Monday, 1 April 2013

Debut Spotlight: Amanda James

Today I'm delighted to be able to introduce you to Amanda James (aka Mandy) in my debut spotlight feature.  Mandy's debut novel, A Stitch in Time is published this week.

Mandy was born in Sheffield and now lives in Bristol with her husband and two cats.  In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, singing, and spending lots of time with her grandson.  She also admits to spending far too much time chatting on Twitter and Facebook!  Mandy recently left her teaching role to follow her ambition to live her life doing what she most enjoys - writing.   

A stitch in time saves nine - or does it?
Sarah Yates is a thirty-something history teacher, divorced, disillusioned and desperate to have more excitement in her life. Making all her dreams come true seems about as likely as climbing Everest in stilettos.

Then one evening the doorbell rings and the handsome and mysterious John Needler brings more excitement than Sarah could ever have imagined. John wants Sarah to go back in time ...

Sarah is whisked from the Sheffield Blitz to the suffragette movement in London to the Old American West, trying to make sure people find their happy endings. The only question is, will she ever be able to find hers?

Mandy kindly agreed to answer a few questions so that we can get to know her a little better so I'll hand you over to her...

Can you tell us a little bit about A Stitch in Time?
It is essentially about Sarah Yates, a time-travelling history teacher. (Yes, really!) It has more than a touch of romantic comedy, but serious issues are touched on also. Sarah is disillusioned with her job and recently divorced. Her husband left her for her best friend and as a consequence she is very wary of committing to anyone else as she was broken apart by their betrayal. However, when mysterious and very lovely John Needler arrives on the scene and asks her to travel through time to save the lives of others, she is more than a little attracted to him. Sarah finds new purpose in trying to help people in the past find their happy endings. The big question is – will she ever be able to find hers?

Where did the inspiration come from for a time travelling history teacher?
I used to be a history teacher for many years and I often wished I could go back to exciting periods in history to ‘walk in the shoes’ of folk in the past. I’m a firm believer in knowing our history and learning lessons of the past to progress our future. Also I always need to have a title before I can write anything. ‘A Stitch in Time Saves Nine’ sparked the idea for the whole novel really. I have no idea why I happened to think of that old just drifted in through the ether.

Which comes first, the characters or the plot?
Always the plot. The characters just pop up as I go along. It’s nice meeting new characters and learning all about them as the plot unfolds. Of course I have a rough idea of who will be in it, though not their names and the kind of people they are in any fine detail. 

Are you able to give us a hint as to what your next novel is about?
I have one or two on the go! The one I worked most recently on is called Exactly Like You. It’s about twins separated at birth and what happens when they meet up again twenty-five years later. The two girls, Cally and Leona have had very different lives. Cally works in a supermarket while Leona works as a supermodel. Leona is very forthright, self-assured and has more than an eye on Cally’s boyfriend, the gorgeous Marco, while Cally is shy and under confident. Hmm. Let’s just say it’s not all plain sailing when the girls embark upon on their new relationship. 

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
Yes I think I did, but I never really expected to be one. I always wrote short stories and poems and when I was eight, I pestered my parents to buy me a Petite typewriter for Christmas. I loved it and felt very grown up as I typed away writing the new bestsellers! I was very good at English and History at school, but apart from that I frittered my time away in other classes. As a consequence I kind of drifted and left school at sixteen. I went into hairdressing, married at eighteen and had my daughter at nineteen.

A long and very winding road took me back to college and then university. After that I eventually went into teaching for seventeen years. But all through my life I never stopped writing. As a teenager I took comfort from my poems during the ‘angst’ years that all youngsters go through, and I wrote short stories and a children’s story too. In 2002 I wrote my first novel and the next soon after. It was hard fitting it all in around lesson prep, marking etc, but I felt I just needed to write.

If you weren’t a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow?
I enjoyed being a teacher, though as the years progressed the whole thing got tougher with all the changes to education. But I always fancied being a midwife. I think it must be fantastic delivering new life and so much joy into the world.

Being a writer appears to be such a solitary lifestyle, especially when you’re in the midst of writing, so do you consider the influence of social Media, Facebook and Twitter, a blessing or a hinderance?

Ha-ha, it can be both. When I first joined Twitter in 2010 I was never off the damned thing! I do ration my time more now though. And I have made some really lovely writer friends; we give each other advice, encouragement and sometimes just an ear when things are tough, and also a pat on the back when things  go right!

How long did it take you to get your first book published?
About a year for A Stitch in Time.

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Never give up and never forget your dreams. If you do, you’re sunk. It can be soul destroying to keep getting rejected, but you need to roll with the punches, lick your wounds, listen to advice and come back stronger. There have been times in the past when I have thought I’d never make it as a writer, but something wouldn’t let me give up. You must have that determination, particularly today I think.

If you could invite any three authors, alive or dead, to a dinner party who would you choose and why?

Charles Dickens, because his writing has a real sense of place and he made serious comment about his society with humour and empathy. He had a real social conscience and cared about those less fortunate than himself, Dean Koontz because he is a master of suspense and can say beautifully in three words what might take some authors half a page, and J K Rowling, because I’d like to talk to her about what being so famous has meant for her life and how she feels about herself as a writer now, compared to when she was just starting out. There are many more of course, but you only allowed three. Meanie. J

Are there any books you’ve read that you wish you’d written?
Too many to list, but I guess The Lord of The Rings – there are three there J I would ask Tolkien to dinner too (sneaked in a fourth) and ask him how much the war years influenced the writing of his books. Apparently he denied that the evil of Hitler had any bearing on his plot lines, but I wonder...

To find out more about Mandy and her book, why not visit her at:   

Twitter: @akjames61


  1. Lovely interview with a lovely lady! She writes good books too ;)
    Thanks, Shaz and Mandy!