30 June, 2020

#Interview with Amanda L. Webster, #Author of DIY High

About the Author:

Amanda L. Webster grew up in Effingham County, Illinois, U.S.A. where she spent much of her childhood writing stories and running through the woods enacting those stories in her head. She has a master’s degree in creative writing from Mount Mary University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Mandy works full-time at a state university and teaches writing courses at a local community college. She now lives in central Illinois with her dog, two sons, and two cats. She occasionally has free time, and that is when she writes.

Interview with Amanda L. Webster

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller? 

I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I don’t remember a specific time when I realized it. It’s just something I seem to have been born with.

What inspires you to write?

I’m often inspired by the themes that seem to run through my own personal life and the lives of those I care for. My novels are an echo of real life with an occasional dash of magic stirred in.

How did you come up with the idea for your current story?

I have a few “current” stories. My most recent novel, DIY High, was partly inspired by the problems I’ve seen in the educational system in the U.S. I also wanted to tell the story of a teenager growing up in a small town in the Midwest who faces a lot of current issues like the opioid epidemic and domestic violence. I don’t think a lot of “regular” Americans have an understanding of how hard it can be to try to succeed in school while struggling with these very difficult issues in real life. My next novel, Demons of the Night, which is scheduled to release in late summer, came to me in a dream. It was one of those nightmares that you wake up from with your heart pounding. Being a writer, my first thought upon waking was, “What a great story idea!”

What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?

There’s a scene in DIY High where Gabby and her mom go to a food pantry at a local megachurch to get groceries. It’s a really humiliating experience for them, and the church members who run the food pantry somehow manage to display their contempt for the food pantry’s patrons all while pretending to be good Christians who go out of their way to help the less fortunate. I hope scenes like this in my novel will make the privileged among us examine their own biases so they may work harder to treat others as they would like to be treated.

What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer, to date?

Outline your novels. I used to be what is often referred to in the writing community as a “pantser,” or someone who writes “by the seat of their pants” with no real plan. I did that for quite a while without ever being able to actually finish writing a novel. Then I took a novel writing class with a professor who forced us to outline our novels. Once I was forced to think about my story’s structure and figure out where it was going, I was finally able to finish writing a complete novel. It gets easier each time, and now I would never try to write another novel without an outline.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into

Sit down and write. The more you write, the better you get. Also, read books on writing and take creative writing classes whenever you can. Learn about story structure and learn to outline your stories or you will never be able to finish anything.

How do you spend your free time? Do you have a favorite place to go and unwind?

I read a lot and do a bit of crochet art. I also love gardening. My garden and back deck are my go-to places to unwind.

What do you have in store next for your readers?

As I mentioned previously, my next novel, Demons of the Night, is scheduled to release later this year. I am also working on a manuscript for an additional novel after that, which will be titled, If You Didn’t See It Coming. This newest story is a work of literary fiction that explores the issue of domestic violence. It was inspired by the murder of my cousin last year by her ex-husband, and I hope that it will provide some insight to readers on the societal structures that keep women trapped in abusive relationships and often lead to their deaths.

About the Book:
Check out the Book on Amazon
When Gabby’s single mother loses her job because of her addiction to prescription pain medication, her family’s tenuous situation soon becomes perilous. Gabby must step up to help pay the bills and look after her younger siblings, but once school starts, her part-time waitressing job just isn’t enough. Her mom won’t let her drop out of school to work at the truckstop full-time, but she does finally allow her to leave her traditional high school behind to become a homeschool student.

As Gabby’s mom sinks deeper into addiction and disengages from her family, Gabby realizes she is going to have to homeschool herself if she is to have any hope of finishing high school and going to college someday. Then, Gabby’s coworker Jodi, herself a high school dropout, complicates matters by asking to study with Gabby so she can finally finish high school too. Another high school dropout soon joins Gabby’s study group, and before she knows it, Gabby is running her own Do-It-Yourself high school – DIY High – out of her local small-town library.

Gabby finds herself in a position to help a lot of people, but will she be able to help herself? Will she get to go away to college like she’s always dreamed, or will it fall to her to stay at home with her younger siblings forever and be a mother to them in the absence of their actual mom?