch of rocks and pebbles beneath her vehicle’s mammoth wheels she felt her heart rate speed up in anticipation. The cabin was almost in view.
Just as swiftly as her heart had accelerated, it quickly sunk to the bottom of her stomach. Cecile flipped on her high beams to get a better look at the building’s dilapidated exterior. Time had not been kind to the small bungalow. Pieces of wood peeked through and marred the white paint like liver spots on an old woman’s face. The shrubs were nearly as tall as a grown man. The wood planks on the front porch rippled and bowed in many places.
Okay, so I’ll need to make a few repairs, that’s what my Denver money is for, she told herself optimistically.
Cecile lifted her eyes and looked out the moon roof in her SUV. The celestial sky was pure onyx, with only a sliver of a silver moon. She reached into the glove compartment and pulled out a flashlight, then cut the engine and slid out of the tall vehicle. The weeds were so overgrown, she feared she may see a snake between her short walk from the car to the house. With a fear of the creatures that bordered on text-book phobia, she walked along the flagstone path and up the few steps to the porch moving her hand from left to right, causing the flashlight’s beam to spray out in a wide arc across the lawn.
If I see a snake, I’ll kill the slippery little bastard, she thought. The wooden porch creaked and groaned with each step she took. Relieved that she’d made it to the front door without seeing one of the reptilian creatures, she inserted the key into the lock and turned the handle. At first it didn’t budge. She had to give it a hard shove before the door would open.
The moment she stepped over the threshold into the dark, dank cabin, Cecile was overtaken with the smell of mildew. She knew it was due to lack of use and held her hand over her nose. She deposited her suitcase in the middle of the kitchen floor, flipped on a light and began the task of prying open the windows. The place needed fresh air.
And, she thought as she eyed the interior critically, a lot of elbow grease.
As she walked toward the window, Cecile spied cobwebs with dead spiders ensconced in their netting. She pushed with all her might and forced the window open, the weathered wood scraping against the window frame. As outside air poured into the cabin, a cloud of dust flew into Cecile’s face. She coughed and sputtered and looked down at the countertop covered in several inches of dust and dirt. She ran a quick index finger through the grime and was revolted at the amount that latched on to her. Ick.
She turned on her heel and walked the short distance from the kitchenette area to the living room. She opened the French doors that led out to the deck in an effort to clear the musty atmosphere inside. That was a mistake, she thought. The screens had holes in them the size of half-dollars. Good thing it was late October, with winter coming she wouldn’t use the doors much anyway. Oh well, I’ve got until next spring to worry about replacing those, she reasoned. She shut the doors and resolved to inhale the dusty, musty cabin air for the time being.
Cecile eyed the living room sofa, which was covered with a tattered old bed sheet. She pulled the grimy sheet off and plopped down onto the couch. Aside from the filth, the interior of the cabin hadn’t changed. Cecile gazed at the large, cast-iron potbellied stove that served as a heat source for the cabin. She and Camille had spent many cold winter evenings on the wood floor in front of the stove with a steaming cup of cocoa and books or puzzles to entertain them. Occasionally their father would play a game of checkers with each of them in turn. Cecile sighed to herself as she indulged in a moment of melancholy and nostalgia and remembered those family evenings.
The time the family spent at the cabin always seemed so fun. Looking back, the four of them never did anything extravagant or special while at the cabin, but instead indulged in simple pleasures like cooking together, reading and playing games during winter and swimming in the lake during summer. As she reminisced about the past, Cecile felt her eyelids getting heavy, and unless she wanted to sleep on the couch, she’d need to get up and finish unloading her SUV so she could get to bed. In preparation of the dark unknown, Cecile grabbed her flashlight and headed toward the front door.
Cecile made one more trip out to her utility vehicle to grab her pillow and a few blankets she’d brought with her. The house was grungy, but it was the warmer, and not to mention more comfortable, choice than sleeping in her car. She’d simply put one of the clean blankets down on top of the bed and use the other two to cover herself. A shower before bed sounded heavenly, but she lacked the energy to drag her shampoo and conditioner out of her bag. Cecile had been up for almost twenty-four hours. At this point her need for sleep far outweighed her need for good hygiene. Tomorrow morning, she’d make an inventory of the supplies she needed and head into town to pick up groceries and some basics. Luckily, after talking to her sister, Cecile had decided to bring all her cleaning supplies and household items with her.
Cecile made her bed and quickly shut and locked the kitchen and living room windows, leaving only the bathroom and bedroom windows open. Although it was probably pointless, she double-checked to make sure both the front and French doors were locked. Calm down, it’s not like you still live in the city, she told herself. She’d spent her entire childhood coming to the cabin and had never felt scared. The same families had occupied the neighborhood of five cabins for as long as she could remember. Unlocked doors and open windows were common place at the Lake.
She could probably leave her doors and windows unlocked and would be perfectly safe, but it wouldn’t be smart, she was a single woman alone in a cabin that hadn’t been occupied in years. Times may have changed since her last trip to the Ozarks. Cecile was in the master bedroom kicking off her tennis shoes and was about to change out of her travel clothes and into pajamas when she heard a knock on the front door. She paused, momentarily alarmed. Who could be knocking on the cabin door at nine-thirty in the evening?
Should she answer it? If she didn’t, maybe they’d get the hint and just go away. As she weighed her options, she heard a second knock. Her visitor was certainly persistent. After she heard the second rapping noise on the wooden door she knew she had to answer it, if only to get some peace and quiet. She wished she had some sort of weapon. A gun or a switchblade. She’d even settle for a baseball bat or a golf club at this point. She looked around the kitchen and living room for something she could use in self-defense, just in case the neighborhood had went to hell in the past few years.
