Amanda Bridgeman is a science fiction author from Western Australia. A lover of hard rock and sci fi action movies, she writes fast-paced, character-driven, action-packed space opera for the Momentum imprint.
Amanda was kind enough to give me the following interview:
JF: How did you get started in this whole writing caper? Was there a particular moment where you decided to suddenly get serious about it?
AB: I used to write when I was in my early teens. Basically I would write the ‘movies in my head’ as novels. Back then, I wrote a lot of gritty teen angst (wanting to be the next S.E. Hinton). I then fully immersed myself in film for a decade; studying it at university, then mainly watching everything that moved, then I also did a little bit of film/TV extra work (you know the people who hang out in the background of a scene). I had my lightning moment when watching the 2008 Oscars and I saw Diablo Cody win the Oscar for ‘Best Original Screenplay’ for ‘Juno’. Now, I know she’s a university graduate and held regular jobs, but she quit those jobs to become a stripper. And I remember thinking, hey look this stripper just won an Oscar. If she can do it, why can’t I? (Gotta dream big, right?).
Anyway, I thought enough was enough and it was time to pluck one of these stories floating around in my head out and put it down on page (and stop dreaming about it!). Aurora: Darwin (although then known by another name – but I’m keeping it secret as I’ll use it for another novel) was the one I had most worked out in my mind. So I sat down to write the screenplay, but struggled to get past the first page! I decided that it would be easier to write my story as a novel and then work on the screenplay later. So that’s what I did, and as I wrote this one story grew and became a series!
Making that decision to finally sit down and give writing another go was the best decision I’ve ever made. It also made me realise that I’d come full circle – I started writing as a teen and although I had wandered away from it for a time, I found my way back (or perhaps it called me back?). I realised that writing was what I was supposed to be doing with my life – and I’ve never been happier. Better late than never, eh?
JF: Most prose writers start with short fiction, but you just jumped straight into novels. Into a series of novels, in fact. Do you have any interest in the short form, or are you hardwired for epic?
AB: I have recently starting playing around with short stories, but I feel my strength lies with the long form. I like to really sink my teeth into a story, and right now I just don’t feel that sense of satisfaction from a short story. To me it’s the difference between nibbling on a cracker or gorging on a steak. But perhaps I just don’t understand the form well enough – hence my recent attempts to give it a go. There is a certain appeal to cracking out more work with shorts, but I love a good saga and you just can’t get that with the short form.
JF: So your first sale was your whole Aurora series?
AB: Actually, no. Not the series. So far we’ve done it on a book by book basis, so my first sale was for Aurora: Darwin alone.
JF: Is Space Opera your preferred genre? Do you have plans to write in any other modes?
AB: I like all kinds of genres, but the spec-fi realm – particularly sci-fi is probably my favourite. I’ve started writing other sci-fi novels outside of the series (not set in space), so that will be my ‘preferred’ genre to write in, but I do have other novels planned for outside of this genre.
JF: Early in Aurora: Darwin there is the suggestion of a supernatural element, particularly around the hard-nosed Captain Harris. Is that a clue as to the kind of non-SF work you’d like to do?
AB: Not really… The non-SF novel ideas I have include an Action/Adventure/Thriller, a Romantic Suspense, and Action/Adventure Romance, and a medieval fantasy. So far all my other SF novel ideas (I have 3 in early development) are all based on Earth too – so at this point no more space adventures are planned. It would need to take a pretty cool idea for me to do another Space Opera, as I feel pretty content with the Aurora series. By the time it’s done I may feel as though I’ve done the ‘space thing’ for a while. But, you never know! Never say never!
JF: How many Aurora books do you have planned?
AB: It’s a planned series of 8 books. I have 5 written, 3 to go…
JF: You seem to be inspired by film as much as by SF literature. Your writing is very cinematic and visual. What are some of your favourite films–SF and otherwise?
AB: Honestly, one of my favourite films of all time is JAWS. Other than the fact that I love sharks, I just love that basic story of the underdog/reluctant hero who has to step up and do what needs to be done (and I just like Chief Brody). The same can be said for the Alien series. Ellen Ripley is the GREATEST heroine of all time! I pretty much like all kinds of films, though, so I guess it depends what mood I’m in at the time. One minute I’ll be watching an Oscar nominated drama, the next a big blockbuster Hollywood action film, and the next a nice little rom-com. I take inspiration for my books from all these different corners of the cinema too.
JF: Without spoilers–what’s the Aurora series all about and where’s it heading?
AB: The Aurora series is an ongoing sci-fi saga that builds with each book as it works its way to the final conclusion – currently planned for book 7 or 8. It follows the lives of Captain Saul Harris and Corporal Carrie Welles as they’re thrown together on a classified mission that proves to be way bigger than they ever imagined. It’s a multi-layered tale that’s very character-driven, yet has plenty of action and thrills to boot. With an international cast and interesting locales through the known universe, it’s a great series to sink your teeth into!
JF: You juggle a very big cast in the Aurora books–two point of view protagonists as well as the whole crew of the ship, plus badguys and other supporting characters. Still, you manage to make them all distinct characters with their own personalities and backgrounds. Did you work all of them about before you started writing, or do you figure them out as you go?
AB: I had the basic identity of each of the (main) characters worked out when I sat down to write, but they definitely evolved as I wrote. And as I wrote and their stories developed, new characters came into play that fed off the existing ones. The great thing about a series is that you can have characters that weave in and out of the story through the different books – just as you would have people do in real life. Also – being a few books ahead of myself, helps you to know when to work certain story angles in, or hints of what’s to come in that character’s life.
JF: You mentioned that you’ve planned five books in the Aurora series. Do you have the whole thing carefully plotted or do you just set a goal and strike out towards it? Do the stories or characters ever take off on tangents that surprise you?
AB: I have 5 books written, but have planned approximately 8 books in the series. Although I may scale this back to 7 books. It all depends on what happens in my writing of the end of the story from book 6 onwards. I definitely don’t plan on it going any longer than 8 books (it has a definite end). But whether it ends up shorter – we’ll have to wait and see. When I first sat down to write it was only supposed to be one book, but as I scratched away at the surface I realized there was a bigger story hiding underneath – and that is what spawned the series. Once I knew the direction it was headed, I plotted it out roughly in my mind, and then when I sat down to write, the multiple storylines developed – which all in one way or the other tie into the overarching plot of the series. Tangents can happen, but they do so in such a way as to be able to be woven back into the over-arching plot.
JF: That’s a wrap! Thanks, Amanda!
AB: Thanks for hosting me!
The third book in Amanda’s Aurora series, Aurora: Meridian, was released in October this year. You can snag a copy from any of your favourite retailers, digitally or in print: click through to Momentum for linkage.
You can find more information at Amanda’s website, http://amandabridgeman.com.au/.