Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Gal's 62 Days of Horror Day 28: AMONG THE STACKS: Amanda M. Lyons


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hey, Amanda.  Welcome welcome.  We've known each other for awhile now on Facebook and I'm glad to finally have you on The Gal.  Thanks so much for being a part of my 62 Days of Horror.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Amanda M. Lyons:
I'm an author of character driven literary and gothic horror mostly, sometimes it veers over into other genres, but overall that's where I am.  Other than that, I'm an introverted book loving sort with two kiddos living in rural Ohio.   I love most things horror, being creative, learning about things like history and psychology, and wandering around quiet places like the woods and bookstores.  I also happen to be an editor for J. Ellington Ashton Press and do side edits as well.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Amanda M. Lyons:
  1. I'm about to go to college to get a degree in psychology, very surreal at 35 but here I am.
  2. I'm kind of an eclectic shaman spiritually speaking.
  3. I'm bisexual.
  4. My grandparents on my dad's side were part Cherokee (grandpa) and Blackfoot (grandma).
  5. I like to draw, sometimes this means I figure I can call myself an artist and other times this means I feel I can only use that in relation to my writing.  All depends on that inner critic.
The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Amanda M. Lyons:
As far as picture books, it was this series to do with a dinosaur.  I was one of the kids that had a hard time starting to read.  I took off once I did, but it was tough then.  Novel-wise, I think it was Beezus & Ramona.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Amanda M. Lyons:
Just finished Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking and starting David J. Bell's The Hiding Place.  Also working on Jerrod Balzer's Zombie Bastard.  I read all over the map really.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn't expect you to have liked?

Amanda M. Lyons:
Billie Letts' Where the Heart Is.  I write and read mostly horror, but I also like some literary fiction and even romance, also a big fan of things like How to Make an American Quilt and fantasy authors like Neil Gaiman and Michael Kanuckel.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Amanda M. Lyons:
I found out I had the ability to write when I was 12 or so.  We were assigned to write a Christmas story by Mr. Flener.  I wrote a story called The Last Lonely Christmas and he marveled over the detail in it for someone my age.  Having caught his notice and shared it with the class, I started writing terrible bloody stories to get a rise out of everyone.  I kinda got hooked on the response as much as the joy of making something from nothing.  With the aid of my dad's college writing book, I embarked on a long journey to getting better in jr high, then took forever and a day to get the guts to submit anything, ha.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Amanda M. Lyons:
Not really.  Growing up with four other siblings, I was usually pretty happy with finding enough space and quiet to be able to work at all.  I will say my favorite zen space is a room with the breeze blowing in the curtains and some good music going, like the Suspria soundtrack, maybe with an nice storm brewing.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Amanda M. Lyons:
I do prefer some good music going that suits the mood of what I'm working on; other than that just relatively quiet space when I can help it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Amanda M. Lyons:
Being a mom, ha.  Mostly it's that darn inner critic picking at things, but it's gotten quieter than it used to be.  Action scenes, I'm a lover not a fighter, so verbal jousting is more my thing than the physical.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's the most satisfying thing you've written so far?

Amanda M. Lyons:
Lots of the scenes in my Other Dangers series offered me that feeling, just times where I really felt like I got everything just right.  I'm a big fan of setting a memorable scene with lots of atmosphere and imagery that makes everything work.  Those books have plenty of both.  I had to really work at the action elements in it, most intensive on that of everything I've written.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Amanda M. Lyons:
The Stand and Bag of Bones by Stephen King were both huge influences.  Author-wise I would say that, in addition to Stephen King, there are folks like Anne RicePoppy Z. BriteClive BarkerGary A. BraunbeckShirley Jackson, and Caitlin R. Kiernan.  All of them are big on things like characters, atmosphere, and tone.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Amanda M. Lyons:
Something that really moves me in one direction or another.  It can be straight drama or the most brutal, gory thing ever written, but it has to have some very strong story, characters and plot to really stick with me.  I think back to plenty of scenes from books and stories and those are the authors I like to go back to over time.  The scenes are always about characters I care about, have great atmosphere, and say something to me in some way.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Amanda M. Lyons:
Memorable elements like quirks that make them human and unique in a genuine way, bits that make them appeal to me by being something I can identify with or understand in some way, distinguishing voice (in the case of first person) or attitudes that make them stand out to me but also remain humanely flawed.
            I like to make my characters strong in ways we can all connect with, I make them real and then sneak in little bits that are their own.  It comes out stronger in my novels than my short stories but it's there even with the shorter things.  LGBT, introverted, creative, and flawed characters are common with me since I like to add elements from myself and the people I know in real life, to ground them that way.  We are not perfect action heroes, princesses, or other such things so I make them very human, often even the monsters.  We're haunted by the things we know and think about, our own fears, and I write characters that reflect those things back to the reader.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Amanda M. Lyons:
Katja from my Shades of Midnight series.  I wrote her originally when I was in high school and she retains the most of me of all of them.  In a way the events in her books are me working on my own psychological lessons, the weird bits that roll around in my head.  She's strong, smart, capable and terribly scarred.  All of these things are inherently tied into each other, she's strong and capable because of everything she's been through, she learned to survive because she had to, smart because she learned to adapt.  She's learning to see past the scars as she goes along, has it proven to her that she's ore than she thought she was.  I think that's very indicative of many people tackling CPTSD like myself, having to learn to see things are growth related skills and what things are holding you back from living your life.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Amanda M. Lyons:
Yes, even as a small child I always looked at covers and illustrations to see if I would like a book or not.  I'm visually oriented and love imagery in word and art form so they pull me in.  If I'm not interested in the cover art in some way, I tend not to give it a go.  Online I don't even open a page for a book whose art doesn't appeal to me.
            I have been very fortunate being an author at JEA.  Here the authors have lots of impact on the way the cover comes out.  During the editing process our artists work with the author to come up with a solid working cover image and text using either image manipulation or paintings to do so.  Michael Fisher and David McGlumphy have done some excellent work with us, great use of color, visuals and fonts.  Both have very clear tones on their work, Fish's being very dark with nice contrasting colors and gothic and metal edges, McG's often being more poppy and fun B movie.  Stephen Cooney, our artist who works in paints, has an excellent style that's all his own, it really makes things click for the books that receive his work.  I've worked with all three for covers and I couldn't be happier with what I've gotten for my books.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

Amanda M. Lyons:
One of the strongest lessons has been not to limit myself by second guessing every step along the way.  I used to agonize about if I was a real writer or not.  Real is relative - write, get it out there, write some more.
            Do not choke the flow, not to edit, not to fret over if it's good, not to ask for opinions every so many words.  Plenty of time for that later.
            Don't let reviews tell you what you can or can't do, but by all means listen if the same things keep being pointed out to you as needing work.
            Listen to your editor, even if you have to pout for a day or two over some of the tougher critiques.  They know what they're doing and rarely even say something they haven't considered thoroughly.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Amanda M. Lyons:
The climactic part of Wendy Won't Go.  I agonized over what the right direction was going to be for that scene, even paced the floor a bit before writing it.  In the end I made the right choice for that story and I think its sister, Love Like Blood, shines for having gone a different route.  Both stories meant having to research Native American legends and cultural elements to set the tone, but they were about human love and human pain, tricky, tricky things.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Amanda M. Lyons:
I focus on atmosphere, characters, and imagery to develop something that stands out for its own merits.  I like to think if you like my work it's because it leaves a mark on you, makes you think back to it from time to time when your mind wanders.  If I can do that then I did my job.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Amanda M. Lyons:
It certainly affects things, but it isn't always a major element in the story overall.  As far as how I go about choosing a title, it depends on the story really.  Some of my books and stories come with the name first because that's a major part of the genesis while others I sort out after I hit the main point of the story and get inspired.  A lot of the time the title hints at something in the story, creating an aha moment later on, or the title sets a theme for you to read under.  Eyes Like Blue Fire was named for Raven and Anton's eyes for an example of something that was more atmosphere than anything.  Wendy Won't Go hints at something integral to the plot for a stronger tone, same with Growing Pains.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Amanda M. Lyons:
Probably writing a novel most of the time.  While there are some very strong and complete short stories I've put out over time, novels just have more room to breathe.  I can stretch my legs, build up those characters, tell you more about the setting; everything feels fuller and more nourishing in a way.  It also takes me a lot more time and energy to complete a novel.  I started on short stories and had to build up to novel length work.  I still add to a first draft rather than cutting away as a result of that.  As a result, novels are the big projects and have the most meaning on completion.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Amanda M. Lyons:
I write literary and gothic horror most of the time so I like readers that are looking for something with weight and impact, not just shock, though I can do that too.  The Shades of Midnight series is probably the most gothic and atmospheric of everything I have out, and the only novel length work.  It's for fans of things like Anne Rice and Nancy A. Collins, that pre-Twilight, post Dracula sort of vampire who was very human but also monstrous, broken.  I've had people say it's like an adult fairy tale, an atmospheric nightmare sort of thing, and that makes sense.
            In fact, atmospheric nightmare is probably a fitting description of my work.  There really is a sort of surreal element to things and, being one way I work out my own fears and things, a psychological and subconscious element, too.  The stories generally have depth to them and so I like readers to get little bits and pieces from them as they go, not just the underlying theme but little odds and ends that are in there with it.  I hope they care about the characters and what happens to them, that it sticks with them.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Amanda M. Lyons:
Hmm, most of the time there really isn't much in that direction, I've gotten pretty good at not going farther than I want to in a story or writing something that I can't see sticking.  About the only cutting room bits I can think of are from those early days with Eyes Like Blue Fire.  I worked hard to develop that book and there were strong elements of romance all along, the first few versions probably had a pretty heaping helping of the story of historical/gothic romance that I was reading back then though, and I trimmed those away as much as I could to pull out the horror elements.  I used to be mortified by that aspect of the book and my writing as a whole but it makes a lot of sense really.  Love is something everyone yearns for, love and acceptance, so why wouldn't that be an integral theme for much of my work, especially with my CPTSD?

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is in your "trunk"?  (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn't necessarily have to be book related, that they have put aside for a 'rainy day' or for when they have extra time.  Do you have one?)

Amanda M. Lyons:
I actually have several ideas and partially completed novels I need to finish, many of them started in those high school days.  Most are horror but not all; I'm really hoping I can tackle them in the next few years, part of my overall goal as an author.  I used to be afraid those ideas and projects were all the ones I had in me and lived in fear of finishing them all.  Once I started taking part in JEA antes and projects on a regular basis I got past that fear pretty quickly.  The new ideas were surpassing the old ones and coming out not too long after they were turned in.  Now to catch up on the old.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Amanda M. Lyons:
The first of my Other Dangers books was submitted to JEA and I'm hoping to hear back on that soon, one way or another I  hope to have that out by spring of next year.  It's a series about an author who writes the end of the world and it really happens.  She didn't know what she was doing and now finds herself facing the fallout.  She tries to save her world, but can she?  The first book, Slipped Through, introduces us to that world and a guy that happened into it by accident.  It's horror meets apocalypse meets fantasy meets the occult via sci-fi.  A little of everything in there, and it is very complicated, but I like to think of it as my epic project and hope people really like it.  A few stories from it have been published in anthos like Doorway to Death: Anthology from the Other Side and Undead Legacy if people want to get a feel for what sort of things happen in those books.
            I also have an anthology I edited coming out soon, Season of the Witch, about witches in various themes.  As far as other personal projects, I'm hoping maybe I can finish Jodie, a novel about a girl and her dolls living in the rural Midwest and set in the 70s.  There are plenty of other things going on and lots of anthos with stories due out over the next year, but I don't want to list too much.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (You know, STaLKeR links.)

Amanda M. Lyons:

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Thanks for stopping by, Amanda.  It's been great learning more about you and the works you have out.  
            One more thing before you go: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview?

Amanda M. Lyons:
I'd just like to say thanks for the interview Meghan and that I hope anyone that hasn't already given my work a read will enjoy what they find.


About the author:
A longtime fan of horror and fantasy, Ms. Lyons writes character driven novels that, while influenced by the dark and gothic, can also be heavily laced with fantasy, romance, history and magic.  Amanda M. Lyons has lived here whole life in rural Ohio, where she lives with her fiancĂ© and two children.
            She is the author of Wendy Won't GoEyes Like Blue FireWater Like Crimson Sorrow, and Cool Green Waters all available from J. Ellington Ashton Press.  She is also the co-author of Feral Hearts with authors Catt DahmanMark WoodsJim GoforthEdward P. Cardillo, and Michael Fisher and a contributing author to the extreme horror anthologies Rejected for Content: SplattergoreRejected for Content 2: Aberrant MenagerieRejected for Content 3: Violent Vengeance and several others yet to come.
            Look for Other Dangers Part 1: Slipped Through and the collaborative werewolf novel Lycanthroship as well as the anthologies Suburban Secrets: Ghosts & Graveyards, Trashed, Strange Dominion: Tales of the Weird West, and Season of the Witch in the coming months.

About the books:
Billy and Sara are living a life of fear.  Every day and every night since Sara was small they have been haunted by a terrible apparition.  She is cold and she is cruel, strange and frightening.  Her name is Wendy, and no matter where they go and no matter what they do, Wendy Won't Go.

Katja is a vampire who has lost sense of herself and her value in the world.  Lost, broken and damaged she wanders the streets of Europe hoping to find some sense of purpose beyond the death and tragedy she has always known.  Betrayed by her sire and left alone in the night she is startled to discover herself forming a connection to a young man who shares a close resemblance to her master and lover.  Though everything in her begs her to stay with him she flees only to come running back to save him when a sadistic monster from her sire's past comes to destroy the only hope she has had in 300 years.
            Katja and Raven will face many horrors among them Renfield style zombies, ghosts and the undead.  This is also the first in the series Broken Edges.

Having discovered many of Anton's secrets, Katja must now seek out Raven and attempt to rescue him from the nightmare that his life has become.  As she seeks him out, Raven is being eaten up by the horror of his own past; a past full of guilt, pain and a terrible revenant who is more than she seems.  In time, these two paths will come to meet and a final confrontation that could mean the end of so many things will be in store.  Will Raven survive the monster who's come to take over his life and will Katja be strong enough to face it?


After the events of Eyes Like Blue Fire and Water Like Crimson Sorrow Katja finds herself tackling a very damaged and conflicted Raven.  Hoping to heal that damage on her own, she sends Zero and Michael to find the only other vampire she knows still lives after learning about Anton's past and destroying the monsters she uncovers there.  Divided, the two groups find themselves tackling more that they could have expected as Katja faces an unknown threat from a faceless monster, while Zero and Michael must face Mateo, and with him, their own dark secrets.  Not all is as it seems and the past is far from buried.

No comments: