Trick-or-Treat Thrillers is honored to interview today, Amanda M. Lyons, Author of the Shades of Midnight Book series!
Shades of Midnight Book Series Book Descriptions:
Book One Description: Eye Like Blue Fire
Katja has long spent her life buried in the pain and sorrow of her past, a vampire abandoned to her fate for over 300 years, she never expects to meet another who could help her reclaim her existence. Raven, a poet and fellow lost soul, could be the one to spur her on, but in order to have the future she has only begun to grasp, she must uncover the truth about her origins and the awful event which left her alone centuries before. If she cannot face her past and reclaim her strength, she will lose everything.
Book Two Description: Water Like Crimson Sorrow
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?
What gave you the idea for your Shades of Midnight book series? And why did you give the books such different names?
Shades of Midnight started as a single page of free-written text which wound up being the first page of Eyes Like Blue Fire.I was still a teenager then and I hadn’t tried writing anything longer than a handful of pages by that point. I spent a long time trying to figure out what I wanted to do with it because it was very different than anything I had written, much more prose and exposition. After a long time of trying to make it start, it finally did and I started to understand I had a novel on my hands about a vampire who didn’t really know how to live. I had to restart it twice before I really found it to be creating a true novel and I made myself write every day. It was a way to deal with the person I was then and the loneliness I felt, little did I know that I was actually lecturing myself about letting my past eat me alive and never giving the future a shot. I was waiting for it to happen to me like everything else had up to that point. I guess you could say Shades of Midnight is my exploring myself as a person, trying to understand the phases and experiences of my life through a sort of dark gothic vampire fairy tale with blood and sex, ghosts and ghouls throughout. What caused me to have the idea? Needing to find stable ground and explore these little pieces of me.
Why do the books have such different names? Eyes Like Blue Fire is a reference to both Anton, the vampire who turned Katja and Raven Nightshade, the man she meets later on, both of them stand as major turning points in her life and her choosing to trust, something she’s struggled with in her life. Water Like Crimson Sorrow refers to both a terrible memory in Raven’s life, when he lost his lover, and a ghostly apparition that torments him during that book, more than what it first appears. Cool Green Waters, the third book due out very soon, refers to the strange and often opaque sea that lives within. In that book it refers to Raven’s battle to regain some semblance of stability after the events of the first two books, a battle between what he knows is himself and the piece of him that is Anton, now much more pronounced. It also refers to both Mateo and Delamorte, vampires with a very complicated pasts that left them very damaged in more ways than one, for now the darkness and brutality that make them up are more pronounced, but there is more to them than it seems. Hollow Black Corners of the Soul will be book four, this title refers the exploration for why someone might become a monster, become lost in spirit and give up, or choose to destroy everything around them. There’s also a bit of a cliffhanger from book 3 that we’ll see resolved here along with some more surprises, I can’t say exactly what because all of them are undecided and aren’t written out yet, but I like ot think book 3 started us in a more complicated direction, one where things may be less certain than in the first two. In short, each of the titles sets a theme, touches on some key elements in the book and hints at what we explore there.
What got you into writing horror and fantasy?
I grew up on genre films, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, all kinds of B films that my dad loved and shared with us. I had a very vivid imagination in the first place and an intense need to understand things, learn about them, and try to figure out both why someone was the way they were and how to act in response to it. All of these things captivated my mind, I was sensitive to all sorts of things and a world that was freer, more open to my imagination seemed more interesting. It probably also helped I was afraid of a lot and had all kinds of vivid nightmares and silly things I thought were real at the time. I remember seeing Legend with Tim Curry when I was small and coming home just a little bit before my mom got back, trapped in the easy chair utterly convinced I heard the devil laughing from the back bedroom. I’m sure my parents found my fears and outbursts as amusing as they were frustrating.
I still loved those movies just the same, no matter how scared I got, and soon that translated to reading books. Through them I discovered an outlet for my imagination and whole other places that other people had thought up. I soon started driving my parents nuts by reading, even in the dark, and pushing the library book limit whenever we did the monthly trip there. I went on to write my first real short story, The Last Lonely Christmas in 6th grade and that was the gateway to writing for me, seeing how I could capture the attention of my teacher and the other kids with what I wrote. Mr. Flenner saw that and encouraged me ot write all the time, I’d read these stories during talent shows he had us do in class, most of them brutally gory and over the top, that encouragement carried me into Junior High where I started studying books on writing, including my dad’s college writing book, and taking notes. I tried to start writing a novel length version of The Last Lonely Christmas, but I got frustrated with it after I lost a few pages and threw it into a trash fire. It probably helped that it was a dramatic suspense novel and by that point I’d started reading Stephen King and wanted to be working on the amazing things I saw him doing with his books. I had to write horror.
The funny thing was that other elements were always in my stories too, romance, supernatural stuff that wasn’t always horror, and soon I started branching out into reading other authors as well. The truth is that just about everything I’ve written has a little bit of other genres blended into the main theme, that child who feared the world but loved it all the same.
What else have you written?
Aside from Shades of Midnight there are many short stories in anthologies (the titles for which can be found in my author bio), a collaborative vampire novel called Feral Hearts with Edward Cardillo, catt dahman, Michael Fisher, Jim Goforth and Mark Woods, and Wendy Won’t Go a novelette which was my first submission and acceptance at JEA. Those are the published titles for now, but there are always anthos coming out with stories in them from me and I have a small stack of novels that I am working on completing, along with a short story collection I’m hoping to put together before too long. WWG is available in a standalone ebook copy as well as in both the Collector’s Editions of Time of Tides and Wendy Won’t Go, both of which have the title story in them as well as a special short story from each of the authors (Mark Woods is the author of Time of Tides and a very good writer!) in their respective books. “Love Like Blood” came as the extra story in mine and is a sort of sister story to WWG, both of them my takes on American Indian legends.
My vampire series is very different from the rest of my work so people that aren’t as fond of the gothic style of those might prefer the literary tone of my other work and vice versa. I can write something that is more relaxed and literary for one and sometimes write something darker and more brutal for another, I’m not sure if a lot of other authors do that but I know it can make for mixed results for me in terms of sorting out which readers will be interested in me overall.
What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like?
Well, I do a lot working for JEA, so I don’t get to write as often as I’d like, usually more often on the weekends or when things are slower at the end of the year. I have a lot of novels started or the ideas for them jotted down in files, so I usually try to work on those, though this year I did a lot more short stories than anything else. I tend to open works in progress and give them a go to see which one will catch my focus and set off better than others, sometimes I find myself working a little bit in a few of them during a work period. I don’t have too many real rules for what I do to write other than that, I usually have music with the right mood going and if I get stuck in one thing I try another.
What is your favorite book (other than your own book, of course) and why?
This one is an iffy question for someone like me who has a whole mountain of them stored away on our hearts. Books were my rescue from the tough times so a lot of them have meaning, some for one thing and some for another. I find it interesting you had to say besides your own, the idea if saying such had not occurred to me. I’ll pick one though, let’s go with Stephen King’s The Stand, I’ve certainly gotten a lot out of it and I’ve read it 12 times. I first read it in Junior High and it took me a long time to work on it, that was a bonus for me at the time though because I didn’t socialize much and that helped me get through all the time alone. Everyone in that book is experiencing major upheaval and it forces them to see their strengths and weaknesses, both of which can actually lead to various problems depending how they used them.
Most of the characters were important to me, but I focused on Larry Underwood and Nadine Cross the most out of everyone, both had serious flaws and faced life in a different way, most often to their detriment. Harold Lauder, Frannie Goldsmith, Stu Redman, Nick Andros and Mother Abigail were all important to me too though, almost all of them expressed some part of me in some way and I was able to bond with them. It was a very strong narrative and I read the Complete and Uncut edition so I got to know a lot about the characters. It also taught me a bit about death and the fact that people are not truly good or evil, not completely. I think it taught me quite a bit about people as a whole, myself and writing in a lot of ways. It really moved me just about the whole book and so it stuck with me. If I don’t feel up to rereading the book sometimes I’ll go watch the made for tv miniseries, I watched that as it aired too, I was reading the book at about the same time.
What are you doing next?
I’m one of the editors for a few antholigies with John Ledger, Drowning in Gore, Suburban Secrets: Ghosts and Graveyards,Strange Dominions: Tales of the Weird West and a few others likely to be out in the coming months, also some of my own, Fata Arcana and Season of the Witch, so there will be a bit of editing there, always a very fun thing, working on anthologies. Kind of like making mix tapes actually.
I’m polishing up Other Danger Part 1: Slipped Through for submission and I think that will be very interesting to apocalyptic horror fans, it has quite a bit going on in it and is a bit more visceral than what I did with the vampire books. Some stories that are in the anthologies actually come from it and the other parts of the story. If people want to see what is going on with that one, look at my stories in Undead Legacy, Doorway to Death and Suburban Secrets, I also subbed one to Undead Legacy 2 that is a part of it about Abby, we’ll have to wait and see if that one gets accepted or not. Each of them tackles a different group of characters so they show some of the differing facets of the whole thing. Other Dangers is actually kind of my version of The Stand, a great big book about antiheroes trying to tackle some very screwed up stuff and everything that happens after. I guess it’s actually both apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic as it tackles things on two different side of that coin, two different points in time.
It’s about an author that is so desperate to become a better writer that she finds herself using black magic to get it, with some very devastating results. She spends a very long time trying to make up for what happens, is the hero that just might save what is left of the world with many others behind her, but things may not perfectly work out and we learn how all of it goes through Henry, this guy who is a real jackass at the beginning of the book but grows as he goes through all of these things in Abby’s world. He’s an outsider looking in, someone that accidentally slipped through a space between worlds and finds himself trapped, reliant on Abby and the other people of her world to survive when his own world was pretty normal and left him complacent. It’s mostly horror but also has big swaths of fantasy, sci-fi and suspense thrown in there. Zombies (not just the usual kind, these are connected to magic) demons, monstrously mutated animals, black magic, complex anti-heroes, sex, very cerebral and emotional stuff, ghosts, ghouls and this writer chick in the middle of it all.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
- Keep writing: yes, even if it seems like it goes nowhere and you’re ready to burst with the need to see it published.
- Read the good and the bad: They can both inspire in different ways and teach you to grow as a writer.
- Be willing to try books outside your usual: Both as a writer and a reader, you might learn something new and find that you have a story in you that never would have been written otherwise.
- Network: Meet other writers, especially well established ones that are willing to offer advice and listen. Even when you don’t agree, pay attention, see what it teaches you about you and the person you’re listening to, adapt accordingly.
- Get to know your potential readers: Talk to them, be pals with them in all areas of social media that suit you and your interests. Not just to sell your books, but so that they see you’re a real person worth spending time with. Readers love an author who will meet them on their level and talk with them just like they were anyone else.
- Learn how to write a decent query letter: Be polite, show respect, and for the love of all that is holy be concise! Nothing kills an editor’s interest like seeing an egotistical, rude, or rambling query letter. Professionalism is the coin of the realm in publishing and it opens many doors.
- Be patient: Waiting for that acceptance/rejection letter is murder, and so is waiting for edits, but please, never ever pester an editor to get a response. This will earn you the response you fear and risks damaging a relationship that could open so many doors otherwise.
- Editors are your friends: Yes, even when they leave your baby riddled with comments and document changes that tell you there is quite a bit to fix in the book you spent years working on. They’re trying to show you the book hiding under all the muck
- Covers are key: It doesn’t matter if you’re indie or traditionally published, if your cover is abysmal it will not be going anywhere regardless of the quality of the book inside of it.
- Be careful who you choose to work with: I can’t stress this enough! There are a host of conartists, rip-offs, and just utterly rotten people out there. Never sign with a publisher who asks you to pay up front for publication costs, vanity presses exist purely to profit from your hard work. Always, always be sure your cover artist uses copyright free stock pictures and other materials or does all art themselves! Ask editors for samples of their work, what strengths they have as an editor, and if they have any customers you can ask about their work before you sign on. Never pay more than the work is worth but never cheat a solid freelancer who can do the work either. Do the research on the people you come across for any of these things, be sure of your decision and learn from any mistakes you make along the way.
Bio: A longtime fan of horror and fantasy, Ms. Lyons writes character driven novels that, while influenced by her darker interests, can also be heavily laced with fantasy, romance, history and magic. Amanda M. Lyons has lived her whole life in rural Ohio where she lives with her fiance and two children.Wendy Won’t Go: Collector’s Edition, Eyes Like Blue Fire, and Water Like Crimson Sorrow came out from J. Ellington Ashton Press this year and she’s currently at work on a short horror collection, Jodie, the Other Dangers series, and several other novels..
She is also the author of Feral Hearts, with authors Catt Dahman, Mark Woods, Jim Goforth, Edward P. Cardillo, and Michael Fisher. She is also a contributing author to the extreme horror anthologies Rejected for Content: Splattergore, Rejected for Content 2: Aberrant Menagerie and Splat as well as the anthologies All That Remains, Undead Legacy, Urban Legends: Emergence of Fear and several others yet to come. Ms. Lyons has also co-edited Autumn Burning: Dreadtime Stories for the Wicked Soul with Samatha Gregory; Suburban Secrets: A Neighborhood of Fear andDoorway to Death: An anthology From the Other Side with John Ledger and edited Fearotica: An Anthology of Erotica Horror and Inanna Rising: Women Forged in Fire.
Look for the anthologies Rejected for Content 3: Violent Vengeance, Kaiju Rising, Trollkind: Under the Bridge, Jeapers Creepers, Fata Arcana, Jurassic Attack, Lost Gods and Forgotten Cities, Suburban Secrets: Ghosts and Graveyards, Drowning in Gore, MvF, FvM,Trashed, Gashed, Flashed, Strange Dominion: Tales of the Weird West, Full Moon Slaughter, and Season of the Witch in the coming months. Cool Green Waters: Shades of Midnight Book 3, Other Dangers Part 1: Slipped Through, and the collaborative novel Lycanthroship are all also on the horizon.