Author Beeginnings: Amanda Egan

We are happy to have independent British author Amanda Egan joining us today. Her debut novel Diary of a Mummy Misfit is available now.

Here's our interview with Amanda about how she started her writing career. Enjoy! And be sure to leave a comment to let us know what you think. Thanks!

What was your favorite book(s) when you were a child?

I was the youngest of three daughters, following over a decade behind, so in some ways I felt like an only child.  They were off doing teenage things and I was left to my own devices.  So reading became a huge part of my life, a place to escape.  I was brought up in a family of massive readers, so it felt the natural thing to do.  My earliest recollection of reading by myself was “The Wishing Chair” by Enid Blyton.  It’s filled with pixies, gnomes and giants and I believed every word.  This was the first time I realised that a writer could make moving pictures in my head with their words - it was like watching a film. Being a Blyton fan led me to ‘The Naughtiest Girl’ series.  Looking back, I can see this as the start of my love for chick-lit.  What could be more girlie than ‘bad girl sent off to boarding school, meets best friend and eventually becomes a good girl’? Then of course there was the ‘Malory Towers’ series - boarding school again, but for older girls, so along with it came the bitching and trials and tribulations of being a growing young woman. I wonder if Enid Blyton ever realised she was churning out chick-lit for young ‘gels’? Noel Streatfeild’s books followed - ‘Ballet Shoes,’ ‘Curtain Up,’ and ‘Party Frock.’  This was when I began to realise that I was a bit of a luvvie and the stage was definitely calling me.  I got to read about rehearsals, back stage rivalry and dressing up.

When did you start writing?

I’ve written for as long as I can remember.  When I first realised that all I needed was a pencil, a piece of paper and my thoughts, I was away. At school, it was called ‘Composition.’  Nothing would fill me with more joy than having a ‘Comp’ for homework.  I remember the pride at receiving 5 stars for my story on ‘Bonfire Night’ - I wrote it from the angle of the fireworks in the box and, believe me, I was those fireworks! Not only did I receive the acclaimed stars in my exercise book, I also had to go to the headmaster to get an ‘ink star’ put on my forehead.  Guess that was my first good review, but I don’t think you’d get away with it in schools now.

What kind of writing did you start with?

Once I started to write as an adult, I took the short story route.  I never managed to get anything published in magazines and I became disheartened.  Then I realised I had too much to say for short stories - I wanted my characters to develop by themselves and the plot to unfurl. Two very dodgy and half finished novels now reside in my desk drawer.  They seemed fine at the time, and may one day be rehashed, but they just didn’t grow wings.  Writing should be a joy and they felt like I was plodding through treacle.  I now know you have to follow your instincts and you’ll know when you’ve got it right. I’ve even attempted to write a Mills & Boon.  I’d never been interested in the genre but hubbie and I decided if we devoured enough of them we’d crack the formula and churn out a beauty.  I soon gave up when I realised I found them too constricting - there’s little room for humour and I got a bit sick of all the ‘heaving bosoms’ and ‘flushed cheeks.’

When did you decide to become an author and how did you know it was the right career for you?

I’d always dabbled, but it wasn’t until my son moved on to secondary school, aged 11, and developed school phobia that there was a turn in events.  His anxiety meant that he was initially unable to enter a class room and, after consulting with a child psychologist and the school counsellor, we were told that his recovery would involve baby steps with me constantly in the background.  To cut a very long story short, I was at the school, or in the school car park, for a total of three years.  I had to entertain myself somehow so I found that I could escape to another world and read anything up to five books in a week.  I guess this was the final bit of my homework - if you want to write, you have to read.  Then one day, based on past experience and observations, the germ of an idea came into my head and the book wrote itself.  I flew through the story in three months, tapping away on a borrowed laptop in my car, come rain or shine, for seven hours a day. I realised it was the right career for me when I received what my agent called ‘unprecedented praise for a new author’ from top publishing houses.  I figured I must be doing something right and began to believe in myself. The other up-side is that my son has now been flying solo for two years, just completed his GCSE’s and is looking forward to returning to the school he grew to love.

What was the most challenging part of starting a writing career?  What was the best part?

After a wonderfully positive start to my writing career - accepted by the first approached agent and fantastic reviews from prospective publishers - things started to go horribly pear-shaped. Two major London publishing houses had enthusiastically received my book.  I was asked to do several word culls, add another hook and start on the sequel.  I went off gladly and did all of this - after all, my agent was talking about going to auction and playing one publisher off against the other. Said agent then took his eye off the ball - obviously concentrating on the bigger (celebrity) fish he had to fry - and, by the time he finally chased up the interested parties, the landscape had changed and they’d decided against signing me.  Their reasons being that they had already contracted someone ‘a bit similar in style’ and ‘the recession meant they weren’t taking chances on newbies’. Needless to say I was devastated.  I’d come so close and it had all been snatched from me. Many hissy fits and temper tantrums followed until I finally discovered there was another option.  Sack my agent, self publish and keep all the profits! It might sound weird, but the best part has been the learning curve of going solo.  The book won’t sell itself so I spend most days networking and raising its profile.  Every day is a new challenge and most days end with reward. How I’ll ever find time to finish the next book is beyond me but I’m very excited at the prospect of creating again.

Describe what it was like when your first novel was published.  Were you relieved, excited, anxious? How did you celebrate the launch?

I was terrified. I didn’t have the security of an agent, publisher, editor or publicist.  I felt naked and vulnerable.  Luckily the sales and reviews put my mind at rest fairly quickly.  People seemed to be enjoying what I’d written and they were asking for more.  It’s a continuing journey so you might need to ask me how I feel in six months time or when I get my first bad review! My launch was very low-key.  A romantic dinner at the local Italian with my husband!  I hope in the future to throw a book party but who knows when?

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

I’d say trust your instincts and you’ll know when you’ve got the right idea. Try to write every day, it maintains the flow. Also, those words soon start to add up. Don’t over plan. Sometimes your characters will surprise you and take you on a journey you didn’t know you were going on. Write about what you know - it makes it so much easier for you and more believable for your reader. Read, read, read and read.  That way you’ll know what sells and what you write best. Edit, edit and edit.  Get someone else to read through it for you too. Have you made yourself clear to your reader? And that errant apostrophe or typo will always be hiding somewhere. Believe in yourself and keep at it. It’s a great feeling when you type ‘The End.’
About Amanda Egan
Born and raised in London, Amanda was trained professionally as an actress and has now started writing Chick/Mummy-lit. Her debut novel, Diary of a Mummy Misfit, is a tongue-in-cheek look at the easily recognized types of self-centered mums you can find at prep-school gates anywhere in the world - “the Meemies.”  In her spare time, Amanda reads anything from Maeve Binchy, Jill Mansell, and Penny Vincenzi to Noel Coward, Dostoevsky and Zola. She also loves crafts and entertaining, particularly hosting themed dinner parties. For more information, you can connect with Amanda on Twitter, Facebook, and by visiting her blog.