Amanda Zieba is a full time middle school teacher, a wife and mother always and a writer any minute she can squeeze in. She is the author of 7 books for young adults and children. Champion Chocolatier is her first book for adults. When she isn’t teaching, mothering or writing, she is building Lego creations with her sons or watching some sort of sports with her husband.
Why did you start writing? How did you start writing?
When I graduated high school and began to think about college I debated about majoring in education or some sort of writing. I didn’t know any authors. To me, they lived in a magical world of words… a place that seemed impossible to reach. On the other hand, I knew what a life in school looked like. I knew many teachers. I knew their lifestyle. I had just lived it for 13 consecutive years. I liked school. I did well at it. And so, I chose the familiar. But less than two years into my teaching career, the writing itch began to resurface. I began writing “my novel”. A few years, a marriage, and two children after that I couldn’t ignore my desire to write. I began to look at my hobby with a new lens. I looked for paid writing opportunities. I practiced my craft. I published my first books. Almost eight years later, here I am, book number eight just published. Champion Chocolatier is my best work yet, and my first non-self-published book. I couldn’t be prouder of it.Congratulations, Amanda!
How did you select your genre?
What is your writing day like?
As I mentioned before, I teach full time and have two kids. My husband also coaches baseball at the college level. (Don’t let the summer time sport mentality fool you. This is a five month commitment!) Needless to say, writing time can be hard to find, especially certain times of the year. When baseball is not in season, my husband works hard to make sure there is time for me to write. We have a deal called Writing Wednesdays. On Wednesdays after school I write until dinner. I don’t get the kids after school. I don’t make dinner. I don’t exercise. I write. It’s only about three hours, but I make the most of it. I also steal away on weekend conferences or retreats or workshops a few times throughout the year. On daily basis, I write mostly at night, when everyone else has gone to bed. I love that time because I feel like all of my daily responsibilities have been fulfilled and I can have a couple of hours for just me.
How do you organize your writing? (outlines/note cards/post-its)
There has been a lot of flack out there lately about being a pantser. But really, I think that is the style I adhere to best. First I write the scene that sticks out to me the most… the initial idea that makes me excited about the story. Then I jump around, repeating that process for multiple events throughout the novel. Next I write to bridge the scenes. To be honest it is not a very efficient way to write. Over time I have tried to refine the process, writing as chronologically as possible. But still, sometimes I get stuck and jump to the next scene I see clearly in my head. I have also started using some pre-writing workbooks, like the ones found on Kristen Kieffer’s site She’s Novel. (http://www.shesnovel.com) These templates help me think through my characters, world and plot before I write, so that when I do get down to business, I’m ready to go.
What's the most surprising thing a character has “told you”?
The name connections in the book Champion Chocolatier totally shocked me. I feel like it was a clever play on words that seemed masterfully planned, but to be honest, it just came to me (in Emmy’s mother’s voice). It was a sweet little treat, and I think it gives the story the something little extra to make it really good, rather than just good.
Do you have a list of characters that you're saving for future use? What kind of information do you keep on these characters
Names come to me, and also little pieces of information about them. I don’t write them down, but I probably should. For example, I want to write about a girl named Emerson, whose father is a University professor of poetry (and obsessed with Ralph Waldo Emerson). Despite her namesake, Emerson is nothing like the quiet poet her father wishes her to be, and despite her rebellious nature she can’t outrun her urge to fill blank pages with words. The conflict that builds between the two characters is sure-fire literary goodness. Don’t go stealing this idea… it’s gonna be a good one… one of these days.
Love that! Can't wait to read it!
What does your work space/office look like?
Usually my lap desk and computer. Like right now… recliner, green lap desk and shiny new MackBook Air. (Also… everyone else is sleeping.)
What is your go-to snack when writing?
I could live on snacks and beverages alone. I often start out with a snack by my side (Sweedish Fish and a Diet Pepsi), but soon I get into a rhythm and they sit uneaten. Writing is one of those things for me that takes away the tired, the hungry, the urge to pee. I guess it’s a good thing I don’t get to write all the time!
If you could only recommend one NOVEL, what would it be? Why?
What a terrible question to ask a writer!! The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly is the book I recommend most often. It has everything. It is a historical fiction romance with suspense. Fiona’s dream is to own and operate a tea shop in 1800’s East End London. When her family is attacked by a serial killer and she must become a fugitive on the run, all of her dreams are forced to change. It is the first book in a series of great books about strong women, doing something that is important to them. Do yourself a favor and read it!
If you could only recommend one CRAFT book (writing, no crocheting), what would it be? Why?
I love the Character Thesaurus Collection by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. (Emotion Thesaurus, Positive Trait Thesaurus and Negative Trait Thesaurus). These books have helped me flesh out characters and take them from cardboard cut outs to real living and breathing people with quirks, flaws and motivations. They are a great addition to any writer’s bookshelf.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Leave a comment below with your email address for a chance to win paperback copy along with a coco mug and packet of cocoa!