Happy Monday! I hope you all had a great weekend. As promised, today we meeting American fantasy author Amy Beatty, creator of the incredible Vanir Dragon series.
PB: So, Amy, welcome to pjbermanbooks.com. Tell us a bit about your background.
AB: I grew up in Yellowstone National Park in the western United States. As a child, I walked to school through the herds of elk and bison that wintered in our little valley. During the summer breaks, my friends and I caught snakes down by the creek and built forts out in the sagebrush. Moving to Georgia in the Southern U.S. to pursue my degree in illustration felt a lot like moving to an alien planet, but I grew to love the ocean and the old oak trees with their curtains of Spanish moss. My art had to take a back seat when it became apparent that our oldest child needed a high level of care, and I learned a lot about life and people through my unexpected career in special-needs parenting. I’m excited to be venturing out again into the world of creatives, this time as a novelist. I now live in the mountains of Utah with my husband and our two “unconventional” children, under the benevolent dictatorship of a toy fox terrier who likes to hide my favorite sweater under the couch.
PB: What made you decide to become an author?
AB: The week after Christmas of 2012 I unexpectedly suffered a stroke in which a blood clot blocked off all circulation in the right side of my brain, and the resulting pressure buildup blew a hole in my brain right between visual processing and spatial reasoning. I’m extremely fortunate to have been left with only minor lingering effects, but I started the new year of 2013 with some new challenges.
While the doctors worked to figure out what would cause an otherwise healthy 41-year-old woman to have a stroke, I worked to figure out what shape my life would take as a result. There had been several other difficult events in our family that year, and I found myself spending far too much time in a rather dark place. I needed something new in my life that wasn’t tragic, and that I could look forward to.
So, I decided it was time to choose one thing from my long list of Things I’ve Always Wanted to Do and actually give it a go—but it needed to be something inexpensive that I could do on my own schedule and that didn’t require very much in the way of visual-spatial processing (which is still a little iffy at times). Writing fit the bill. I’ve always loved stories and had been toying with the idea of writing a novel “someday” for quite a while. It was something I could do sitting down, and my fingers still remember where the letters live on a keyboard, even if my paintbrush gets a little confused. So, I decided to jump in and give it a try—after all, if it turned out to be a disaster, there was no reason I had to ever show it to anybody else.
That first novel helped me find an agent, and was published last November (after much learning, restructuring, and revision) as Dancing with the Viper, the first book in my Viper Series. While that book was looking for a home with a publisher, I wrote another book, Dragon Ascending, which was published last October. Becoming an author has been quite an interesting journey, and I find myself oddly grateful that my stroke forced me to take a step back from my life and choose a new adventure.
PB: When did you first start writing? What was the first story that you can remember writing?
AB: I grew up surrounded by stories. My mother read to us and sometimes made up stories of her own. My friends and I built little houses in our sandbox for the snakes or bugs we caught to live in and made up dramatic stories about life in our little villages. Lying in bed at night, waiting to go to sleep, I made up stories. My father used to bring home used photocopy paper from his office so my siblings and I could use the blank backs of the paper for drawing or writing. Some of my earliest memories involve lying on my belly in the middle of the living room with a stack of paper and a box of crayons, surrounded by a sea of drawings that told the stories in my head. When I started school and learned to write, I began adding captions to the pictures, and those grew into stories. I don’t think I could pin down any particular story I remember as my first. I dabbled a little over the years, mostly for my own amusement, though I took a short story class in college and one on poetry later. My first serious attempt at a novel was Dancing with the Viper.
PB: Tell us about your upcoming work.
AB: I have a short story called Out of the Fire coming out in October as part of a fairy tale anthology, Of Fae and Fate through Immortal Works press. The story is set in the same universe as Dragon Ascending but takes place in the distant past before the Breaking, in the times when the fae still walked the lands.
I’m also hard at work on the second book of the Vanir Dragon Series, which has been giving me more trouble than I expected. (Dragons are wily creatures.) No publication date has been set yet.
