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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Interview Series I: Amy Blackwelder

Author Ami Blackwelder

Imagine how happy I was to meet a writer who, like me, creates worlds that look a lot like the one we live in, with just enough fantasy or weirdness to whet the reader’s appetite for something a little different.

The Hunted of 2060 is about a college sophomore named April who realizes she is something more than human. She can transform into a wolf , and is hunted because of her differences. Her story is one of conflict, confusion, betrayal, family secrets, torn passions, and loyalties.

Author and Florida native Ami Blackwelder writes prolific “paranormal and historical romance” books directed at young adults. Adult men and women will also enjoy her series that incorporates “passion and taste with a twist."

She began writing in elementary school, receiving her first encouragement when short stories were read aloud in class. She refined her short story writing at university, where she wonBest Fiction of 1997 and made it to the semi-finals in the Laurel Hemingway contest. Poetry has always been an important branch of her work, and she now gets comments that her prose is just as lyrical as poetry.  

In her thirties, Blackwelder switched gears. “I began writing religion /spiritual books and then started novels, after realizing how much I would love to see my short stories more fully developed.” 

Blackwelder’s direction into young adult literature seemed natural, since she has worked as a Kindergarten teacher and spent eight years in Asia, where she built up English programs in Thailand in order to improve children’s education. Of that experience, she comments, “The Ministry of Education rated our school two stars out of five before I arrived, and five stars out of five after I left. The principal was sad to see me go.”

Thailand was also a place of fruitful ideas for Blackwelder. The idea for The Hunted of 2060 came to her while she was gardening there: “…Visualizing a woman who transformed into a panther, while watching my cat jump into the trees.”

The Hunted of 2060 is an integral part of a series surrounding its characters. The first novel, The SCM of 2030, is told from the perspective of the humans, the military who pursue April, and tells the background story for the whole series. The second and third novels, The Shifters of 2040 and The Hybrids of 2050, make up their own set. The fourth and fifth books,The Hunted of 2060 and The Revolution of 2060, are told from April’s point of view and also go together as a pair.

“A prequel, The Shifters of 2040 is now completed and edits are underway,” Blackwelder elucidates. It will be available in October 2010 for fans interested in finding out more about April's world. “The novel will answer questions about April's birth mother, her grandfather, Bruce and his motivation, as well as further dive into the science fiction of April's ancestors and their hybrid offspring. Some familiar and new faces will be present.” 

In spite of the important fantastic elements in the stories, real life has an important impact on Blackwelder’s fiction: “I usually draw from my love of nature and wildlife, and so many of my novels exist in the forests and touch on environmental and wildlife conservation. I also employ themes of prejudice and oppression. Forbidden love is a common element in my work. These aspects of real life affect me and so they are seen in my writing. …My inspiration usually comes from a seed of social angst or passion. This is in the form of oppression, prejudice, wildlife and environment conservation. From those seeds a story is born.”

After the initial inspiration, Blackwelder employs language sensitively to create atmosphere and character voices depending on their age, location, and personality.

Blackwelder is a highly disciplined writer. She employs a structured method that nonetheless accommodates inspiration and other life matters. She explains, “I usually try to write one chapter a day. Some days I skip and other days I write several chapters. I can complete a novel in two-three months, depending on my work load/schedule.” Since nature is her biggest inspiration, she works on her laptop by a window where she can look outside. She also keeps information and ideas handy on shelves nearby. It’s not unusual for her to mentally get into character and act out a scene in her head, a practice that contributes greatly to her vivid descriptions.

Throughout her life, her favorite book, Pride and Prejudice, has influenced her writing style. It may be that touch of Jane Austen that some critics are responding to when they tell Blackwelder that her prose is too descriptive. On the other hand, some “feel the words like poetry.” She justifiably says, “It really depends on taste. I stick with my own instincts. I enjoy details, as in what color were the buttons and how many? But my editor helps me weed out over-description.”

Other imaginative epics, like Star Trek, Star Wars, and the Twilight series, have leant their fantasy to her work, but never too much at one time. She observes, "I generally get feedback about how imaginative my writing is and sometimes have been told I write a new genre called Reality Fiction, because my work is so often based in 'this could happen and sounds real.'"

Find out more about Ami Blackwelder's writing, watch video trailers, and purchase her books so you can enter her fascinating world yourself at her websites: