Hey there everyone.
Welcome to another installment of the Author Interview series.
I have had the pleasure of speaking with author Amanda Roberts regarding a variety of topics including publishing, her inspirations and her motivational tips to get her creative juices flowing.
As always thanks for reading and enjoy the show, I think you will all find this a very engaging and insightful interview.
Hi there Amanda, wonderful to have you over here to find out more about your book, your writing processes and your inspirations.
Let’s start with your novel “The Roots of the Tree”. Please tell us more about your Contemporary Fiction debut and its theme of uncovering family secrets to bring a Mother back from the brink as she deals with her own betrayal and grief.
The Roots of the Tree is based on a true story – my mother’s. When she was in her early 60’s she did discover that her father wasn’t her biological father. By then her mother and the man she thought of as her father were both dead and there were few living relatives able to shed any light on what had actually happened and who her real father may have been. She was an only child and had always adored her father. She was devastated and found the situation very hard to deal with.
I thought the story was too good not to use as the inspiration for a novel. The story I tell in The Roots of the Tree has a lot of pure fiction woven into it. As a family, we did not discover much of the truth, so the unravelling of family history in the novel is entirely fictional, although there are some family memories thrown in as well.
I didn’t tell my mother I was writing a novel about her experience, partly because I was worried how she might react. When I got the publishing contract I had to tell her and I was prepared to walk away from it had she asked me to. I think she was secretly thrilled though. She said it could no longer hurt her. She wouldn’t read the manuscript before it was published; she said she wanted to wait to read it as a finished book, so she had no idea what I’d written, which was a bit nerve-racking. Fortunately, she loved it!
How difficult was it to get a publisher for your book and what were the timeframes involved with the process?
Yes, it was difficult – but then I imagine everyone says the same. I had plenty of rejections and of course you never get any feedback so you don’t know what they didn’t like or why they didn’t think it worth publishing, but you just have to persevere. The same goes for selling books. It took me several years to get The Roots of the Tree published – once I’d signed the contract it took another year of editing, proofreading and making final amends. During that process a colleague who was also a published author told me that getting published is the easy bit – I laughed of course, but he was serious. Selling books is the really hard bit – and he was right.
Why did you choose The Book Guild as your publisher? What qualities stood out for you to select them?
I chose The Book Guild because they were a small, independent publishing company. I felt as though I was joining a team. I could pick up the phone and speak to anyone – the designer, the marketing people, the MD’s PA who helped with social media advice, even the MD. I had a meeting with her and we discussed the novel, separating the fact from the fiction. She had read the manuscript herself. She gave me some really good advice and also left me in no doubt about how hard it was going to be to achieve my ambition of becoming a commercially successful author.
However, the experience with The Book Guild was ultimately not a good one. I was promised a lot and very little was actually delivered. Less than a year after my novel was published, The Book Guild was bought by one of the big publishing companies and everything changed. All the people that I knew and had built relationships with left the company. I received one letter from the new owner to say it would be ‘business as usual’ and that was it. I no longer had any contacts. Emails were unanswered and even requests for simple information – for example, my bi-annual statement of sales – proved difficult – I was repeatedly told that records were incomplete and they couldn’t help me. Whether anything would have been different had The Book Guild remained independent, I will never know. I am now, thankfully, out of contract, and we have parted company.
What are your own opinions on self-publishing and how come you did not choose to go down this particular route yourself?
At the time I felt that I didn’t know enough about the book publishing business to go it alone. You could say that I wasn’t brave enough. I felt more secure with a publishing company that was experienced in the industry and already had the network, the contacts and the logistical support to sell books – for instance, securing listings with the distributors who would fulfil orders to retailers. I have learned a lot since The Roots of the Tree was published about this process, the steps that need to be taken, the marketing and what is expected of the author.
With this knowledge and the fact that self-publishing is easier than it ever has been, for future novels I would certainly seriously consider this route. Social media is changing everything and making it possible for authors to reach out directly to readers. I have met some authors who have self-published and are seeing all their hard work and effort really starting to pay off – good luck to them, they genuinely deserve it.
How important do you feel it is to have an Agent represent your work?
I don’t currently have an Agent. I think it is good to have someone representing your best interests, but equally, if you don’t have an Agent or you don’t want one, you shouldn’t let it hold you back.
What do you find the most difficult thing about writing? And what do you find the easiest?
I think for me the most difficult thing about writing a novel was making the transition to creative writing. I became a magazine reporter/journalist in the late 1980’s and an editor a few years later. I’ve written for a living ever since and was editorial director of my own publishing business for over 20 years. Writing features and reports for business journals is very different to writing fiction. You could even say it is completely the opposite. In business-to-business writing you have to put across the facts or outline an argument as succinctly and clearly as possible – often to a specific word count – without elaboration and with minimum use of adjectives and zero metaphors, similes or any other literary tool.
The first draft of The Roots of the Tree was a bit like the abridged works of Shakespeare! It was A to B as quickly as possible. I then had to go through it and re-examine every sentence to identify where I needed to draw a fuller picture for the reader.
I find writing itself easy. Writing well, engaging and entertaining readers so they want to carry on, is much harder.
Who are some of the authors and historical figures that inspire you?
I love reading and there are many authors that I admire. My absolute favourite is Jane Austen – her novels were the subject of my dissertation for my degree. She wrote beautifully and her characters were all so well drawn, displaying the weaknesses and vanities of human nature. Ultimately, very little happened in most of her novels – the intrigue was always around daily routine and the complex relationships between her characters – but I find them utterly impossible to put down.
There are so many authors that I love – too many to mention – so here are just a few – C J Sansom, William Boyd, Robert Harris, Victoria Hislop, Daphne du Maurier, Susan Hill, Philippa Gregory, Sebastian Faulkes, Ian McEwan…
What sort of research did you do to write your book?
Considering that I was writing a family story with which I was already very familiar, I had to do a surprising amount of research, because I wanted it to be believable – the actual true part of the story is unbelievable enough, so the rest had to be credible. Because my novel involved uncovering a secret family history, I needed to know more about the time when my mother was born, which was during the war. I found that really difficult to write about. We all know the headlines, the major events, the battles won and lost, but I needed a real story about normal, average people living through the war – for instance, what did soldiers and entire regiments do before they were sent to battle, what sort of training did they undergo, how and where did they live?
I booked an appointment at the Imperial War Museum in London to look through their archives of actual regiments and uncovered one whose movements suited the needs of my story. I placed a significant character within this regiment and followed the recorded training and activities, although the feelings and emotions of the character are all my own invention.
I also needed to understand how a family could begin to track down a person they believed to be a relative – what processes they could follow and what material was available to them. This part of the story takes place in the early ‘noughties’, before so much information was readily available on the internet and before there was really much interest in tracing ancestry – it would be a very different story today.
Finally, to satisfy my own curiosity as well as to answer what could be a stumbling block in the plot, I needed to know how my mother’s birth certificate could list a man as her father when actually he wasn’t. The Registry of Births provided many answers, after I’d convinced them that I wasn’t attempting to perpetrate a fraud!
Why do you write? What inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always written. I was good at English at school so it was a natural progression to do a degree in English/English Literature. After that, it was another natural progression to go into a career that enabled me to use writing as part of my daily work. I got some lucky breaks along the way and I took them. Like many journalists/editors, I always wanted to write a novel. I didn’t know whether I’d be any good at it, but I believe that you don’t know until you try and I would hate to get to the end of my life and find myself saying ‘what if?’
What keeps you motivated during creative slumps? How do you deal with Writers Block?
Take a break – go for a cycle ride – make a cup of tea. However, there are occasions when you just have to accept that the words aren’t flowing and there is no point trying to make them – you are better off just putting it to one side, doing something else and coming back to it later or the next day. I have a bad habit of jumping around within something I’m working on – so if I get stuck with the progress of one part of the story I might try with another chapter – sometimes it works, but it can become disjointed.
You have access to a time machine. What advice would you give to your younger self?
I genuinely have no regrets. I’ve made lots of mistakes in my life but I believe those mistakes all contribute to making you the person you are. I would probably go back to my 13-year old self doing my ‘O’ level selections and say, “Don’t let the teachers talk you out of doing typing and shorthand as an option as they will be really useful skills for you to have one day!”
How do you spend your free time when you are not writing?
I don’t have much spare time – working as a freelance editor and writer as well as writing creatively keeps me pretty busy. I read a lot and I run two book clubs – one is a social club in the village where I live and we get together every six weeks or so to discuss our chosen book. We’re a very laid-back book club though and the social occasion is as important as talking about the book, so it is always accompanied by wine and nibbles. The other is a Tea Books reading group that is part of a charity called Bookfeast. It is a group for people aged over 60 who like to read as a hobby but therefore may feel isolated as reading is generally not a very sociable activity. I volunteer as a group leader and we meet once a month in the local library.
I love cooking – which is a good thing really, since I have two teenage boys who don’t stop eating!
I like cycling and hiking, watching my eldest son play football and my youngest play hockey. I love watching tennis but no longer play. I also love listening to music and going to the occasional music festival.
Tell us more about your upcoming projects. Are you working on anything specific or have plans in the pipeline?
I’m working on two projects at the moment – my second novel and a story for children. My second novel has changed so much from the original concept I started working on that I’d rather not go into detail as it will probably all change again before it’s anywhere near ready to publish! The children’s story has also developed from a series of short stories into a single story for the 8-12 year old age group. A few years ago a friend who grew up in a clan in Uganda asked me to work with her on some stories based on her childhood experiences. We are taking these stories and weaving them into an adventure story with a most unusual hero.
Finally, are there any nuggets of wisdom that you can impart to other aspiring writers?
I think probably be true to yourself. Don’t try to be like anyone else. Write from the heart and don’t let the industry put you in a pigeonhole if you’d rather fly free.
And that’s a wrap! Thank you for spending time with us today Amanda and we can’t wait to go root out your novel too 🙂
Amanda Roberts is an award-winning reporter and editor who has worked within the food service industry since 1989 on business-to-business magazines.
As Editorial Director of her own publishing company for over 20 years she was also involved in overseeing production, briefing designers and managing a professional team.
Since 2013, Amanda Roberts has been a freelance writer working for numerous and diverse clients. She has also taken steps towards becoming a successful author, having her first novel successfully published in 2014.
You can connect with Amanda via her website or on Goodreads below:-
Goodreads:- Amanda Roberts (Goodreads Author)
You can buy her book here:-
If you too would like to be interviewed on my blog at TooFullToWrite and you have a book or a series of books that you would like us to chat about then fill out the Contact Me form here with your details and we can arrange a future interview slot.
Still want more? Well Amanda’s book is about the journey of discovery within the context of what family means to each and every one of us. For more articles on the theme of ‘Discover’ then check out the links below:-
1. challengingsingle – Discover
2. The M. Daly’s 2016 – My Daly Bred
3. Sight – Aweni
4. The Lebanese way – My Beirut
5. Discover A New View – PhotoLifeStories
6. 5 ways to kickstart your career – LOVE WHAT YOU DO
7. Do Not Annoy The Writer – Some More Prompting
8. Know Thyself… – My Art & Me
9. The Icognito Writer – A Little Adventure
10. Fluffy Pool – HMS Caribbean Discovery
11. Success Inspirers World – A Whole New World Within
12. NeuroBead – Check out my new series
13. 100.000 views! Wow!! – Roberta Pimentel
14. Samantha Linda – Hush
15. The Zen Hiker – Discover
16. you are nature – So bin ich zur Rohkost gekommen und wie es weitergeht
17. 73. Memories – Brindology
18. Reading – Debbie Gravett
19. GRACE, FAVOR & FAITH – Fortune
20. Eden of Knowledge – Discover
21. DISCOVERING THE JOURNEY – ENIGMA
22. logicaldreams – Drabble: A Little Exploring
23. Ms. Santa: The Role of An Elf – The Harlem Experiment
24. Guilty Promptness – Kim Orlowski
25. Happy Balance – Kurilane
26. ffd writes – Why art is good for the world
27. It’s All in Finding the Right Words – Discover
28. Memory’s – Nickey Dubstep
29. Discovering My Path – The Somewhere In Between
30. witchlike – Gift of the Magi
31. THE ICONOPHILE – Traveling Light
32. Gravitationally Unbound: H. G. Wells and the Discovery of Helium – TAwrites
33. 2016 Best & Worst Makeup Products| Happy Holidays – ONE MORE SHOT PLEASE
34. Discover – DeepikasRamblings
35. Regrets – Awordseeker
36. My Microbiology World – useful research
37. Christmas Eve Memories. Cousins! – kindergartenknowledge.com
38. Personal Geographic – A SENSE OF WONDER
39. mylocalweb – my discovery
40. Euphoric Inkers – DISCOVER HELL
41. Just Sand – Melinda J. Irvine
42. Flowers and Breezes – Discover
43. Discover! – Sascha Darlington’s Microcosm Explored
44. Discovering My New World – Serendipitous Web Life
45. The Daily Post – Progressing into Solitude – Discover Your Path
46. inspiration in progress – Discovery (The Dentist – Part 5 of 5)
47. Daily Post Prompt: The Many Ways I Long to Know Your Soul – Sumyanna Writes
48. Christmas Ponderings – The Chicken Grandma
49. If Only They Knew – PERSPECTIVE BILONG MI
50. The Journey – PERSPECTIVE BILONG MI
51. STELLA CAROUSEL – Discover JOY
52. What You Do Not Wish For – World Through My Eyes
53. The noise that was the voice – The peepal
54. Attuned Photography – The spirit of Christmas.
55. Discover: Talent explosion – Writer2011
56. Never stop learning – ideas and culture
57. eyetomind – Discover someone new…yourself.
