A graduate of Vassar College and Boston University, Amanda Gale taught high school English before she began writing women’s fiction. The four novels of her Meredith series explore love, growth, and the flaws that make us human. A lover of history, classic literature, and quiet nights at home, she lives outside Philadelphia with her family.
What are the special challenges in writing a series?
I wrote the books one after the other and published them at the same time, so thankfully I was able to revise the earlier books if something in the later books needed clarification. For me, the greatest challenge was allowing each book to be unique while connecting them all with a common message. My series follows a woman through four stages of her life. She’s in a different mental place in each book, and the lessons she learns depend on where she is in her journey. One book may have a more ethereal feel while another is more straightforward. But the importance of each stage has to be clear as a reader moves from one book to the next, and it all has to come together in the end. Finding that balance took a lot of work.
What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?
I’d say the greatest misconception is that indie authors bang out a book with no planning or editing and then spend ten minutes uploading it to a website before washing their hands of it. This couldn’t have been further from the truth for me. I was solely responsible for everything, from editing to working with the artist who was designing the covers. I accepted feedback and constructive criticism and went through dozens of rounds of revision before deciding the books were ready for the public. Once it was time to publish, I had to research all my options and meticulously format the files myself if I wanted the books to be professional.
Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?
I didn’t have titles in mind when I began writing, and I considered several titles before settling on the titles I chose. I don’t think I could have come up with appropriate titles until the series was finished. My story evolved so much as I was writing, and I would have undermined it by being rigid. Flexibility is important; you don’t want to write the story to fit the title. I did have an ending in mind when I began writing, but many of my characters changed in the translation from my imagination to the page. As a result, the plot also underwent massive changes, and I took the story in a very different direction than I had originally intended. I never forced or imposed something that didn’t feel right. That being said, I do need an ending to work toward. I feel lost if I don’t have a vague idea where I’m going.
Over the years, many well-known authors have stated that they wished they’d written their characters or their plots differently. Have you ever had similar regrets?
Yes! As I said, I initiated a dramatic plot change during the writing process. This change necessitated that a character who should have been happy in the original version instead was left suffering. Though I am absolutely certain this was the right decision, a small part of me has dreamed about what would have happened had I stayed true to my original plan. To compensate, I’m planning a sequel in which the character’s story has closure. I think that will satisfy my need to rectify the injustice I inflicted on him.
How important is the choosing of character names to you? Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?
Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?
Some of my characters are not nice people, and they behave badly. I like these characters. They’re interesting to me, and they were fun to write, maybe because it was a release for me, to write words on a page I’d never say to anyone in person. The one character I’m not fond of is well-meaning. She’s impulsive, though, and thoughtless, and she is more concerned with looking good and being funny than with considering the feelings of those around her. I have no patience for her.
Can you tell us about your road to publication?
I began by searching for an agent or publisher, but I soon realized that I wouldn’t be able to go the traditional route unless I sold the first book on its own and hoped the others in the series were picked up later. I wasn’t willing to separate them like that, so I decided to self-publish. It’s just as well because the best editing took place after I made the decision not to pursue traditional publishing. I didn’t realize at the time how much work I still needed to do. When I knew I was going to do it all myself, I sought reader feedback and made difficult choices that helped shape the books. I’m happy with my decision to self-publish because I had complete control over all the decisions. Also I was able to publish them simultaneously, which was important to me.
How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?
I researched places I had never visited or had visited but didn’t know a lot about. If I was describing someone’s house or dress, I looked at houses or dresses online so I could have something visual to reference. In one or two cases, to make sure my facts were correct, I sought the help of friends who had certain professional experiences. Also, a couple of delicate issues are discussed in the final book, and I needed to know if these passages were sensitive to those who had been through it. I put a call out for people who could offer advice, and I received some feedback that assured me that my handling of these scenes was appropriate.
Have you received reactions/feedback to your work that has surprised you? In what way?
I am always surprised by people’s reactions to one particular character. Some love him, and some hate him—and I never can predict which it will be. People also have different interpretations of the heroine’s interactions with him. When I wrote this character, I knew he would be somewhat controversial, but I never imagined the intensity of the emotions he’d elicit. At first I worried over it because I love this character, and I wanted everyone to love him, too. Eventually I grew to appreciate the fact that if he was making people feel so strongly, in either direction, I probably had done something right.
Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?
When I was little, I wrote short stories and even began a couple of novels. In high school, I wrote poetry. Once I grew up, though, I thought that part of my life was over. I accepted that what tends to happen to children had happened to me, that the demands of adulthood had stifled my creativity and that I would never write any fiction ever again. I had been imagining characters for many years, developing plot lines around them, but I was almost embarrassed by it, and I never told anyone this was happening, even those closest to me. One day I decided to sit down and write out their story, just for myself, never expecting anything to come of it. Four books later, I realized I was still a writer after all and that my ideas actually had a purpose. In a way, the series happened not because I had a desire to write but because I felt compelled to bring my characters to life. I’m not sure whether being born to write made the characters come to me or whether being born to create characters made me a writer. Either way, once I began the process, I couldn’t stop. I was up all night writing and editing, I humbled myself asking for feedback, and I worked harder than I ever had. I hadn’t thought I was strong enough to pull this off. I think if anything makes me a born writer, it’s the willingness to make those sacrifices for the sake of the books.
We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?
So much importance. I always felt strongly that I needed original art for my books. They don’t fit neatly into one genre, and they don’t always follow traditional rules. I wanted something that would reflect them completely, something that would mirror the mood I’d like readers to feel when they read them. I found an artist whose work I love, and she did a beautiful job. The covers are everything I hope the books are—elegant but sexy, delicate but bold, and maybe a little mysterious. Also, I find personal satisfaction in the fact that I have something unique and special to represent my books after all my hard work.
How would you define your style of writing?
I’m heavily influenced by Victorian literature, so my writing tends to be more formal. It’s definitely accessible, though, and I think my dialogue is realistic for each character. I’d say that, like the heroine herself, the writing is proper but modern, and not without humor.
Do you miss spending time with your characters when you finish writing them?
This is my favorite question because it so encapsulates my feelings about my characters. The characters are so much a part of me, and I think of them every day. I mourn the loss of the writing. My primary goal was to give them life and to make people fall in love with them the way I love them. One of the hardest parts of the process was moving on, recognizing that I had no excuse to read through the series again and that I had to let that part of my relationship with them go.
What’s the coolest surprise you’ve ever had?
The day after my grandfather passed away, I went to Barnes & Noble. I was walking by a table and saw the children’s picture book The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, by William Joyce. I had seen the book before but knew nothing about it, and for some reason that day I felt compelled to buy it. That day, I spent most of my time going through old photographs of my grandfather and thinking about his life as a young man. That night I read the book to my kids. I was stunned to discover that it was about a man who grows old as he writes the pages of his own book and returns home when he finishes the last page. He leaves his book behind, and it is picked up and read by a little girl. Later I learned that my grandfather had written a book about his life. This was only discovered after he had passed.
What was the most valuable class you ever took in school? Why?
In college I took a course called “Prejudice and Policy in Victorian England.” We read some of the most vitriolic works of the Victorian era and discussed why such intense fear of “the Other” was so prevalent. This class taught me not only the dangers of prejudice, both in one’s mind and in the law (the more obvious lesson) but also the importance of remembering the more shameful parts of history. It made me brave enough to discuss controversial topics and to reference words and subjects that are not polite. Honest, uncensored conversation is necessary if we are to understand ourselves, if we want to make sure the most horrific acts perpetuated by the human race are not repeated. I will always be grateful to my professor for teaching me that progress requires embracing all knowledge, no matter how unpleasant, not hiding from it.
What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?
- Listen to each other.
- Act with integrity.
- Never stop learning.
Author photo: Lisa Schaffer Photography; Cover design: Adara Sánchez Anguiano
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