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Interview with Amanda Wen

Releasing a book is always an exciting time for an author, but none more so than a writer’s debut novel. For Amanda Wen, the process has been an adventure. She’s been writing off and on since childhood, but it wasn’t until seven years ago that she got serious about it and worked up the courage to show a story to her BFF, who is herself a multi-published author in the general market. According to Amanda the author, “took me under her wing, pointed out all my newbie writer errors, and served as my de facto writing coach until she deemed me ready to start entering contests (which is how she broke into publishing.)

About that time, another friend told Amanda about the ACFW First Impressions Contest. Terrified to submit because she’d “heard horror stories about judges ripping apart contest entries,” she decided that with only five pages required to enter, “there was only so much damage that could be done to my psyche and self-esteem.” :-) Amanda was surprised not only to win in her category of the contest, but to receive a full manuscript request from one of the final-round judges, none other than Tamela Hancock Murray, who is now her agent.

Says Amanda, “As for publication itself, God used relationships within the writing community to lead me to that contract. After befriending my fellow First Impressions finalists, I met another writer whose daughter was hospitalized with some serious medical issues. I immediately began praying for this girl and soon became friends with her mom, the writer, on social media. It was not until much later that I learned this writer was also an acquisitions editor for Kregel. I pitched my second book to her at ACFW in 2018, and Kregel ended up offering me a contract! Looking back, I’m blown away by the doors God opened and the paths he created through the seas of submission.”

Authors get story ideas from numerous sources. For Amanda, Roots of Wood and Stone was inspired by her real-life pioneer ancestors, both of whom were among the first settlers in Sedgwick County Kansas, she has lived for most of her life. Says Amanda, “My great-great-grandfather, Francis Thomas Little, lived in an 1890s-era farmhouse that’s only a few miles from where I grew up, and I remember my genealogist mom always pointing out Grandpa Little’s house every time we drove by.”

Amanda continues, “As I mentioned above, my mom is a genealogist, and she’s researched our family history for over 40 years and frequently shares their stories with me. No matter the details of each story, the recurring theme is God’s faithful provision and protection, and how each detail is woven into His perfect plan. My prayer for this story, especially in such a difficult time in our world, is that readers will come away reminded of God’s faithfulness and renewed in their hope in Him.”

In addition to writing and being a mom, Amanda is a professional musician. She indicates that with jobs in two musical instruments and now writing, “juggle” is a very accurate description of what she does.

For Amanda, priority is the name of the game. “Lots of times moms talk about achieving “balance” between work, marriage, parenting, etc. etc., with the myth being that a perfectly “balanced” life is one in which each day contains just the right proportions of each ingredient. While it’s true that my favorite days are ones in which I get to do everything I love, in reality I have to prioritize. So during busy music seasons, like when my choirs are getting ready for contest or there are lots of Christmas gigs on cello, writing gets put on the back burner. Similarly, when I’m deep in drafting mode or on deadline with revisions, I don’t take on quite so much on the music side. And sometimes I make an intentional choice to take a week or two off from all professional pursuits and focus on my family.”

She goes on to posit, “A dear friend of mine--a tank commander in the US Army--loved his job so much he said he couldn’t believe he got paid to do it, and although my professional life looks radically different than his did, that is exactly how I feel...Also? My house is usually a mess.”

Some writers have a routine associated with preparing themselves to write, but Amanda doesn’t have the luxury. “With such limited time, I don’t really have a dedicated writing ritual,” she say, “although we did relocate our two boys to the basement bedroom over the summer and turned their old room into my writing cave, which has been amazing.”

Amanda has learned to write whenever and wherever, whether it’s at a coffee shop, in the pickup line at her kids’ school, or in a recliner while the cat snoozes on her lap.

Her characters are frequently inspired by characters on TV shows, despite the face she doesn’t watch many shows. Because Roots of Wood and Stone is inspired by her real-life ancestors, a couple of the characters are loosely based on those as well, with certain details from their actual back stories making it into the pages of the story.

Many authors have influenced Amanda, and she finds it difficult to name them all. However, she gives a special shout out to her writing group, The Quotidians. In explanation of the unusual name, Amanda says, “Most of us were present at ACFW 2018, kept each other entertained through some hilarious text threads as we traveled home (including one text that contained the typo that led to our group’s name), and have stayed in touch since then, encouraging each other with weekly prayer requests and support/accountability for each other’s writing. Most of our group wasn’t published when we met, but since then over half our members have signed book contracts. Writing is a roller coaster, but I can’t think of a group of writing pals I’d rather ride it with!”

Others who have been encouraging and supportive are Deborah Raney, Heidi Chiavaroli, Susie Finkbeiner, Joanna Davidson Politano, Amanda Barratt, and several more. Last but certainly not least, she’s not yet met Joanne Bischof, but “I want to write like her when I grow up.”

Here are some quickies from Amanda:
Favorite Snack: Chocolate.
Favorite Season: Fall!
Favorite Flower: Circus roses, which are the yellow ones with red tips. They’re the first flower my husband ever gave me, and he chose them on purpose: yellow roses mean friendship, and red ones mean true love. (Unlike me, my husband does not typically plan in advance, so the fact that he did plan this? Mega mega points).

With regard to advice, Amanda encourages fledgling writers to “Find yourself a community. It doesn’t have to be a big one—even just one person!—but you need the support, the accountability, and the reassurance that you’re not alone in this crazy writing life. Also, trust God’s timing. As is the case with many writers, I received several rejections, and my first book—the one that won First Impressions—did not sell. But if that book had sold, I’d have been pigeonholed into a genre that’s not truly my literary home; I adore split-time, and I doubt I’d have written any had I signed a contract for that first book. God’s timing may be slower than what we think we want, but I promise, He knows what He’s doing.”

The good news for readers is that Amanda is currently working on revisions for the second book in the Sedgwick County Chronicles series, which features a second-chance romance in the present and an interracial relationship in the past, with both the past and present stories involving side characters from Roots of Wood and Stone. She says she’s also kicking around ideas for a new set of split-times inspired by a couple of local unsolved mysteries. So stay tuned for more from this exciting new author.


Linda Shenton Matchett is an author, speaker, and history geek. A native of Baltimore, Maryland she was born a stone's throw from Fort McHenry and has lived in historic places all her life. Linda is a member of ACFW, RWA, and Sisters in Crime. She is a volunteer docent and archivist for the Wright Museum of WWII and a trustee for her local public library.

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