Today we welcome Amanda M. Thrasher.
Book ‘Em: Tell us about you and your life outside of writing.
Amanda M. Thrasher: My life outside of writing is hectic. As Co-Founder and CEO of Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, I’m busy assisting other authors with their work. I’m also continually learning new things in the print and publishing industry, as I work with our team in regards to marketing and looking for new ways to promote the work that our company produces. In addition to that, I still have two teen girls at home, fifteen and seventeen, one is an athlete and plays on both a club soccer team, her high school soccer team, and for fun, her dad’s company indoor soccer team. She’s a busy girl! My other daughter keeps me active in different ways. She’s creative and unique, one of a kind for sure, but interesting. I think that’s kinda neat when you find your children interesting. My oldest is my son. He’s blessed me with three beautiful grandchildren, and though I don’t spend as much time with them as I’d like, I do see them on a regular basis. Whenever possible, I drag them to the zoo. It’s my favorite place to take them.
Book ‘Em: Which books have you written? What are they about and why did you choose to write them? Do your books have a message? Are they fiction or nonfiction?
Amanda M. Thrasher: I write fiction. And my books do tend to have lessons, though not preachy, entwined throughout, differently depending on the age. I write a variety, so it honestly depends on the book that you pick up. For example my picture book ‘There’s A Gator Under My Bed!’ teaches children that most of the time the things they’re afraid of is in their heads, their imagination, makes nighttime ten times scarier than it needs to be. My children’s series, The Mischief series, Mischief in the Mushroom patch, A Fairy Match in the Mushroom Patch, and Spider Web Scramble, teach children that it’s OK to be different. That being kind and well behaved is a good thing. Those manners still count, teamwork is essential, and there are consequences for actions. I wrote a graphic novel that was adapted into a readers theater for the Texas Municipal Court Education Center for the D.R.S.R program (Driving on the Right Side of the Road). It was to deter teens from drinking and texting and driving. I also wrote The Ghost of Whispering Willow. It’s a ghost adventure that taught the boys to rely on their unlikely nemesis, the girls, to save the ghost children. I loved that book; it was interesting to save ‘children, that were already gone.’ The Greenlee Project, a super important piece, teaches against bullying and cyberbullying. Consequences of and how it affects the victim, the bully, families, and the community. It won three awards. And my latest, Bitter Betrayal, it teaches what I call the ugly or scary side of teen dating. Many books, shows, videos, etc., glorify teen romance. But honestly, young girls process things differently than boys and put themselves in danger unintentionally on a daily basis. Boys and girls often interpret or process the very same situation that they’re experiencing differently and it can become a dangerous mess. The consequences are devastating and can last a lifetime. My intent was to prevent that type of situation from occurring in the first place.
Book ‘Em: Do you have a work in progress?
Amanda M. Thrasher: Yes. I’m currently under contract to adapt Kevin James O’Neill’s screenplay Captain Fin to a novel. It’s coming along, though I’ve been delayed due to work. I need more time, which I never seem to have enough of…story of every writer’s life it would seem.
Book ‘Em: What was the most difficult section/piece you ever wrote? What made it difficult?
Amanda M. Thrasher: I actually have two scenes. One was out of The Greenlee Project. It was the part where her dad found out what had to her, and he was shocked, stunned. He asked her the question, “Greenlee, how did I not know?” She answered him so honestly. “It’s dad, I didn’t even know!” He was distraught. It killed me to write it, because I could see it so clearly, in my mind’s eye, as I wrote. And that kid, Greenlee, could be anyone’s kid. Yours, mine, the neighbors, and what she endured was so horrible, it broke my heart. And as a parent, I hurt for her dad. It killed me.
The second scene was in Bitter Betrayal. It was the part when Payton knew after she’d protected the person she loved the most, she had lost everything, and nothing would be the same again. It was too late. She couldn’t get what happened back. How she’d reacted to everything from start to finish and how he had reacted broke her heart. She couldn’t prevent what had happened. And you knew she was hurting, emotionally, and one could feel her pain. That was difficult because, again, every young girl has felt that emotional pain at some point. Having daughters, I just knew that could have been one of mine, or the neighbors, or one of the kids that I knew. I’d heard so many stories from young girls about the actual events that inspired parts of the book, but the emotional pain, was hard because you want your kids to avoid it and you know they won’t be able to do that. Watching your daughters experience breakups is heartbreaking, but knowing what happened in this book made it hundred times worse, and you know it occurs too many times.
Book ‘Em: What sort of research do you do for your work?
Amanda M. Thrasher: For the YA books, I visited high schools and middle schools. I spent hours talking to kids that age. Let them tell me their stories. Went to games, football, volleyball, etc., and listened to the kids. Let the teens tell me their stories, horrific, and at workshops parents and teens shared with me as well. I still have the two teen girls still at home; my house is continually a revolving door of kids; this allows me to observe and ask questions. They are free with information, and I listen and of course research via the net.
