YAY! It's Amanda Dykes Day on the CCC blog! And I (Jaime) am loving this novella collection! I was able to read it via NetGalley early, so I'm ALL IN when I say, you'll want to pick up a copy ASAP! http://amandadykes.com/
mybooks/ (And enter to win a free copy at the end of this post!) So without further adieu, please meet my dear friend, Amanda!
Thank you so much for visiting us today here at the CCC blog! Can you tell us about your latest release and what inspired you to write the story?
I’d love to, and thanks for having me!
The short answer is: tartans, highlands, lochs, London and floating symphonies are what inspired this particular tale.
The long answer: A Song in the Night is the second novella in the Message in a Bottle Romance Collection, which traces a single bronze bottle and its journey throughout the centuries as it touches hearts with a message of hope. When my amazing co-authors and I first came up with the premise, we began to brainstorm different time periods that the bottle could traverse and I found myself in an era entirely new to me: the 1700’s. It’s a time period brimming with history in Scotland, and my own family’s Scottish history had some interesting things going on during that time, so I began to spin the tangled beginnings of a story that would begin in Scotland and end in England (more on that later).
At the bottom of it all, though, is the desire we each had to explore the ways God can weave personal messages of hope into the lives of His beloved, even at times that may be dark and difficult.
Of all your characters in this story, which one did you enjoy writing the most and why?
That’s a tricky one! I loved writing each one of them, but I think I had the most fun writing Eugenia Bettredge. She enters about halfway through the story, and she just took me by surprise and sprinkled the rest of the story with unexpected spunk. In researching fun Scottish foods for her to gush over, I stumbled upon the cheesey potato dish of Rumbldethumps. I dare you to say it and not smile!
If you could cast your characters in a Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play them?
Such a fun question! In my early brainstorms, I imagined the hero, Duncan, to look a bit like Horatio Hornblower (Ioan Gruffudd). Wind-blown by the salt-sea, and duly brooding:
…and Meg, the heroine, to look like actress Tatiana Maslany (I was on a big Heartland kick at the time):
…I thought they both had that edge of the highland wind about them… rugged in their own way. Ready to take on whatever their journey might bring.
How did you decide on the setting/location for this novel?
Random things that happen in my life: one day the idea flew into my head that someone should create a floating symphony. Whether in real life, or in a story. A symphony played on a boat, perhaps, in some whimsical and majestic setting where people could listen on.
Well, guess what? One Google search quickly informed me that I was (very) late to the party! Lo and behold, King George I and George Frederic Handel had beat me to the idea in 1717!
His Royal Highness, who was wanting to find ways to strike up rapport and earn favor with the people of his kingdom, commissioned Handel to write what we now know as “Water Music” and have a symphony perform it on a barge floating down the Thames.
This was a huge deal, as symphonies just weren’t heard by the general public. It was the chance of a lifetime for them, and the banks of the river were packed with people (as was the river itself, with boats of every kind) the night of the floating symphony.
I was utterly smitten with the whole account. But then, my heart was beating away off in the highlands of Scotland with a certain bagpiper and a maiden traipsing the countryside with the Tinkers. So, I did what Great Britain itself was doing that century: united the two countries into one kingdom (or tale, as the case may be).
I’d always wanted to write a “journey” tale, and this offered the perfect excuse to do so. To get those highlanders to London Town and see what adventures awaited them along the way. Plus, I got to include a river voyage down the Thames, which is a boat journey I’ve actually taken, once upon a time years ago.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it and why?
What a good question!! I had to think hard about this. I think the simple (and yet complex) answer is that when it comes down to it, I will write whatever God leads me to write. I’ve found that no matter the tale, it seems He always has a way He wants to grow, stretch, challenge, encourage the writer along the way, beckoning them into a closer “leaning-in” to Him. A place where we lean closer, listen harder, dig deeper, in order to find out what He would teach us, and what He would have us write about whatever it is He’s spinning into our hearts.
