Meow! My guest today is author Amanda Flower!
Amanda Flower, a three-time Agatha Award-nominated mystery author, started her writing career in elementary school when she read a story she wrote to her sixth grade class and had the class in stitches with her description of being stuck on the top of a Ferris wheel. She knew at that moment she’d found her calling of making people laugh with her words. She also writes mysteries as USA Today bestselling author Isabella Alan. In addition to being an author, Amanda is librarian living in northeast Ohio.
- Welcome Amanda! Tell us a little about your background
Thanks ROCCO. I’ve wanted to write mysteries since I was child. They have always been my favorite books to read, but I love to read all genres. Along the way to being an author, I became a librarian too. I love my dual careers.
- Tell us a bit about your latest book, MURDER PLAINLY READ. Where did that idea come from?
Murder, Plainly Read is the fourth book in the Amish Quilt Shop Mysteries. In this novel, Angie Braddock is solving a murder that happens on a library bookmobile in Amish Country with the help of the Amish ladies in her quilting circle and her trusty French bulldog Oliver.
I was speaking at a library conference about trends in Amish fiction a few years back, and the director of the Holmes County Dsitrict Library approached me after my talk. He invited me to visit his library and do a ride along in the bookmobile, which they use to provide books and services to the large number of Amish in the county. My Amish Quilt Shop Mysteries are set in Holmes County, and I jumped at the chance. I knew the moment I set foot on that bookmobile that I would write an Amish Quilt Shop Mystery about it. That book eventually became Murder, Plainly Read.
- How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
I don’t plot before I write, so my characters have to talk to me. I know that sounds strange, but many times their voices and characteristics just come to me in the process of writing. Sometimes they reveal themselves quickly, and other times I write many pages that never end up in the final book because I need to do that to understand the characters and their motives better.
- How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I’m a pantser all the way.
- Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
Character. To me, it’s all about the characters. The plot can be great, but if I don’t care about the main characters and what’s happening to them, I don’t have a story.
- What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
My biggest challenge is time management. I am full time author and a full time librarian. I recently changed library jobs so that I can have more time to write and spend with my family. It was hard to leave my old job where I had been for a long time and my friends there, but I had to make the best choice for my writing career and personal life. I love my new job too!
- Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
My agent story is really long, but I will give you the short version. An author friend recommended that I query her agent’s new co-agent, who was building her list. I did and the agent asked me for some sample chapters. That’s a pretty common story. But now the plot twist. I was supposed to go on a Caribbean cruise off the coast of Florida and right before I left, someone in my family was very ill. I didn’t feel like I could leave the country with my family member so sick. I canceled the cruise, but I couldn’t cancel the flight to Florida without losing my money. My family member was doing better, so I decided to just go to Florida for the week and relax. If I needed to, I could fly home from there at a moment’s notice. My now agent lived in Florida, so the night before I left, I emailed her and said I would be in Florida and asked if she would meet me while I was there. She did, and the rest is history. That was almost five years ago and is a great example of how God can change something terrible into something wonderful.
- What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
Currently, I am writing the second of my Magical Bookshop Mysteries set in a little village near Niagara Falls, New York. It’s my first step into paranormal mysteries, and I’m thrill my publisher is letting me do it. The first novel is Crime and Poetry and releases in April 2016. Also in 2016, the second Living History Museum Mystery, The Final Tap, releases in May and the fifth Amish Quilt Shop Mystery, Murder, Handcrafted, releases in June.
- What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
Great question. If I am working at the library that day, I usually write 3-4 hours before or after work depending on my work schedule. If I’m not working at the library, I write 10-12 hours in a day.
- If you could take only three books with your for a year-long writing retreat in a gorgeous setting with no library, which three would you take?
No library? I couldn’t live without a library, but if I had to make this tough choice, they would be:
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
A Potion to Die For by Heather Blake
- What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Keep trying! It took me nine years to sell my first novel. Perseverance is the name of the game.
- What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
I’ve traveled to many places alone, but the craziest was when I went to Israel and Jordan without knowing a soul I was with. It was an adventure.
- What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I spend a lot of time in my Amish books describing the Amish food, which is meat heavy, but I’ve been a vegetarian for seventeen years.
- What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
Who keeps you on task as you write? Those would be my feline editors Cheeps and Tummy. You can follow them on Instagram or on my facebook page.
For more info, visit my website www.amandflower.com!
Just for Fun:
Night or Day? Day for fun, Night to write
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) Cat (but I love dogs too!)
Beach or Pool? Beach
Steak or salad? Salad
Favorite Drink? Chai
Favorite Book? Charlotte’s Web
Favorite TV Series? Downton Abbey
Favorite Movie? Pride and Prejudice (Keira Knightly version… I know I know purists like Colin Firth better)
Favorite Actor: Gregory Peck
Favorite Actress: Anne Hathaway
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada
Hawaii or Alaska? Alaska
Finish this sentence: If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be President Obama.
If I had just one wish, it would be that my family and friends are healthy and happy.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be President Obama to see what it’s like to be president, but just for a day because I really love my own life and don’t want to have the kind of pressure!
Amanda will give away a copy of Murder, Served Simply, the third Amish Quilt Mystery. This mystery is set during Christmas in Amish Country! To enter, leave your name and email address in our comments section below. We wlll select the winner at random. Contest ends midnight, December 10.