Tell us a bit about Situation Critical: How did it come into being? What was your Eureka! moment?
I’ve always been involved with supporting our uniformed communities in one way or another – whether paramedics, police, military or other service organisations, and I read many related stories, often. This story came into being when I came across Finnegan’s inspiration, Sarbi, an Australian Special Forces explosion detection dog who went missing in Afghanistan for 14 months and was found! Her story planted a seed for a book, that wouldn’t stay quiet. My canine hero character in Situation Critical, Finnegan, the bomb detection dog (although he had a different name!) started out at the centre of a very short story, one I entered into a competition and finalled! I loved Finnegan, and the idea of a human who was ‘his’ so much, that I wanted to know more, see what happened next, way past the details that were in my short story.
My Eureka moment came when I sat down to craft Nate, and he just jumped off the page. I couldn’t type fast enough to catch all of who he was—his life, his story—onto the page at the pace it was hurtling out of my head. It was the first time I’d had this happen for a character, at that level of intensity—and I wondered if perhaps, just maybe, this story might be special… I couldn’t wait to write it!
Give us a little tease of the relationship between Sergeant Nate Calloway and Captain Beth Harper:
A bit of a different take, I’ll share what I love most about Nate and Beth’s relationship:
- They’re each other’s protectors: from the moment he realises Beth’s life is in danger, Nate vows to keep her from harm – as she has done, and continues to do for him. She saved him once, and if he falls ill again, he could die – his life is in her hands.
- Their battles of wit and will: they’re equals, and whether it’s when they’re verbally sparring or in a fight for their lives, each is a match for the other in different ways. They both develop a grudging appreciation for the fact that they challenge each other, and have different strengths, and that when combined they really are something else!
- They respect each other: They each have a job to do—and the balance of power between them can and must shift, depending on their circumstances. This leads them to trust each other, share and discover sides of themselves they’d not shown to another soul.
- Their love conquers all: When it seems all is lost, their hearts will find their way back to each other (not a spoiler alert – we know this is a romance, and must have an HEA, right?!).
What drew you to Beth’s qualities as a heroine?
I love to listen to and be among strong, smart women who also have a vulnerable side that isn’t evident at first, but there’s something about them that allows others to feel safe – Beth is that person! I love that she isn’t perfect, but can hold her own amongst her peers (mostly male), but doesn’t see it as a male/female thing, simply a ‘person’ thing to be the best she can be. That she doesn’t let Nate (or anyone) treat her any less than she deserves, no matter how bad things get. She holds Nate accountable for his actions, and also allows him to redeem his mistakes, with his dignity still intact. She’s gutsy without being reckless, and has the courage, the tenacity to do what needs to be done, even when she is terrified. She can say she’s sorry, and admit to her mistakes… I admire her!
What are the qualities of your ideal hero? How does Nate fit into those ideals?
Ideal hero qualities for me… a man strong of mind and body, and who displays honour, integrity and loyalty in action and thoughts – he is a man of his word, knows what he will and won’t stand for, and doesn’t waver, unless it is to protect someone he loves. He has well developed EQ and IQ, and has a non-arrogant self-confidence. He is fiercely protective of those he loves, intensely passionate and if ever he can give his heart (I do love a bit of a tortured hero!) it will be deeply and a one time only thing! My perfect hero also loves a strong, smart woman who makes him want to be the best man he can (even if it talks him a while to realise it!) someone who can push his buttons, make him ask the hard questions of himself, and have him always want to get back to her when they’re apart… above and beyond anyone, and anywhere else.
Nate embodies all of these elements: some we don’t see until near the end of the book! He is deeply committed to what he sees as right and just and will take action, always. He’s somewhat unpredictable, but his moral compass and loyalty to those closest to him is unshakeable. He can be hotheaded, and rude when his emotions are pushed outside his comfort zone, but when Beth’s life is under threat, in part, because of his decisions/actions, he won’t stop until she’s safe. A protector and a warrior – he can soothe her soul when she’s wrapped in his arms. AND the big one, he loves his dog! I am a serious sucker for a fella who loves animals!
How did you begin your romance writing career?
I’ve always written—whether it be poems, blogs, journals or workplace newsletters… I’ve tried to stop—but I can’t NOT write! My romance writing career started when I’d finished a short story, and wanted to ‘learn’ how to craft a page turner, and whether my manuscript had any potential. After googling books, courses and everything in between, I stumbled on Romance Writers of Australia.
I went along to my first conference that same year, and pitched my work to a well-known editor, who’d asked for the first 5000 words of my manuscript prior to the pitch. The book I pitched was loosely in the genre of thriller with romantic elements. The editor told me that they felt I was stifling something in my ‘voice’ and perhaps it was the romance, to let it ‘flow’ in my work and then send it… I went away, and stopped pushing the romance aside (which I’d previously done when those characters screamed at me to include it!) and indeed let it flow… and then I was hooked! Can’t go past a good love story, and now its a part of almost everything I’ve written!
