Christine is the award-winning author of The Immortality Virus (2011), Touch of Fate (2007), and the Cassie Scot series (2013).
On the 11th of this month I reviewed both of Christine Amsden’s Cassie Scot books: Secrets and Lies (Cassie Scot #2) and Mind Games (Cassie Scot #3). I previously reviewed this book (#1) here.
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Today, I have Christine here to answer a few questions about herself, about her writing, and to offer any tips to other writers reading today. Whether you’ve read her books and love them or are intrigued enough to find out more about the series or the author, please take a seat and welcome Christine…
The Author Interview with Christine Amsden
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m 37, I have two beautiful children (a boy and a girl), and I’m a chocolate snob.
What about your latest project? When did it begin and what inspired you?
I started working on Cassie Scot when I was 31. Cassie herself inspired me to write this book. She was someone whose story wasn’t being told – that of the powerless person in a world of magic. It’s a disability of sorts, one that affects her deeply though she tries to play it off. Yet she has value. Fantasy sometimes narrowly defines heroes as the biggest and the strongest, the one with the destiny to fulfill, but normal people can make a difference. That was important to me. This is not the story of someone who comes into power, it is the story of someone who discovers there is more than one kind of power.
What do you do when you are not writing?
Lately – marketing! I will never release four books in just over a year again. (Stolen Dreams will be out this summer too.) I’m thrilled at the response I’m getting from my fans, but to tell you the truth I haven’t even done much new writing in the past year.
I really enjoy games, when I get the chance. I play board games, card games, and even D&D. I also bake, and I’m really into Good Eats because I love learning about the science behind cooking.
Do you have a day job as well?
I am a freelance content editor and writing coach. It’s a great compliment to writing because it’s flexible and I can, for instance, take the summer off so I can spend more time with my kids.
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book? Was it any good?
I first started writing at the age of 8. My first short story was about Cabbage Patch Dolls going to Mars and I’m sure it was brilliant! Too bad I lost it. My first novel … hmmm … well, the first time I wrote “the end” at the bottom of a lengthy manuscript was in high school. It was a science fantasy story involving an epic war between two planets and it was immature. I sometimes think about that story, which I wrote and rewrote for a decade (literally) before finally and completely setting it to rest. I don’t really consider it finished, though.
The first book I “finished” (as in wrote, rewrote, revised, peer-edited, and revised again) was Touch of Fate. This is also my first published novel and it’s pretty good. Looking back now after nearly 10 years experience, I definitely see things I would have done differently. It got some good reviews and some eh reviews. I encourage new readers to start with my Cassie Scot series, which is my best work. If you like that, go check out my debut novel.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
I’m not sure I’ve chosen a genre! I write fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and romance – often all in one book! My main genre is “character stories” but that’s not really a genre. I love to write about people. It’s what I think books can do better than movies. It’s also how I connect to a story. I don’t care what genre it’s in, as long as it has an awesome character. Witches an dragons are fun, but characters count most.
Where do you get your ideas?
Each one has come to me a little differently, ut I think it all comes down to experience. Each new idea is a product of who I am, and as I grow older that person changes slightly, giving me access to still new ideas.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Yes! The last year of my life has been one big case of writer’s block. For me it usually means I’m pushing myself to be creative during a time of stress, or trying to force myself to write faster and faster. I need to destress, to take some of the pressure off myself, and to let the stories come as they will. They do! Ironically, the less I push myself, the more I get done.
Do you work with an outline, or just write?
Yes! (I do some detailed brainstorming/outlining then ignore it and write what makes sense).
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
Author – Orson Scott Card. I attended a boot camp with him in 2003 and he helped launch my fiction writing career.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I skipped the challenges. I found Twilight Times Books recommended on a list of publishers from Predators and Editors and when I saw that they specialized in cross-genre work, I went straight to them. I bypassed bigger presses entirely, and didn’t try a real agent hunt until I wrote the Cassie Scot series. (This is why the series is coming out all at once – by the time I queried over 100 agents, most of whom gave me “sooo close” rejections – I had pretty much finished the series!)
With my first book … it’s hard to recall what I was thinking at the time but part of it was that I didn’t want to wait years and years. I wanted to feel some measure of success sooner rather than later. I didn’t expect Twilight Times Books to accept me either (I couldn’t believe it when they did) but it felt right. I guess I have good instincts!
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
Yes. I wish I had not written vampires into the first Cassie Scot novel. I did it because I wanted a familiar backdrop to help ease readers into a complex character, but the fact that vampires are there at all (even if they don’t sparkle, are not romantic, and are not important to the main series arc) creates the wrong impression about the series. Vampires are simply too visible, too iconic, and way overdone.
I hope readers who roll their eyes at vampires will give the books a chance. This is a story about the odd-girl-out in a family of sorcerers. The magical creatures are scenery.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre? Which don’t work at all?
I could go on and on about this one! But I’ll try to sum up. You need an excellent book with eye-catching cover art. (Although since what one person finds eye-catching, others find off-putting, I’m still not sure I’ve gotten a good handle on this one.) You need a web site. You need a social media presence.
You also need reviews. Because it’s difficult to get reviews directly, I found blog tours very helpful for the first book. You don’t pay the reviewer for the reviews (never do that) – you pay for someone to organize the tour. And having done my own tour, I can tell you for a fact that this is a time-consuming process! I wrote some detailed articles on this a while back on my blog:
For a series, I recommend hiring out tours for the first book, then create your own contact list and put your own tour together afterward. I did this for Mind Games and it’s working great – and it’s not that I don’t welcome new reviewers to the series, but this needs to be read in order and I don’t want anyone starting with book 3 and leaving a review that says, “This was confusing.” 🙂
Ads are nice because you tend to get a quick sales bump, but they are challenging because there are few places that supply valuable ads, and most of them want free or deeply discounted books. For this reason, I finally discounted Cassie Scot to 99 temporarily for the month of May. (Sorry for those of you who missed it! It’s $2.99 regularly so still a good deal, but if you sign up for my newsletter I’ll let you know if I decide to do a 99 cent sale again – maybe when Stolen Dreams comes out.) I took out ads with Kindle Nation Daily (recommend), Kindle Books and Tips (recommend), Book Sends (recommend), Bargain eBook Hunter (didn’t do much), and a few others.
Ads don’t give you long-term sales, though. If I knew what did that, I’d probably have “people” doing the work for me. 🙂
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
Mind Games is book 3 in the Cassie Scot series, and in it Cassie faces her greatest challenges yet. She’s dealing with a mind mage who is courting her and may be manipulating her. She’s got a dead pastor’s wife and angry parishioners calling for magical blood. You get a good old-fashioned witch hunt in here, and as Cassie interviews many of the sorcerers in town, you get still more details of the magical world than in the first two books.
I’m proud of Mind Games because of the subtle persuasion of the mind magic. It’s not a hammer blow, but a gentle suggestion. The reader should be certain that Cassie is being manipulated, but maybe not exactly when it’s happening.
If you have’t read the first two books in the series, do start there. With four books in this series, starting here would be a bit like picking up a long novel and turning to a page in the middle to start.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
There is a scene in this book that is almost exactly something I experienced when I was a teenager. It’s ironic, because I got a question about the scene’s believability from one of my beta readers – not the first time I’ve had scenes pulled from real life called into question that way. I guess real life can be stranger than fiction!
There’s a flashback in here where Cassie goes to a charismatic church with a friend back in high school. She enjoys the sermon and the music, but afterward the other teens question her rather indelicately about the state of her soul. The probing questions they ask, down to the phrasing, are from a personal experience. In fact, if you substitute “Catholic” for “witch” you can more or less imagine exactly how I felt during my memorable visit to such a church.
What project are you working on now?
Kaitlin’s Tale – the final spin-off to the Cassie Scot series. The core series is 4 books long (Stolen Dreams will be it), but there are two spin-offs involving secondary characters. Madison’s Song is finished. Kaitlin’s Tale is a work in progress.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The best compliments I receive are always about my characters. I consider myself a character girl, and the majority of comments about my books reflect back to me that I’ve done what I set out to do – create well-written characters who pop off the page.
The toughest criticism is a challenging concept. Most of the criticism I receive comes from critique groups or editors – and I want them to tell me how I can make my books better! Some of these comments sting at first, but once I work through the problem and improve as a writer they fade into part of my writing education.
Toughest review criticism, though – I’ll have to go with the time someone compared the Cassie Scot series to Twilight. Strangely enough, I think she meant it as a compliment but seriously … no sparkly vampires!
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Write because you love it.
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
I love to hear from you! I put my e-mail address right on my website and I check it daily.
With one sentence, write your own epitaph.
Here lies a true character.
QUICK SNAP Q&A
- Sweet or sour? Sweet
- Peace or noise? Peace
- Classic or modern? Modern
- Horror or comedy? Comedy
- Rock or Pop? Rock
- Zombies or Vampires? Zombies
- Print or Electronic? Electronic
- Indie or Traditional? Traditional
- House proud or scruff-bag? Scruff-bag
- Plotter or Panster? Planster (No, that’s not a typo!)
Mind Games (Cassie Scot Book 3)
Beware your heart and soul…
Evan broke Cassie’s heart two months ago, and she still doesn’t know why. She throws herself into family, friends and her new job at the sheriff’s department, but nothing helps. The only thing that finally allows her heal and move on is the love of a new man, mind mage Matthew Blair. Cassie finds him…irresistible.
Matthew may also be the only one who can help keep the non-magical residents of Eagle Rock from going crazy over the murder of a beloved pastor’s wife. It looks like a sorcerer is to blame, but while Cassie tries to figure out who, others take matters into their own hands. With tensions running so hot, a single spark might set Eagle Rock ablaze.
Available in PRINT June 15, 2014 | Audiobook release TBA.
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So, did you have fun getting to know Christine? I sure did (although I clenched my jaw at mention that vampires are overdone – What? Who? When?) :p
Go check out this great series if you enjoy quality characters, witches and magic, mystery and fun. The Cassie Scot series is ready to keep you glued to your reader for a while.
*The giveaway begins on April 15, 2014 at midnight and ends on July 16, 2014 at midnight.