Q&A with Amanda Marin, North to Nara
What gave you the idea for this book?
North to Nara was inspired by a lot of different things. Believe it or not, one of those inspirations was my dog! A while back, she was having a tough time recovering after a surgery (thankfully she’s all right now). Taking care of her got me interested in writing about a character with the ability to siphon away someone else’s pain—it’s what I wished I could do for her! This evolved into the concept of Suffering in the book. On the more serious side, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter was also a major influence. It’s one of my favorite books, but I always wanted Hester and Dimmesdale to have some sort of happily ever after. North to Nara isn’t exactly a retelling of the story, but it is a reimagining of it, focused on my own versions of Hester and Dimmesdale. (Hopefully Hawthorne wouldn’t mind!)
Who is your favorite character in North to Nara?
Hands down, it’s Micah Ward, Neve’s love interest. He’s compassionate, kind, and thoughtful—all qualities the world needs more of (and that I aspire to better embody myself!). He was challenging to write about—but also really fun and interesting. Even though she’s more or less the villain in the story, I also really liked writing Isla Pryce. She’s a very complex character, and I loved working on her backstory.
What was the hardest part about writing North to Nara?
I think trying to find a unique angle on dystopian fiction was the biggest challenge. It’s such a popular genre and so many takes on more traditional dystopian elements have been done repeatedly. It’s hard to stand out. I knew early on that I wanted to reverse as many expectations as possible. For one thing, I truly consider this a romance first—it’s a love story that happens to take place in a dystopian setting, not the other way around. I also wanted the appearance of a utopia, which is more frightening, I think, than an obviously bleak setting.
What’s your next project?
I’m finishing up the sequel for North to Nara. It’s called Sky to Sea, and it should be out in January 2020. It’s a very personal story to me—I put a lot of emotion into it, along with healthy doses of romance, suspense, and adventure. The first few pages of Sky to Sea appear at the end of North to Nara—I’m keeping quiet beyond that so as not to spoil either book!
Has writing always been your “dream job”?
Pretty much! I’ve been writing since I was little—I’ve always loved stories and books. When I was around 13 years old, my English teacher was extremely supportive and encouraged me to keep going with my interest—so I did. Today, I’m a marketing content writer by day, and—now that North to Nara is published—a novelist by night. I feel very lucky to get to do something with my life that I love so much.
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?
Never give up. It’s simple but important advice. In high school, I asked my creative writing teacher if he ever thought I’d manage to get something published. He told me, “You will as long as you don’t give up.” I really took that to heart—it kept me going through many rejections and moments of self-doubt. Keep writing. Keep querying. Keep putting yourself out there. No matter what! (Yes, I’m talking to you, person-reading-this-who-really-needs-to-hear-encouragement!)