The kettle’s on, the best china’s out, and I’m welcoming Amanda James to Romaniac HQ this morning. We’ve got a batch of scones fresh from the oven, and I’m sure Mandy, having travelled all the way from that there Cornwall, will tell us the proper way to eat them. Cream first or jam?
By eck’, Celia, I’m knackered! It takes longer to get up here than it does to fly to Lanzarote! Imagine that? Are you imagining it? You look kind of puzzled…is my hair a mess? No. Good. Sorry I do tend to ramble on a bit as you know. My goodness those scones look lovely. And the Cornish way to eat them is jam first…I must admit I like them cream first though. I expect that I will be banished to Devon now for admitting such a thing.
Blimey, let’s hope not. You’d miss all those pasties and stuff. Right, that’s the most important business of the day sorted, now for our writerly chat. Mandy, I’ve heard that you’ve been enjoying interviewing some of your latest characters from your new novel ‘Behind the Lie, to really get under their skin. Have you got any more of these up your sleeve that you could share with us?
As luck would have it, I have prepared a little piece for you. I thought I’d let you ‘see’ it rather than just tell you about it – so here’s a chat I had with Simon, the main character’s husband. Hopefully readers will be able to get to know him a little better before they read the book. If they do. Don’t want to assume…
Oh here he is at last. Fashionably late as always. I watch a tall dark-haired man weave through the crowd at the bar and then he turns his head in my direction. His grey eyes sweep my face as he makes for my table. I notice a few other eyes notice him as he walks, female eyes of course. Simon always gets noticed with his assured, confident manner, sharp suits and intelligent gaze. He undoes the middle button of his charcoal jacket and sits opposite, a wide smile lighting up his face. I smile too and lean back in my chair, but Simon laughs showing his flawless white teeth and takes my hand, kisses the back of it.
‘Darling, you always try to avoid my kisses. How are things?’ he asks.
‘Things are good, Simon. I was wondering if we could have a little chat so people can get to know you better?’
‘Of course! You know that talking about myself is one of my favourite things.’ He winks and strokes the stubble on his chin. There is a pause as he watches a pretty waitress sashay past. Then he turns his charm offensive back to me. ‘I’ve ordered champagne, sweetie, hope that’s okay?’
‘That’s lovely. Shall we make a start though while we’re waiting?’ A flash of irritation shows behind his eyes. I can tell that he expects me to be more impressed about the champagne. Simon always expects adoration and subservience. That’s half his trouble. ‘So are you happy with my portrayal of you in the story?’
He leans back mirroring me. ‘Yes and no. I think you might have been a little hard on me in some respects but you have managed to get over my good points. Good looks.’ I get the annoying wink again. ‘Intelligence, ambition and determination to succeed. You have shown my caring side too from time to time.’
The champagne arrives and he raises his glass. I copy him and say, ‘Okay, so where was I hard on you? Wasn’t I just telling it like it is?’ I sip my drink and watch him shift in his seat – a sure sign that he’s on the defensive.
‘Not really. Holly was always your favourite. I mean look how many words you give to her compared to me. You let her ramble on and on about how she feels and what she’s doing. I only get a few short chapters…hardly fair is it?’ Simon’s grey eyes become steel chips.
‘But then the main story is Holly’s, isn’t it? She’s convinced that your son is alive and we all want to find out if she’s right.’ I set the glass on the table annoyed that he’s managed to get me on the defensive now.
‘That’s the thing, Mandy.’ Simon leans forward, folds his arms on the table. I don’t like the way he draws me into those expressive eyes of his. It’s as if I’m a moth to his flame. ‘You never really allowed for my feelings. I lost a son too but my anguish and heartache was just brushed off in a few little throw away lines. Of course I am a successful private consultant and a very wealthy man, but success isn’t everything to me. I have a heart too. It was a shame that you neglected to let me prove that.’
There are lots of responses to this, but I fear I might give too much of the story away of I allow any to leave my lips. I look at my watch. ‘Well I’m sorry you feel that way, Simon. I tried to be honest…and I really must go now, thanks for the champagne.’
His neutral expression darkens in anger. ‘But we only just started…’ Simon stops his words and pours himself another glass. ‘No matter, I’m sure that there will be others willing to share this bottle with me. And thanks for creating me. Without you, I would just be a jumble of words waiting for structure.’ He tries a sunny smile but I can see a few clouds in it.
