Where do you dream of traveling to and why?
As a child, I dreamed of traveling the entire world and in my fantasies, much of the universe. There's a part of me that still wants to see so much. Do so much. I suppose that's part of why I write fantasy (and science fiction). But now that I have kids my vision of travel has changed. Oh, I still want to see everything in existence, but more than that – I want to share it with them. I used to think that my husband and I would send the kids to stay with the grandparents for a week or two every summer while we went to Europe or Alaska or South America, but this summer we have a long cross-country car trip planned that will take us to Williamsburg, Virginia. I haven't seen it before which is enough to get me excited. And I get to share it with my kids!
Of course, the fact that commercial space travel is beginning has me super excited. Now, if only it will become affordable before I die. :)
Does travel play a role in the writing of your books?
My Cassie Scot series is almost exclusively set in Eagle Rock, MO. The spin-off I just wrote is almost entirely on the road. So it varies based on what the plot needs, but I always center my books in the Midwest in some way.
The one thing travel has taught me is that every place has a distinct feel to it. It all smells differently, too. That's the first thing you notice when you step off a place or out of your car. No two places smell exactly the same. It's hard to convey that difference with the written word, but it's there. Then you look around and you see that the lives of the people are all subtly different. It's like each place in the world is a living organism with a unique personality.
This is why my stories are (so far) set in the Midwest or feature Midwestern characters. That may change at some point, but whenever I consider setting the stories someplace completely different, all I can think is that even if I've been there before, I haven't lived it. I haven't become a part of that pulsing, throbbing aura of personality. I could envy writers with the resources to go to these places, immerse themselves in those cultures, and learn enough to write about them. Or I could write what I know.
I know the Midwest. I was born in St. Louis and now live in Kansas City. I've also spent time in rural Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. These are places I know. People I know. I can write about these places or I can take people from these places and send them somewhere else, using my own outsider impressions of those other places to describe them, not as they are to a native, but as they appear to someone from around here.
As a reader, I've developed a great deal of respect for authors who set their stories in their own home regions. I can always tell when they have because they've tapped into that personality I mentioned. When I read their books it almost makes me feel like I've visited their neck of the woods. Conversely, I can sometimes tell when a writer is describing a place he or she has barely set foot in. The setting is a dead thing, or it takes on subtly wrong characteristics.
Say your publisher has offered to fly you anywhere in the world to do research on an upcoming book, where would you most likely want to go?
I'm considering setting my next book in Pennsylvania, an area of the country I've only visited once. I've been considering trying to find some money to go myself, so that was my first thought when I read your question. But heck, if my publisher is footing the bill why not shoot for Australia? I have been fascinated with the prospect of going there for years. I love the accents and the history of that continent. And it's really expensive to fly there! I'm sure if my publisher were willing to send me there, I could come up with some reason to send my (Midwestern) main characters to the land down under!
Tell us about your current release.
Secrets and Lies continues the story of Cassie Scot, the only ungifted member of a magical family, that began in Cassie Scot:
ParaNormal Detective. There's a new mystery – two teenagers go missing from a summer camp and Cassie and Evan go to investigate. Dark magic may be involved, and Cassie learns things about the magical world that she never knew before. Meanwhile, romance is brewing between Cassie and Evan. She owes him a debt and she knows what he wants from her – something she's not sure she's ready to give. Of all the four books in the series, I'd say the romantic subplot is heaviest in here. Cassie's own doubts about magic in general and Evan (a powerful sorcerer) in particular drive this story, which is the image I attempted to capture on the front cover – her looking uncertain about him and about magic (represented as a crystal in her hand).
Mind Games is coming to ebook in April 2014 (print in June) and it is the third book in the Cassie Scot series. It once again follows events in the previous novels (please read this series in order!), this time pitting Cassie Scot against a powerful mind mage who she finds... irresistable.
I'm particularly proud of this volume in my series because the story is told largely from the point of view of someone who is not entirely sure but probably being controlled by a mind mage. I wrote it to be subtle. Heavy-handed mind magic, I decided when I started this project, would be much easier to recognize and therefore throw off (I contrast these approaches in the book). But subtlety... now there's the power of a true mind mage. You can't fight mind magic until you're sure it's happening, after all.
As with each book in the series, a mystery frames this book. This time the mystery involves the death of a beloved preacher's wife and the non-magical members of the community go a little insane with the thirst for blood. There are a lot of levels of tension and suspense in this volume, and it sets up the final conflicts in the last book.
The main romance (between Cassie and Evan) takes a backseat here due to the fact that both young people have made some mistakes that they find tough to live with.
How do you describe your writing style?
I'm a story-teller, not a poet. That's not to say I don't make user of clever turns of phrase to evoke emotion, but my goal is generally to get the words out of the way of the relationship between reader and main (point of view) character.
What do you think makes a good story?
A strong central character.
By “strong” I do not mean kick-ass. I'm actually growing weary of Buffy look-alikes. A strong character has a well-developed personality that makes him or her uniquely qualified to fight this fight or right this wrong. The best characters also change or learn something over the course of their story. They want things. They want life to be better. Strong characters can be shy or spunky, drab or beautiful, fighters or teachers. They just need to own their own role in their story and come to life in my mind when I read.
Good characters also rise above genre. My own Cassie Scot series can be classified as fantasy, mystery, romance, or new adult but I wish it wouldn't. I wrote a story about a young woman struggling to overcome her own personal limitations. If there's a genre for that, sign me up for the mailing list and add this series to it!
ABOUT THE BOOK
Cassie Scot, Book 2
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Number of pages: 274
Word Count: 85k
Cover Artist: Ural Akyutz
Cassie Scot, still stinging from her parents' betrayal, wants out of the magical world. But it isn't letting her go. Her family is falling apart and despite everything, it looks like she may be the only one who can save them.
To complicate matters, Cassie owes Evan her life, making it difficult for her to deny him anything he really wants. And he wants her. Sparks fly when they team up to find two teenagers missing from a summer camp, but long-buried secrets may ruin their hopes for happiness. Book 2 in the Cassie Scot series.
About the Author:
Christine Amsden has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.
At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that effects the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams.
In addition to writing, Christine teaches workshops on writing at Savvy Authors. She also does some freelance editing work.
Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children.
3 ebook (epub, mobi, or pdf) copies of Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective (Cassie Scot Book 1)
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