A big thank you going out to Amanda Lyons for a great interview. Learned some interesting things. 😉
I have read two of her books so far and have read a few of her stories in various anthologies. I will be reading more from this very talented writer.
Please enjoy the interview and check out her work, you will not be disappointed.
Let’s start with getting the formalities out of the way-
Tell me a little about yourself, age, location, family, etc.
I’m a genre nerd, totally love fantasy, horror, sci-fi, steampunk, all of it, also a big fan of gothy things. I’m 34, live in the middle of nowhere Ohio and live with my partner and our two kids Nikolai, who’s 9 going on 10 and Sasha, who is 2 going on 3. I’m also Lead Editor US and assignment editor at J Ellington Ashton Press.
What is something you’d like to share that most people don’t know about you?
Hmm, I’ll have to think on that a sec. Well, not many know that I am a domme, but then Todd is the only one that really needs to know, isn’t he? Lol. Terribly strange when you consider I’m anxiety girl, an introvert, and a geeky hippie girl too, but it’s true.
What books have you published and/or had your works featured in?
On my own I published Eyes Like Blue Fire and Water Like Crimson Sorrow which are the first two books of Shades of Midnight, a gothic vampire series in the style of authors like Poppy Z. Brite and Anne Rice. I also published Wendy Won’t Go, both on its own and in a special collector’s edition that also contains Mark Woods’ Time of Tides. Mark and I are also collaborators in Feral Hearts, a brutal vampire novel with Edward Cardillo, Jim Goforth, catt dahman and Michael Fisher. Anthologies wise I’ve edited Autumn Burning with Samatha Gregory and Inanna Rising on my own. I’m also in the anthologies Rejected for Content: Splattergore, Rejected for Content: Aberrant Menagerie, Chunks: A Barfzarro Anthology, and Undead Legacy with several more on the way.
What has been your favorite story or novel to write and what inspired you to write it?
I have little bits in everything that I like, but the one I like the most isn’t published just yet. It’s my magnum opus and catt recently heard how long it was and said it had to be released in chunks it was so big. Other Dangers is about an author who becomes the anti-hero of her world, it plays with all kinds of themes and genres, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, action, just a little of everything. It’s very apocalyptic, of course, evil cult zombies, dark magic, ghosts, ghouls, heroes, antiheroes, just tons of little scenes in it that I love and think back to with a sense of pleasure at having created them. I’m hoping to get that one done and maybe published before the end of the year. Part one, that is.
I have read your novels –Eyes Like Blue Fire and Water Like Crimson Sorrow, which were very good. What inspired you to write them?
That was my second novel, actually. I started in high school and then spent many, many years editing it and rewriting it. Those two books were originally one book and then were later split in two. I’m very happy you liked them, not everyone does because they are so middle genre, gothic, horror, and romantic elements all jumbled together. It all started with one page of writing, that opening piece where Katja is thinking to herself about life and love. I didn’t know where it had come from and what I would do with it. I didn’t know a lot about myself then. I think it was a combination of my reading a whole lot of vampire and gothic fiction at the time and struggling to get a handle on who I was and what I wanted in my life. Loneliness and a lot of time to think maybe? I loved the imagery, I learned a lot in the editing and rewriting of it, it taught me where I could go and how much work the tone was for that series. I really was trying to tell myself that you can’t live in the past, in those regrets and guilt, something I did for a very long time. I think I’ve gotten that one now.
You are an editor and writer at J. Ellington Ashton Press, how did that come about for you?
I was friends with Susan Simone and both of us had gone indie around April of 2013 then a friend of hers told her about this new press getting going and she talked to them, pulled her books and published then through them. They saw what she could do as an editor and asked if she would like to join them. It was about then that she started poking me, telling me I should give them a go too. I was nervous, there have been so many awful falling outs with other presses and I had taken a big risk with the indie market so I was afraid of trusting a press at that point. Anyone who knows me knows I am Anxiety Girl and deliberate over everything before I go anywhere with it, I have to feel secure in the decision. I’m sure I drove Susan bats, lol.
Anyway, I was in the midst of writing a short story collection at the time, one I’m hoping I might get together in the next year or so, and I had finished this story Wendy Won’t Go. I liked the way it turned out but I wanted to be sure it was good, so I asked Susan to read it. That was it, lol, she pretty much ordered me to please submit this story and I did. Boom! I was joining the press after it had been signed, meeting all kinds of new people and the other authors. It blew my mind, being an introvert, this was October of 2013. Then in December 2013 they lost a couple editors and they needed some new ones. They asked me to give the editor’s test a go and they liked what they saw with the results and I came on in January of 2014, been there over a year now and I wouldn’t change the decision, scared as I was to take those two leaps. Susan moved over to art and formatting and eventually I found myself heading the editing team we have, great people on our staff and all invested in giving our authors our best effort.
