Interview with Amanda Marsico
When did you first start writing?
I was writing creatively before I could even spell. It was simple, silly, but I did it for fun and the habit continued. I always had journals and filled so many pages between the ages of 12 and 19. In addition to my daily journaling, I wrote poetry everywhere. On napkins, school papers, you name it. I don't journal anymore, but this doesn't mean I don't write daily. I still have bits of poetry pop into my head at random times, too. Those I type out on my phone and finish later.
My first professional writing experience was a freelance job interviewing artists for a gallery and writing editorials for their website. I was 20. Since then, I've accumulated a large list of published pieces, but none of them felt so surreal or exciting as the first novel, Humans In My House, that published in 2015, and Acephalous, the story I started at 14 years old and finally finished in 2016. That one tops the list of most exciting moments of my career.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Ontogenesis: Acephalous Book 2 follows the story of Breena and Atlas as Breena tries to clean up the messes she made in book 1 and Atlas tries to win her back. In book 1, Breena is a selfish, annoying person. She uses her dreaming to escape reality, and she yearns to be someone else. This inward focus causes her to steamroll her friends and family. She sees what she's doing to them, but struggles to pull out of the addictions and relationships that keep her in such a mindset. I painted her in this light purposefully because, first, not every character in a book, not even the main character, has to be likeable all the time; and second, in order to redeem herself in books 2 and 3, she had to start at a low point. She needs room to grow, and heroic, likeable characters have less room for realistic development if they start out that way. They're changes become caricatures, larger than life traits that paint them as perfect. Breena was never meant to be perfect. In book 1, Breena makes terrible decisions and struggles to put others first. While book 1 focuses on Breena's downward (or maybe more appropriately, INWARD,) spiral, book 2 sees her accept reality, embrace her identity, and set out to take responsibility by sacrificing her way of life. Without giving too much away about books 1 and 2, I'll simply say that Breena is going use her power and influence for others rather than herself. Some of the main mischief-makers of book 1 will get what's coming to them, and those who still get away with their evil will see justice in book 3.
What are you working on next?
I've been working on Ontogenesis and a children's picture book called Nova June: Inventor simultaneously. Nova June will publish first, and I'm aiming for April 2018. Ontogenesis will be out by summer. After those are finished, I'll take a break for a week or so and then dive into Humans In My House and the Animals Beyond It (#3 in its series). In it, Kepler and his humans will take a family vacation and visit the San Diego Zoo. The book's educational focus will be wildlife conservation.
How do you approach cover design?
Covers are usually one of the lasts things I take care of before publishing. One practical reason to wait until the end is because the word count and page count need to reach their final numbers in order to create the correct spine width in the cover image. Making the cover first would cause a lot of do-overs as the book grows (or shrinks) during editing. Practicality aside, I like the cover to convey a sense of the book in images, and I often don't have a full sense of the book myself until at least the draft is done. I'm not a planner when I write, so to choose a cover image before the ending has resolved would be short-sighted.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
In-person events are always my biggest successes. There are fewer books to compete against than any marketing done online. Paid ads and blog posts get some results, but not always enough for the time or monetary investment, at least not at this point in my career. I'm still unknown, so people often disregard what they see because they haven't already heard of me or enjoyed my work. It's like shouting into a void. The upside is that if they see my name once and ignore it, they might take notice if it keeps popping up again and again. It's important to show you have a consistent presence in your line of work. It builds legitimacy. Even so, marketing online is like shouting AT people that may or may not become readers. Doing conventions and signings is like speaking WITH people who are in attendance specifically to be readers. At the very worst, they aren't at the event to spend any money but to browse, and you still get to make an impression and have your work seen.
Describe your desk
My desk is whatever I set my computer on for the day. Right now, I'm standing at the kitchen counter writing this because there's no glare on the screen and I'm so sick of sitting all day every day. It's just unhealthy. My real desk, which I rarely use for writing work, is in a dedicated office room in my house and often littered with post-its, book illustration originals and concept art, and other works in progress. I use it to spread out when I'm packing swag bags, boxing merch and displays for events, etc. Nothing fancy, it's a simple 6-foot, white, fold-out table like you'd use at a yard sale. It gets cleared, folded, and packed away for the rare outdoor events that I do (which is risky when you're inventory is entirely paper).
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I watch more TV and play on my phone more than I should, but it's a mindless activity that is sometimes needed after writing or reading all day. My favorite activity is hiking, though, and I try to get out of the house as frequently as I can. When you work from home, you have to make a point to go places. Even grocery shopping is a night out when you realize you haven't left the house in 3 days.
What do you read for pleasure?
When I'm not steeped in my own characters or those of an editing client, I love to read fan fiction written by the talented authors on Tumblr and Archive of our Own. I'm also part of a local book club, so I read the monthly selection even if it's not in my preferred genre. I think it's important to read widely, and even when I didn't like the book, I always get pleasure from the club meetings and discussion regardless. And as if I don't strain my eyes enough, I have a stack of to-read books that I pick up on impulse almost any time I cross a discount book bin in stores. I've been reading a lot of those (various genres, but mostly memoir and non-fiction--it wasn't a purposeful choice to stock up on nonfiction, just how it turned out) in order to surpass my GoodReads goal of 24 books in 2018. As of this writing, I'm at 9 books and it's the last day of February. I'm well ahead of schedule.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I was using a Kindle Paperwhite until my water bottle leaked into the bottom of my bag and drowned it. Now I use my phone or ipad.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
I like all of the Cassandra Clare novels, starting with City of Bones. Aside from loving the story and subject matter, these books have a huge cast of characters, and they're all fully realized people with unique personalities, flaws, and dreams. I've always hoped to be as good at characterization as her. If you like these books, Acephalous is probably right up your alley.
I really enjoyed Lauren Kate's Fallen series. I rarely read something more than once, but I read the series 3 times. Again, the characterization and world-building are outstanding. The subject of fallen angels is a great one in YA lit. If you enjoy these books, I'm sure there are at least a few elements of Acephalous that you'd like, too.
From high school to grad school, Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea kept popping up in assignments. It's a favorite not only because of the hours I poured over that book studying, dissecting, and researching it, but because the wild abandon of the setting drew me in, and the wild heart of its main characters kept me there. This book will always be on my shelf, with index cards of the notes I took over the years still stuffed between the pages.
I read The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Bradbury years ago, but it's intelligence sticks with me. The characters are brilliant because the author is brilliant. The intersection of the characters' lives makes for odd pairings and situations worth writing about.
The last on my list hearkens back to childhood. Corduroy was and still is my favorite book. I love it for its cute illustrations and its hopeful plot. My favorite line I still think about often. As Corduroy approaches (what he is unaware is) an escalator, he says, "I think I've always wanted to climb a mountain." The little bear has the ideal metaphor for life.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
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Books by This Author
by Amanda Marsico
Breena is ambivalent, spending days practicing the cello and nights dreaming she was anyone else. When a dream-figure presents the opportunity to reshape reality and her role in it, she seizes the chance. But the learning curve to her new identity is steep and painfully loses its charm. Bree wants to return to reality, but it’s too late, and she must sacrifice a part part of herself to survive.