I'm so happy to have my critique partner and new friend Amanda Holland on my blog for Valentine's Day. Amanda Holland is a pastor’s wife, mom of two boys, and registered dental hygienist. She writes fiction and blogs at graceinourmoments.blogspot.com. Her writing has appeared in Splickety magazine and on various websites, including The MOB Society and Inspired to Action.
Hi, Amanda, welcome!
I’m going to get right to the good stuff. I’ve “heard” that the suspense, mystery, thriller genre is “full of darkness”. Do you agree? And, as a dedicated pastor’s wife, how did you find yourself getting started in this genre?
I started reading mysteries when I was maybe eight or nine. It all started with Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew and the Three Investigators—I must have read every one my small hometown library had! The love for a good mystery just grew stronger as I got older.
Is it a dark genre? Yes, it can be—but I think that makes it a perfect analogy for real life. We live in a very dark world, and we’re commanded to be lights in the darkness. How do we live, surrounded by darkness, and still keep our faith in God strong? How do we come to terms with the fact that bad things happen to good people? How do we balance our need for justice with God’s mercy? It gets dark and gritty, but it’s real, and it’s something I really like to explore in my writing.
What is your work in progress about?
My work in progress…the one no one knows about, lol. It’s a story that’s been in my mind for years, and I’m just now finding the courage to put words to paper. I’m in the very early stages of writing, but I would love to be ready to enter the ACFW Genesis contest next year.
It’s about a Nashville detective who joins an elite task force to investigate high-profile crimes. When the daughter of a mega-church pastor is found dead, Savannah is assigned to the case. She finds herself trying to prove herself in her job while battling ghosts from her past.
You have told me that you are a fan of Nashville, Tennessee. How does this setting fit into the story for your main character Savannah?
I love Nashville! My husband and I have visited a couple of times, and we fell in love. Our dream is to retire there someday. When deciding on a setting, I needed a mid-size southern city. Nashville seemed like a great fit, and I love the added depth the music scene there brings to it. That will definitely come into play in my story.
How does your job as a dental hygienist help you come up with ideas for “catching” the bad guys in your stories?
I’ve always been fascinated by forensics. While I was in dental hygiene school, I learned a little about the field of forensic odontology. Teeth are harder and more durable than bone, so they are often the best way to identify a body. But there’s so much more to the field. For example, assault and abuse cases have been solved by bite marks—in some cases, the attacker can identified by matching the bite marks to the suspect’s dentition. It’s really fascinating.
I love the technical aspects of mysteries. I want to know about the little details that can make or break a case, the emerging technology that can solve new and old cases.
My firstborn daughter is an introvert. As a result, I’ve come to appreciate the “genius” in most introverts. J You call yourself an INFJ~ can you describe this part of yourself and how it plays out as a writer?
INFJ comes from the Meyers-Briggs personality test. It is the rarest personality type, estimated to be less than one percent of the population. INFJ’s are often calling “extroverted introverts,” meaning we love people and work well with others, but we need alone time to recharge. INFJ’s are intense, creative, insightful, reserved and compassionate and are often called “quiet people with loud minds.”
One unique thing about INFJ’s is that many have a great ability to “read” people and see things that other people miss. For example, there are times that I’ve talked to someone and knew they were hiding something or not being honest with me. I can’t tell you how I know, I just know.
What’s your favorite part of writing a novel so far?
My favorite part of writing so far has to be just the joy of the creative process. I love sitting down with my laptop and watching stories take shape, creating new characters and new worlds.
Congratulations! I understand you just published your first short story! Why don’t you tell us a little about it?
I’m so excited about my first story! It’s not a mystery—it’s actually a sweet story about finding happy endings despite rough beginnings. It was the first piece of fiction I really shared with anyone. My husband read it, and he encouraged me to pursue publication. I’m glad he pushed me, because on my own, I would have been too scared. I emailed Splickety magazine, and two weeks later they accepted my story.
How would you describe the role that our friends at the American Christian Fiction Writer’s have had in your writing journey?
I am a brand-new ACFW member—that was one of my Christmas gifts from my husband! I’m learning so much since I joined.
Prior to joining, I entered the First Impressions contest. It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, but I learned a lot about my writing style and writing in general. I learned some of my strong points and weak points. I also learned that writing can be very subjective—what one person hates, another may love.
Can you share some advice for a new writer just getting started in this business?
Oh, wow, I don’t feel qualified to give advice because I’m such a newbie myself! The one thing I would say is: find a good critique group. My critique friends are my best resources. They are willing to say the hard things and tell me what’s not working—but they are also some of my biggest cheerleaders, encouraging me to take the next steps with my writing. It’s a scary thing for me because I’m so shy.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me about your work, Amanda. God bless you as you spin your tales of suspense and mystery. Have fun!