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Tragedy that inspired Amanda to write

Amanda Brooke

Liverpool author Amanda Brooke didn’t start writing until her 40s – and the decision was inspired by a tragedy in her life. She will be talking about this, and much more, when she is in conversation with fellow author Carys Bray on July 3.

Tell me a little about your books, and The Missing Husband in particular.

My books fall under the general term of women’s fiction and I tend to write stories that are focused on family with a strong element of drama. I enjoy creating situations which are highly emotional and I’ve been known to myself cry on occasion so goodness knows what effect I’ve had on my readers. The Missing Husband is my latest book and is about Jo, a confident career woman who is expecting her first child when her husband doesn’t come home one night. He’s disappeared without trace and Jo faces the prospect of bringing up their child alone, but she’s struggles to move on without knowing what has happened to David and why he might have left her.  Distraught and desperate, she’ll consider just about anything to get her husband back.

How long have you been writing?

I only started writing about ten years ago when my young son was diagnosed with leukaemia. When Nathan was ill and after he died, writing gave me a way of channelling my emotions and making sense of my grief. At first I wrote about my experiences but eventually I began to write fiction and my first novel, Yesterday’s Sun was published in 2012 and was selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club. I’m both amazed and proud of my achievements, not least because I consider my writing career as Nathan’s legacy.

What inspires the ideas for your novels?

My earlier works were most definitely inspired by my own experiences. Yesterday’s Sun was about a woman who is willing and able to sacrifice her life for her child and when the idea for the story came to me, I just had to write it. These days, I’m constantly looking for new ideas and it can be frustrating at times because inspiration can’t be forced. I’ve become adept at watching the world around me and constantly wondering ‘What if…’ Occasionally it pays off.

How long do you spend in researching your books?

I don’t spend nearly as much time as I would like on research as I work full time and I’m now planning to publish two books a year. I tend to gather only basic information at the planning stage and then concentrate on researching the finer detail as I’m writing. It means I don’t waste time sourcing information that I won’t end up using.  If the location is real, then I make plenty of visits and take photos so I can describe the scene properly. Other aspects of research aren’t always so easy and my third novel, Where I Found You was particularly challenging because it was about someone who was blind. I found it useful reading autobiographies from writers who were visually impaired and I also interviewed a young mum who was blind.

How do you go about plotting a story?

My starting point is the synopsis which my agent and publisher have seen and agreed and I literally chop it into a dozen sections. This gives me a chance to tease out more of the detail, identify the main characters and judge the pace of the storyline. When I begin to write, I won’t keep slavishly to that structure because inspiration for new ideas and sub-plots inevitably develop as I get to know my characters and for me that’s the best part of writing.

Are you a fiction reader? Who are the writers you admire?

Yes, I try to read every day although I’m not a particularly fast reader and don’t get through that many books. I love all kinds of writing and don’t tend to keep to one particular genre. I read science fiction, crime, horror and of course, women’s fiction. One of my all-time favourite authors is Cecelia Ahern and I would never have believed that one day we would have the same publishing team.

Are you a disciplined, nine-to-five writer, or do you prefer to go with the creative flow?

I work full time so I have to manage my writing around a nine to five job. I tend to write in the evening but given a choice, I’d be a morning writer because I like the rest of the day to think about what I’ve just written and what’s going to happen next.  Given the shortage of time, I do have to be disciplined and usually give myself a daily word target and I write every day.  Once I’ve started on a draft, I never go back and rewrite scenes until I’ve reached the end of the novel. Instead, I make a note of the changes and pick them up second time around.  Experience has taught me that many rewrites will follow and I don’t breathe a sigh of relief until the page proofs have been signed off.

Do you have any advice for would-be writers?

My advice would be that it’s never too late to start writing because age and experience can have a distinct advantage.  That being said, if you do think you have a novel in you, make sure the story is something that you absolutely want to write.  Don’t write because you want a book published but because you’re desperate to read this fantastic book that you’re already starting to create in your mind.  That way when you’re ready to put in the countless hours it’s going to take to create your masterpiece, it will be a page turner for you too even though you’re the one filling those pages.

Have you visited Blackpool before? 

I’m from Liverpool so there have always been regular trips to Blackpool Illuminations and the fair although I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to fairground rides. The one thing I haven’t done yet is go up to the top of Blackpool Tower and I was hoping to do that last time I visited. The whole family had come along to watch my brother’s band play at the Winter Gardens and the next day we all went for a walk along the prom and headed towards the tower. Unfortunately it was blowing a gale and the tower was closed so maybe next time.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently completing my next novel which is due out in January 2016. It has the working title of The Wishing Tree and centres around Sam, who is a gardener in Calderstones Park in Liverpool, and the story opens when he falls under suspicion after a young girl goes missing. The girl in question is eight year old Jasmine who had met Sam during a school trip to the park. Sam had given a guided tour and told her class about the park’s thousand year old, which is called the Allerton Oak. He explained how the tree had magical powers and could grant wishes, and it was Sam’s determination to make Jasmine’s wishes come true that puts them both in an impossible situation.

AMANDA BROOKE & CARYS BRAY IN CONVERSATION, July 3, 1.45pm.

For more information about Wordpool or to book visit https://blackpoolwordpool.wordpress.com. You can also like Wordpool on Facebook or follow on Twitter @WordpoolFest.

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