What has been your greatest accomplishment to date?
Not giving up on my writing, becoming the best editor I could be and taking more risks as an author through projects like Feral Hearts, we did that book in a very short span, maybe a couple months. I never would have had the guts to do that before I was published. I never would have thought to take on the job of an editor if I hadn’t been told I was good at it. I would have given up on the writing if I hadn’t ignored that voice that said I was terrible, listened when Todd told me I had to keep going. So growing my courage? Learning to trust in my ability?
Have you had any disappointments that just really got to you? If so, would you care to share what it was and why?
Eyes Like Blue Fire as an indie. I didn’t crash and burn really, I just didn’t sell like I had expected and there were so many reviews from people that wanted all out horror or PNR when they got something a lot of people had left behind in the 90s and they weren’t happy. Nothing crushes like a 2 star review that compared your book to Twilight, takes the emotional elements and overblows them into emo whininess, or otherwise totally misses what you were going for. By the time I pulled it from the indie market and subbed it to JEA I was ready to set fire to it, loving this thing and watching it get reemed, like it was by some of the reviews, was horrid. Turns out some of it was just knowing that it was two books pubbed as one, making it too big a nugget for some. In its current state it works far better and I hope that people will discover it now that it is. Book 3 should be out somewhere in the next couple months. The fans of ELBF should be looking out for it, it’s all new stuff and there is so much going on in it.
Who does the covers for your books and do you help in designing them?
We have 3 great artists on staff. Susan Simone, who did Wendy Won’t Go, Inanna Rising, and For Love of Leelah, is the head of our art department. David McGlumphy does so many of the antho covers for the ones I am in like Autumn Burning and Fearotica and many others. Michael Fisher does my Shades of Midnight covers and also did the Rejected for Content covers and Feral Hearts. All three of these guys are powerhouses of artistic talent and style, everything they do comes out looking great and they work so well with everyone when they’re designing things. We’re very fortunate at JEA and we do get to influence the covers we get, we explain a scene or a look we have in mind, maybe get an editor’s feedback on it all and we get to see most of those ideas realized, all a matter of how possible our impossible ideals are. Lol.
What author(s) inspired you the most to become a writer and at what age? What was it about them that inspired you? What would be your favorite book(s) by that author?
I have so many. Stephen King and Anne Rice are my literary parents with an extended family of aunts and uncles that include Tanith Lee, Poppy Z Brite, Caitlin R Kiernan, Clive Barker, Jaqueline Carey, Gary Braunbeck, Briane Keene, Nancy Baker, Nancy A. Collins, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Richard Laymon, Karl Edward Wagner, T.E.D. Klein, H. P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Jemiah Jefferson, Maryann Mitchell, Sarah Pinborough, etc. I read so much! I discovered most of them as a teen when I ate everything in sight, seeing some of them pass in recent years has been really hard, like losing a chunk of my younger self or as if they really were my relatives. Some favorites include It, Imagica, Drawing Blood, The Witching Hour, Queen of the Damned, Mr. Hands, The Secret Books of Paradys, everything Sonja Blue, The Night Inside, Silk Ceremonies, Harvest Home, American Gods, and so many more.
Are there any new authors that have become favorites of yours?
Susan Simone is great adventure/fantasy/romance- well anything she writes is great, her characters are real and strong their stories powerful. Sam Reese’s Immolation is another very powerful book, I love strong characters, ones that survive and grow despite the odds and they both do so much there. I hope they both keep writing for years to come. Want an author that can tackle fantasy, urban fantasy, noir, horror and is a great overall storyteller? Michael Kanuckel does all of that and nothing of his disappoints. In extreme horror you’ve got to go with Jim Goforth and Stuart Keane, those guys nail it and they know what they’re doing there. Want Doctor Who or high adventure like Simon R Greene? Tabitha Baumander is your author, you will eat her right up, grab a snack and just get sucked into things like Warriors and Castle Doom the woman knows her action and it touches on all the genres, fantasy, adventure, romance, just everything! Michael Carson is another one like that, Beauty is for Suckers is hilarious, moving, strong and fun, I’ll be happy when he gets book 2 out. Those are just the ones I think of off of the top of my head, there are tons of great discoveries every day.
You write mostly horror/thriller/fantasy books. What characteristic of that genre do you feel is most important when writing? Or the most fun for you to write?
The most important things to me are characterization, imagery, moving elements and that certain something that pulls the reader right into the story. I want you to feel invested in these books, these stories, I want you to care and I want you to remember little bits like memories in your own life, I want them to haunt you with their power. If I can do that everything else is icing. When you find that with my stuff, you should know that I have felt it in that moment too.
Would you ever consider writing in a different genre? If so, what would it be and why?
Actually I’ve been venturing into sci-fi a bit lately, new territory for me, but I like what I’ve been getting. I would not be at all surprised if I try other either. I write a story for itself and where it takes me, genre comes into secondary to that storytelling and character element. I let the story lead and I follow.
