Christine Amsden has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.
At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, which scars the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams. Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success.
Kaitlin Mayer is on the run from the father of her baby – a vampire who wants her to join him in deadly eternity. Terrified for her young son, she seeks sanctuary from the hunters guild. But they have their own plans for her son, and her hopes of safety are soon shattered.
When she runs into Matthew Blair, an old nemesis with an agenda of his own, she dares to hope for a new escape. But Matthew is a telepath, and Kaitlin’s past is full of dark secrets she never intended to reveal.
My earliest writing memory goes back to age 8 or 9, when my mom found an old manual typewriter in the basement and I used it to tap out a short story about Cabbage Patch Dolls going to Mars.
I spent my teenage years writing, but wasn’t professionally published until 2006, when Twilight Times Books took a chance on Touch of Fate. Since then, I’ve placed 7 more novels with Twilight Times, one science fiction, the rest fantasy. I’m proud of my entire catalog, though I also believe that each book has been an improvement over the one before. My favorite book is usually the one coming out next!
When did you decide you wanted to become an author?
I’ve always wanted to be an author. I spent most of my childhood and six years of college trying to decide what my “real” job would be in the meantime, but I can’t remember ever not wanting to write.
Do you have another job besides writing?
I am also a freelance developmental editor and writing coach and have been for going on four years now. I love it! I particularly love looking at raw drafts and helping others identify and draw out the beautiful story within.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?
Oh yes! My earliest reading memory goes back to before I could read, when I used to make up stories about the pictures in my picture books. But I also read – science fiction and fantasy were big, but I also enjoyed mystery and romance. And go figure … I include most of those genres in my books today!
Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.
When I first met Kaitlin, Cassie’s best friend, in Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective, she came with a theme song: “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.” She slept with Jason in that very first book, a one-night stand that resulted in her son, Jay. But it might surprise fans of the series to know that I never, not even for a split second, considered a real romance between Kaitlin and Jason. Not because there’s anything wrong with Jason – he’s my tragic hero. But they’re not right for one another. They never were.
To tell you the truth, Kaitlin wasn’t supposed to get her own book. She was a secondary character in the Cassie Scot series who I originally thought would have a minor, mostly behind-the-scenes romance alongside Cassie. But Kaitlin, much like Madison (from Madison’s Song), became too big for a footnote in someone else’s book. She demanded her own story.
When your characters start ordering you around, you have no choice but to listen. And really, it was a relief, because I honestly had no idea who would be right for Kaitlin. I love her, but she’s – well, let’s face it, she’s a bit self-destructive. Case in point: a one-night stand with a vampire hunter she knew would be leaving town the next day and who she would likely never see again. And that was hardly her worst relationship. She’s been used and abused, and has convinced herself that in the world of romance, she the woman who “knows the score,” the one the hero discards in favor of the real heroine.
Still, a girl can dream. Kaitlin wants a fairy tale, and I wanted that for her too.
So why Matthew Blair, of all people? Fans of the series will recognize that name from Mind Games, when he tried to manipulate Cassie into marrying him. He was the villain of the piece. But he was never evil in the classic two-dimensional sense. And in fact, the more three-dimensional I made him, the more I realized that for the right woman, he could be exactly what she needs.
Kaitlin is a loyal, kind-hearted, damaged woman with a buried past. Who better to help her heal than a telepath? Who else would even get to know the real her?
As you can see, Kaitlin’s Tale was not the inspiration of a moment. The story developed in the back of my mind over at least 5 years while I wrote the rest of the Cassie Scot series.
How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?
I would describe it as slow. I do outline, and I do brainstorm, but I still go through many drafts as I try to get the voices right.
What was your goal when writing this book?
To tell a great story. To get Kaitlin her happily ever after. And if you need a theme, then consider that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and that to love, you must first love yourself.
Who is your target audience?
Fantasy and romans fans ages 18+. (I’d let a high schooler read it too, but they’re not my target audience and parents should use their own guidance.)
What will the reader learn after reading your book?
I want them to learn that keeping certain secrets is toxic. Kaitlin was afraid that a telepath would learn her secrets – but that’s exactly what she needed in order to begin healing. Alas, the real world doesn’t come with handy telepaths, so I hope that readers struggling with similar issues will tell someone they trust.
Do you get along with your muse? What do you do to placate her when she refuses to inspire you?
I’m too anxious for my muse at times. She’s always telling me to chill because she can’t hear herself think and I’m going, “Must have idea. Need idea. Look over there! Look over there!” At least, this has been the past six months of my life. My muse needs me to chill out and give her time; she keeps reminding me that this is exactly how I came up with the Cassie Scot series. I stopped writing for almost four months, part of me wondering if this was it, if I was ready to quit, and then POOF! The trouble I’m having now is that I’ve got 8 books out there and have more external pressure to write the next one. I need to find a way to work around that, and I’ll let you know what I figure out. 🙂
From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?
Five years! But this isn’t a good example of how long it takes me to write a book. I was writing other books in the meantime. (The Cassie Scot Series.) It has taken me, on average, 1 year per book – which is a much better guide to my writing speed.
Describe your working environment.
Cluttered. Full of other people’s stuff.
BUT … I’m going to get my own office! We’re doing a basement remodel soon and I’m going to get my own space. Since I’m so excited about it and pretty disgusted with my current workspace, let me tell you what I’m thinking: Dungeon. Or Cave.
Oh, and there’s going to be a secret door to the laboratory (aka storage room) hidden behind a shelf.
I’m still working on the details. Had a designer come in to “help” me the other day and she ended up with a plan involving bright white and pink in a very modern design so the space wouldn’t feel so small and so much like a basement. It just didn’t fit with “hidden door to the laboratory.”
So now I’m thinking, “embrace the basement.” I got started writing in a basement with a window not much bigger than I’m going to have. I spent my teenage years at a computer below the rectangle window, staring at the dim light that managed to penetrate through the curtains. The basement was brown and … well, brown. And I liked it.
You ever notice how some cats are climbers and some are cave dwellers? I guess I’m a cave dweller. Because the more people who tell me I should want a bigger space or a lot of sunlight, the more I feel like pointing to my current large window and saying, “I never open the drapes on that!”
I don’t entertain clients in my office. And I plan to get rid of all the kids’ stuff. (There will be money spent on pricey but ingenious storage solutions.) All I want is my own place, hidden away from the rest of the world, where I can be me.
When I finish, I’ll have to post pics!
What types of scenes give you the most trouble to write?
Sex scenes. Let’s just be honest: It’s intimidating. I mean, my mom reads this stuff!
And okay, let’s be more honest: My mom isn’t the problem. It’s that everyone out there has an opinion about what makes a “good” sex scene and everyone out there has their own opinion about whether those scenes are even appropriate and if they are, how explicit they should be. And it comes from both sides … “Close the door! We don’t need to see that.” “Boring. Couldn’t you heat this up a little?” And all these voices are in my head as I try to figure out what *I* want and what my *characters* want.
I try to listen to my characters more than the other voices. I think I even managed it in Kaitlin’s Tale, which does not contain a full sex scene. It only contains a partial (details in the book), and that’s as far as the characters told me they needed to go before the book was over. It’s unconventional, I know, but it was the most honest scene I could write for reasons that I hope will become apparent as you read.
Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along?
No. And no! I neither write nonstop nor do I edit as I go along. I write until I hit a brick wall, then I go back and figure out why there’s a brick wall in the way, then I rewrite. By the time I have a full draft I’ve bubbled through it half a dozen times.
They say authors have immensely fragile egos… How would you handle negative criticism or a negative review?
I try not to read it. But of course, sometimes it happens. I see it. It’s out there. And I admit, when I do see it I have to take some time comforting my muse. I might read positive reviews, or meditate on the truth that not everyone will love my book, but I love it, and many readers love it.
As a writer, what scares you the most?
Release day. I can’t concentrate for a week or two before release day, and for a week or two after. Basically, I’m useless for a month around that day and my fingernails are so short they’re bleeding.
When writing, what themes do you feel passionate about?
Forgiveness – it’s something you do for yourself, not other people.
Love – especially self-love and the need to love yourself before you can truly love someone else. Also, I feel strongly that love is a verb – it’s not something you feel, it’s something you do.