PB: What inspires you?
AB: Inspiration comes in so many forms, from so many places. Books I’ve read, people I’ve met, current events, the currents of history, oddities of wordplay, my son’s intense interest in small crawly things and random trivia, my daughter’s questions that bubble up from her unconventional outlook on life. Inspiration isn’t hard to find. I think the real trick is learning to be quiet in your own head and listen to the world around you.
PB: Of all your achievements, which are you most proud of?
AB: My children. They’re on the brink of venturing out on their own life’s journeys, and they’re both good people with caring hearts and a healthy dose of good sense. So far, I don’t think I’ve messed them up too badly, and I think any parent will agree that’s quite an achievement.
PB: What is your favourite book series to read and why?
AB: Oh, please don’t make me choose! I like so many series in different ways and for different reasons. I’m especially drawn in by compelling characters and a plot that makes me think. But sometimes I really enjoy a frivolous romp that makes me laugh.
PB: What are your long term ambitions career-wise?
AB: I still feel so new at this, I’m not sure I’ve had time to develop anything so grand as ambitions. I intend to have fun making up more stories and writing down as many of them as I can. Practice should improve my skills, and I anticipate that as my children become more independent, I’ll have more time to play. Hopefully my stories will find their way into the hands of many readers who’ll want to play along—adventures are more fun with friends. But at the moment, I’m taking it as it comes and trying to climb the learning curves fast enough to keep up.
PB: If you weren’t an author, what career would you be in?
AB: Probably something creative. My post-secondary training is in illustration, and I’ve played with textile arts enough to have had several quilt projects accepted to juried shows at a local art museum. But I’ve always thought it would be interesting to delve into anthropology or psychology.
PB: Mudge is a wonderful character, with some great lines. Where did the idea for Mudge come from?
AB: Mudge is a delight to write and a difficult character to talk about. I think in modern culture we tend to be a little too fast to categorize people and then view them as faceless representatives of the category we assign to them rather than seeing them as people, as unique, individual selves. Dragon Ascending dances on the border between epic fantasy and fairy tale, both of which are genres that tend to include heavily stereotyped archetypical characters—the warrior, the rogue, the king, the damsel in distress. And the background characters are perhaps even more stereotyped—the innkeeper, the guard, the buxom tavern wench. All of them can be easily rolled up on a stat sheet or ordered in from central casting. With Mudge, I wanted to pull a heavily stereotyped secondary character out of the background and help readers challenge their own category-based assumptions. I wanted to encourage readers to wonder what lies behind the stereotyped categories they’ve assigned to people in their own real lives as well—especially those they might regard in some way as undesirable. And I feel like I succeeded. Whatever one expects from a dungeon keeper, it’s not likely to be Mudge.
PB: Did you know the ending of the book when you started writing it?
AB: Yes. I’m still working out my process as an author, but knowing the ending seems to help keep me on a cohesive track with the story. I can explain how on earth we got to where we are from where we started, rather than groping about in the dark hoping I might catch a story by the tail. With that said, though, I definitely stumbled across some surprises along the way.
PB: If you could meet a character from your work, who would you choose to meet, and what would you say to them?
AB: I feel as if I’ve already met them. It’s hard to write people until you’ve sat with them a while inside your head and learned what it’s like to be them. I find it best to mostly listen, as I rarely learn much by talking. The same is true of non-imaginary people, I find.
PB: What’s the next target for you?
AB: Finishing the sequel to Dragon Ascending. I can’t even believe how many people want to know what happens next! It’s exciting and at the same time just a little bit intimidating.
PB: Tell us a random fact about yourself.
AB: I once went canoeing in the Okefenokee Swamp with alligators in the water, just out of reach of the paddles. Not what I expected from a class called “Landscape Painting.”
Definitely unexpected! Thank you Amy for taking the time to talk to us here at pjbermanbooks.com. Don't forget, you can find out more about Amy and her work via the below links:
Thank you all for reading!
Until next week, all the best!