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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Keeping a New Year's Eve Resolution: Author Interview with Amanda Hamm

Your bio says you first got interested in writing back in high school but life got in the way and it wasn’t until after you had children that you decided to write your first novel. When did you decide to start writing it? How long did it take?
It wasn’t until after I had kids that I finished my first novel. For at least ten years prior, I regularly started a book and then found a reason or an excuse to abandon it. In 2007, I made myself a New Year’s resolution to finish a book before the end of the year. It was published that July and as far as I can remember, that’s the only New Year’s resolution I’ve ever made.

Who encouraged you to write?
A few of my teachers suggested I had some talent and that’s likely what got me thinking about becoming a writer. My husband was the only one to read some of those partial manuscripts. He kept insisting there was potential. I kept insisting that someone who married me would say that no matter what. I guess he finally convinced me.

Prior to writing your first novel, did you already have writing credits with magazines or any other type of writing?
Not before my first novel, but I later spent several months trying to write freelance for various magazines. I had at least half a dozen articles published but felt like I was spending more time chasing contacts and tracking submissions than I was actually writing. That wasn’t fun for me so I gave it up.

Did you ever want to just throw in the towel and say this is too much work?
Not exactly. Last year was arguably my most productive year. I released four novels and two novellas between January and November. Then I spent most of December feeling burned out and wondering when I’d feel like writing again. I gave myself permission to take a break and set an easier schedule for this year. Right now, I’m enjoying myself too much to think about quitting.

When did you decide to indie-publish? Did you try the traditional route with sending out manuscripts to publishers and agents?
I never shopped my books to agents or publishers and I don’t use any vanity press services. I just really like the idea that my books, for better or worse, are wholly my books. I’m in charge of the writing, formatting, cover design and everything else. I do, however, have a trusted and reliable group of test readers and proofreaders. They tell me if something isn’t funny or doesn’t make sense or if a metaphor has jumped a shark. They point out the typos I can’t see because I know all too well what a sentence is supposed to say.

You’ve published 20 books in 8 years plus you’re raising children. Do you ever sleep? Writing is my job and my hobby. That makes it easy to find time for it. For the record, I’m a big fan of sleep.

I can find 11 books of yours on Amazon, which seem to be lighthearted romance – with the exception of one which is a self-help book with humor for new parents. What other genres do you write in that cover the other 9 books?
I’ll start the long answer with the story behind Double Take, which is my only nonfiction title. For a year, I wrote a weekly parenting blog for our local newspaper. I wanted to compile all the essays when I was done, mostly because I thought my kids might someday like to read them. But the timing worked out that my first post was written only a few days before I gave birth to twins.

I thought that circumstance might help the book appeal to a real audience. I wrote some additional essays so it wasn’t all recycled material and put out a book that was my third genre in only four books. (I also had an early sci-fi work.) I was afraid that was beginning to look like clutter rather than variety. Sweet romance was still my favorite, and I decided to work on branding myself in that category without being chained to it. That’s why I now use a pen name whenever I feel like branching out. My most recent alter ego is Charlotte Thorpe, as whom I wrote a series of historical romance novellas.

You also have a series entitled Stories from Hartford – which is currently 4 volumes. Is there another book in the series?
I have no plans to continue Stories From Hartford. I’m currently launching a new series. This one, called Coffee and Donuts, will be similar in that each book is a stand-alone love story with a familiar setting.

When did you decide to write it as a series?
In all honesty, it was a touch of laziness that sparked my interest in writing a series. I wanted to start a new book and it occurred to me that if I recycled my small town then I wouldn’t have to think of a new setting. And if a few minor characters made repeat appearances, they’d already have names! Names are difficult for me. This was a major selling point.
The second book had a whole new story with a new hero and heroine. It's an independent read that just happens to be set in the same imaginary town as the first book.

Do you have a word count goal daily? Do you rewrite a chapter or do a full edit?
I don’t aim for a daily word count. I tend to work with more long-term goals. I project when I’d like to release a book, then work backwards to plan when I should have a rough draft and something to submit to proofreaders and so on. I usually write out a full draft and then put it away for at least a few weeks before I begin editing. I find that even a little time away lets me be more critical.

What type of publicity has worked best for you? What has bombed?
Publicity is hard. I have tried quite a few methods over the years, usually feeling like I’m throwing things against a wall to see what sticks. I think I’ve had the most success generating sales by giving away books. Unfortunately, this gets less and less effective as more and more authors give away their books. A free book no longer stands out in a sea of other free books.

Perhaps the most unique but fruitless thing I tried was to write a story on an Amazon forum. One of my books, Meet Cute, is a collection of short – hopefully funny – stories about couples meeting. I created Amazon accounts as fictional characters and wrote an extra story on the forum for the book’s page. I hoped it might get a little attention as a more creative way of offering a free story, one that didn’t even require a download. But as far as I can tell, it’s gone largely unnoticed.

What do you know now about writing that you wish you had known sooner?
I wish I had been in less of a hurry to publish my first book. I was so excited to have finally finished something that I wanted to share it. When I reread it a few years later, I corrected at least twenty typos and found a few things I wanted to change. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m embarrassed by the book now. I still think it’s pretty good. But I know it could have been better.

What is the best advice you’ve learned you’d like to pass along?
You might learn from what I said in the previous answer. Don’t be in a rush to put out a good book. Take your time to put out a better book. The things you’ve done right will be obvious to your pride while the flaws will hide from it. If you’re not actively looking for ways to improve your own work, you won’t find any.

What new works do you have in process?
I’m at different stages on the second and third books in my new series while hoping to think of an idea for the fourth and pushing aside an alter ego who’s itching to write out that middle grade adventure I outlined a few months ago. I try not to throw too many balls into the air at once, but usually juggling is a good thing for a writer. I can write or edit or daydream depending on my mood and everything contributes to an eventual book.

That's all for today's interview. If you would like to learn more about Amanda Hamm (or Charlotte Thorpe) and her current books and soon to be released go to...

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