‘You’re welcome Simon.’ I stand and shrug on my coat. ‘And once I create a character they can never be destroyed. They will always live on in the readers’ head, whether they like it or not.’
Simon’s smile is cloudless now. ‘They will indeed. And I can’t see anyone not liking me, can you?’
‘You never know. There’s no accounting for taste, eh?’ I briefly touch his shoulder and hurry past. I’ll leave it up to you, dear reader to decide…
Wow! You were lucky to get out of that little chat unscathed, I reckon! But, still on the subject of book characters, I was wondering which ones from your childhood (or later) inspired you, and do you see yourself or your own creations in any of them?
I loved George (Georgina) from the Famous Five books. She hated being a girl, but I think she just hated what it meant to be a girl back in those days. As a kid in the 1960s I could identify with that. I wanted to be strong and confident like her. I believed girls were just as good as boys and should be able to do what they did. Do I see her in myself or my creations? Yes, I do like a strong female character. Myself – yes. I am a feminist and do my utmost to get those ideas of gender equality across in day-to-day interaction with, let’s say, perhaps less enlightened people?
Is it difficult to leave your characters at the end of a story? What is it about some of your own book characters that makes you want to want to bring them back in sequels?
It’s always hard to leave my characters as I have really got to know them well over a three to six-month period. It’s like saying goodbye to old friends. I have written only one sequel and that was Cross-Stitch. A Stitch in Time was very popular and people more or less demanded a sequel! I had left it open, so it was fairly easy to do. I might write the third and final one too. I have one chapter written…
Now some quick-fire questions. You’re at a great party with a brimming glass of bubbly in your hand. Would you rather chat to:
Gandalf or Legolas? Gandalf
Bilbo or Frodo? Bilbo
Maid Marion or Robin Hood? Maid Marion
King Arthur or Guinevere? King Arthur
Aslan or Lucy? Aslan
Worzel Gummage or Stig of the Dump? Stig! I loved that book.
The Cat in the Hat or Noddy? The Cat in the Hat
Well, you must be exhausted after all this socialising. Before you go, Mandy, could you tell us which book you’ve got your nose in at the moment and also what you’ve enjoyed reading lately?
I am totally exhausted and might need reviving with bubbly and more scones. Er…lemme think… Oh yes, I am reading Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney. It’s about a woman in a coma and very intriguing. And the one that I enjoyed lately was the brilliant and twisty The Silent Girls by Ann Troup.
And finally, what are you working on right now?
I have a few ideas on the go, all set here in Cornwall. I do have a quirky one called The Calico Cat that is hard to place in a set genre. Thank you for reading it by the way J I do adore it, mainly because I would love to be like the main character, Lottie. I might self-publish that later. I have never self-pubbed so it’s an exciting thought.
Thanks for dropping in, Mandy. I’ve packed the rest of the scones for your journey back. Try not to get crumbs on the train seats, okay? See you soon, and good luck with the new book!
Thank you, Celia! I have loved being here and why not come down for a visit? xxx
Well, I don’t mind if I do. #rushesofftopack
Author bio – Amanda James has written since she was a child, but never imagined that her words would be published. Then in 2010, after many twists and turns, the dream of becoming a writer came true.
Amanda has written many short stories and has six novels currently published. Her time travelling debut – A Stitch in Time was published in April of 2013 and has met with great success.
Amanda lives in Cornwall and is inspired every day by the beautiful coastline near her home. Three of her novels are set there, Somewhere Beyond the Sea, Summer in Tintagel and Behind the Lie – April 2017 pub – HQUK ( HarperCollins)
Amanda can usually be found playing on the beach with her family, or walking the cliff paths planning her next book.
Author links – Amanda’s blog – http://mandykjameswrites.blogspot.com/
Twitter – @akjames61
Book Blurb Holly West has turned her life around. She’s found a successful and loving husband in Simon and is expecting twins. She is definitely a woman who has taken back control of her future.
Until she gives birth, only for one twin to survive. Holly can’t let it go.
Holly’s world is in a tailspin and suddenly she can’t trust herself or anyone else. No one believes her, not her husband or her best friend. Because she thinks she knows the truth…her son is still alive and she won’t stop until she finds him.