Welcome Amanda Cabot and let her tell you about her newest release, In Firefly Valley
Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of more than thirty novels including the
Texas Dreams trilogy, the Westward Winds series, and Christmas Roses. A former director of Information Technology, she has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages. Amanda is delighted to now be a full-time writer of Christian romances, living happily ever after with her husband in Wyoming.
A J: If time and money did not enter in the equation, what would be your dream?
Amanda: To travel around the world. I’ve always enjoyed traveling and have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to see many beautiful places, but there are still so many I haven’t visited.
A J: Ah, travel. One of my favorite activities. God made such a beautiful earth for us to enjoy. Having been to Wyoming, I can say that you live in a beautiful part of the country. What is your favorite season of the year?
Amanda: Without a doubt, it’s spring. Although each of the other seasons has its own appeal, I love the rebirth that comes with spring. The first crocuses popping through the ground make my heart sing, and the sight of baby bunnies puts a huge grin on my face, even though I know they’re going to nibble my flowers.
A J: I have to agree. Spring has so many colors to add to our world. But I also love the quiet, serene sense one gets from a winter snow scene. Did anyone inspire you to write?
Amanda: Although he never actually wrote, my father was a great storyteller. I suspect it was that influence, plus the fact that both of my parents were avid readers that made me love books so much that I wanted to write my own.
A J: I’m thankful that my mother encouraged us to read and gave us children the example by her own reading. Several of my grade school teachers enjoyed telling us stories and letting us imagine our own scenes. What is the most fun thing you have ever done?
Amanda: A visit my husband and I took to Yellowstone in the winter wins that award, although you might not believe that when you learn about some of the things that happened on that trip. Just getting to Yellowstone was an adventure. First we endured terribly cold weather and strong winds as we drove west from New Jersey. Then we were “elked” as we entered the park. (What do I mean? An elk leapt across the back of the car, kicking the fender on his way across. Fortunately, neither elk nor car was hurt.)
Once we arrived, the adventures continued. We saw more wildlife than I’d expected, including a herd of bison that were a bit too close for comfort when we were cross-country skiing. During the day, we enjoyed the grandeur of the thermal features. If you’ve never been there, let me tell you there’s nothing quite like the contrast of hot water and steam against a snow-covered landscape. Evenings included wonderful meals at the Mammoth Hot Springs hotel. We even took a sleigh ride.
Although there were many memorable parts of the trip, the highlight was riding the snowcoach (a clunky tracked vehicle that was developed for the Swedish army) back from Old Faithful to Mammoth Hot Springs. The snowcoach’s turbocharger failed, which meant that the trip took hours longer than it should have, and the blizzard raging outside slowed us even more. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? It might have been, except that we were with a number of park employees who turned that long ride into a party with songs, jokes and stale popcorn. Those total strangers turned into friends and made the day one we still remember with fond smiles many years later.
A J: What fun! Your description moved me from being interested to wanting to be there. Who knew there was so much to do and see in Yellowstone in the middle of winter? When did you begin to write your first novel? When did you finish? How long have you pursued a writing career?
Amanda: I started writing when I was about seven years old, and my first novel was all of five pages hand-written. Needless to say, that never made it to publication. It was the approach of my thirtieth birthday that turned what was a dream into reality. I’d set myself the goal of selling a book by that magic date, and – thanks to a TV commercial and lots of hard work – that happened. The commercial, in case you’re wondering, was for Harlequin romances. I’d never read one, but after seeing the commercial, I rushed off to the bookstore and bought two. My career as a romance author was launched. I never sold to Harlequin, and the scope of my stories has broadened beyond pure romance, but there’s always a romantic element and a happily-ever-after in my books.
A J: It would be so much fun to read all the little stories written as ‘first’ novels by children who grew up to be writers. Maybe someday someone will gather those little stories for us curious. What facet of the writing craft comes easiest to you?
Amanda: The second draft. Perhaps I’m an editor at heart, but once I have the first draft completed, turning that ugly manuscript that I refer to as the skeleton into a flesh and blood, living thing is pure joy.
A J: I have to agree. Once I have the basic story written then I can see my way through to the polished version so much easier. What is the hardest thing about writing?
Amanda: After the last answer, you won’t be surprised to know that first drafts are my nemesis. I used to get halfway through one and be convinced that I had created the worst prose in the English language and that my editor would roll on the floor laughing just before she canceled my contract. Now I know that it’s not the worst prose and that I can fix it during the second draft. The truth is, I’m always pleasantly surprised when I start the second draft and realize that that what I had written wasn’t awful. It simply wasn’t finished.
A J: Your response to what is the hardest thing about writing could have been written about me. But I’m still not completely sure that those reading the first draft are not at least giggling a lot and not at the place in the story where I had hoped. What lessons have you learned as a published writer?
Amanda: Probably the most important thing I’ve learned is the importance of being flexible. Markets change, and if we as writers don’t change, we won’t continue to reach readers.
A J: How do you handle the rejections that are part of the writing life?
Amanda: Chocolate. Seriously. I’ve collected so many rejections over my writing career that I teach a workshop on how to cope with it, and chocolate plays a big role. So does exercise. After you’ve eaten a pound of chocolate, you’d better walk it off. Besides, exercise generates those wonderful endorphins that help make the rejection a bit less painful. Most of all, though, I’ve found that writing is the best cure for rejection. If you’re working on another book, you have hope, and hope is what we all need.
A J: My ambrosia for coping with rejection is ice cream, most any flavor including chocolate. I have to agree that the best antidote is writing the next story. Now to the current story, In Firefly Valley. What gave you the inspiration for this story?
Amanda: The stories that appeal to me the most are the ones where characters have to heal, because I love showing how God’s love can and does heal even the worst of hurts. What are the hurts in In Firefly Valley? In Marisa’s case, there are two. The first was easy to identify: she’s been downsized. As someone who was once downsized, I had no trouble knowing how Marisa would react. The second was more difficult: her troubled relationship with her father. I’ve never been in Marisa’s situation, but I drew from the memories of a family friend who went through an experience similar to Marisa’s. Once I started asking “what if?” before I knew it, I had a book.
A J: Please give us the overview of In Firefly Valley.
Amanda: Devastated by a downsizing, Marisa St. George has no choice but to return to the small Texas town where she grew up. Though it means a giant step backward, she accepts a position as business manager at the struggling Rainbow’s End resort. The only silver lining: Blake Kendall, a new guest who might make her believe in love at first sight. But will Marisa’s dreams of happily-ever-after be turned upside down when she discovers Blake’s real identity?
This warm and witty story of dreams deferred and mistaken identity will have you believing in second chances.
A J: What’s next after In Firefly Valley?
Amanda: I’ve just finished the first edits for On Lone Star Trail, the third of the Texas Crossroads books. Like the first two, it takes place at Rainbow’s End and features characters who are at crossroads in their lives. Famous pianist Gillian Hodge’s career is destroyed when her hand is crushed in a motorcycle accident, so if there’s one thing she never wants to see again, it’s a man on a motorcycle. You can guess what happens. She’s on her way to Rainbow’s End when a sudden thunderstorm causes a motorcycle to hydroplane and crash in front of her. On Lone Star Trail will be available in February 2016.
A J: Thanks for being a guest on AJHawke.com, Amanda. Where can we find you on the web?