Book ‘Em: Which books and authors do you read for pleasure? Is there an author that inspires you?
Amanda M. Thrasher: I typically read two books at a time. One nonfiction, and one fiction. Right now I’m reading The Cellar by Natasha Preston and John Wayne, The Life And Legend by Scott Eyman.
Book ‘Em: Is there an author that inspires you?
Amanda M. Thrasher: I love Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility my favorite along with Pride and Prejudice, and grew up reading C.S. Lewis. I would say Jane Austen is inspiring because of course she’s a classic, but was so witty for her time. C.S. Lewis was likely the first author that taught me to love a book. I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, over and over again.
Book ‘Em: Was there a person who encouraged you to write?
Amanda M. Thrasher: My mom. She knew I loved creative writing.
Book ‘Em: What would you say are your strengths as an author?
Amanda M. Thrasher: My ability to allow the reader to feel exactly what my characters are feeling.
Book ‘Em: How often do you write, and do you write using a strict routine?
Amanda M. Thrasher: Not enough, and not by choice. I wish I had a stricter writing routine; I used to have one before PRPP. But now I try to write at least three or four times a week.
Book ‘Em: Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?
Amanda M. Thrasher: Hopefully still producing books I enjoy writing, and people enjoy reading. Books that touch people and make them feel something.
Book ‘Em: If you could offer one piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?
Amanda M. Thrasher: Hire a professional editor, professional. Not your friend, your teacher, your critique group. Even our professional editors, the ones that have been in it for twenty odd years, miss things our proofers find, and even then we still correct files. Author’s eyes become so used to seeing their work; the files go back and forth so many times between layout, editors, proofing, autocorrect when you didn’t request it, things get missed. Print your first round of edits off, and compare to your editor’s suggestions. That way you have a hard copy for comparison as you work through the editing process. Editors do get paid first, in cash, but they are human, and mistakes do happen. It requires teamwork.
Book ‘Em: What would you consider the best compliment a reader could give your book?
Amanda M. Thrasher: “You’ve changed my life.”
Book ‘Em: Provide an excerpt of your writing that you would like to share with our members.
The Greenlee Project – Tweens & Teens
Greenlee pulled up the GPS on her phone. She was twenty-eight miles from home. How in the heck had that happened? Suddenly she felt fearful and started to panic. She hit speed dial D.
“Greenlee, where in the hell are you? We’ve been trying to call you all day!” Matt Granger said.
He didn’t wait for her to respond and kept firing questions at her one right after the other and immediately Greenlee felt that she’d made a mistake.
“What are you playing at? Where are you? What are you doing?” he asked with a slight hesitation. “Where have you been?” After a pause, he said, “We’ve been worried sick!” Breathing deeply, he continued, “Greenlee . . . Greenlee, where are you now?”
Greenlee blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “Dad, I don’t really know,” she said. “And if you don’t mind, I really don’t want to talk about this right now!”
“You called me,” he snapped.
Her dad bit his lip, took another deep breath, and as calmly as he possibly could in that particular moment said, “Greenlee, we’re definitely going to talk about it; maybe not at this very second, but you can rest assured that we will talk about it!”
“Dad, please, could you just come and get me? Please.” Another slight pause and he could hear her exhale, “I don’t even know where I am . . . I know you’re mad and disappointed in me, but please, can you just come and get me?”
A combination of relief and fear swept over him with such magnitude that he was forced to bat away his own tears. The photo of Greenlee that sat on his desk didn’t help: all smiles, sparkling eyes, and freckles across her cute button nose. It took him back to the days when he’d lift her in his arms and swing her around and around until she begged him to stop. He took a deep breath and spoke as softly as he could without breaking down.
“I’m not mad at you, Greenlee,” he said softly, “or disappointed in you. Don’t say that. But we will talk about this and you know that we will!” He grabbed his jacket and his keys. “I’m on my way. Don’t move from that spot and text me the street address.”
“Don’t talk to strangers!” He slammed down the phone and left his office.
As the air chilled, Greenlee realized that she was starving and cold. She wondered if she should ask her dad to stop and grab her a bite to eat, but given the circumstances, she figured it wasn’t the best time to ask for a favor. She kept her head down, hoping to avoid eye contact with the people on the street. She wasn’t used to being in the city by herself, especially at that hour, and the hustle and bustle of people that spilled onto the concrete made her fearful. Fortunately no one was paying much attention to her, and that brought her some comfort. She shivered as a gust of wind blew through her body. Her hands clambered to grab her sweatshirt and wrap it as tightly around herself as she could. She continued to wait for her dad, who seemed to be taking too long. In less than twenty-four hours she had gone from not wanting to see her dad at all, to feeling relieved that he was finally pulling up to the curb.
