Amanda Wilson is an independent author based in Newfoundland. She is a fiction writer, mental health advocate and blogger. Her debut novel, Where Land Meets Sea, was published by Amazon earlier this month.
Amanda shares her experiences living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Postpartum Depression through her blog, as well as online publications such as The Mighty and #SickNotWeak.
Amanda is also a former team member of Conservation Corps NL. She worked as a Regional Supervisor for the Green Team Program twice, and as an Assistant Education & Outreach Coordinator for the Climate Change Education Centre.
Lately, Amanda has been interested in how the current climate change crises affects young people’s mental health.
You’re an advocate, educator, as well as a writer. How do your different roles and experiences inform your writing?
I’d like to believe I’ve gained many life experiences through the variety of roles I have worked at over the years. These roles, especially with regards to being a mental health advocate, have greatly impacted my writing. I like to explore themes of mental wellness through my characters since it’s something that still isn’t portrayed enough through fiction mediums. As someone who lives with mental health issues, I feel I’m able to truly show what it’s like living these illnesses by breaking down the barriers and stigmas still associated with living with mental health issues. Further, because of my love for our province, I try to set most of my stories at home, here in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL). I like exploring cultural things, such as small-town family values, and break those down in my novels. Everything I write is always personal, because it’s almost impossible to remain impartial when writing fictional characters. Parts of your life, education, or yourself always find a way to sneak in there.
Could you talk about what the experience has been like writing your first novel?
Where the Land Meets the Sea actually isn’t the first novel that I written. I wrote a 405-page fantasy story when I was 13 years-old. Granted, it’s never been published (and it could use quite a bit of editing), but I’ve been writing stories my whole life. Where the Land Meets the Sea is actually the fourth novel I’ve ever written. But in saying that, it was a difficult journey. It takes a lot of self-discipline to sit down in front of a computer screen and bang out 115,000 words. It took me about a year to write, but the process of getting it published took longer. I explored getting it published through local publishing houses here in Newfoundland and Labrador, but it got rejected many times. As someone who doesn’t like to the word ‘no,’ I decided to explore the self-publishing route. I decided to hire an independent editing team and worked on getting my novel published through Amazon. It’s been a long, grueling process, but I’ve loved every second of it, and I have learned so much about the publishing industry along the way. It’s not easy being a writer, but I love every minute I get to sit down in front of my computer screen and just write.
What age group is this novel geared towards? I’ve only read the brief synopsis on your site, but I could imagine teens relating to some of the themes, especially dealing with family issues.
Where the Land Meets the Sea is geared towards the 15+ audience. It arguably could be classified as a New Adult fiction novel since the two protagonists are between 17 and 30 years old. But in saying that, I believe many teens (and adults for that matter) could relate to the themes because it’s a personal story about dealing with a family struggling to heal from old wounds while hiding many secrets from each other. What I love about my novel is it’s not what you expect, and it has that shock factor halfway through because I give nothing away in the synopsis. But for those who also are interested in exploring themes of mental wellness, I also highly recommend picking up this book as well.
What motivated you to write this story?
A writer never tells all their secrets to their stories… No, I’m kidding. Having come from a very complicated family situation myself, I wanted to tackle the issue of family in a novel. Since I wanted to base the story here in NL, I also wanted to challenge the stereotype that all Newfoundlanders come from these large, close-knitted families, which, of course, is not the case. Again, bits of pieces of your own life as a writer tend to sneak into your work, and I was able to take some of my own experiences and write them in a way that I knew others could relate to. Besides, I wanted to write a fiction story based in our province for a long time since many Newfoundland books that are published are mostly history, which is not a bad thing, but I wanted to write a story with Newfoundland characters that others could say, “Hey, I totally get this!”
Are there themes in your fiction that you found easier or more difficult to tackle than in your other mediums, like blogging or advocacy?
That’s a tricky question. For me, since I explore mental wellness in almost all of my writing, I find it to be a double-edge sword. For me, it’s therapeutic to write because I get to take all that hurt I have experienced in my past and channel it into something someone else could hopefully find healing from. But at the same time, sometimes by being so transparent in my writing, it reopens old wounds, and I have to struggle through that. It’s why I take my writing so personal – I just want to be able to help others in some way, and my writing is the best way for me to do that.
Now that you’ve published your first novel, do you have any advice for other writers?
Rule number one: It’s will never be easy. Over the last three years, I’ve received about 70 rejection letters for my works, so you have to be willing to not give up and keep pushing forward.
Rule Number Two: Not everything you write will be a success. I’ve learned this the hard way. But as a whole, being a writer is one of the most rewarding things in the world, whether you become the next Stephen King, or sell a few copies of a book on Amazon. I get to spend my days doing what I love the most, and I couldn’t ask for more than that. You just have to be willing to put in all the hard work and effort required to write. As Neil Gaiman says, “you just have to keep putting one word in front of the other – it’s that easy, and it’s that hard”.