Interview with Amanda Brenner

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a small Midwestern city where Friday was movie night at the local theater. Westerns were popular fare and I enjoyed the clear cut formulas and clean stories with "goodness triumphs" messages. I was fascinated with the heroes who, despite any tribulations, would inevitably set things right in the end. Eventually I began to think about the idea of a lone avenger who would sweep out of the plains, wreak his particular brand of justice, and disappear with no one the wiser. It was this image that formed the basis for my first book, Trail of Vengeance, and it is an idea that runs through my subsequent works in one form or another.
When did you first start writing?
Not until quite late. For most of my life, I was content to read others' works, and I read extensively. It actually wasn't until I got a computer, with its ease of revision, that I began to seriously consider that perhaps I could put my ideas into print. When I look over my published works, I am amazed that they are actually my own creations, and I am pleased that they are suitable for general audiences; any of my books can be read by anyone.
What's the story behind your latest book?
While My Love Sleeps was intended as a love story, but without the seamy scenes that make me squirm when I happen to encounter them in published works. My love story is about loyalty and commitment and a strong sense of decency, traits my heroine needs to protect her husband when he is injured and she is all that stands between him and those he trusted, who now would betray that trust and rob him of all he has, even his life.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I had an agent for many years; unfortunately, she did nothing for me. When I saw that nothing would change, I struck out on my own, but soon realized that without a professional background, literary awards, and any kind of following that would provide a ready-made pool of customers, I had little hope of attracting an agent, let alone a publisher. So, convinced my stories were good and worthy of publication, I did it myself.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords has provided the platform I need to showcase my works, and they do a wonderful job. They provide a user-friendly system for publishing, distribution, and tracking subsequent sales. And it's all free. I can't fault them in any aspect of our relationship.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The initial research that takes place before I even begin to pull a story together. I enjoy learning and there's so much out there to choose from. I must admit writing itself is not the easiest part of the process for me, but I agree with Dorothy Parker when she said, "I hate writing, but I love to have written." Amen to that.
What do your fans mean to you?
They are what it's all about. I want to touch people's emotions and share my concepts of the story lines in my novels. There is a scene in Shadow of the Rope that I could not get through without crying, either while I was writing it or when I went through the proof. I hope others are as moved by it as I was.
What are you working on next?
Kind of up in the air. I would like to do another Sid Langdon novel, but I also have an idea for a western that I'm playing with. I'm undecided about whether I want the western as a full length novel or a short story; so far either way the premise is kind of murky. Fortunately, I can delay the decision until at least November, because things are coming up that will keep me too busy to do much writing in earnest until I am once again snowed in.
Who are your favorite authors?
I have read several of Louie L'Amour's westerns, and enjoyed Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove. I have read about all of Patricia Cornwell's Scarpetta series, and am currently whittling down a stack of Robin Cook novels.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My husband's job. We have to be up at five a.m. to get him out of the house by 6:30. Mundane, but that's the truth.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Reading books and magazines, watching the news and anything I think is worthwhile on TV. Then there is the usual and unending housework, and I also volunteer at our local literacy center and for our state's writing association.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
So far they have been books I have been asked to review. I have also selected a few because I wanted to check an author's style.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes. It was a highly naive attempt at a travelogue. I'm sure it was awful. I sent it to Readers' Digest. I got a very nice letter from a lady explaining that while they found my account of my trip to Florida interesting, they would not be able to use it in their magazine.
What is your writing process?
I need to flesh out a basic premise. In other words, I need a clear idea of what the story will be about; this is where the research comes in. Then I need to assemble my characters and figure out what I'm going to call them. After that, I start writing the first draft, and I don't look back until I'm finished. I let that sit for a while and take a break to remove myself from the project. Then I sit down and try to pretend I've never seen the material before. This is where I decide that something needs to be added or taken out; I make notes and fill in or delete as needed. At some point, I look over the whole thing and keep doing that until there is nothing I want to change; that's when I consider it finished.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
How do you approach cover design?
It has to have some aspect of the story. I do my own covers, so I have to decide on an image that does most of the work and all I have to do is add text. For Trail of Vengeance, I show a lone rider on the trail at sundown; for Shadow of the Rope, I show a stark depiction of a noose; for Tainted Legacy, I show a pearl necklace spilling out of a (poisoned?) cup. While My Love Sleeps was tough; how do you depict someone in a coma? I finally decided on an image of a starry sky, to represent a dream state.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Anything I've read by Patricia Cornwell because she creates a world and characters so realistic that once you're introduced to them, subsequent novels have an almost homey, comfortable feel. I loved Abduction by Robin Cook because the alien characters were intelligent and logical; what they said made perfect sense, and it was refreshing. I like Edith Wharton's novels for their character and cultural insight. Henry James' Washington Square is the basis for the movie The Heiress, which I think is one of the best films ever made and the only one that I watch whenever it's on TV; I thought the book would also be unforgettable, but was disappointed; in this case, the movie was definitely better.
What do you read for pleasure?
Historical romances. But only if they're historically accurate.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My PC.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Smashwords' seasonal or event sales.
Describe your desk
It has my computer screen, a printer, a small upright file, and a stuffed teddy bear.
What do you want out of your reading material?
I want to learn and experience something that takes me out of my everyday existence.
Published 2013-08-24.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Case of the Pilfered Painting (A Henrietta Huddleston Mystery)
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 6,550. Language: English. Published: December 2, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths, Fiction » Women's fiction » General
“Yes, yes,” Henrietta said impatiently, fingering the pince-nez that hung from her neck on a black braided cord, “but it’s really just too intriguing. It has all the ingredients of a first-rate crime novel, if you ask me. Think of it: a young heiress alone and grief stricken after the mysterious death of her aunt; a painting, a treasured legacy, missing; the police baffled.”
The Last Cookie
Price: Free! Words: 2,950. Language: English. Published: July 23, 2013. Categories: Nonfiction » Science & Nature » Animals
A brief narrative account of an urban raccoon relocation effort.
While My Love Sleeps
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 63,670. Language: English. Published: June 12, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Suspense, Fiction » Women's fiction » General
Coma! That one word, with all its chilling connotations, now described Leda's beloved husband, Karl. Will he recover? Will the man she loves above all else ever come back to her? He must, she knew that much, for if her beautiful husband's life was over, then so was her own.
Covenant of Blood
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 5,920. Language: English. Published: May 13, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Undead, Fiction » Horror » Undead
Jordan just wanted to get along--or at least as much as any normal vampire could get along in today's world. Sometimes it was hard. This was one of those times.
Tainted Legacy
Series: Sid Langdon Mysteries, Book 1. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 50,580. Language: English. Published: March 22, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » General
A corpse and a million dollars in missing jewels—and Sid Langdon is tapped to find the answers by the very man who may be responsible for both! It’s Sid’s first case—it might well be his last! The first in the Sid Langdon Mysteries series.
The Cottage by the Lake
Series: Sid Langdon Mysteries, Book 2. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 73,220. Language: English. Published: December 22, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Action & suspense
Sid Langdon didn’t believe in the Greenwood ghost—until murder changed his mind!
Trail of Vengeance
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 55,940. Language: English. Published: December 18, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Western, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Action & suspense
(5.00 from 1 review)
The boy was just fifteen. The posse hesitated, but not for long, before whipping the horse out from under him; then they watched him swing with the others. When Charlie Cross learns of his kid brother's lynching, he sets out to settle the score. This time his gun would not go to the highest bidder—this time it was personal.
Call to Duty
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 3,480. Language: English. Published: December 7, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Drama, Fiction » Romance » Short stories
When Rick's girlfriend, Cassie, calls asking to meet at their favorite hangout near her home, he wonders what could be on her mind. Probably just another of her dramatic fantasies; he's used to them by now. Surely nothing more than that…right?
Shadow of the Rope
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 50,970. Language: English. Published: November 9, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Historical, Fiction » Romance » Western
Charlotte Beckford watched helplessly as the man she loved was gunned down, and swore his murderer would hang. But Bowie Rayburn laughed at her threat, her words echoing behind him as he rode away unconcerned. After all, he thought, what could she do? She was just a girl.
Temporarily Away
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 13,100. Language: English. Published: September 11, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths
(4.50 from 2 reviews)
When a friend's mail is returned marked "temporarily away," Henrietta Harcourt asks the local sheriff to investigate; he finds the man's mummified remains in his remote cabin. With the death dismissed as natural causes, a suspicious Henrietta prods the sheriff to look at someone with motive, means, and opportunity. Suddenly "natural causes" begins to look as unlikely as "temporarily away."
The Mystery of the Nourdon Blue
Series: Sid Langdon Mysteries, Book 3. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 65,040. Language: English. Published: July 12, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Psychological thriller
Two men are obsessed with a legendary jewel that vanished during the Crimean War. Now one of them is missing, and Sid Langdon has been hired to find him. When the trail goes cold, Sid decides to trace the stone instead, and uncovers a murky world of murderous intrigue along the trail to the Nourdon Blue.