Interview with Amanda Rawson Hill

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Amanda Rawson Hill grew up in the mountain desert of Southwest Wyoming with a library right out her back gate. After graduating from Brigham Young University with her degree in chemistry, she lived all over the country, finally settling in Central California where she enjoys playing games with her husband, teaching educational outreach programs, and homeschooling her three kids.

Julia Shelton: Do you brainstorm with other people when writing a story?

Amanda Rawson Hill: Not really. I use an alpha reader, which is just a CP who reads my first draft as I write it and is only allowed to say good things while I’m drafting. Then after I finish that first draft, they give revision thoughts.

JS: Where is your favorite place to write?

AH: In my bedroom! I have an adjustable bed, so I prop up my feet and head, and go to town.

JS: Who are your author inspirations? Are there any books that you read as a teen that influenced you?

AH: My biggest author inspirations are Kate DiCamillo, Katherine Applegate, and Sharon Creech. I want to write books that make people feel as deeply and hopeful as those books make me feel.

When I was a teen, I was really into fantasy. I remember sobbing at the end of Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy. But as far as what has influenced me most as an author, it would probably be reading Walk Two Moons when I was in elementary school.

JS: What are some of your favorite underappreciated middle grade books that have come out recently?

AH: Ooh! There are so many! THE SOMEDAY BIRDS by Sally J Pla, LIKE MAGIC by Elaine Vickers, SEE YOU IN THE COSMOS by Jack Cheng, and LOVE SUGAR MAGIC by Anna Meriano. One book I just finished and LOVED but haven’t seen much buzz for yet is GOOD DOG by Dan Gemeinhart.

JS: Do you have any writing pet peeves that stand out to you the most when reading other authors’ work?

AH: Stilted dialogue is a big one. It’s so hard to get just right and it can be hard to tell how to fix it, but I can pick it out instantly. I would also say stories where the plot feels more episodic rather than this organic whole with one thing leading to the next. Usually when that happens it’s because the author has lost focus on the goal and stakes, both external and internal.

JS: What do you think is the best way for an author to grow in their writing?

AH: Read. Read. Read. And not just read for fun. But really analyze what you’re reading. Why are you sucked in? How does the author paint a character, so you feel like you know them? And if it’s hard for you to do with reading, do it with movies. As you watch a movie, or after you finish, see if you can pick out the plot points and verbalize the theme. As I’ve done that more and more, I’ve really begun to understand plot and pacing so much better.

After that, the next best thing an author needs to do is find good CP’s. A good CP (critique partner) is one who pushes you, is honest about the flaws in your ms, but never makes you feel like a crap writer. They are cheerleaders and hard truth deliverers all at the same time.

JS: Are there certain themes that you are passionate about writing?

AH: I really love to write themes around healing/embracing/creating family and themes around the give and take of human connection.

JS: Why do you think middle grade books are such a special age category?

AH: Middle grade is a special category because readers at this age are just starting to see the world in all its complexity. Black, white, and all the shades of gray in between. And yet they aren’t cynical yet. They are full of hope and optimism. The world, though complex, is still inherently good. And this set of factors makes it possible to create books that point to the kind of world we want to create, that point to the truths found inside each soul that we might have forgotten in adulthood.

JS: What advice would you give yourself when you first started out writing? What kept you motivated to finish your first draft?

AH: This writing thing isn’t a waste of time. It’s not silly or a pipe dream or impossible. It’s okay to own it, invest in it, and be proud of what you are doing, even with no “credits” to your name.

As far as what kept me motivated to finish my first draft, I’m just a really stubborn Type A person. So, once I decide to do something, I do it and I do it to the best of my ability.

JS: Do you believe in everyday magic?

AH: Absolutely! I’m always amazed at how when I reach out and I give that my life becomes richer, with more people to love, and helping hands when I need it. I’ve also felt the magic of being able to forgive when I put forth the effort to treat a person with kindness, even if I don’t feel like they “deserve” it.

JS: Will your upcoming novel be told in first person or third person? Do you have a preference? Will all of the story be told from Kate’s point of view?

AH: My debut is told in first person and all of it is from Kate’s point of view. I don’t really have a preference. I love writing in first person to get really up close and personal with my MC. But I just finished a WIP in third person and started another in third, and I love the storytelling options that open up for me. It’s really just about what the story needs and calls for.

JS: What is the hardest part of developing book plots?

AH: Beginnings! Beginnings are hard because you have to cram so much into them. Immediate characterization, inciting incident, stakes, motivation, some backstory. It took until my second revision AFTER my book sold to figure out what my first scene was! The other hard part of developing plots for me is motivation of my character. I’m pretty good at knowing what a character wants and the things that get in their way. But it can be tricky for me to find a motivation behind the want that’s deep enough and strong enough to organically propel my character through the hurdles of an entire story.

JS: What are some themes to look forward to in your upcoming novel?

AH: The theme itself are the rules of Everyday Magic. Believe, give, trust. Other themes that go along with that include knowing when to love and when to let go and how to love someone who is leaving you, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

JS: How will you celebrate when your book, The Three Rules of Everyday Magic, comes out September 25th?

AH: I will probably go to dinner at my favorite restaurant and get a fig and prosciutto pizza. My husband also let slip that he is planning some kind of surprise for it so…I can’t wait to find out what that is!

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