Sunday, 22 January 2012

The first of many

When I was given my proof copy of Switched I realised immediately that I was holding something miraculous in this age of the electronic reader.  I was familiar with Amanda's work through seeing her two series on Amazon that were only available as e-books, and being a devout bibliophile who still prefers to have all his books in hard back where possible, I did not (nor shall I ever) own an e-reader so I had mourned the loss of opportunity to read her books.  Then as if by magic the first instalment of the Trylle trilogy arrived, and I was thrilled, that was until I read the blurb on the back which compared her to Meyer and Rowling, and being that I am always wary of anything hyped I placed it in my 'to be read someday' pile.  What a mistake that was!  Switched is a beautiful modern fairy tale, that takes you in the direction of story convention, before pulling the rug from under you and you land somewhere unexpected.  The story centres around Wendy Everly who on her sixth birthday, her mother attempted to kill her with the knife she used to cut the cake (I know your hooked already I was) This incident shapes Wendy's life and is seen as the explanation as to why she has grown into a loner as a teenager who has never fitted in anywhere.  That is until she meets the handsome and distant Finn, who appears to have all the answers.  The story is character lead which makes it a fast paced, imaginative read based around the myths and legends of Trolls (who in the case of the story prefer the term Trylle as it has less of a stigma) and Hocking seemlessly weaves classic fairy tale elements into its fabric, without making it cliche or samey, and ends nearly every chapter on a cliff hanger so you literally cannot put it down because you need to find out what happens next.  Even without knowing that Hocking is a fan of John Hughes, and Labyrinth you can see these influences throughout the story.  There is a Breakfast Club bonding scene by a fountain, and a big dress reveal moment straight out of Pretty in Pink, not to mention the character of Rhys has shades of Ducky about him.  The world that Wendy enters is pure Labyrinth with an endless summer garden, neverending parties, and sumptuous ballgowns.  I really enjoyed Switched it isnt perfect but then I dont think Hocking herself would admit to it being so, but it is a gripping tale that leaves you wanting more.

Red hot rating:

Amanda Hocking
First off I just have to say that Amanda Hocking is an absolute sweetheart, and one of the most eloquently spoken people I have ever met, and considering all the hoo ha that has erupted around her she is incredibly down to earth a little bit shy, quite pretty and has the most dazzlingly perfect teeth I have ever seen (booking dental appointment as I type) Last week I was lucky enough to meet Amanda not once but twice within the space of 24 hrs (I am not a stalker honest) The second time I met her was for a face to face interview where I got to chat with Amanda for half an hour, in a rather lush location.
Anyhoo here is the Q&A, enjoy!

Hi Amanda it's lovely to see you again.

It's good to see you to.

well yesterday I told you that I had tried to come up with some questions you had not had before so I have probably set my self up for a serious fall.
(Amanda laughs)
So....Trolls have been very lucky for you. Are there any personal superstitions you follow when you’re writing?
My only ritual before writing is drinking a lot of Red Bull.
Is Eric your lucky charm? (Eric is Amanda's friend, ex-roommate, and is now her PA.  He is also a really nice guy)
Oh (Laughs) I guess so (smiles) Yeah I guess he is my lucky charm.
You are incredibly prolific with your novels, what is your motivation?  Obviously you have deadlines now (Amanda laughs) so what keeps you going?
My motivation is always the story itself.  I get very excited about writing.  The only way I can describe how it feels to me, is like when you first meet someone, and you start dating them, and get to really like them, to the point wher you can stay up till 5am just talking to them on the phone about nothing, and then still get up at 8 and go to work, and not be tired because you are so excited, its that kind of euphoric intensity that keeps you going.  If I stop writing for a couple of days it is really hard for me to get back into it, so I try to keep going, and just run on that euphoria.
The low pricing of your e-book was attributed to its popularity, but obviously the story had caught the public’s imagination, and online word of mouth would have had its part. Knowing how savvy and selective the book blogging community is was their approval ever a concern to you?
When I wrote Switched I didn't know there was a book blogging community, so I just wrote the story for myself because it was something I wanted to do, but especially now when it comes to the other books I am writing I read the blogs and listen to what they are saying, sometimes the things they complain about are issues that would not have necessarily occurred to me.  One thing that I am hearing from the bloggers, not all of them, is about authors moving away from love triangles as a plot device, and I think thats something, even though there is a bit of one in the Trylle trilogy, that I would like to move away from, and not really work with again.  So part of that decision is to do with the bloggers, so yeah their opinians are important to me.
And you have actually said in one of your other interviews, that you rely on your readership and fans to tell you about any issues with your novels, in theory asking them to be your editors, which is really a brave thing to do for an author, as the readers can be the harshest critics.
Yes.  I mean it is a fine balance between understanding my readers, and keeping them happy by giving them what they want, but I can't cater to all of them, because even when five people read the same book their reactions and opinions will all be different, so I am never going to be able to give every reader exactly what they want.  But I do listen to them and take their feedback into consideration, but in the end I have to write something that is true to me, and that may be contrary to their thoughts, but I have found that most of the time its not.
You obviously love myths, legends and fairy tales, and many classic elements from such tales run through your novel Switched. What stories do you find yourself going to for inspiration?
I try to stay clear of tales that are really common such as Cinderella or Snow White.  I like tales that have an edge, and are a bit darker, that don't always have a happy or easy ending.  I like the Grimm fairy tales, the original ones, I have a book of them at home.  Infact the other day I was arguing with Eric about  stories end, because I had said 'You do know the endings to the stories are actually really horrible' and he just would not believe me, so I had to pull out the book and show him that they really are horrible, and the stories we know now have all been Disneyfide everything has a Hollywood happy ending.  Don't get me wrong I like a happy ending, but I think there has to be a sacrifice or a price paid, and a lesson learned otherwise its too easy.
You are so right, because as with one of my favourite fairy tales Little Red Riding Hood, it began life as a werewolf story where Red Riding Hood ended up being tricked into drinking her grandmothers blood, and eating her flesh. Thats pretty dark
(Laughs) and you can't get a more totally different ending than that, to the one they have now.
I got the sense from your novel that it was more a 'what if' retelling of classic fairy tales in that what if she fell in love with the huntsman. What if Wendy was raised by the evil queen and the damsel in distress in fact rescues the lost prince. With the Trylle series did you want to create more of a modern fairy tale as opposed to your average paranormal romance?
I Guess I did.  I wanted to bring in different elements from classic tales.  One of the things that really inspired me was the film Labyrinth you can see when your watching it all the different stories brought into it, and I just love the way he (Jim Henson) created an entirely new and different story.  I really wanted to do that in my own story to play with ideals and conventions and create something new.
The romance between Wendy and Finn has many obstacles as all good YA paranormal novels do, but the things that separate them are class and duty. What inspired you to look at the relationship from this angle?
Growing up I knew people whose relationships had been affected because of social differences, things that are going on in culture all around us even now.  Many people are still looked down upon for who they are going out with, or who they are friends with, and more often than not, it actually has nothing to do with sexual orientation or ethnicity it is down to the fact that there is still a class distinction in society.  People are judged for coming from a poor neighbourhood or considered living on the bad side of the tracks, and who they are as individuals is not taken into account. Its an issue that interest me and is a recurring theme that features in the other two books in the series.
The story also has a level of social commentary, in that you have these beings who are of nature themselves, who have lost their connection to the earth and have been caught up in technology and material possessions.  Was this your intention?
Yes that was part of it.  I looked at things in a logical way in that in classic stories trolls are portrayed as greedy, so it was easy for me to take that, and envisage these creatures gradually giving in to wanting more things and the latest technologies and its easy to compare it to society today where, we as people, are exposed to an excessive consumer culture, and like the trolls we have gradually lost touch with who we are with regards to the world around us.
Needless to say your personal story gives hope to the many struggling and unpublished authors out there to keep going, is there any advice you would give to those wishing to replicate your success?
If you want to be a writer it’s not enough to be passionate about writing or wanting to be a writer. Its hard work and you have to put in the time, treat it as a career and take it seriously. Also you have to do your research, and I don’t just mean ideas for your writing, but looking at all aspects of publishing from the roles of an agent, to an editor and a publicist, everything because until you get an idea of the publishing world you’re not going to understand what is to be expected, or why certain things need to happen with regards to getting published, and staying published.
You have been called the next Stephanie Meyer, and J K Rowling, and have been lauded as changing the publishing world. Do you worry that people are more interested in these aspects rather than in the book itself?
Well I get why people are interested, my story is unique so people will want to hear about it. Right now I am going along with it, and taking it for what it is. Hopefully with my other books people will become more interested in my writing, and the stories I’m telling, and such things as how I got published, and the comparisons with other authors will eventually become anecdotal.
 People have often said that e-books will be the death of the book, but with YA fiction it seems to be the only genre that is refusing to fall in line with this trend, and as shown with the publication of your books, the market for the printed format is still wanted. Why do you think this is?
The e-book is not the death of books, there will always be a place for books they are an immediate source of entertainment, and easy to just pick up and read for everyone.  You don't have to use specific technology to access a book or wait for downloads or loose things through corrupted files, you just open the pages and read.  Also with a book you don't have to worry about leaving it somewhere or if it gets damaged, because they are easy to replace.  The printed word will never become outdated.
So having your book published in printed format does it make you feel more like an author now, do you feel like you are getting a happy ending to your own fairy tale?
It feels good, I am really glad that people are buying the book, although I don’t think it makes me think of myself as more of an author, because I still don’t feel like an author, I feel like I’m playing pretend. Getting my book published in physical format, and the positive response I mean all of this is just icing on the cake.
Thank you so much Amanda that was great.

Thank you.  And you definitely had a few questions I have never been asked before.
(Grins like a loon!!)

Before I sign off I just want to bring your attention to the fantabulous cover art for Last Rite the third book in the Personal Demons series (I would say the last in  the series but in this day and age that is never a sure thing!)  I really enjoy this series and not just because it centres around the eternal struggle of Heaven and Hell over a human soul. (Mmmm nummy treats)
The book is released 8th of May 2012 preorder your copy now.

Oh and If like me you like your accessories a little on the darkside, then check out this jewellery designer I recently discovered.  The artists name is Blue Bayer and he is based in New York.  His stuff ranges from sophisticated steampunk to gloriously gothic using casts of animal skulls to make his accessories, He even has a pendent cast from a friends extracted wisdom tooth (I know cool right) Here are a few examples of his work.

You dont have to fly like a demon to the states in order to lay your hands on these red hot items either, Blue also sells them through Etsy and the other good thing about his pieces is they wont cost you your soul. (Oh rats!!)

Thats all for now dear readers, until next time, rest in peace. 

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