Amanda J. Clay is a writing YA and Adult fiction from Dallas, TX. A Northern California native, she had a fantastic time studying English and Journalism at Chico State University and then a very serious time slaving away for a Master’s degree in Communications from California State University, Fullerton. When she’s not staring at a computer screen, she spends most of her spare time on some new fitness addiction and plotting world adventures.
Her latest book is the young adult novel, Rebel Song.
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As a book bloggin’ and book luvin’ Princess, I’m always curious to find out how authors got the ideas for their books. How did you come up with the idea for your book?
The very first incarnation of Rebel Song came about 22 years ago—no joke! When I was 12— after a childhood obsession with tragic love stories, fantasy tales of kings and queens, with gallant heroes sacrificing all and quite possibly suffering some unrequited love of my own—I actually wrote this short book about a princess who falls in love with a spy from another country and she betrays her kingdom for him. In the end she jumps off a cliff and kills herself so in retrospect it wasn’t a very uplifting story (I was a strange 12 year old, I admit). But I never forgot that tale and I’ve maintained this affinity for the star-crossed lovers since.
So fast forward a couple decades. I’m in Madrid, Spain, reading about the turmoil of Spain’s 20th century—from a monarchy to a dictator to back to a monarchy. And I realized that, while it’s strange to the Americans, royalty is alive and well in much of Europe. Additionally, many countries in Europe have undergone rebellions, dictators, civil war and more in the last fifty years alone. Sometimes there’s even a juicy love story thrown in there. I was fascinated by the history there and I suddenly knew I had to bring Rogan and Elyra’s story to life in a fresh new way.
When I describe the plot of Rebel Song to people, but tell them it’s contemporary, they often say, “Wait, it’s about a princess and a rebellion and star-crossed love? Sounds a little Medieval.” And it does sound like a plot of old. But it’s also a reality of today...Let me explain a bit of history about its inspiration.
And while the story is set in “modern-day,” I admit, the specific time period for the story is purposefully a little vague because I’m trying to avoid talking about real world events—it’s hard to talk about 20th century Europe and not discuss post WWII Communism, for example. I want the Rogan and Elyra’s story to just exist within itself and for the reader to not have to think about the outside world.
Can you tell us what your book is about?
Rebel Song is about a fictional country in Central Europe on the brink of revolution. Elyra is the heir to a collapsing monarchy and Rogan is the rising leader in the rebel faction. They meet and fall in love, but standing on opposite sides of what’s happening, they’re doomed.
Can you tell us a little about the main characters of your book?
Rogan, 17, is a winemaker from the provincial valley outside the city. He’s also the son of a famous rebel leader who was executed for treason when Rogan was a boy. Now that the rebellion is stirring again, Rogan is pulled into the rebellion as a rising leader.
Elyra, 17, is a the only heir to the throne of Arelanda. She’s headstrong and intelligent, but also idealistic and naïve about how corrupt her country has become. When she meets Rogan and learns more about the state of the nation, she’s compelled to work toward change within the government—and finds herself at direct odds with those in power.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would that be?
To not be afraid! I can’t tell you how much of my career has been stunted by fear of the things I thought I couldn’t do. Growing up, telling people you wanted to be a writer netted you a lot of pitying looks and patronizing smiles—probably akin to a kid telling you they want to be an actor. “That’s nice sweetie, but what are you going to do for a JOB?” Haha. Like anything, this career takes a lot of work, but you can’t be afraid to just try—to put yourself out there. The worst thing people can say to you is no. The iPhone probably sounded insane too.
What would you say is one of your interesting writing quirks?
I talk to myself. A lot. That might be a byproduct of being alone all day every day, ha! Actually one thing I do that some might find odd is that I dress up for writing many days. I might still wear some comfy leggings and a tee, but I’ll do my hair and makeup. Put on some jewelry. It helps to take this job seriously. And don’t we all perform better when we look our best?!
Do you hear from your readers? What do they say?
I do! And I love it when my readers reach out to me. Mostly they want to know when the heck my next book is coming out! I also often get asked how I get my inspiration and how I managed to finally just sit down and write that first book.
What is the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
The hardest thing I ever heard was right after I’d finished my first book and was showing it to agents for the first time. “The writing is just not there yet.” Ouch. And I was livid! I’d been an English major, I had a master’s in Journalism! I’d been writing as long as I could remember! I KNEW how to write. And I did. But it didn’t mean that the book was where it needed to be. I had to learn that things aren’t perfect on the first try. I never turned in an article or essay on the first draft. Shoot, I even edit my Facebook captions! So why didn’t I think that my book might need some work? It was hard to hear but once I allowed myself to accept it, it was great feedback. She wasn’t saying “you’re a terrible writer, don’t quit your day job.” She was saying, “It’s just not ready. Bake it a little longer.”
What has been the best accomplishment?
I think publishing that first book, really. It was holding a lifelong dream in my hands—very surreal. Because after that first book, you know you can do it. Doesn’t mean it won’t be tough and that you won’t have some ups and downs, but you can do it!
Do you Google yourself?
I used to in the beginning because I couldn’t believe I was actually coming up in searches, ha! I don’t so much anymore now.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Haha…next question. ;) I have a couple of finished books that will be published but are still being editing. I also have a handful of books I’ve started and been pulled away from for one reason or another. I admittedly am a bit of a racoon when it comes to writing. I get a shiny new idea and I’m so inspired I need to write it immediately! But like all ideas, the shine wears off and you’re still faced with the daunting task of writing a well-crafted story, which takes time and focus. So, those half-finished projects may never amount to anything, or I might have some inspiration and go back and finish them. I always make a rule to save every word I write, just in case it finds new life down the road.
Do you have anything specific that you would like to say to your readers?
Thank you! We authors couldn’t do what we do without our fans and we’re so grateful. The best thing a reader can do to help out their favorite author is to be an advocate for their work—write reviews (even very short blips are helpful!), tell people about books they’ve enjoyed and keep reading!
About the Book:
Caught on opposite sides of a budding civil war, a rebel leader and a modern day princess fight toCentral Europe.
The once prosperous European nation of Arelanda has been plagued with poverty and corruption since the failed rebellion tore it apart. Now, rebels stir again in the capital’s underbelly, vowing to depose the monarchy and overturn the unjust government.
Seventeen-year-old Rogan Elwood, son of a rebel leader executed for treason after the first rebellion, has borne a tainted legacy his entire life. As he is pulled deeper into conflict, Rogan must face his calling in the future of the rebel cause—waging his want for peace against his desire for vengeance. Everything changes when he falls for Elyra—modern, idealistic and determined to bring Arelanda a better future. She also just happens to be next in line to the throne—if the corrupt Minister General doesn’t beat her to it.
Caught in the midst of a budding civil war and surrounded by enemies on every side, Elyra and Rogan must fight to save themselves and their country.