My First Time...with Amanda Reynolds
Amanda Reynolds teaches Creative Writing in Cheltenham, where she lives with her family. Close To Me is her debut novel.
Here's the blurb for Close to Me...
When Jo Harding falls down the stairs at home, she wakes up in hospital with partial amnesia - she's lost a whole year of memories.
A lot can happen in a year. Was Jo having an affair? Lying to her family? Starting a new life?
She can't remember what she did - or what happened the night she fell.
But she's beginning to realise she might not be as good a wife and mother as she thought.
Describe the exact moment you decided to write your book.
I’d had the idea for a while, but it needed to percolate in my subconscious for a bit before I allowed it to fully develop. I’d written a few thousand words, mainly to get inside Jo’s head (the novel is written in first person from her perspective), then I wrote a synopsis and sent it to my agent, and she loved the idea.
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting to write it?
That I’d get to the end! I’m not a great planner, so it’s always a bit terrifying facing the blank page, but I now accept that is how I write. I produce a very rough first draft, to tell myself the story, then I go back and edit; a lot. I guess it would have been nice to know it would be published, but then again, that’s part of the excitement and the challenge.
What’s your go-to procrastination method?
Twitter! I’m addicted. Having said that, once I start writing I get so involved I forget everything else.
What was the biggest tantrum you had while writing your book?
It was probably over something stupid like a spilt glass of water, or the washing getting rained on. I don’t tend to have tantrums about my work, although there’s always some tech issue at the eleventh hour when I’m up against a deadline, a lost document, or sudden loss of WiFi.
Best thing about writing your book?
Literally everything! I know that sounds cheesy, but I love everything about writing: the writing itself, books, readers, other authors, events.
And the worst?
When I mess about and annoy myself by not writing. I don’t know why I sometimes self-sabotage, but I know I’m not alone in doing so. A wonderful writer friend of mine told me to consider it vital thinking time, which is a great way to look at it, and often true.
Go-to writing snacks?
Kids' sweets, anything sour – although I ration myself.
Who or what inspires you to write?
People. I love watching, listening, imagining the bits about their lives I don’t know. I’m the person in the café drinking coffee and making up a whole back-story from a snippet of overheard conversation.
The book that changed you?
So many! When I did A ‘Level English it was 1984, so naturally that was the set text, and it’s still pretty amazing. The Great Gatsby showed me that short can be very sweet, but it was Louise Doughty’s Apple Tree Yard that gave me permission to write a fifty-something female protagonist who may not be entirely good.
Your pump up song?
I prefer quite melancholy sad songs, a voice and a piano.
If you could share a bottle of wine with one writer, who would it be?
No idea, somebody nice who I could get along with. Most writers I’ve met are lovely, I can't think of any that weren't, but I imagine Hemingway might have been quite high maintenance.
One piece of advice you’d give first time writers hoping to get a book published?
Don't submit anything less than your best efforts. Writing is editing. And read, in and out of your genre. Sorry, that’s three things!