Amanda J. Clay is a writing YA and Adult fiction from Dallas, TX. A Northern California native, she had a fantastic time studying English and Journalism at Chico State University and then a very serious time slaving away for a Master’s degree in Communications from California State University, Fullerton. When she’s not staring at a computer screen, she spends most of her spare time on some new fitness addiction and plotting world adventures.
Her latest book is the young adult novel, Rebel Song.
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Thanks for this interview, Amanda. Can we begin by having you tell us about yourself from a writer’s standpoint?
Thanks for having me! I’ve wanted to be a writer from the very beginning—from the moment I could talk I started telling stories. So I am in disbelief every day that this is what I actually get to do for a living! I currently have two published books and two more coming out this year. I love to read in all genres so while my current titles are YA contemporary, I plan to write many different styles of novels in the years to come.
When not writing, what do you like to do for relaxation and/or fun?
I’m big into fitness so I make sure to incorporate that into my daily life (right now my guy and I are into UFC boxing but we also get outdoors whenever we can). I’m also an avid reader, love to cook and love cozy nights with a good movie. I enjoy getting out to do culture things too! We currently live in Dallas where there are tons of museums, music, theater, etc.
Congratulations on your new book! Can you give us the very first page of your book so that we can get a glimpse inside?
Rogan was struggling to pull the last crab from the trap, its flailing claws scratching and pinching for survival.
“Sorry bub,” he said to the scaly creature. “A boy’s gotta eat. You’re just on the wrong end of the food chain today.” He gave it a yank, finally prying it loose from the trap and stuffed it into his canvas sack, suffering only a minor pinch in the process. It hadn’t been the most lucrative day, but five crabs were better than none. Regardless, it was a much-needed afternoon alone with the ocean to mull around in his own thoughts. Things with The Cause were escalating with every passing day and the peace they’d known the past few years was teetering on a precipice of destruction.
He stood and stretched his back, stiff from hunching over the traps all afternoon. The seaside air whipped through his shaggy hair and the salt stung at a newly acquired scrape on his elbow, courtesy of his new mutt of a puppy. The spring air mingled with the midday sun to send a shimmer across the vast ocean. Resisting the urge to swim toward the horizon and never look back, he packed his things and headed up the beach.
“Something to spare?” a small voice called up. She knelt on a tattered blanket in the sand with a small basket beside her. Sad round eyes begged from a sunken face. Rogan reached into his pocket and retrieved a few pounds.
“Don’t encourage her,” a husky voiced barked as Rogan moved to hand over the change. He snapped up to see a portly city ranger fingering his black baton.
“She’s just a little girl,” Rogan argued.
“Let her beg in the alleys like the rest of ‘em. We don’t need them cluttering up the beaches too and bothering the tourists. Now, get on.”
Rogan debated tossing the coins her way anyway, but wasn’t particularly in the mood for a baton to the head. He offered the child a sympathetic frown and put the pounds back. He’d remember that face and find her again.
He moved up the beach again until the sirens’ call of the water slipped under his skin. He decided to postpone heading back in favor of a few moments of solitude on his favorite rock point. Slinging his pack over his shoulder, he scuttled up the rocks like he had a thousand times, settling on a smooth patch with a view that stretched into the unknown like the vastness of dreams. To the East, the panorama stretched over the city center with its ancient structures reaching toward the clouds. The city faded into the lush rolling hills of Pear Valley—where pear trees had been long replaced by vineyards. Arelanda was one of the smallest nations in Europe, but its scenery mirrored classical paintings. The bitter wind sliced through the air, nipping his tanned skin, but he didn’t mind. Its bite was invigorating. The drone of bickering salty fisherman and scampering port children faded into the deep as he watched the waves gently lick their way up the shore, and he let himself go to another place—away from war and death.
Would you say it’s been a rocky road for you in regards to getting your book written and published or pretty much smooth sailing? Can you tell us about your journey?
I wouldn’t call it rocky per say, but I would definitely say there have been some challenges. While I always wrote in some capacity, it was many years before I thought I actually had what it took to become an author. When I finally decided I was going to do this thing, I have absolutely no clue how to do it. I think being an avid reader my entire life, I generally understood how to craft a well-structured story but I still had a lot to learn about craft. I also had to learn a lot about the actual business!
While I was still finishing my first book, I started attending a local chapter of Romance Writers of America. Holy cow, did I learn some things. All the things. From there I started attending writing workshops and then the San Francisco Writer’s Conference. I learned two things from all this: 1- I had what it took to be an author; 2- I knew nothing. Ha. So each day I committed myself to working on both my craft and my industry acumen. I was still working a fairly demanding full time job and had personal commitments so it was a balancing act with a lot of late nights. And it took me awhile to finally finish that first book. But I did it! After a lot of research I opted to independently publish it and it was a fantastic experience. Every day I continue to learn more and more—this is a dynamic industry with evermore opportunities and challenges. There is a lot of noise out there, but there are also more ways than ever to reach hungry readers.
If you had to summarize your book in one sentence, what would that be?
A modern-day princess and a revolutionary committed to taking down the monarchy fall in love.
What makes your book stand out from the rest?
I think Rebel Song is unique in that it’s a contemporary story set in a world very different than ours. While Arelanda is a fictional country, it mimics very real places and events of Central Europe in the 20th century. Royalty and revolutions might sounds like something out of a medieval novel for most Americans, it’s a reality for much of the world.
Would you consider turning your book into a series or has that already been done?
It is already part of a series. The second book, Rebel Rising, will be out in September of 2017.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on the third book in the series as well as an adult contemporary series set in the wine country of Northern California.