Don’t judge a book by its cover.
People can change.
Are you a disciplined writer?
No. I try, but I am an easily distracted writer and I tend to write best when I have all my structured tasks out of the way first. So, for example, I need to finish this interview before I write again.
How do you divide your time between taking care of a home and children, and writing? Do you plan your writing sessions in advance?
My kids are school age now, so that helps. I still have a lot to do during the day including freelance editing, taking care of the house, taking care of myself (exercise and yoga), etc., but there’s usually time to write.
When it comes to writing, are you an early bird, or a night owl?
Early, but not *too* early.
Do you have an agent? How was your experience in searching for one?
Nope. An agent isn’t really needed for small press.
What is your opinion about critique groups? What words of advice would you offer a novice writer who is joining one? Do you think the wrong critique group can ‘crush’ a fledgling writer?
Critique groups are critical steps in the writing journey. It is unfortunate that the wrong words at the wrong time can hurt a person’s muse, but if you’re serious about being a writer, you need a writing group! If they hurt your muse, you need to find the strength to decide if you need a new group or you need to listen to what they’re saying.
As a freelance editor, I work with a lot of very raw authors who I know would be better off in a critique group (at least financially). The things I do offer them that is hit and miss from a critique group are expertise and compassion. In other words, I know how to get to the heart of what’s not working in a story and I can tell it to you in a way that is both honest and supportive. I just can’t do it for free!
I learned to write in critique groups. I got “Don’t quit your day job” and “This story is fundamentally bad.” I got people arguing that honest, harsh criticism was good and that authors should learn to shut up and take it. I also met some of my best friends in the world and have networked with many authors.
I guess life isn’t risk-free.
Technically speaking, what do you have to struggle the most when writing? How do you tackle it?
Affect/effect. I swear I have to look those words up every time I have to use them (and when I see them during a technical edit).
How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?
I’ve been with a small press from the start and at times it feels like the best of both worlds. At other times, the worst.
On the upside I am traditionally published, my book is available in print and ebook through the major distributors, I have been reviewed by reputable sources, and my publisher takes care of the printing and packaging process. Unlike with big presses, I get a lot of personal attention and I get to keep a much bigger percentage of my royalties. I also have ebooks available at a reasonable price (something major booksellers are still not willing/able to do). Plus, my old titles are still in print. (Big presses sometimes give you a few months then stop printing/distributing your titles even though the rights haven’t reverted back to you.)
On the downside, I don’t always fit neatly into either “traditional” or “indie” categories. When it comes to marketing, though, I usually look at indie advice because I put in that kind of work. Getting books in stores is something I have to do door to door, and some doors are closed to me.
My advice: Do your research. Especially when working with publishing companies. Write to their authors, asking about their experience. (I’ve had people considering Twilight Times Books write me before and I’m always perfectly frank with them.)
What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you?
Virtual book tours.
What is(are) your favorite book/author(s)? Why?
I like so many authors from so many different genres – I get bored with the same thing all the time. I like Linda Howard and Jim Butcher and Orson Scott Card and Heinlein and Karen Marie Moning and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. With the exception of Heinlein, the thing these authors have in common is that they write great characters. Heinlein … well, he’s Heinlein. You love him or hate him. Or both at the same time.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Own it. Whatever your story is about, whatever choices you’ve made, own it. Don’t start apologizing or backpedaling.
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?
Of course! Visit me at http://www.christineamsden.com I’ve got links to book info, a blog, information about my editing services, and an e-mail address. You can write me directly.
Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
Not right now. My muse is begging for a break and I need to give it to her. I’ve been playing with four different ideas since I finished Kaitlin’s Tale. (Well, maybe 5 or 6 … or wait, I’ve also considered some nonfiction so 7-10.) The long and short of it is that I need time to regroup. I could force myself to put out another book next year, but I don’t think I’ll like it (which means you won’t either). Odds are it’ll be the year after next, and if you’re patient with me and my muse I we’ll all love the results.
As an author, what is your greatest reward?
“I loved your book!”
Anything else you’d like to say about yourself or your work?
I think we covered almost everything! Thanks for having me here.