Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Interview with Amber Stokes, author of Bleeding Heart

                  Several weeks ago I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Amber Stokes, the author of Bleeding Heart. You can purchase Bleeding Heart here. I "met" Amber on Twitter a few months ago and we became fast friends. I was able to score an ARC e-copy of Bleeding Heart and review it for the Bleeding Heart Blog Tour. Amber, truly, is a talented writer and I am so excited to read Forget Me Not coming Winter 2014. Once there is a cover for Forget Me Not, I will do another post about that. For now let's get to the interview. Enjoy!

                                             Amber Stokes Interview

Alyssa: First, tell us a little about yourself, background, etc.
Amber: Thank you so much for hosting me, Alyssa! It’s a pleasure. J

I graduated from college a little over a year ago, and since then I’ve started a freelance editing business and explored this crazy (but awesome!) world of self-publishing – and I’ve spent a lot of time with my family. I’m back home in Northern California, and I truly love it. So much inspiration for writers in this beautiful place!

What else? I blog at Seasons of Humility and The Borrowed Book (Mondays), and you can connect with me on Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest, too. I seriously spend a lot of time online – exciting, I know. J I love reading, quoting movies, and square dancing, on occasion.

Alyssa: Tell us about Bleeding Heart?
Amber: Bleeding Heart is a shorter inspirational historical romance novel (a little over 50,000 words) set in the late 19th century in the American West. Here’s the back cover copy:

Five bleeding hearts. One profound journey.

Summer 1886

Sally Clay’s livelihood has been snatched away, but in its place arises an opportunity to escape from her sordid past and an unrelenting, unwanted suitor. Boarding a train with a heartsick rancher and an enigmatic miner, she leaves Virginia City behind and heads to Northern California, waiting for the chance to make right what went wrong three long years before.

But the road to revenge is far from smooth. Sally soon learns that the jagged pieces of a broken heart can far too easily wound the hearts of others – and hers isn’t the only heart that’s broken. Tragedy and fear dog her steps as she flees from the redwood forests to the high desert and back again. Will her bleeding heart ever find a way and a place to heal?

A desperate soiled dove. Three men who come to care for her. One man determined to claim her.

All on a journey that will show them what true love really involves.

Alyssa: Why did you decide to write this story, what inspired it?
Amber: As I’ll explain in more detail a little later in this interview, Bleeding Heart is actually a sequel, so I decided to write this book because I wanted some characters from my first book, Forget Me Not, to have their own story. As far as the plot ideas? Once I had the title and the characters, they mingled with my own concerns about heartbreak and my desire to explore different definitions of love and sparked a story that took me and my characters down some painful paths…

Alyssa: Of all the characters in the story, which is your favorite? Who did you most enjoy creating?
Amber: Well, as most authors would probably say, I love all of my characters for different reasons. J But the one I most enjoyed creating? I suppose that would have to be Myghal. He snuck into my first book when I visited Virginia City one summer with my family and we took a tour of an archaeological dig. We learned that, on the top-level street (Virginia City was built on a hillside), there used to be a row of homes for Cornish miners. I think it’s fun to include little historical tidbits that make a story unique and interesting, so I thought, “I’ll add a Cornish character who will befriend my hero!” Little did I know then that he would take up his fiddle and dance his way into a bigger role in the story and into the next book, too. I gave him a strange accent and a bit of an attitude, but he gave back wisdom and understanding and a heart that was full of fun and music and even some sorrow of his own. I love the scenes he stole in BH, and I hope to write more of him soon!

Alyssa: I noticed Bleeding Heart is not like other Christian Historical Romances. It’s darker and very thought provoking unlike every other romance I have read. Why did you decide to take that path?
Amber: I guess you could say it started with Bleeding Heart’s prequel. Virginia City, Nevada captured my imagination back when I was in high school, but a 19th century mining town is certainly not a light and happy setting. Drinking, gambling, prostitution, the dangers of mining – by choosing Virginia City as a setting, I guess I set myself up for a darker story! But it was more than that…

In Forget Me Not, there were certain questions and themes I wanted to explore. I wanted to work through my frustrations, my uncertainties, my understanding of different things I believe, and writing those characters gave me a chance to do that.

So I finished the book after several years of off and on writing, and then I got feedback on it. There were some positive things said, and then there were some critical suggestions I needed to take into account (but I didn’t really want to hear at the time). Instead of editing FMN, I decided to write another story. Along came BH, which started out as a story about the spurned suitor from FMN and a secondary character – a soiled dove who had been in the story for one brief scene but had been a part of a lot of grief for my other characters. She intrigued me, so I made her the heroine of the sequel and decided to figure out her story. I created a villain to amp the tension, chose a title that fit with the flower theme I was going for, and then wrote – for about two years, also off and on like with FMN. Their story became a pouring out of my heart, of my fears and my longings and my hope. I wanted to know what would happen if things didn’t turn out the way my characters planned, if life gave them heartaches they had hoped never to face. Could there be healing? What would come of their faith? How would they feel, and where would they all end up? And, in the process of challenging my characters, I challenged myself. Perhaps it will challenge my readers, too, to think through some difficult things and find out what remains.

Alyssa: If you could go back and do it over, is there anything about your novel that you would change?
Amber: Wow – that’s an interesting question! And I’m pretty sure I know why you would ask it… I guess you could say I was actually given the chance to do just that. My editor expressed concern about Bleeding Heart being accepted by a traditional publisher, saying that I would have to start the story much later than I had. She made a valid suggestion, especially if I had been hoping to query the book. But it wouldn’t be the same story that way, and I had already planned on self-publishing by the time I sent the manuscript to her. While I did go through edits, I didn’t restructure the story. I think certain characters needed to be included and not glossed over, and I think there were things I needed to work through by letting the difficult plot aspects stay. 

Alyssa: Are you currently working on another story? If so, can you tell us anything about it.
Amber: I actually have a few ideas running around in my head right now! I’m hoping to finally edit Forget Me Not – something I just wasn’t ready to do when I finished the first draft a couple years ago – and then publish it as the prequel sometime this winter, perhaps January 2014. I also have plans to write a companion short story and a sequel to Bleeding Heart, which I hope to share later in 2014. J

Alyssa: Last question and it’s a fun one. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
Amber: The Bible, first and foremost! Beyond that… I guess some of the first Christian fiction books I remember reading when I was in elementary school were “The Buccaneers” series by Linda Chaikin and the “Yukon Quest” series by Tracie Peterson. They showed me how intriguing and exciting and wonderful Christian fiction could be, and now it’s basically my passion and my “career.” J And, more recently, “The Hunger Games” series by Suzanne Collins really caused me to ponder important questions (and I used it as an example in several school papers my senior year of college, which was cool, LOL). There have been so many books, both inspirational and secular, that have blessed me over the years, and I’m so grateful for each one that caused me to think deeply, challenged me to grow, and encouraged me in my faith.

Alyssa: Thank you so much Amber for taking some time to let us get to know you and Bleeding Heart.

Amber: You’re very welcome! Thank YOU for letting me share with you and your readers!

1 comment:

  1. So glad we met on Twitter and became fast friends!! Thank you for taking the time to chat with me about Bleeding Heart - can't wait to share more about Forget Me Not with everyone! (Although I confess that I currently have Fairy Slippers - the short story featuring Zachary Taylor - on the brain. :)) The cover for FMN should hopefully be revealed in November. :)



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