J.R.R. Tolkein, when writing about creating stories, said:
“…we make…because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.”
I think that’s so poignant. This idea that we make, because we have been so lovingly made. That we create, because we know what it is to have been created, and known by a loving Creator. And yet anything we make, is just the slightest whisper, just a shadow, of what He has done, giving us an ever-growing hunger to know our own Creator more.
…which is a very long way of saying: I’ll write whatever He wants.
Moving on from your story, tell us a little about yourself. We’ll help! What literary character is most like you and why?
THAT IS A HARD QUESTION! Out of all the characters, ever?! I’m going to have to narrow it down or my book-geek-tendencies are going to short circuit. How about narrowing it down to a pool of four: which of the March sisters from Little Women am I most like?
I think am a Beth who likes to think she’s a Jo. I get my breath taken away over a good piece of music, dislike confrontation, love peace and beauty and quiet… and yet Jo is the one barreling through the woods, wild and free and full of spunk and words, and that just sounds more exciting. So perhaps I’m a Beth who, though she may not barrel through the woods, does meander in that same wild and fresh air. Though I’m quite clumsy, too, so in that metaphor, make sure I trip over a few tree roots along the way. ;)
What strange writing habits do you have? Like standing on your head while you write with a pen between your teeth?:
You’ve been spying on me! Just kidding. I haven’t tried the pen-between-my-teeth-while-upside-down-trick. But every now and again I catch myself making really strange facial expressions, mimicking what I imagine the character doing so I can try and get the description right. I’ve realized I need to be more careful about contorting my face when I’m writing in public.
Do you have a writing mentor, or another author who has inspired/encouraged you in some way?
One thing I’ve learned about the Christian writing community is how incredibly warm and supportive it is. I would never be able to list all of the people who have come alongside with timely encouragement, shared wisdom, and the beautiful gift of friendship.
Of course I couldn’t answer this question without mention of my four brilliant co-authors: Maureen Lang, Heather Day Gilbert, Jocelyn Green and Joanne Bischof (who is also a beloved critique partner for whom I am eternally grateful!). The group of us have gone from co-authors, to brainstormers, troubleshooters, prayer partners, and friends, and I for one will always be so grateful to have shared this road with each of these beautiful ladies.
I’m also so grateful for wisdom, insights, encouragement, examples, accountability and friendship shared at different times along the way from Dani Pettrey, Laura Frantz, Melissa K. Norris, Kelli Standish, and my wonderful agent, Wendy Lawton, just to name a few. Like I said, this community is rich and abundantly generous in helping those around on this sometimes-turbulent writing journey.
We talk a lot about faith and how it weaves throughout our fiction, here at the blog. How has your faith affected/or not affected your writing?
There is this song by Josh Wilson, called “Sing It” (you can listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXdVD9foAg4 ).
All the words in all the world could never say enough…
But you placed this song inside my heart and all I know to do for you is sing it
No, It’s not much… but it’s what I've got, and all I know to do for you is sing it.
To me, that is the song of my heart when it comes to writing. Like any calling, this road can be lined with doubt, but when it comes down to it, there are words beating inside that just want to be poured out, that just want a chance to offer worship to the creator of that heart. Bottom line, it’s the very reason I write.
To me, the greatest story of all time is that of Redemption. The taking of something broken, the binding up of those cracks, the healing and transforming of those seams, the strength and new life that follows. We all experience it, we live it. And so the chance to be a part of echoing that great story in some small way through story—it’s absolutely humbling, intimidating, and exhilarating.
We have a God who gives beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3), who transforms. Every story I write, whether I plan it or not in my crazy outlines, emerges with a theme of transformation and redemption.
I love this quote from writer James Baldwin:
“Every writer has only one story to tell, and he has to find a way of telling it until the meaning becomes clearer and clearer, until the story becomes at once more narrow and larger, more and more precise, more and more reverberating.”
I write redemption because I’ve been redeemed. It’s the truest thing I know.
Because Jaime has some darker elements to her split-time historical and contemporary romantic suspense coming out this year, she likes to ask weird questions. So, if you were responsible to write your own epitaph for your tombstone, what would it say?
Whew, I don’t know! Let’s see… I love being a mom. A wife. A daughter and sister. I love simple pleasures and fresh air and birdsong and scripture and books and words and especially Psalms. I love music. I hope others live lives rich with simplicity and true things and love and the knowing of the God who loves them. So I guess, to sum all that up in a few words, my hope is that I could live a life that might earn these words:
It’s simple. She loved. Because He first loved.
For some humor, though, let’s be real: it’s clear that I tend toward the wordy side of things. I could use a lesson in succinct-ness. So whatever I wrote, chances are it would get cut off mid-sentence and hopefully give some people a laugh. ;)
Anne is an insatiable romantic with a serious vintage aura in all she writes. Do you have fabulous love story in your family history that you could share with us in a few words? If not, what about your own?
My parents’ names are Jack and Jill, and theirs is a love so faithful and deep and true it could rival the most sweeping and epic of fairy tales and win, hands-down.
Erica and Gabrielle both write sweet historical romances. How does romance influence your own writing?
They say to “write what you know”, and so when I’m writing romance, I love to draw inspiration from my real-live hero. You can read a little of our story here (http://amandadykes.com/we-never-had-a-first-date/ ). We are flawed people, and as such there is always room for growth—but what a joy to grow alongside one another. I hope that the romances I get to write reflect the truth of that, the gift of growing together.
We’d love you have you share a snippet from your novel to entice us and hook us! :) Please share something below:
Certainly! I’m going to plunk you right into the middle of a highland reel at a country dance, where the aristocratic Englishwoman Mrs. Bettredge is doing her best to keep up with the fancy steps, all while romantic tensions weave across the room between Meg and her Piper, Duncan.
In this excerpt, we are in Duncan’s point of view. Without spoiling the details, he is restraining from the dance at the moment, and instead is watching Meg, her friend Kate, and Mrs. Bettredge from his place against the wall. I’ve made a few tiny tucks to avoid spoilers, but here ye are, lads and lasses. The characters of A Song in the Night:
...During a time when this new Great Britain of theirs faced enemies from without and within. These country folk and sojourners gripped one another’s arms as if on a battlefront… and began to march in dance.
The music was lively, the souls even more so. To an outsider, it might look like an utter tangle at first, but every step of a reel was planned, every weaving movement as intricate as if the dancers pulled strings behind them, tying an elaborate Celtic knot as they went.
Kate hollered instructions to Mrs. Bettredge around the poor fellow in between them. “To the right! Now left! Now clap and—yes! There you are. Less like a rabbit, if ye please. More like a gazelle, Mrs. Bettredge.”
“Cow’s bell?!” Mrs. Bettredge tipped from side to side with great confidence.
“Gazelle! Yes, there! Now to the center, and take your partner’s hand…”
“Aha! Here I go! Did you see that? Rather like a gazelle!” Her face flushed with alternating concentration and delight as she swished herself side to side. Her feet did not know the intricate steps, but she caught the movements of the circle dance fast and was soon hollering her own whoops and trills along with the others.
And then there was Meg. Her lips parted in a smile so warm it made him ache. Oh, how she laughed. Tossed her head back, dark hair flying like freedom itself. Eyes alight as she danced with abandon, like a bird in full and stunning flight. She looked his way, searching— her smile brighter when she found him.
Duncan swallowed. Longing filled him for the fine light of Meg’s spirit. If all went well in the coming days, that spirit would fly far across the ocean... The very thought snapped something within him. Father above, keep her. Keep her fast and well, even if ye keep her not for me.
Jaime here again. I think I just saw Anne swoon over that last line, Amanda! (I might have joined her in the swoon, but shhhhh, don't blow my mysterious-girl cover). BE SURE TO ENTER TO WIN A COPY!