TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery.
Amanda: Thank you Sally, it’s a pleasure to be invited. Writing is a new adventure for me and I feel immensely priviliged to have Yesterday’s Sun published in America. My book is travelling further than I ever have and I hope the US readers enjoy reading it as much as I’m enjoying sharing it with them.
TQ: When and why did you start writing?
Amanda: I wasn’t one of those people who always knew they wanted to be a writer. Even when I began writing, it was with no greater ambition than to write the words on the page because I had turned to writing when I was living through nightmares rather than searching for dreams. In 2004, my twenty one month old son was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia. The odds for survival were bleak and while his disease was indolent, we were asked to watch and wait for the cancer to rear its ugly head. That’s such a hard ask, especially when I realised that the best thing I could do for my kids was to find the strength to carry on and give Nathan a secure, loving and as much as possible, normal life. I managed to do that with some amazing support from my family but I still needed an outlet to tell it how it really was. I couldn’t speak my fears out loud but I could write them down. And when the worst happened and Nathan died eighteen months later, my ability to write transferred the rages in my head onto the page and got me through the darkest hours of my life. And at some point between then and now, I got into the habit of writing. My son taught me to make the most of my life and he gave me the courage to have dreams and to see them through. Yesterday’s Sun and all the books that will hopefully follow are his legacy.
TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Amanda: I’m very disciplined and like to write every day if I can and I usually give myself word count targets. The problem I have, as with most writers, is that I can so easily become bogged down by a single paragraph or even a sentence. I go back and edit the same line time and time again and suddenly half an hour’s gone by and I’m no further on than when I started. My quick fix, particularly with a first draft is to stop myself becoming too entrenched and plough on. Common sense tells me I’m probably going to either rewrite or cut that section completely in the next draft so it’s ok to leave it at less than perfect first time around. It means that often with the second or even third drafts, I come across lines that don’t make sense or even the odd ‘xx’ where I couldn’t quite grasp the exact word I wanted.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Amanda: I’m pretty much a plotter. Before I start a book, I like to map out the story into twelve sections which in theory will be the chapters. If nothing else, it gives me a bit of reassurance that I’ve got enough story for a full length manuscript. I always have a clear idea of the beginning and the end but the rest is fairly fluid and I certainly don’t plan the detail. Names of characters are usually plucked out of thin air as I write, sometimes I’ll convince myself they’re only temporary names but when it comes to the final cut, I don’t like changing them, I’ve already gotten under the skin of the character by then and it seems wrong to rechristen them.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Amanda: Finding the time! I still have a fledgling career as a writer so it’s my day job that pays the bills. Being disciplined helps but writing a book isn’t just about finding the time to sit down and write your novel. As a writer, you have to transplant yourself into somebody else’s life and describe it with some authority, even if it’s something you may not necessarily have that much of, if any. That’s where research plays such an important part but research takes time too. I’ve been fortunate so far in that where I’ve needed help, I’ve managed to track down some kind soul to help me fill in the gaps of my knowledge. If I had any sense, I’d keep to storylines that are within my own experiences but as a writer, I still want to get that same kind of thrill you get as a reader by delving into the unknown and pushing your imagination to the limits.
TQ: Describe Yesterday's Sun in 140 characters or less.
Amanda: If you could see your future, would you change it to save your life? You would? Even if it meant sacrificing the life of your child?
TQ: What inspired you to write Yesterday's Sun?
Amanda: Yesterday’s Sun was borne of my own personal desire to change fate. There was nothing more desperate for me as a parent than sitting at the side of my son’s hospital bed and not being able to take the cancer from him or fight his fight. I would have gladly taken Nathan’s place and while that was impossible in the real world, I did get to create a story where my character was given a choice. Her life for that of her child. I carefully constructed the story in such a way that Holly’s decision was completely unfettered. Through the mystical powers of the moondial, she knows she is going to die giving birth to a baby who hasn’t even been conceived yet. Without giving too much away, she learns what it is to be a mother.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Yesterday's Sun?
Amanda: Because Yesterday’s Sun was based around an imaginary moondial, I had free reign to create the mechanism as I saw fit so there was no need for research...or so I thought. It was only as I started to develop the history of the dial that I realised I had to put some hours into mapping out a plausible history. I researched Aztec Mythology in particular and discovered the Moon Goddess Coyolxauhqui (pronounced Coyal-Shore-Key) and then all I had to do was create a fictional explorer who retrieved a mystical moon stone from the ruins of a temple.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Amanda: The easiest character to write was Billy even though he went through quite a major transformation from the first draft. He was easiest because he wasn’t central to the plot, he was only ever meant to be a bit of light relief. It was only in later drafts than he took on a more important role and I have to say, I like the way he turned out. He’s still fairly understated but I think of him with quiet admiration.
The hardest character to write in some ways was Holly. When Holly begins her journey, she has no desire to be a mother and the idea of having a baby horrifies her. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a mother and so summoning up that fear and trepidation was alien to me.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Yesterday's Sun?
The scene I imagined right from the start was the moment that Holly realises she can chose between her life and her child’s, in fact it was the germ of the idea from which the entire novel was formed. I could put myself in Holly’s shoes and knew with absolute clarity how she would feel and I couldn’t wait to write it. There’s another scene which I can’t really describe without giving too much away but there’s a spine tingling moment which I only added in the final draft of the book. All I’ll say is it involves a pane of glass and a finger tracing the raindrops.
TQ: What's next?
Amanda: My next novel promises to be another emotional journey. It’s about a young woman called Emma who has a brain tumour and the story begins with her receiving the news that her cancer has returned. To escape from what is happening, Emma begins to write about the life she would want to have if she had been given the all clear. Through her writing she is able to acheive many of her ambitions whilst in the real world, she discovers others ways to find to fulfillment.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Amanda: Thank you, it was a pleasure!
Harper Paperbacks, February 12, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
A suspenseful tale of free will versus fate—an extraordinary story of love and family, and the risks we take to break free from the past
Newlyweds Holly and Tom have just moved into their dream home, a charming English carriage house in the London suburbs. A rising television journalist, Tom can't wait to fill the house with children. Holly, a budding artist, isn't so sure. She fears that as a mother, she will repeat the terrible mistakes of her own neglectful parents. But Holly and Tom are young and deeply in love, and they have time to decide.
While renovating the house, Holly finds an unusual crystal orb—the missing top to the moondial in their garden. She soon discovers this is no ordinary timepiece. Under the full moon's brilliant light, it reveals the future—a future in which Tom cares for their baby daughter . . . alone.
Holly's new friend in the village, an elderly woman named Jocelyn, reveals the cursed secret of the moondial's power. Now Holly must choose between herself and her future child—a painful decision that will ultimately teach her about motherhood and sacrifice . . . and reveal how far she will go in the name of love.
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