“Who’s there?” Cecile called to the door.
“Ethan Morgan, I live a few cabins down. I’m head of the neighborhood watch. I saw the lights and thought I’d check things out. Make sure everything is okay.”
Cecile flipped the kitchen light on and grabbed the first weapon-like object she could get her hands on and wrenched the door open. This wasn’t the kind of story that a mass murderer would make up, she was fairly certain, but better safe than sorry.
“Surely you’re kidding?” Cecile asked skeptically. “I’m sorry if I’m crabby, but I’m trying to get some sleep here. I just drove eighteen hours and I’m exhausted,” she said to the darkness. Cecile couldn’t make out any features of the hulking figure on the front porch. She flipped on the switch to the porch light and was displeased when nothing happened. Evidentially the bulb was burned out.
“Everything is fine, but thanks for checking,” she made to close the door and at the same time he stepped forward out of the shadows and into the wedge of light that had pooled onto the dark front porch. As he did, the light from the kitchen illuminated his face just enough so that Cecile could clearly make out his features. She stopped herself just short of gasping in surprise.
Ethan Morgan might have been the head of the neighborhood watch by night, but Cecile was fairly certain he was some sort of male model or an outrageously good-looking lumberjack by day. He was six foot tall, at least, and had the kind of broad shoulders and brawny arms female fantasies were made of. Dark hair, a square jaw and Roman nose rounded out his jaw-dropping features.
“Sorry to bother you at this hour ma’am. I haven’t seen anyone in this cabin for years and then I saw the lights. I just wanted to make sure everything was okay,” he looked at her with a wry smile. “Awfully late to be making waffles,” he said with a slight chuckle as he looked at what she clutched in her right hand.
Cecile dropped her eyes to the clunky, 1960s-era waffle-maker she’d grabbed in a moment of desperation. The metal monstrosity might be heavy, but she realized in her haste she’d selected a poor choice of weapon. If Ethan had been an axe-murderer, she wouldn’t have been able to fend him off with a kitchen appliance, no matter how bulky.
“Oh, this,” she said with a laugh and a shake of her head, causing her glossy brown hair to sweep across her shoulders, “I was just…tidying up before bed.” Cecile felt idiotic. What an absurd lie.
“Is that right?” he asked in disbelief as his eyes briefly travelled into the dusty kitchen and the spider-infested cobwebs clinging to the walls. “So I noticed you have out of state plates. I guess you’re here on vacation?”
“You could say that, yes. I’m sorry, I’m Cecile Day,” she said as set the waffle-maker on the counter top. She opened the screen door and extended her right hand. Ethan returned her handshake with a warm firm grasp. At the touch of his large hand, Cecile felt a bit faint. He’s so…masculine, she thought. She garnered her composure and continued.
“My family owns this cabin, but like you said, none of us have used it in years. I just got in from Denver, long drive.”
He took this as his cue to excuse himself. “Okay, I won’t keep you from your rest. Sorry for the intrusion. Have a good evening,” he called to her as he headed down the front steps.
“You too,” she replied for lack of anything better to say.
Cecile closed and locked the front door, although knowing a man like Ethan Morgan was the captain of the neighborhood watch committee gave her more peace of mind than any lock ever could. With his Paul Bunyan-like proportions, she didn’t doubt he could take on an intruder without breaking a sweat. That’s enough of that, she thought. For all she knew the man could be married. Cecile didn’t want to drool over another woman’s husband. Ordinarily she made it a habit to look at a handsome man’s ring finger upon meeting him, but it had been dark on the front porch and she had been too mesmerized by his face, arms and shoulders to notice his left hand.
Tell us about your latest book.
My work in progress, Love, Simplified, is due out in the fall of 2012. Here’s a brief synopsis:
When workaholic Cecile Day realizes, (through a couple of unfortunate events), she isn’t living the life she wants, she uproots herself and moves across the country to her family’s ramshackle cabin in the Lake of the Ozarks. Leaving behind a wealthy fiancé, high-powered career and life of glitz and glam won’t be easy, but what she gains is peace of mind, sense of self and lasting happiness. All things money doesn’t buy.
Upon her move, Cecile meets local handyman Ethan Morgan who helps her with cabin renovations. Over time the two begin a relationship, but when Cecile’s ex-fiancé Parker Stone appears in her life again, she must choose between the two men. One can promise her a life of riches and comfort while the other can provide love, companionship and a simple, country life.
Cecile must decide if she wants to go back to Parker and her affluent lifestyle, or continue seeing Ethan and live with the most basic necessity of all: love.
I think this is the most personal book I’ve written so far. I’m not sure how I’ll categorize it. I may wait and see how my beta readers respond to the story. Love, Simplified is a romance in that a love story is at its core, but there are other aspects to the story, like self-discovery and personal growth. I think a lot of readers will identify with Cecile, while she may go to unorthodox measures, I think everyone comes to a point in their life where they realize something isn’t working and they need a change and that’s where we find her when Love, Simplified opens. Cecile’s living the life she thought she wanted, she has a high-powered career, the flashy car, the luxurious home, the “perfect” man, yet there’s this real void. The story feels timely because in the past few years, due to the recession and other events, more and more people have shifted their priorities. There’s a growing understanding that money and material goods, can make things a bit easier, but they don’t necessarily mean a better life.
How can people find out more about you?
I’m an avid social media user, and I have a blog. Readers can follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/realamandabretz Like me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authoramandabretz Circle me on Google+: https://plus.google.com/101025002317752988095/about I’m also on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4092326.Amanda_Bretz
My blog is at: http://authoramandabretz.wordpress.com/