Favorite Author and My Guest Today: Amanda Hughes Talking About Her 18th Century Historicals Welcome to my guest today, Amanda Hughes, who writes deep historical romaces set in the 18th century. I’ve been anxious to have her on my blog ever since I fell in love with her first book, Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry, set in Ireland and America (it’s on my Best Irish Romances list!). And her second book, The Pride of the King will be on my Best Pirate/Privateer Romances list when I update it in 2013.
Amanda is giving away one of her eBooks to a lucky commenter today, so comment for a chance to win a great novel!
Thank you so much for inviting me for a guest appearance, Regan. I am an avid follower of your fabulous blog.
Q: Amanda, Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry and The Pride of the King are both set in the latter half of the 18th century. How did you pick that time period in which to set your stories?
Ever since I was a small child I have been fascinated with the 18th Century, particularly Colonial America. When I was young I would decorate the basement with my mother’s pewter, light candles and dress up, pretending to live in the “olden days”. I made up all manner of adventures, and the romantic lead always wore a tricorn hat. I am not sure if I would be interested in writing about any other period in history.
Well you do it so well, you really bring that period of history to life!
Q: Your plots are complex, intricate and very detailed—with history as a character. I’ve analogized them to following a maze with you as a guide. They are rich and wonderfully satisfying…how do you do that? Do you start off with an outline, a plot? Or do the stories unfold in your mind as you write them?
The stories always unfold as I write. I have no idea what direction they will take. I develop most of my plot lines while I walk each day listening to movie soundtracks, and you can see their influence in my books. When I wrote Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry, I listened to The Last of the Mohicans soundtrack. When I wrote The Pride of the King, I listened to the Out of Africa soundtrack. For my latest novel, I have been listening to Braveheart.
That fascinates me, Amanda, as I write to music, too, though the scores I choose are not so bold or so grand. I'm going to have to take more walks and with grander scores to listen to!
Q: Your characters are deep and have many layers to their personalities. How do you develop them?
I have known them my whole life. They started as my imaginary playmates. I remember Michelangelo saying once that his sculptures were prisoners in the stone and that it was his job to free them. I feel the same way.
I think such depth of knowledge of your characters shows in your stories. How wonderful!
Q: Both of your books are written primarily in the heroine’s point of view…and each one is a strong, compelling heroine. Why did you choose to stay primarily in the mind of the heroine?
As I write, I am always playing the part of the heroine. What happens to her happens to me. It helps me get inside her mind and convey her emotions and her actions more effectively.
Q: How long does it take for you to write a book? Was each book different?
Without a doubt each novel takes years. I need about a year to decide on my heroine, and to start a plotline. After that it takes me a year or two to write and edit. Each book takes a different amount of time because I am at a different point in my life. The Pride of the King took seven years because I was raising my children!
We can only hope your fans won’t have to wait that long for the next one!
Q: I loved how you seamlessly wove in the turbulent history of the time in each of your wonderful novels. I learned so much. No, I experienced so much of the time. How did you go about doing the research?
Aside from the usual places, libraries and the Internet, I spend a lot of time in cemeteries reading headstones for inspiration. I consult my brother who has an extensive background in military history, and I travel compulsively. Most writers choose a location and go there to do research, I allow my destinations to inspire me first and then I write later. Two years ago my daughter and I went to the Brandywine Valley in Delaware and Pennsylvania. The area was so alive with history and beautiful landscape that it became the inspiration for my latest novel. I also "cast" movie stars in the roles of many of my characters. It helps me when I do descriptions. Some of my readers have caught me and guessed the actors.
OK, now this is getting spooky. I spent an entire afternoon in the Williamsburg churchyard reading headstones. I kept thinking they had so much to say, as if they truly wanted to pass on what wisdom and faith they could. In some ways I think we’ve lost a legacy the way we bury people today. Oh and I also cast movie stars as some of my characters!
Q: You chose to go the self-published route—why?
I have been lucky enough to have had it both ways for Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry, but I went completely self published for The Pride of the King. Although I adored the folks at Adventure Book Publishers in Calgary, a traditional publishing house, I appreciate the control that I have now as an independent.
Q: I love your covers—they are so unique. Did you design them yourself?
No, Ronnell Porter is my cover artist. He is a miracle worker. I send Ronnelle the synopsis, description of my heroine and some examples of covers that I like and a few requests about what I would like to see, and he puts it together and sends me samples and we tweek them from there. He is a writer himself and I think this helps.
Q: What are you working on now? (Do share enough to have us sitting on the edge of our seats.) And when is it coming out?
I return to Ireland once more with The Sword of the Banshee. It is the story of India Allen, a bold and charismatic woman living in the 18th Century. She spearheads two revolutions, one in Ireland and another in Colonial America. She must wade through blood, betrayal and madness to find, not only freedom, but the one great love of her life. It will be released in January 2013.
OK, I’m getting in line for that one…I can hardly wait. I loved Ireland as you presented it; it was so real I cried with the heroine.
Q: What do you do in your off hours? What do you like to read?
Trying new restaurants is one of my favorite activities and I am a nut for old black and white movies. I love to read the classics, especially Victorian lit, but it is too heavy to read all the time. I adore Anne Rice (when she is not writing horror), Conrad Richter, Anya Seton and I throw in a little Dorothy Parker when I need some snide humor!
Thanks, Amanda, for sharing what’s behind your wonderful novels!