When writing, how much research goes into your work? What has been the most interesting thing you have had to research? What has been the most fun thing in your research?
It all depends on the book, some don’t need it, but others, like Wendy Won’t Go, need that extra little bit to make them strong. Did you know that the words Wendy speaks near the end of the story are real Algonquin, not just that but colonial era? I am glad I researched the English Channel for ELBF I had it as an overnight in the first draft, lol. The one I put the most research into hasn’t come out yet actually “Vast Oceans” is in Fearotica and takes place on one of the many earthlike planets in our universe, I had to dig deep to ground it in science as much as the surreal Lovecraftian weirdness. It’s erotic horror sci-fi and that story is actually the first chapter in a book. I knew that once I completed it. I really loved doing that research and I think it will pay off both with the story and later the novel. I love science so it was a great way to entertain both the science and story writing elements of interest. I also made a point of researching intersex people and the many ways that a person can be born differently for one of the characters in it. I was proud of Selena.
How do you come up with or what inspires you to come up with the ideas for your novels, novellas and short stories?
They come from anywhere and everywhere. Some are fears I have myself, some are dreams, and others are memories or bits that stick from something else I’ve read. Even just an image or song can inspire ideas. I’m always thinking of them and that came in handy this year with all of the anthos I subbed to, lol.
What are you currently working on and what else do you have planned for 2015?
Tons! I am editing several anthologies with John Ledger, Scott Pratt, Susan Simone, and Stuart Keane this year many of which I have stories in as well. Look out for Suburban Secrets, Drowning in Gore, Fata Arcana, Lost Gods and Forgotten Cities, Doorway to Death, For Love of Leelah, Fearotica, and so many more this year, many of them with stories from me. Cool Green Waters, the third Shades of Midnight book should be out before long now, Other Dangers Part 1: Slipped Through should be done this year or early next, Lycanthroship another collaborative book with Mark Woods, Jim Goforth, Edward Cardillo, Michael Fisher, and Pete Clarke, this time about werewolves, should be out by the end of this year, hopefully by October. I’m shooting to have Shades of Midnight book 4 Hollow Black Corners of the Soul out early next year. Also hoping to get that short story collection together and maybe Jodie as well for 2016.
On a more personal note –
What are some of your likes and dislikes in movies, books, food, drinks, activities, music, etc, or anything else you would like to let us know about you?
I’m not a fan of the vast majority of remakes, especially in horror, especially if they’re remakes of movies made in the last 20 years. I love B movies, especially the 70s, 80s, and 90s ones’
I love just about everything in books, just don’t like overly preachy books, homophobia, “wholesome” fiction, and non-fiction that reads too dryly. Also false history, terrible and damaging stuff.
You are currently engaged, how exciting, congrats, when is the big day?
Probably not until tax season next year, we’re hoping to afford it from out return. We’ve been together since fall of 2001 and engaged since November 8th in 2002, my birthday. Mostly money has been tough to come by and we don’t want to treat it like something to get over with. It’s a special day and we’ve been getting things as we go alone over the years. I already have the wedding dress, blue velvet.
Name a favorite and least favorite memory from your childhood and from your adult life.
Favorite childhood memory would be going and gathering books at the library, I was always checking out so many on dad’s card they had to check it wasn’t over the 99 item limit, have been a bookworm since I was small.
Least favorite would be 13th birthday party, I’ll leave it at I tried very hard for everyone to be happy but it blew up in my face.
Favorite adult memory would be that silly day Todd and I got around to admitting we were interested in each other. We were living together and friends at the time. It grew into more over time and we were absolute dorks about it all. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Least favorite would be losing Aurora at 18 weeks. It was a painful time and I wish I had known more at the time. We have Sasha now and in many ways it’s like she’s Aurora giving it another go with us.
If you could change anything about your life, past or present, or both, what would it be, if anything?
I wish I didn’t have the Hoshimoto’s, it could have helped me with a lot of things in my life if I didn’t.
What is the best thing a fan has said to you? The most funny thing? The worst thing?
Mostly reviews where the reader really got the book or story and made note of it.
I don’t have a whole lot out just yet so I’m, just getting started on these.
Funniest was: a really, really nasty bit of business that answers the question, “When a previously sexy dead woman feels a certain need in her worm-infested body, what is she to do?” Its yuck, but it’s creative.
Worst: Would I recommend this to others? Yes, especially to the fans of The Twilight series and Vampire Diaries lovers, it is right up their street. If you are looking for something vampiric along the lines of Anne Rice, I would steer clear, this is not for you. I would actually classify this as a nice little book for YA readers. *headdesk*
Where can fans find and contact you on the web? Blogs, websites, etc.
J. Ellington Ashton Press: www.jellingtonashton.com