Friday, June 3, 2011

'On Writing' with Author Amanda Strong...

Upon reading Amanda Strong's debut novel, "With Just One Click," I began to see shades of myself in spades. She, too, is a self-published author, and she, too, has taken on social media with her recent writing. But more than that, her words are visually rich: she chooses a style that allows you to see every detail of the characters, down to the specifics of what they wear in each chapter or "scene." Naturally, this just made me want to know more about her process, so I set out to feature her as one of the first ever non-TV writers in my "On Writing" column.


Why self-publishing was for Strong:

"Timing. When I finished the book-- it took me a year to write the book, and I was really going to go the traditional route: send the book to literary agents and do it that way...[but] it was the topic of the book, I think, that really made me rethink the timing. During that time, Facebook was coming into the news more and more, and I didn't think there was really a book that fictionalized Facebook the way I did it. I was kind of nervous, and I took a risk, but I decided to do the self-publishing [through] lulu.com...I wanted to get the book out sooner than later."


Why social media, well, specifically Facebook, was fodder enough for "With Just One Click..."s focal point:

"I live in typical suburbia and probably, like, two or two and a half years ago I started hearing more about Facebook stories among my friends or acquaintances or friends of friends, and they all revolved around the relationships and different situations happening on Facebook. It was just Facebook in particular, and that's why I decided I would center the book around Facebook instead of Twitter or MySpace or anything like that. I kept on hearing all of these different stories, but they all kept coming back there!"


How she managed to keep the book's tone so optimistic, despite tough topics and a "Culture of Fear" news cycle surrounding Facebook in our world:

"I'm fascinated with these friendships and relationships; I think that's really the heart of Facebook, and that's why I chose to focus on that. It's kind of all around me, and it felt like there was so much of that. Even though there's stalking and bullying and all of that, I just wanted to focus on the women characters and more so that avenue...
I wanted to basically put out three different women's story lines and have you follow three different paths and for the reader to basically take away something from it, not actually give a statement of 'is Facebook good or bad?' I wanted people to relate to the story lines and come away talking about it."


How she reconciled similarities between her real life friends and the characters she created:


"Personally there a few instances of story lines in there...particularly Brynn's character, who, you know, kind of follows the same story line as one of my husband's best friend's wife, but it's not based on them, it's based more on the topic. The characters aren't them. Even with Morgan, there are a couple of little things with friending and de-friending that I've heard my friends say, but it's not based on anybody in particular. It's more really the universal stories that I kept on hearing about-- the infidelity or people having emotional affairs."




On getting attached to her characters:

"I would say that I probably related to Morgan in the sense that she is a stay-at-home mom, and she is looking for something else in her life. She has great kids, and she loves her husband, but that sort of woman I relate to. I probably related to her more than anybody, but I related to Chloe [too] because she has really great friends and close-knit relationships. And with Brynn, I sympathized with her."


On the process of writing three separate narrators, three separate stories, in one book:

"I wrote them how the book is, so I wrote Chloe, Morgan, Brynn, and then I wrote Chloe, Morgan, Brynn, and that's how I did it...When you're reading it, that's how I wrote it. And why I did that was because I felt if I was focused on one character and her entire journey, then I kind of left the other characters behind and then they wouldn't be fresh in my mind. The way my process was: I wanted to do it almost over a year, but I felt like every chapter, each one of them was progressing at a different level, and I wanted them to go along their journey together. I know that might sound strange, but I wanted them to kind of progress similarly and then come to their conclusions."


On letting the story develop organically as she wrote:

"I knew there was going to be a connection between the women, but I didn't really know what type of a connection [initially]...I decided probably half-way through. It just dawned on me...I wanted to show three separate lives and how they could be, and then when I decided, I went back in the early chapters and made sure I had things in there, little small clues, and then as I went on I adjusted accordingly."


Why it is important to be able to look past being one's own worst critic and actually read through the work even after it's done:

"I probably, up until a couple of weeks ago, I was reading through it a lot. I just felt like I wanted to be fresh with it...It was about six or seven months ago that I stopped writing it, so I think it's important to always kind of read some of the passages. I just did a local book reading, and I had to pick out some passages, and that was great because it kind of brought me back to the characters, and who they were, and what they stood for. I definitely do occasionally, probably every other day read through it a little bit."


Lessons learned from both the book and the self-publishing process:

"There's so much to do sometimes! When you decide to self-publish, you're the writer-- and I did have someone edit and do the cover-- but you know, you're choosing the cover. Everything that has to do with the book is your decision, so those decisions are sometimes a little difficult but they're great because ultimately they're your decisions and it's your book. It can get a little overwhelming with publicizing the book and the consistency. You always have to be out there, especially online; you have to really be on all these sites! I think that's the most daunting task."


Strong's future plans for "With Just One Click...":

"I could see it going on screen in some way, but right now it's all about the book and the promotion. I want to make sure I do the characters justice and do the best I can to know that I've done everything possible to get this book out there. Ultimately I would like to, as a self-published author, find a publisher and kind of go that route. But it's really all about promoting."


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