I have had the pleasure of reading Amanda Fleet’s recently published novel The Wrong Kind of Clouds and interviewing the author herself. Mild spoiler alert.
The Wrong Kind of Clouds is Amanda’s debut novel. The plot revolves around the kidnapping of Patrick Forrester, a journalist, and his ex lover Summer Morris’ quest to find him. Summer explores Patrick’s world or dodgy dealings, local scandal and the international ripple effects Patrick has caused. I read the book in just under a week on the rush hour trains to and from work in London. I ended up missing my stop on the way home one night because I was too busy being submerged in the world Amanda has created. The book is set between Scotland and Malawi and follows the lives of several key characters over the course of five days. I was lucky enough to win a free copy of the book due to a competition Stuart Lennon was holding on his website but you can buy the book from Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmiths and most good retailers. (links can be found at the bottom of the page)
Amanda kindly agreed to answer some of my questions about herself and her novel.
One of your characters has synaesthesia; a condition that allows them to think in forms of colours. Where did this idea originate from?
I used to lecture in physiology at the University of St Andrews. One of the areas I used to teach was the special senses: taste, touch, sight, smell, hearing. The way textbooks cover the special senses is incredibly simplified as if sight is only sight or taste is exclusively taste. In reality, for many people there is a distinct blurring between them – that tastes are associated with colour, or words are; that sounds and colours become intermingled. Summer’s form of synaesthesia is a very rare one – she not only feel emotions but sees colour with them – so for example apprehension is a purple colour; fear is orange. In essence she ‘feels’ the colour. I thought it was an interesting phenomenon to explore.
Part of your book is set in Malawi. What inspired this decision?
I’ve been out to Malawi several times and I love the country and its people. While I was out there, I helped to set up a charity – Chimwemwe Children’s Centre – which is essentially what Samala, the charity in The Wrong Kind of Clouds is based on (though I hasten to say that everything at Chimwemwe is entirely above board!). I also learned about a case of child-trafficking where a child was taken from Malawi to the USA under less than legitimate circumstances. I used some of this experience for one of the plot strands in the book. Incidentally, the rip in the clouds on the cover of the book is in the shape of Malawi.
What is your writing process like? Do you set yourself daily word counts?
No, not really. I find that artificial and unhelpful to be honest. I would rather write 400 great words than 4000 words that are going to need serious editing or be thrown out completely. Instead, I base my targets on progressing the book to a particular point. That might be to complete a single scene (especially if it’s a complicated one) or a target point in the book such as to get to the end of Act I by a particular day. Sometimes writing flows easily and I’ve done 4000 words by the end of a day that are probably not going to get thrown in the bin (hooray!!). Often though it isn’t anything like as good as that! When it’s flowing well and I can have an uninterrupted day, I suppose I average about 2500-3500 words.
Since completing The Wrong Kind of Clouds can you explain the process you took to publication?
Ooh. This one’s more tricky. I finished The Wrong Kind of Clouds quite a while ago (2013) and have written various (as yet unpublished) things since then. I sent it (and other things) to different agents a few years ago but wasn’t getting anywhere. A friend of mine’s wife (Alison Morton; you can follow her progress at http://alison-morton.com/) was in a similar position, and she chose to self-publish her books, using Silverwood. She has subsequently been very successful and found an agent. I decided I would at least give self-publishing a try. After all, no-one can read the book unless it’s out there. I hired an editor and then looked at which self-publishing option to go with. As I didn’t feel all that confident about being able to do it all myself (I’m no cover designer or typesetter!) I chose to go for one of the packages available. It was a difficult choice between Matador or Silverwood to be honest but in the end I went with Matador.
They essentially take your finished manuscript and organise the cover design, the typesetting, produce the paperback, produce the e-book version… essentially everything needed to go from publication-ready manuscript to published product. They also do some marketing and publicity (depending on which package you choose from them). I sent them the manuscript last October and the book was published in early May this year.
What’s your next project?
There’s a manuscript with the editor at the moment and hopefully this will be the next book to be published. That book is more of a psychological thriller than a police procedural and doesn’t involve any of the characters from The Wrong Kind of Clouds. Before that will even come back from the editor, I’m appearing at “Bloody Scotland” – the International Crime Writing Festival in Stirling – having been awarded a Spotlight on Crime slot for new authors. I also have a number of other projects that are burning holes in my head at the moment – a sequel to The Wrong Kind of Clouds, a third book with Summer and LB, another thriller that’s written but needs editing, and an urban fantasy trilogy. I’m also trying to get an agent! I’ve a busy few months ahead!
What advice would you give to other writers?
If the book isn’t burning to get out of your head, ask yourself why you’re trying to write it. If you still want to write it, try and maintain your belief in yourself while you go through the process, because the road isn’t always an easy one. Write because you want to write; because you want to tell stories.
Would you consider Patrick to be a good or bad person based on his actions in the novel?
I love this question! I’ve had a couple of reviews where people have said they weren’t sure if they liked the book because they didn’t like Patrick. But he was never meant to be likeable!
I honestly think of Patrick as weak rather than good or bad. He’s complicated, as real people are. His lack of fidelity to his partners doesn’t match most people’s expectations. He has an inability to balance the books and his choices on how to get out of his financial difficulties are ill advised, to say the least. Do these aspects make him bad? I don’t believe so. I think he has felt backed into corners and as a consequence, taken whatever option he has seen to get out of them. To his credit, the plight of the homeless children in Malawi has really touched his heart and he has genuinely tried to help them. So no, I don’t think he’s either good or bad, but complicated and weak. Would I have him as a friend? Probably not!
Of course, I highly recommend The Wrong Kind of Cloud for any thriller fans.
A massive thank you to Amanda Fleet for allowing me to review her novel and agree to an interview with me.
If you want to look at Amanda’s website you can find the link below.
There are links on Amanda’s website for getting it on Nook, iBooks, Kobo and other I-reading devices or you can buy it direct from the publisher.
Kindle versions of The Wrong Kind of Clouds
You can also find the link to Stuart’s welcome page on his website below:
Thanks for reading, please pick up a copy of Amanda’s novel and I’ll see you next time.