The car door opened and she slid into the front seat without saying a word. Her dad asked her if she was hungry and Greenlee nodded gratefully. He pulled into the first fast-food place they came to and he ordered a burger and a large coffee. Handing her the brown soggy bag, he continued driving home.
Greenlee spoke first. Her voice echoed with the sound of distress, her pitch inconsistent, and she frantically tried to compose herself to speak without trembling. It was impossible. Reaching over, he grasped her hand. He never took his eyes off the road and didn’t offer any kind words—his simple gesture was enough. It was heartfelt, meaningful, filled with love and compassion, and touched Greenlee beyond any words that he could have chosen anyway. Gently he squeezed her hand in his, and she tried to speak.
“I . . . I can’t go back there, Dad, I just can’t. I thought I could,” she said as the tears flowed uncontrollably down her cheeks. She swallowed, sucked in a gasp of air, exhaled, and tried to continue.
“The whole thing is just too unfreaking believable. I can’t wrap my head around it. I still feel so stupid.”
She wasn’t hungry anymore but took another bite from her half-eaten burger, chewed a moment too long, swallowed, and looked at him as he continued to drive.
“I’m begging you, Dad, please, please don’t make me go back there. I still need to do what I’m doing, just maybe somewhere new.”
Her words and the tone with which she said them broke his heart. He hurt for her. He was angry for her, angry at himself for not having known, and furious with the kids who were involved. His daughter! Terrible for anyone’s daughter, but it was his daughter. Swallowing hard, he struggled to find the right words. His voice sounded different than usual: shaky but soft, concerned, but definitely filled with anguish. Greenlee studied his face for a moment but was forced to turn away. Tears had filled her dad’s eyes, and though it would have killed him to know, Greenlee felt humiliation engulf her as she realized that she had inadvertently brought her father to tears and caused him such pain.
“It was cruel and I still want to kill him, hurt him, and the others for that matter,” Matt Granger said. “And of course I can’t kill him. I’m angry, no, make that furious! I’m disgusted and mad at myself for not protecting you.” He couldn’t look at her, but he had to ask, “Greenlee, how did I not know?”
Greenlee put down the burger and whispered, “It’s easy, Dad, I didn’t even know!”
He stopped at a red light, released his grip on her hand, and took a sip of coffee. Clearing his throat, he tried to speak again, but he couldn’t. The words simply would not come. Rage had taken over and fearful of scaring her, he put his foot on the gas pedal and moved forward into the flow of traffic again.
“If you don’t go back, you’ll have to transfer. If you transfer, they win. You can’t let them win. You are better than they will ever dream of being. I hope you know that. I hope, Greenlee, that you see just how amazing you are. I think you should return to school. I don’t know how hard this will be for you. I’d be lying if I said I did. But I do know this”—he hesitated, choosing his words carefully—“you have to do this; you have to do this for yourself.”
He never said another word and Greenlee didn’t offer any either, there was no point. The inevitable was around the corner, but how she’d deal with the situation once she went back to school, facing the people who had put her through hell, remained to be seen.
The principal had been calling their house all day long. He didn’t mention the calls the school had made to Greenlee.
“We assure you,” the principal had said, “if anything else has happened, anything at all, we will handle it appropriately. Any student that may have been involved with this dreadful situation, if it was brought up again, will be disciplined to the full extent that the district is able to.” He hesitated and added, “Mrs. Granger, you have to know that we do not under any circumstances approve of this behavior.”
The principal waited for any assurance that he was handling the situation appropriately, but that affirmation wasn’t about to come. Mrs. Granger was angry and her words were sharp and bitter.
“What am I supposed to tell her?” she asked. “That you’re handling it as best you can?” She wasn’t thinking, just spouting words. “How do I explain that you’re handling the situation to the best of your ability? Greenlee is devastated and rightfully so. She’ll never get over this.”
“Mrs. Granger, we’re trying. We’re doing our best.”
She despised the sarcasm in her own voice; she tried to bite her tongue, but the poison, the bitter tone toward him, continued to flow, her voice hissing as the words attacked on behalf of her daughter.
“Clearly I’m not thinking straight,” she muttered through gritted teeth. “My apologies to you for my tone, but not to those kids, and for that I make no apologies. I can’t imagine, as I’m sure you can’t, how Greenlee must be feeling right now.”
She didn’t wait for an answer or say goodbye; she simply hung up the phone and burst into tears. Where was Greenlee? Why hadn’t she called? She glanced at the phone, but it still didn’t ring.
Bitter Betrayal Trailer:
The Greenlee Project Trailer: