2014 Snapshot Archive: Amanda J Spedding

First published at David McDonald’s blog.

Amanda J Spedding is an award-winning author, editor and proofreader. Her stories have been published in local and international markets earning honourable mentions and recommended reads. She won the 2011 Australian Shadows Award (short fiction) for her steampunk-horror, ‘Shovel-Man Joe’.

Amanda is the owner of Phoenix Editing and Proofreading, and between bouts of editing, is currently writing the first draft of her novel.

Amanda lives in Sydney with her sarcastically-gifted husband and two very cool kids.

You’ve been a big contributor to the growth of the Australian Horror Writers Association. What are some of the AHWA’s achievements that you are most proud of? Where do you see it heading, and what challenges does it face?

Thanks, but it’s more being one of the many volunteers who’ve worked together to provide a home and voice for Australian writers and publishers. What achievements stand out for me? I’d have to say Midnight Echo and the Mentor Program. I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with both. It was the Mentor Program that drew me to the AHWA, and getting mentored by the extraordinary Kaaron Warren gave me incredible insight into my writing and the publishing industry. It also made me want to give back, so I became a committee member and held the position for three years – I hope the AHWA goes on to do more great things.

As for Midnight Echo, just holding a copy in your hands, with its horrifically beautiful covers and insanely good stories speaks for itself. As co-editor of issue 8 (with Marty Young and Mark Farrugia), getting to shape an issue and work with fantastic authors from both here and overseas was definitely a highlight.

You also run an editing and proofreading business. How does working on the other side of the desk influence your own writing?

As an editor, I have an innate understanding of grammar, story structure and elements – all the things I work with authors on achieving in their work. ‘Write tight’, I tell them, and it’s something I definitely take on with my own work. Words have to fight for their right in the story.

However, as a writer, being an editor can have its drawbacks, especially when it comes to unrealistic expectations of perfection (I’m anything if not self-aware) – I’m an editor, I should be getting everything right. It does help, though, when sending off a story submission, that I’ve got the grammar, syntax and tense issues right. Being able to look at a story from both sides of the desk is a definite plus, but it’s no guarantee.

You’ve been very successful with your short fiction, with award recognition and appearances on an international RRL. What is it you enjoy about writing short stories? Are there any longer works in the pipeline?

Short stories are a blast to write. Being able to tell a fully-rounded story within a limited word-count is part of what has always drawn me to the short form. Writing horror allows me to reach into the worst time of a character’s life and… exploit it. Be it one hellish scene, or a drawn-out tortuous series of events, a short story forces you to really focus the horror and the effect of this on the character. Like I said, a blast!

I have two projects in the works at the moment. I’m currently writing the draft of my first novel – an apocalypse story that doesn’t shy from the horrors (inflicted on and by the characters in this world) that come with extinction-events. Creating on such a big scale – geography, faith-systems, inter-connectivity… it’s been a steep learning curve, and I’m loving it.

The other project is a comic based on my short story ‘The Road’ (Midnight Echo #9). The short story was ripe with imagery that really suited this medium. The script is now with illustrator Montgomery Borror, who is doing an incredible job bringing it to life. I’m very excited about both projects.

What Australian works have you loved recently?

I’ve been reading a lot of Aussie pieces of late. I’ve just finished reading Carnies by Martin Livings, and that was a great tale – it really dragged me into the story, and I was more than happy to spend time in his old-world carnival. I’m currently reading Davey Ribbon by Matthew Tait, and am really enjoying its supernatural flavour. Alan Baxter’s Bound, and Andrew McKeirnan’s short story collection, Last Year, When We Were Young, are next on my ‘to read’ list.

Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

In regard to writing, no – I don’t think the changes affect the way anyone writes. Sweeping statement aside, it’s more how a writer decides they wish to publish – a choice many writers didn’t have ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. Anything other than traditional publishing was looked down upon. That stigma is almost gone now, and with a lot of author-published books being on par, or even better than traditionally published books, it definitely is a viable option for many authors. With my editing business, I’m seeing a lot more writers wanting to take the author-publishing route; wanting control of the final finished product and how it’s presented and marketed.

Five years from now? I’ll still be writing horror – I have a passion for the genre and its many sub-genres. I fell in love with steampunk when I wrote ‘Shovel-Man Joe’, which won the Australian Shadows Award for short fiction in 2011, so there’s definitely a steampunk/horror novel in my future. Reading? Any great story with a dark bent, and hopefully many great stories from Australian authors. I couldn’t even begin to predict what will be ‘on trend’ in five years. Publishing? I hope to be publishing novels and comics that leave readers reeling and have them thinking ‘what would I do?’

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