What’s your favourite romance trope?
I do love the redemption trope… can’t go past a good military/protector one either!
What is your process like?
I am a part plotter, part pantser. I used to be an all-out plotter, but found it ended up stifling me creatively. So now, once I have my core idea,and an inkling of my black moment/and or story ending, I spend quite a bit of time ‘listening’ to who my characters are as the initial step, filling in a character bio of sorts (mine is a bit of a combo of the detail in Cherry Adair’s character bible and KM Wieland’s character interview with elements of my own thrown in) and then learning all I can about my characters. I research the specific or unique elements of each of their worlds, so I can see life through their eyes and experiences. Often, I will also write the first couple of chapters when I’m still in this phase, but usually, by the time I’m at chapter four to five-ish, I am fairly well acquainted with my primary characters, and the essential elements of their goals, motivation and conflict.
I work an almost full-time job outside of my writing life, and am mum to three children, so I have to be pretty regimented in committing to my writing time, or it just doesn’t happen. At the very least, no matter what kind of day I’ve had, or how tired I am, I force myself to write 500 words a day, and have one day dedicated to reaching at least a 2k word count, and I aim for 5k per week, at the very least. I find if I miss a few daily sessions, I lose my mojo, and can then go a number of weeks without writing a thing – super dangerous! So have learned I must make that 500 words happen EVERY day!
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Any quirky hobbies?
My day job and family stuff takes up a very good portion of my non-writing time – however, I do dabble in a couple of different ‘other’ interests when I can! I am a lover of new vintage clothing, and shoes (especially the shoes!) and do spend *ahem, cough* a little bit of time searching new looks, and new spaces and places to check out looks, and purchase said items!
I am partial to the late 1940s/early 1950s era, and my go-to websites at the moment are ModCloth, Elise Design, Kitten D’Amour and Royal Vintage Shoes. I’m also a bit of a crafter (mostly card making) – although, that’s a bit adhoc these days, and as needed, given the time challenges!
Of course, reading is an absolute on my daily ‘hobby’ list, as are a number of shows that I tend to binge watch when I can (thank goodness for Netflix!) I especially do this when I am stuck in my writing… I find dissecting the characters, and analysing the rhythm of the story in TV shows helps! A few of my more recent faves – Outlander (actually, this is long-time staple go-to for me!), Stranger Things and This Is Us top the list!
So I read in your bio that you have some adorable pets… do they hinder or help you when you write?
My darling, gorgeous Golden Retriever (Bonnie) true to her name has the most joyful spirit, and brings such warmth and calm whenever she’s in the room.
When I’m writing, she’ll often curl up (then stretch out!) right beside me. She’s hilarious when I am testing out character dialogue out loud. She’ll raise her head and watch me, with her very expressive eyebrows jiggling in response to my chatter, and an expectant look on her face. It’s like I’m telling her something amazing and wonderful, and she hangs off every word! It usually takes her a moment or two before she realises I’m not actually addressing her, and resumes her relaxed pose, and goes back to snoozing.
When I’ve been deep in research mode, discovering the most heart-breaking (or heart-warming) stories, or writing scenes that’ve resulted in a bit of a teary moment (alright, an out loud sob fest!) she’s quick with a nudge to my leg, or her head resting in my lap, calmly letting the tears fall on her head till I make it back to some semblance of normal! There’s lots of her in Nate’s beautiful dog, Finnegan!
Amanda’s debut novel, Situation Critical, releases on the 5th of April. You can preorder the title from your favourite e-tailer site, and we would love you to leave an honest review either at point-of-sale or Goodreads.
“Really well developed story …well balanced when it came to the suspense and romance” – Jeri’s Book Attic
“I really liked the storyline and felt the characters were so real and interesting.” – Laurel, Goodreads
“A great romantic suspense” – Tracie, Goodreads
A taut debut novel about a wounded soldier, a courageous doctor, and a dog in desperate need of a rescue
Soldier, surgeon, traitor, dog…
When Sergeant Nate Calloway is carried into the field hospital with no memory of how he got there or where the other members of his unit are, Australian army surgeon, Captain Beth Harper cares only about repairing his broken body. But it’s clear that something went terribly wrong on the other side of the wire, and as Nate slowly recovers, he becomes more and more anxious to return to duty, go back into the field, and rescue his friends, his unit, and the bomb detection dog that he loves.
The only way Nate can be released to active duty is if a doctor agrees to accompany him, and Beth surprises everyone by volunteering. Her role is to monitor Nate and take him right back to hospital the instant that his health deteriorates enough to put their rescue operation at risk. But as she stays close, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to his courage, his determination, and his commitment to his fellow soldiers.
Instead of a straightforward recovery, however, Nate and Beth soon realise they’ve stumbled on a tangled web of deceit and danger, and the enemy is no longer outside the wire. He is one of their own, a traitor, and he has them in his scope.