You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write. ~Saul Bellow
Introducing Historical Fiction writer Amanda McCrina. In this interview, Amanda talks about her new book, His Own Good Sword. She also discusses, her love for books, and future projects.
Reading note: Sorry for the change in fonts. WordPress will not let me change them for some reason. I know it changes the overall look, however, this is the best I can do. Thanks and happy reading! – Kim
Her online bio describes Amanda as:
“…a full-time university student, majoring in history and minoring in political science. She now attends the University of West Georgia, but she also studied for two years at Geneva College, outside of Pittsburgh, PA, and for one semester in Rome, Italy. She has a particular interest in twentieth-century warfare–the World Wars, the Cold War, the Spanish Civil War–as well as a love of ancient Roman history…. She loves film and film culture. She worked as a 35mm projectionist for over two years, until the booth went fully digital in 2011… and She’s still a Star Wars fangirl at heart (Han shot first).” (source: writing.fly-casual.net )
If you were an animal which one would give us a good description of you?
I’d probably be a turtle. I’ve always been quiet, shy, and something of a homebody. It takes a while for me to come out of my shell. Of course, being a turtle could mean I’m a nunchuck-wielding ninja, too.
His Own Good Sword is the story of a young soldier who’s forced to choose between doing his duty and obeying his conscience. It’s a historical fantasy in the vein of Guy Gavriel Kay or Lian Hearn–the setting is an imaginary world, but one that deliberately evokes real-world history. In this case, the world of the novel is heavily inspired by ancient Rome. I’m currently hosting a giveaway of the book on my website. I’m also scribbling away madly at the sequel, which is forthcoming from Winter Goose in August 2013.
When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing for fun since I was a kid, and writing with the intention of being published for about five years. I think I began writing mostly because I love reading. I love being transported to different times and places as I read. It’s that same joy that drives me to write.
Why attracts you to historical fiction?
I love historical fiction because I’m fascinated by the past–or, more precisely, what we don’t know about the past. We know the dates and the facts, but we don’t always know much about the people involved, and we have a tendency to forget they were just as human as we are. We don’t always know what they were thinking or feeling. We don’t always really know what their motivations were, or their inner struggles, or their hopes, or their fears. I love historical fiction because it can read between the lines of “fact.”
What is your favorite moment in History?
That’s hard. I have lots of favorite historical moments. But the one I find the most fascinating is probably Europe in the summer of 1914–Europe right on the brink of the First World War. I think it’s one of the most pivotal moments in history. Of course Europe, and the world in general, had seen some drastic changes prior to 1914, but the Great War was the end of the world as we knew it, so to speak. Before the Great War, warfare had essentially remained unchanged for millennia. Suddenly, in the span of just a few years, it was scientific, mechanized, deadly on a huge scale. There’d never been anything like it before, and I think we’re still dealing with its repercussions today. The summer of 1914 fascinates me because it’s the meeting of the old and the new.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I didn’t really set out to write His Own Good Sword with a deliberate message. I dislike “preachiness” in fiction. I had some characters in my head and mostly I just wanted to tell a good story.That being said, I wanted it to be a story with some substance. I think there is a driving question behind the narrative: what happens when doing the right thing only plays into the hand of those who don’t share your set of scruples?
What books have most influenced your life most?
There are so many books that have influenced and inspired me. The Bible is first and foremost. Beowulf has fired my imagination for years, and Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings gave me an enduring love for fantasy. Hemingway’s bleak, beautiful A Farewell to Arms is my all-time-favorite book.
What book are you reading now?
I tend to have around five books going at the same time. I just finished Christine Hinwood’s The Returning, and look forward to starting Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity. I currently have two nonfiction books in the rotation: Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder, and Soldiers & Ghosts: A History of Battle in Classical Antiquity by J. E. Lendon. I’m also currently rereading Stephen Ambrose’s Band of Brothers, a long-time favorite.
What are your current projects?
Apart from working on the sequel to His Own Good Sword, I’m rather sporadically plotting a straight-up historical-fiction novel, a science-fiction novel, and a fairy-tale retelling. It remains to be seen whether any of these will ever see the light of day.
What do you do when you are NOT writing?
I’m in my senior year at the University of West Georgia, studying history and political science. I also work at a cinema, and I do some freelance graphic design work on the side.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
For me, writing has always been linked to reading. I started writing out of a conscious desire to emulate my favorite books and writers. I grew up with Marguerite Henry’s books, and my first writing projects all invariably had to do with horses or cats. I devoured the Dear America and Royal Diaries series, and for a while I was obsessed with writing fictional diaries of historical figures. In fact, Dear America is probably responsible for turning me on to historical fiction in the first place.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I’m the world’s worst procrastinator–or best procrastinator, depending on how you look at it. In general, the hardest thing was making myself sit down, shut off my inner critic, and write.More specifically, though, I had (and still have) a hard time with action scenes. I avoided writing them as long as I could, until there were big holes all through my narrative (usually accompanied by a parenthetical note to myself: insert epic battle scene here).
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
His Own Good Sword is my first completed novel, and it’s definitely been a learning experience. I’ve learned so much about the writing process and the publication process both. I’ve learned a lot about myself, too.My favorite writing quote comes from Gustave Flaubert: “The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” Writing forces you to confront your own presuppositions about the way the world works–even if you’re writing fiction, even if you’re writing fantasy fiction. Writing is a way to engage and understand the world around you. I never really looked at it that way until I wrote this novel.
Read, and read widely. Read in your genre and outside your genre. Read what’s selling, but don’t let it compromise your own vision. Fads change. Good writing is always in style.
Hockey eh? Who do your cheer for?
I cheered for the Thrashers until the move. Now I root for our local ECHL team, the Gladiators, and keep on hoping that maybe the Jets will do so badly that Winnipeg will decide they don’t want them after all and send them home.
Name three items which need to be with you at all times?
A notebook, a pencil, and a cup of strong coffee with cream.