I first met Amanda Bridgeman Continuum convention in 2013. My very first panel on the first day of my first con. We’d both just published our first novels, and I interviewed here here about that first book, AURORA DARWIN, way back when. Since then Amanda has navigated the publishing world through a variety of ups and downs and she now has seven published books to her name, which is no small feat. She was kind enough to answer some questions for me about her latest.
Tell me about your new book, the Time of the Stripes.
The Time of the Stripes is a contemporary thriller with SF elements. It revolves around an incident where an alien spacecraft appears, hovers over a small town in Virginia for 24 hours, then leaves. When the outside world re-establishes contact with the town, they soon discover that many people are missing and of those who remain, some have been branded with these strange red stripes.
The book explores the effect this crisis has on the town – of the town being segregated from the outside world (for fear of contamination) as well as segregated within – between the Striped Ones and Clean Skins. It explores the reactions from several different MC PoVs on all sides of the divide, how prejudice and ignorance can fuel mob justice and how things can quickly burn out of control. It’s the story of how some people succumb to mob rule, and of those that fight to rise above it.
This is a pretty different scale of storytelling to the Aurora series. You’ve gone from a military space opera to a small town SF drama about a group of mostly ordinary people.
Yep! And that was my intention. I wanted to try something different, something not set in space, and also something shorter and punchier. The Aurora series is a saga, more like a long term relationship and The Time of the Stripes is more like a one night stand.
Ultimately, though, readers can expect my voice and style to carry through both. I tend to write character-driven SF with adrenaline spikes. I spend time laying the foundations that ultimately lead up to a climatic finale!
The story is more intimate and you have a much greater spread of POV, but it still reads like Amanda Bridgeman. Did you find the shift easy?
Yes and no. With the Aurora series I started out with two POVs, but the later books in the series have many more – due in part to the large scale of the plot now. The good thing about the Aurora series is that I’ve had several books to develop the characters and it’s the one comment I get more than any other from readers of the series – that they feel like they know the characters.
It was a challenge having several POVs in one single book like The Time of the Stripes, because those characters are brand new to readers so I had less time (pages) to develop them. So in that respect they are very different beasts.
I know you like to write big, but I’ve seen Time of the Stripes in progress for a while. Are you planning any more smaller or stand-alone works?
Sure am! Writing stand-alones give you the opportunity to explore other worlds and other ideas. I have many, many books in my head that I’d like to write, and it’s nice to take a little holiday from the Aurora series every now and then. That said, it’s hard to beat the power of a series. Readers love to rejoin their favourite characters and share their next adventure. I find it hard even when writing a standalone – not to leave some threads dangling for a sequel or series to follow!
The Aurora series keeps on rolling along! Since Time of the Stripes came out you’ve already published Aurora book 6. Tell me about how the Aurora series has progressed since you started writing it. When is Aurora 7 coming out?
Well, when I first started writing the Aurora series, it was only supposed to be one book. But as I wrote the story grew! Once I knew where the story was going, and what the end point would be, it was just a matter of hitting the right notes in between to get to that end point. Once I knew I had a series on my hands, I’d planned for the series to be complete by book 8. That is still the plan, but whether I also do a spin off series… we’ll have to wait and see. Sometimes you need to listen to your readers, and my readers love the series and can’t seem to wait for the next one – so who am I to argue? Book 7 will be coming out this year!
You’ve been through a couple of changes in the way that you publish your books over the last year or so, from traditional publishing to coop to now being full-blown indie. That must have been a bit or a rollercoaster, but you’ve come through each transition in record time with that same indomitable spirit. There are many other writers in this boat–I’ve taken a trip or two myself. What advice can you offer to writers who are going through the same thing?
My advice? Patience. You’re going to need it. And time. You’re going to need buckets of that too. Also, dedication. For those times when you want to sit on the couch and watch TV, but instead you need to drag yourself into your office and work. And knowledge – get some. Whether trad published or self-published there’s a lot to learn!
Are you pleased with your current arrangement? It must be nice to be in full control of all of your work.
I won’t lie – it’s certainly been a ride! The first five books of the Aurora series were released through Momentum (Pan Macmillan Australia) and when they announced they were closing their doors I was devastated. Being five books into an 8 book series was going to be a very difficult ask finding another publisher to pick that up. I ended up self-publishing and to be honest, it hasn’t been that much different. Yes, I’m the one paying the editors and cover designers now, but I get full creative control and higher royalties. That said, I’m using the exact same creative team for the Aurora books – same editor that Momentum hired, same cover designer that Momentum used… Self-publishing is costly and very time consuming, but the rewards can be great.
Ultimately I’d like to pursue a hybrid career – self-publishing some books and traditionally publishing others. It’s the best way to reach the widest audience.
I know you’re a rock’n’roll fan. Recommend me a song to go with each of your books?
Aurora: Darwin – All Along The Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix. I actually received permission from his estate to include lyrics from this song in the book. The lyrics fitted the story perfectly:
“Outside in the cold distance, a wildcat did growl. Two riders were approaching, and the wind began to howl!”
Aurora: Pegasus – Broken Bones by Birds of Tokyo. Ideally it would roll over the end credits of Darwin if it were a film, but with lyrics like:
“I won’t go back. You must be out of your head!”
It’s pretty perfect for capturing the feeling of the Aurora team when they find out what their new mission is!
Aurora: Meridian – The Halcyon Days by The Tea Party. Carrie goes under to get close to her nemesis and kill him.
“Vengeance moves so swiftly. I’ve conquered fear. I’ve shed my tears. Now I’m seething, barely breathing . . .”
Aurora: Centralis – Goodnight, Travel Well by The Killers. This song captures the end of the book…
“Stay, don’t leave me
The stars can wait for your sign
Don’t signal now
And there’s nothing I can say
There’s nothing I can do now”
Aurora: Eden – Pickup Truck by Kings Of Leon. Mostly because I was listening to a lot of K.O.L. while writing this book. In some respects it became the theme for the romance in this book….
“Pour yourself on me
And you know I’m the one
That you won’t forget”
Aurora: Decima – 24000 by Primary. It captures Harris’s ability and also the need to join together to win the battle against the invading Zetas.
“And what if I could see the future
Happen before it does?”
“24000 arms raised up in defiance, a sense of security”
The Time of The Stripes – Radioactive by Imagine Dragons. Well, it captures a revolution and an apocalypse, so….
“I raise my flag, and dye my clothes
It’s a revolution, I suppose
We’re painted red to fit right in”
“This is it, the apocalypse”
Some great songs there, AB, by some of my favourite bands. You have good taste! Thanks so much for answering these questions.
The Time of the Stripes is available from the following vendors. Do your self a favour and check it out: