One of the best parts of becoming a published author is running in a pack with brilliant people. Some are cranky, some are charming, but all of the authors in my agency can really write. Amanda Stevens is one of my co-conspirators at the Blythe Daniel Agency. I’ll review her book “SEEK AND HIDE” and share the interview I did with her below the fold. In the meantime, here’s her photo and the book cover to peruse. I love them both (her photo and that of the book cover.) She’s the real deal and very talented. I’m not saying that just because we share an agent. One rule you will find observed on this blog is that no reviews will be done under four stars. I will not shill based on association. That way you can trust my judgement and either like what I do or have it serve as a warning!
The Review of SEEK AND HIDE:
Let’s start with Amanda’s own book blurb:
Six years ago, the government took control of the church. Only re-translated Bibles are legal, and a specialized agency called the Constabulary enforces this and other regulations. Marcus Brenner, a new Christian, will do anything to protect his church family from imprisonment-including risk his own freedom to gain the trust of a government agent.
Aubrey Weston recanted her faith when the Constabulary threatened her baby. Now released, she just wants to provide for her son and avoid government notice. But she’s targeted again, and this time, her baby is taken into custody. If only she’d never denied Him, maybe God would hear her pleas for help.
When Aubrey and Marcus’s lives collide, they are forced to confront the lies they believe about themselves. And God is about to grab hold of Marcus’s life in a way he’d never expect, turning a loner into a leader.
Now for the review I did for Amazon.com:
Debut authors either amaze or enrage me when the cover art is this good. There’s an implicit promise of something great when the cover grabs you as strongly as did HIDE AND SEEK. I was not disappointed.
Amanda Stevens is a gifted writer who can spin a scene, or a sentence, in such a delightful manner as to have you reading parts of it out loud to savor the brilliance on your tongue. I won’t give you my favorite lines because that would take the impact away when you read this book. And, frankly, read it you must.
It’s some of the best Christian fiction I’ve read in a while. Better than that, it’s just darned good speculative fiction. I’m not sure that it qualifies as dystopian for some people, but it felt that way for me. Amanda has captured a world where people of faith are on the run. I kept looking over my shoulder while reading this work. More importantly, I was trying to warn the characters of what I was seeing. That is the mark of a great writer: total engagement.
I look forward to her next book in the Haven Seeker series.
** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
I think that covers it pretty well. I really liked the book, I will buy the next one as well.
On to the interview!
You don’t have a dog. But if you did, why would you name it Beacon?
Only a few days after I got the dog, before I’d settled on a name, I was lost on my own street (this part takes very little imagination), and the dog was out in the yard (if I’m going to have a dog, I’d better have a yard, too). He heard my car from a distance, jumped the fence, and led me home.
You write speculative fiction at this point in your career. Have you considered another genre? If so, what would it be?
Hm, I really haven’t considered anything else. I don’t have dozens of story concepts in my head waiting for their turn, the way some authors do. I do have a few, of course, and each of them includes speculative elements. For some reason, whenever I create story, I mess with reality. Never drastically, though. The world of Haven Seekers is our world with a few twists, and my other speculative ideas are the same way. I don’t expect ever to write an epic fantasy or a space opera. I guess if I had to write something non-spec, I might try a mystery, something noir-ish, because I like to read those. My last choice would be historical. I’d spend the entire process terrified of making a factual error.
Like a lot of kids who grow up to be authors, you’ve “left the pack.” What’s the best part of having voices in your head?
You ask hard questions. 🙂 I don’t know how not to be a writer, and for some reason that makes it harder to identify a “best” part. I’ve been creating characters (and their voices) since first grade. Fiction’s just part of my identity. I guess the best parts are the finished product itself (after editing), and the moments I know I captured “it,” that scene in my head with its raw guts. Sometimes things just show up on the page and they’re right. The realism is there, the heart is there, the words are there. Few things are more rewarding than a scene working for me like that.
The characters in your books are unique personalities. Where do you draw these writing skills from? How can readers who yearn to write pick up this ability to create people out of thin air?
To create unique, realistic characters, I think you have to listen to people around you. Dialogue voice is one of the most important things about writing individual characters. Train yourself not to hear voices but to see them. What does actual speech look like on the page? After you know that, you can mold it into fictional speech. And the other thing is something I learned from an interview in my copy of The Outsiders. S. E. Hinton said she always knew what her characters liked to eat for breakfast. This really stuck with me, and after a while, I figured out it’s not broad personality types that make us care. It’s characters written with such intimate detail, we know them the way we know real people.
So yeah, if you’re asking for craft advice, there it is, half of it from S.E. Hinton. Learn to see voices, and know what your characters like to eat for breakfast.
Being from Detroit, is there a dystopian influence on your writing? Or do you draw hope from the possibility that your city is coming back?
Well, technically, I’m from Metro-Detroit. I grew up on a farm (not a working farm, but we had home-grown produce, eggs from the henhouse, and a huge variety of animals), so I was far removed from anything resembling urban life. When I got my own place, I had to get used to the fact I could drive to a Meijer, a Kroger, over a dozen restaurants—in less than half an hour. So no, I can’t say Detroit has influenced me as a writer. It’s part of my geographical identity, but that’s all I’m conscious of.
How do you balance a full-time “day” job with your writing? Will that change, and will writing become the full-time job?
I don’t expect to be a full-time novelist ever (just trying to be realistic here; it doesn’t happen for many people), and I’m okay with that. At this time in my life, balancing the day job and the “other job” means I don’t sleep enough. When I’m on a deadline, I also don’t socialize enough. But I’m not complaining. I’ve wanted to be a published author for most of my life, and now it’s happening. God is good to me.
Go visit Amanda’s website at this link: Amanda G. Stevens Books
Have a great day!