58. Women do it for yourself! – Rexine Rawhead
59. Le Drake Noir – Because it is there
60. Ghosts of Christmas Past – Filbert & Smudge
61. Laidig’s Broadway – Life in Rear-View
62. Christine’s Collection – So Much To Discover!
63. Lost Property Repository – Discover me this!
64. Discovery – The Inkwell
65. And then there was one – Re-Discover You!
66. Discover… – idealizeblog
67. Discover: A letter to the Past – Pirate Butterfly
68. Riley Central – Discovery Before the Mast
69. January Picks: Hungry For Words – Book Club – design.lifestyle.inspiration.
70. There Are More Poets than Stars in the Firmament – you can’t help but wonder
71. How to find your key to happiness – House of Rogue
72. Let me help you make your Christmas wish come true – House of Rogue
73. A Journey Through Life – Discovery
74. What will the neighbors think?!! – CD-W, Author
75. Frank Prem – a letter to the royal society
76. The End of the Tunnel – Passion & Insanity
77. Advent Calendar, Day 23 – In my world
78. Path – My Point of View
79. MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO – Path
80. Cage Dunn: Writer and Author – The Discovery of Q’s
81. Food festival – My Beirut
82. Opinionopolis – Discover Haiku
83. Success Inspirers World – My search has ended
84. LadyLebz – LIFE AS A SURVIVOR ON A REMOTE TROPICAL ISLAND
85. Success Inspirers World – My sesarch has ended
86. Discover – disue
87. Journeys – november child
88. Shattered in Him – Discovery in the flaws…
89. wordsareallihavesite – Discover
90. life is great despite its troubles – His name means Oak
91. Discover – thehouseofbailey
92. Jane’s Holiday Poem – Dreams from a Pilgrimage
93. Skeletons in his closet – crashcoursedummy
94. Insach – All set?
95. Discovering a New Path – Image & Word
96. Discover – Inner Whispers
97. Top – Evelina
98. B_ up to date – Cracking Nut Cracker
99. A strenuous walk down memory lane aka school reunion! – sheetalbravon
100. Friday January 20th, 2017 We Enter The Twilight Zone – MY ENDURING BONES
101. debooWORKS – In Silence
102. Success Inspirers World – Journey of discovery
103. Zombie Flamingos – Interesting things I saw the other day
104. Decembrie 23 – Illusion’s Street
105. Discovery – BestBudz
106. A Grimm Trump TaleThe Three Apprentices and the Devil – A lot from Lydia
107. Covert Novelist – Discover (Comics)
108. New Ideas And Inspirations – Discover
109. s1ngal – Discovered Today
110. Daring To Jess – 7 Years
111. Discovering new foods – Mindflight
112. Soul Searching – Elaine’s Bloggers Paradise
113. Rediscover Our Mission – emotionsoflife2016
114. Know Thyself… – Everybody is an Artist
115. Musings of a Random Mind – In Search For My Roots
116. Discovery of Musicals – Meg’s Magical Musings
117. Clif Haley – The New in the Old
118. Discover – Nourishing my Soul
119. Discover – All About Writing and more
120. The Lady Bug. – 1withthepen
121. Discover – suzhalgal
122. Discover – Daily Prompt – Ladyleemanila
123. kStan(ly) kSays – my ho-hum friend
124. Telling the Truth – Discovering the Road to….
