Hello, everyone! Today I'll be interviewing Amanda Tero, author of Journey to Love and the to-be-published-very-soon-short-story-sequel, Letter of Love.
Hello, Amanda, welcome to Reveries. I must say, I was certainly glad to read Journey to Love. It actually inspired me to be a better Christian, which is something I can say for few books ... perhaps no books! I know that Journey to Love is the first novella in a series ... any hints about what the next one's going to be about? Do you have a rough idea as-to how many novellas/short stories will be in the series?
Hi Kellyn! Thanks for having me here! Wow, I am super humbled to hear that Journey to Love encouraged you to be a better Christian! That is indeed my goal in writing, and I praise the Lord for helping my few words to impact others!
The Orphan Journeys series is gradually evolving. ;) And in that, it is confusing a lot of people. So here's a breakdown:
- Orphan Journeys Novellas
Standalone novellas about fictional orphans who "rode the orphan train" and learned valuable lessons along the way. The novellas will not be connected to each other (as far as I know), which gives me the freedom to write as many as the Lord leads me to write, spanning different years.
- Orphan Journeys Short Stories
Spin-offs from either the novellas or novels about characters that we just didn't want to let go. Stories that had to be finished, but didn't quite need a full novella or novel.
- Orphan Journeys Novels
This portion of the Orphan Journeys series is connected. Currently, I have the first two books planned. Journey of Choice (in the works) is about an orphan, Nat. He didn't choose to be an orphan. He didn't choose to go on the orphan train. But there are things that he does choose in his life. Choices which might have consequences. Journey of Purpose (book 2) is about a young orphan, Micah, who is a pastor's son. His paths cross with Nat's as they both learn the purpose in living.
Will we hear more about Marie or any of the other characters in the second book?
This is where the Orphan Journeys Short Stories were invented. I had several people ask me about Edward, Marie's brother from whom she was separated. I just finished "Letter of Love," which tells Edward's story. Other than that, though, I don't have any intentions on revisiting characters from Journey to Love.
Was Journey to Love a hard book to write? Going back, was it a hard book to plot? To research for?
It was a hard book for various reasons. 1) I challenged myself to write about a character completely opposite of myself. Marie struggles with security, fear, love. She gets closed into her shell and doesn't want to let anyone in. This is not me at all! I never felt "connected" with Marie, but you know what? God worked through that and has allowed several readers to completely identify and connect with Marie. That has made me stand in awe of how God works. 2) I wrote this over a period of a year in which we were building a house, helping with a lot of different camps, and traveling a bit. I prefer to sit down and focus on a project, but in this case, God gave me grace to write little bits at a time. 3) I kept trying to write "the end" before the story was finished. I grew impatient. Several friends talked me into lengthening the story. In fact, chapters 10 and 16-19 were written less than two months before I published the book!
I didn't really plot this book. I had an outline (which I scratched), but I kind of plotted as I wrote. I find that plots kind of hem me in too much. I'm what some people call a "pantser" writer.
Researching was challenging as well, because I like to be historically accurate. I did a lot of research on the orphan trains and finally found two books, which I read after the bulk of Journey to Love was written (and caused me to realize that one of the plotlines would have been completely historically inaccurate! So...I hid behind a "historical note" in which I acknowledged that and kept my story). It was a little harder to find information on the orphan train than I thought it would be.
Did the characters evolve a lot during the writing of Journey to Love, or did they stay the way you imagined them from the start?
My characters usually evolve a lot as I write. Marie pretty much stayed the same. She was supposed to be a shy girl who shut out those around her and refused to let them love her. Celeste started out as a very sub-character, but as I realized that she could be a bubbly, fun character, she came more to the forefront. But other characters, like Mr. Bowles, changed as I wrote -- then I went back to edit them to stay consistent.
Did you learn anything while writing it?
The biggest lesson I learned was probably a mix between being patient and following God. As I wrote my first draft, I finished it thinking, "This really should be Journey to Freedom or Journey to Truth." But I felt like the Lord was leading me to write Journey to LOVE. The very next day, I visited my sister's church and the Sunday School lesson was on 1 John 4. It was like God was saying, "Nope, you're not done yet! You still need to put that message of love in there."
As a Christian, do you think you've expanded or stayed the same as you write books that tell people about Jesus Christ?
Writing Christian fiction definitely causes me to grow. Many times, I write about lessons that God has personally taught me (particularly with my short stories), but I have realized that God uses what I'm writing to "preach to me." For example, in thinking about and writing Journey of Choice, about a highly independent character, God has shown me areas in which I've begun to be independent and need to return to following Him.
Do you ever see yourself writing novels for a secular audience? Or will you always write strictly Christian books?
I personally believe that God has given me the gift of writing, and that in that gift, He has also given me the calling to write for His glory. Every time I write, I have an amazing opportunity to reach others for Christ. In a way, writing is just one of my ministries to help others. And the best way I can help them is to point them to Christ. So, in short: no, I don't see myself as ever writing secular books. I would love to reach a secular audience, but just this week I was reading 2 Corinthians (particularly 2 Corinthians 4:1-2) and realized that I'm not to try to "hide Christ" and use worldly tactics to lure people to Him. Rather, Christ is to be boldly preached. I realize other writers feel differently, and that's fine; it's between them and God.
What are your goals as a writer? Where do you see yourself in a year? Five? Ten?
Wow ... um ... I take my years one at a time. ;) I never know where God might lead next. Three years ago, I wouldn't have guessed that He would lead me to be a published author, but that's exactly where I am now. I would love to say that in a year, Journey of Choice is finished (as well as a few novellas and short stories spinning around in my brain). In five years, I'd like to see the Orphan Journey novels expanded to more than two books, and the novella series to have a few more stories in there. In ten years? Wow, if I'm going to crazy dream, I have two more series I'd like to see out there: a medieval series (currently two books) and a mid-west mining series (currently four books). But like I said, my main goal is to follow God and do what I feel Him leading me to do.
Besides writing (and reading, obviously), how do you spend your free time?
Well, I'm actually more of a musician than a writer. I'm about to start teaching the fall semester and it looks like I'll have between 20-25 violin and piano students. Also, I enjoy arranging hymns and am getting those available for other church musicians at www.withajoyfulnoise.com. I'm also a photographer and graphics designer, so if I have extra minutes from music and writing, that's usually what I try to do. Believe it or not, pursuing writing is kind of my "free time" hobbies. ;) But if I am to have just plain "do-NOTHING-business-related" free time, I'd have to say spending time with family and friends, having theological discussions and playing games.
Anything else you'd like to say before I have to post this post?
You have been very thorough, Kellyn! Your questions have made me stop and think and I enjoyed it immensely!
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And ... that's all for today! Thanks for letting me interview you, Amanda; your answers were awesome! :D
Oh, and everyone else: I'll be reviewing Letter of Love (also a very good story, by the way, though soooo sad!) this coming Monday as part of Amanda's book-release blog tour!
About Amanda Tero
Find out more at https://amandatero.com/