author of The Dark Beneath the Ice, out August 2018
Author, I Never is a new segment in which I interview fellow authors about the writing process, breaking into the industry, and breaking rules. I ask some hopefully novel questions along with some of the old standards, and finish it up with a round of I Never to find out what cardinal writing rules we've broken.
Question the first: Amelinda, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I have a dim recollection of telling someone I was either going to be an author or an illustrator at age…six, maybe? So I’ve pretty much always known. Right up until my twenties, I basically assumed it was my destiny. That’s a dangerous mindset, it turns out, because it really sets you up for panic in the face of criticism. It took me a while to figure out how to keep working despite the looming, red-eyed specter of possible failure.
Question the second: What has been your proudest or most exciting moment as an author so far?
So far, probably getting my agent’s call to tell me we had an offer on my debut, which is now coming out from Sourcebooks Fire in 2018. It was at the end of a very butt-draggy sort of Friday, and I was at Chapters picking up some books on my way home from work so as to cheer myself up. My phone rang in the middle of the YA section! Afterwards I spent about 45 minutes wandering the store because I was so thunderstruck I literally could not track what I was doing – I stumbled in and out of the SF section at least three times before finding the book I’d come for.
Question the third: At what point did you think to yourself "I've made it" or at what point do you think you'll feel that way?
Honestly, I think I’ve felt like this – at least briefly – at every publishing milestone so far: offer from agent, offer from publisher, handing in edits…
Question the fourth: Did any experienced authors or industry people mentor or give you helpful guidance on your journey to publication?
I don’t think I could have made it this far without the writing community on Twitter, especially the judges and hosts of contests like PitchSlam, Query Kombat, and PitchWars. Their wisdom and insight has been critical at every step, from finding critique partners to writing a query letter to gauging when my zombie army was ready to unleash.
Nova Ren Suma has also been an incredible mentor and a community-building wizard. Her YA novel workshop at Djerassi in 2016 was truly life-changing, and the people I met there have become some of my dearest writing friends. I left that workshop feeling more legit as a writer than I think I ever have in my life. It really cracked the literary world wide open for me, and I will forever be downright evangelical about recommending the experience to others.
Question the fifth: Have you ever had a time when you've felt like giving up?
Oh, absolutely. I’ve given up at least a few times – most notably after disastrously failing to finish a novel, and then again after querying fizzled when I finally DID finish it. Each of those resulted in me abandoning writing for years. Fortunately, quitting hasn’t stuck yet; the impulse to write always comes bubbling back up eventually. I’m slowly learning to take deliberate breaks instead of declaring myself Clearly Not Meant to Be a Writer.
Question the sixth: What was the most inconvenient time or place you were struck by inspiration?
About 7 a.m., downtown Montreal, driving down the highway on my way to work. The sun was coming up behind me and painting all the concrete in this gorgeous, luminous rose-gold light, and I had a thought: what if that wasn’t the sun? I spent the rest of the drive mesmerized by this idea of a city burning supernaturally bright and am probably lucky I didn’t crash. Too bad the resulting novel ended up getting trunked – someday maybe I’ll do something else with it…
I want to read that novel. Seriously. Question the seventh: Can you give us a hint to help us find an "easter egg" or hidden item to look for in one of your books? Maybe an obscure clue if there's a mystery thread, or a reference you threw in to a favorite book or song?
The main character in THE DARK BENEATH THE ICE, Marianne, escapes into the most absorbing, twisty, tome-like fantasy novels she can find. This was a coping mechanism of mine as a teenager as well, and the Tad Williams series that got her hooked was the same one I disappeared into during a particularly terrible summer. Those books will always have a place in my heart.
I love it. And I hope you'll love the...
I Never Round
The basic rules of I Never, the kid friendly version- I state a generally established writing rule (or at least a norm). If you've broken that rule, state your guilt for the record.
I never made up a word in my manuscript, and stood by it during copyediting.
This has come up in beta reading a couple times, and in both instances I meekly removed the offending neologism. We’ll see if copyediting reveals any more!
I should really start asking what these words are. I'm getting so curious. I love made up words and contextual usage. What the frack? Fetch is going to happen.
I never had an amazing idea right before bed, and decided sleep was more important.
I’ve TRIED to be guilty of this, but inevitably my brain will refuse to shut up and keep me awake anyway.
I never started a story with a character waking up, looking in the mirror, or in a bathtub.
Oh, guilty, guilty, soooooo guilty. Embarrassingly recently, too. Never the bathtub, though, that’s a new one on me.
I never worked on two manuscripts at once.
I try to have things going in different stages so waiting doesn’t drive me straight up the wall. Actively drafting, though? I don’t seem to have the brain space.
I never went several days or even weeks without writing.
I’ve had dry spells of months and years.
I never wrote "for a long moment."
GUILTY OH MY GOD. I didn’t realize this was a thing until just recently, and now I’m afraid to look for it because I’m sure it’s everywhere!
I never cheated during NaNoWriMo.
I am a PROUD NaNo cheater, having discovered back in 2006 that I’m constitutionally incapable of writing that many words in a month. Eventually I declared NaNoTryMo instead, whereby I threw the 50K goal out the window and set my own target of two pages a day. That works much better.
I LOVE NaNoTryMo! That's so much more reasonable and productive!
Thank you so much for appearing in Author, I Never! When and where can we look for, preorder, or buy your next or most recent book, and where can we follow you on social media?
Bonus question: If The Dark Beneath the Ice had a theme song, what would it be?
"Fondu au noir" by Coeur de Pirate was sort of my unofficial theme song while I was drafting - I have no idea if the lyrics are remotely appropriate, but I liked the delicate spooky sound of it. Also "Control" by Halsey.
DJ Spotify, can your robot brain distinguish appropriate from inappropriate lyrics?