125. Betcha Didn’t Know! – Women who dress too revealing
126. Travelicious Life – Discover
127. Rosemary Carlson, Freelance Writer – Discover What You Need
128. Arriving in Shanghai – Don’t hold your breath
129. Edges of Discovery – a moment teller’s
130. lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown – Voyage
131. Joy vs. Success – I’m a Writer, Yes, I Am!
132. Never Stop Exploring – Exploring Mama
133. Quill & Parchment – Love’s Trade
134. Human side of the Christmas season – Your Nibbled News (c) 2016 YNN
135. Laws of Refraction – Monkebus
136. At MidLife, Mental Happiness Matters More Than Physical – MidLife Inspirations
137. A Whole New World Within – atrangizindagieksafar
138. LadyLebz – LIFE AS A SURVIVOR ON A DESERTED TROPICAL ISLAND
139. The Light That Shines In the Darkness: Part 2 – Lance Price Blog 2016
140. Everyday Essentialism – Discover: Something New Today
141. Southern By Design – I Feel Like A Monster
142. KO Rural Mad As Hell Blog – Morning
143. The Cat Chronicles – Daily Feline Prompt: Feline Discoveries
144. debooWORKS – A new day, every day
145. ExpectinGreatness – Discover
146. Sailing Me to A New Horizon – Journeys of Len
147. somewhere else – writemebad
148. The Toadstools Sprouting – S. Thomas Summers
149. Full-Time – If We Pay Attention
150. kStan(ly) kSays – Orbital Plane – for Leighann
151. Revisiting The Land Before Time: Dino Trail – thethoughtskeeper
152. kStan(ly) kSays – sir john recites soliloquies
153. ….on pets and prisoners….. – daily prompt: discover
154. Dress to impress on New Year’s Eve – art of being fabulous
155. Friday Love Inspiration – eddaz
156. discover and remember – stories and other ideas
157. Discover – Jenni’s Nook
158. Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss – Some Things are better not discovered
159. Have You Discovered Your Heart? – Seeds of Greatness
160. Madeline Scribes – Discovering what’s good
161. Hot White Snow – Looking for Housing in Brussels
162. NeuroBead – My adventure through social media
163. Memories – Focal Breeze
164. Devil Doll Musings – Doomed
165. the FLAVORED word – I have been 1.8th of the way to the moon
166. Sacrificial Chain Breaker – DEPTHS
167. I-read – DISCOVER MY CHRISTMAS
168. Ups, Downs & Deviations – In My Dreams
169. sonja benskin mesher – . the courtyard .
170. Haiku Series #10 (daily prompt – discover – NOOKS&CRANNIES
171. My Life is a Blank Canvas – word therapy
172. Untamed Animal – Sinner’s Prayer ~ Fallen Saint
173. Discover – Wings Of Poetry
174. The Gad About Town – C.S.I.: North Pole
175. You’ll Find Him Near – Pete Gardner Psalms
176. Discover… – Emotions that matter.
177. MyWideAwake – Discover the beauty that shines within!
178. Discover – ciySonnet
179. Christopher! – Just Writing!
180. Was the infant Jesus a refugee? – HorseAddict
181. What does Christmas mean to you? – Vickie’s Corner
182. I wrote a book. Now what? – What a view I have!
183. Lost Property Repository – Merry F’n Christmas
184. Lantern Words – To Respond