Amanda Havard and I go back. Way back. Okay so I’ve known her for three years, but it kind of feels like forever, because we met at the beginning of my writing career when we we on a panel together at the Southern Festival of the Book in 2010 (Havard’s first book The Survivors came out in 2011 ). It was, if I do say so myself, the greatest, geekiest panel panel ever. Amanda’s approach to 21st century storytelling is exciting (she writes songs for her characters) and I immediately dug her style, both as storyteller and fashionista (in a sense), and so it’s great to have an opportunity to talk with her a little more.
First, tell us a little about yourself and your books.
My name is Amanda Havard, and I’m a storyteller, techie, music-maker, fashion fiend, nerd, academic, and entrepreneur. That list might seem scattered, but you can see pieces of all of it both in my books, The Survivors Series, and in my transmedia storytelling efforts, as typified by Immersedition, my interactive storytelling app concept.
Your survivor tribe is the Salem witch trials, vampires, and shapeshifters all rolled into one. How did you come up with the idea for these creatures?
I like a little truth in my fiction. All the legends and supernaturals in Survivors originate from a myth, legend, or lore. I use history specific to primary source documents to shape the storyworld, and I obsessively researched legend until I could play connect-the-dots with different legends (like the connections between nosferatu shapeshifters and vieczy vampires in Romania and Russia) to form a more interesting, and (weirdly) more plausible story.
You are an evangelist for transmedia storytelling. How did you get started as a transmedia storyteller? What has been your greatest success? Failure?
My start in transmedia was as organic as it comes: I wanted to tell a story with as many types of media in the telling as I used in the making. In the creation of Survivors world, music was hugely important, so the books got soundtracks. I’d write music to help one character speak to another, and so that became a part of the world too. I imagined a way to tell a story where every map, legend, historical document, or runway look (and so many things in between) would have a home and would be there for my readers to explore if they chose. These things eventually became all the elements of our transmedia story world, and that desire to tell stories in a way that didn’t yet exist became Immersedition. These would be my biggest successes. And in terms of failures? Well I can tell you what I didn’t account for: the role that an audience plays in a transmedia story. Audience is key. When audience engages, the story world can take on a life of its own, growing its own tentacles that make the world all it could possibly be. But you can’t force that, and I’d be lying if I said we had the engaged audience we’d need to execute all of the insane and grand plans I had planned for this story.
You recently collaborated with other YA authors to write songs for their series. Tell us about that process. Do you plan on taking on more projects like that in the future?
Last year at UtopYA Con, I performed a raw version of one of the original songs I’d written for Survivors, and it sparked great conversations about music and books and the creative process. This year, when darling Con founder, Janet Wallace, talked to me about music, we decided it would be great to collaborate with other authors to make music for their stories. I worked with Chelsea Fine and her Archers of Avalon series on a song called “Electricity,” with Amy Bartol on “Darkness in the Light” for the Premonition series, and with Quinn Loftis on a song called “A Mate, A Match, A Mark” for her Grey Wolves series. This process was so much fun for me, and I worked with all three authors in different ways. I loved diving into the story worlds of others, and so I look forward to more collaborations.
Any advice for would-be writers?
Write the story that takes ahold of you and doesn’t let go. Don’t force ideas you wish you had as that often leads to limiting or ignoring the idea you actually do have. And when it doubt? Get words on the page. Listen to the swirls of sounds in your head. They’ll become your voice.
Any last words?
Publishing is changing. Stories are getting bigger, better, badder. You can live in a story when you write it, and now readers can live in the worlds you build like never before. Take this moment of upheaval and tumult for what it is: an opportunity.
Find Amanda and the Survivors Series on the web: