I have great pleasure in welcoming Amanda Prowse to Jera’s Jamboree today.
Amanda has always obsessively crafted short stories and scribbled notes for potential books and started writing full time five years ago. Her first novel ‘Poppy Day’ was published in October 2011 and following appearances on SKY News, ITV and BBC reached No.1 in the Amazon ‘Movers and Shakers’ chart along with numerous other Top 10 rankings on Amazon, in Supermarket Charts and Amazon rankings.
After signing with prestigious publisher Head of Zeus, the novel ‘Poppy Day’ was given a professional makeover and re-released in October 2012 achieving another amazing wave of publicity and interest in Amanda’s work. Amanda’s eagerly awaited second novel in the ‘No Greater Love’ series entitled ‘What Have I Done?’ was released on the 1st February 2013 and was soon catapulted into the Amazon paid Kindle chart at No.3 across all genres, with rave reviews from readers who praised her ability to tackle a sensitive topic in an uplifting and sympathetic manner.
All of Amanda’s books in the ‘No Greater Love’ series share a common theme in that they are contemporary love stories, the main characters being ordinary women who find themselves in extraordinary situations. The covers for the series are works of art in their own right by the award winning designer Ami Smithson of Cabin London.
Amanda is married and divides her time between working in London and home in the West Country.
Please summarise What Have I Done? in 20 words or less.
Uplifting story of a woman’s struggle to rebuild her life after killing her controlling husband following years of domestic abuse.
Your book tackles a social barrier, how have you incorporated it into the story?
The heroine Kathryn Brooker is married to an award winning headmaster of a posh public school and it appears that she has an idyllic life but behind closed doors, Kathryn is married to a controlling monster who sets her tasks to do every day and awards punishments to her every evening depending on what she has done ‘wrong’. The book lifts the lid on controlling relationships in middle class families and is designed to encourage debate on the uncomfortable and stigmatised topic.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
I wanted to explode the myth that battered wives only exist in certain socio-economic groups. Having found friends in my immediate circle who had experienced abuse, I realised it was more common than we like to think. By encouraging discussion and debate about this sensitive issue I hope it helps educate both victims and perpetrators that it is not to be tolerated.
Did you do any research for your book? What resources did you use?
I had to carry out extensive research into domestic violence, psychological abuse and controlling relationships for ‘What Have I Done?’ otherwise the story would not have been credible. Initially I thought that we would have to conduct a campaign requesting volunteers to come forward but that didn’t turn out to be necessary. What surprised me the most was how easy it was to find women literally on my doorstep who had experienced all kinds of abuse and were willing to talk about it openly. Everyone that I spoke to about the book knew a colleague, friend or relative who had been affected by these issues and I found without exception that everyone who confided in me during my research were brave and inspiring women.
What Have I Done? is a story in a series. Please could you tell us more?
‘What Have I Done? is the second book in the ‘No Greater Love’ series of which there will be at least six novels and possibly more. The key point of the collection is that each book explores a different kind of love, such as that of a wife for her husband or a mother for her children. Each of the books has a main character and smaller characters in one book feature in other titles so observant readers will notice how the lives of other characters have progressed. Even better, each book is a standalone story in its own right, so you don’t have to have read one before you move to the next and you can read them in any order.
Do you have a theme for your book covers? Who designs them?
The theme for the ‘No Greater Love’ series is a single girl, the heroine, against a landscape that is significant in each book. I’m very lucky to have my covers done by Ami Smithson of Cabin London, who is an award winning designer and the covers are a work of art in their own right. I know that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but it is difficult not to when they are so appealing. One lady who saw the cover on the hardback of ‘What Have I Done?’ said that it encapsulated the entire book in a single snapshot.
What inspired you to write?
I have always obsessively crafted short stories and made copious amounts of notes about potential characters but never showed them to anyone as I didn’t think they would be good enough for anyone else to read. One day my husband asked to have a look at my first ever book and then another and said that he honestly thought that they were great! He encouraged me to give up my job as a management consultant and write full time, which was a real struggle as I was the major breadwinner at the time. We sold our house to meet the bills that we accrued while I was writing then exhausted our meagre savings and ran our overdraft up to its limit before I was signed by an agent after four years of really hard struggle. If it had taken even a few weeks longer, I would have had to abandon my dream of writing and go back to the office job so I was extremely grateful to get my big break.
You have self-published a novel Amanda, are there any tips you could share with new writers that have worked well for you or was there something difficult you overcame?
The first edition of ‘Poppy Day’ was self published and once written, the most difficult thing to overcome was how to get the book to market, specifically to the demographic who are most likely to be interested in it. My top tip is to engage with established groups and introduce them to your work by going along and talking to them about the subject matter you have covered. If they take a copy and like it, they will spread the word for you. It is a long slow burn and takes a lot of effort but if you have no marketing budget then it’s the road you have to take.
Do you have a most creative time of day?
I constantly have ideas pinging into my head and often wake up with something else to weave in and have to start getting it down. Yesterday I got up at 6am and wrote continuously for 14 hours in my PJs. I never miss an opportunity to write, whether it is waiting to pick my boys up from school, travelling on a train or anywhere really, because you never know when you will have another good idea!
Do you have a favourite place you go to for inspiration or a favourite activity?
Like most authors, I’m an avid people watcher and I do like observing those around me. My best mate and I have a favourite coffee shop and I see all sorts in there. It’s not enough just to watch them though; I have to concoct background stories for them all.
Are you a panster or a plotter?
I had to Google panster. Neither, I’m very fortunate in that the entire plot comes to me in a few minutes with every twist and turn. I know where I am going with it and now never make notes or a plot.
Being a writer can be lonely. Do you have a support network?
My husband Simeon is an army officer and my absolute rock. His unswerving confidence that I would be successful combined with his efforts to promote my work have meant that I have always enjoyed amazing support. My best friend Carol who works in media has always encouraged me without reservation and my family are right behind me to, so I have been very lucky in that respect.
Which authors have influenced your writing?
Jodi Picoult, Rose Tremain, Sarah Dunant and also the work of Mike Lee, all of whom are masters of their craft.
Do you have a favourite book?
The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. It is one of the most moving stories of love and loss and Clare’s selfless devotion to her husband is just magnificent when he goes away. She loves Henry so much that she would rather be on her own than settle for anyone else apart from him and I admire that quality. The book is unusual in that it crosses genres from Romance to Science Fiction, an area that I wouldn’t normally read and is a wonderful original idea.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading ‘Standing Tall’ by my good friend Andy Reid. Andy is an ex-soldier who lost both of his legs and an arm in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) incident in Afghanistan. His story is the brutal, honest and forthright account of his journey to become rehabilitated, his marriage to his wife Claire and the recent birth of their first child following his injury. I thought Andy was a hero before I started the book and this book has confirmed that he exceptionally brave and strong in every respect. It is a real piledriver of a book that is making me laugh and cry in equal amounts.
Finally, what is your WIP?
Just polishing the third book in the series entitled ‘Clover’s Child’. It is the prequel to my first novel, ‘Poppy Day’ and tells the story of Poppy’s Nan Dorothea who grew up in the East End of London in the 1960’s. Dorothea, or Dot as we come to know her is a feisty young girl who meets the love of her life Soloman in a chance encounter. The book explores social and racial divides as both sets of parents are dead set against the relationship for very different reasons; Dot’s love is a black man from a wealthy family whereas she is just a working class white girl. The story follows their battle to overcome prejudice and find true happiness while others seek to drive them apart.
Thank you for sharing with us today Amanda. The No Greater Love series sounds very inspirational.
Follow Amanda on Twitter @MrsAmandaProwse
Like Poppy Day on Facebook as the PoppyDayNovel.
While the new website for information on books, appearances and events can be seen here http://www.amandaprowse.org, lots of material on Poppy Day, What Have I Done? and other books can be found at www.poppyday.co.uk and http://www.amandaprowse.co.uk
Kathryn Brooker is the headmaster’s wife. While her husband spends his days disciplining unruly teenagers in the grand halls of Mountbriers Academy, Kathryn spends hers baking scones for her son’s cricket match in a beautiful cottage in the manicured school grounds.
In the evenings, when her husband strides home to compliment her cooking and kiss her hello – ignoring jokes from their children about grown-up lovebirds – Kathryn Brooker is the very picture of a fulfilled wife and mother. Anyone who peered through the downstairs sash window at the four figures sat easily around their scrubbed-pine kitchen table would see a happy family without a care in the world. They would envy Kathryn her perfect life.
But they would be wrong. Kathryn is trapped in a nightmare. And she is about to do something to change it. Something only a truly desperate woman would do…