Christine Amsden Interview

JR: Today I am talking with Christine Amsden, author of The Immortality Virus. Thank you for agreeing to the interview, Christine. Please tell us a little about yourself and your story.

CA: Thank you for having me! You already know the third most important thing about me – that I’m a writer – so I’ll fill you in on the first two. I’m married to a wonderful man, Austin, and it is with his help that I am able to write and publish my books. I also have two wonderful children, currently 5 and 3, who keep me busy when I’m not writing (and sometimes when I am).

I’ve been a writer as long as I can remember, even before I could actually read. I used to look at picture books and make up stories. I like to say it’s in my soul, and that I could no more not write than not breathe. I write science fiction and fantasy, but to me, genre is not as important as character. I like to write about ordinary people defining themselves through extraordinary situations.

The Immortality Virus was a concept I came up with about five years ago, and which took me two and a half years to complete. It takes a hard look at the human quest for long-life, eternal youth, and asks, what if we all get it? Would it be that great?

I don’t think so, and my attitude is reflected through the dystopian world I created, and through Grace Harper, the heroine I invented to search for the man responsible for The Change. I’m just as nervous about growing old and dying as the next person, but I know in my heart, and especially when I look at my children, that life is a circle, and that the human race as a whole grows stronger through renewal.

JR: Where did you come with the idea for The Immortality Virus?

CA: The idea struck me, oddly enough, through a random Wikipedia search. I knew only that I wanted to write a novel, and that I wanted it to be science fiction. (My first novel was paranormal suspense, and I wanted to try something a little different.) A few clicks on the “random article” button later, I came across their article on DNA, which got me thinking about a genetic link to aging. I spent several days bouncing around the internet, gathering information, following trails until they went cold, but somewhere in there, the idea was born.

JR: I would consider The Immortality Virus a dystopian thriller…do you agree with this and are you a fan of the genre?

CA: You are the first person to come straight out and ask me that! I’ve been calling the book a dystopian novel for months now, but only after several reviewers used the word. It does seem to fit, but I honestly hadn’t set out to write a dystopian novel, just one that made people think. I realize the world I created is fairly dark, although I think I threaded some hope in there as well.

As far as being a fan of the genre, I would say only that I have read and enjoyed some of it. I’ve read 1984 a couple of times, Brave New World, and The Stand, among others. It is not a sub-genre I intentionally seek to read, any more than I intentionally sought to write it. Then again, I don’t tend to be a fan of any particular genre. I like good stories and interesting characters. Make me think, make me laugh, make me cry, make my heart pound…that’s far more important.

JR: What are your personal thoughts on immortality? It’s hard to imagine living forever, especially with the state of social security benefits. Would you want to live forever?

CA: Well, I’d think if we were eternally young, we’d have to eternally work as well. If you don’t like your day job, you may want to rethink immortality, because you’re going to be doing it for a looonnnnggg time!

A lot of immortality stories these days focus on a person or small group of people living forever, and in those cases, I suppose the world could at least support the situation. Most writers of the genre tend to predict boredom setting in pretty quickly, though. I was recently reminded of a memorable character in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, an immortal whose goal was to insult everyone, because he had nothing better to do.

I’m not looking forward to death, but I don’t want to live forever, either. I regard it as a pretty selfish thing to want to do. Prolonging a single life always occurs at the cost of others, whether it is directly, as in the case of vampires, or indirectly, as in the case of consuming resources the next generation needs.

JR: Who is your favorite character in your book and why?

CA: Meg, because she’s an innocent. She’s a truly young woman (early twenties) in a world of forever, one who would have been part of the new generation of adults in this world, but who is really little more than a child. She’s faced pain and loss, but she hasn’t grown cynical, and she still sees life for its possibilities. She is also a friend to Grace, when she needs one.

 JR: I believe every writer should also be an avid reader. What are some of your favorite books and authors?

CA: How long do we have? 🙂

Okay…I have to mention Orson Scott Card first, because I attended his “boot camp” in 2003 and learned a ton. Plus, I really do enjoy Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow, and have read each multiple times.

In science fiction, I tend toward the classisc – Heinlein, Assimov, and Phillip K. Dick (short stories).

In fantasy, it’s just the opposite – I like the modern trend of urban fantasy. Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files are among my favorites, as well as Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series, Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series (the only vampire romance series to date that I’ve really enjoyed).

In more traditional high fantasy, I enjoy Mercedes Lackey and Robert Jordan.

I also read romance. My favorite romance genre authors include Judith McNaught, Jude Deveraux, and Cathering Anderson.

For romantic suspense with the occasional paranormal, fantasy, science fiction, or whatever she’s feeling in the mood for element – Linda Howard is great.

Mystery? Agatha Christie is the master (mistress?)! Good thing she wrote a lot of books.

Others? I’m in a book club, and I never know what’s coming next. Last month was Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, and this month is Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal! (It’s supposed to be a comedy, I am cautiously looking forward to it.)

I love my book club, because I find books to cherish that I never would have picked up on my own, like Middlesex, and the Life of Pi.

Deep breath…or you could just look me up on Goodreads! I don’t hold back, I promise.

JR: Almost every author I know has received a bad review from a reviewer. How do you handle the bad reviews and not take them too personal?

CA: I’m not supposed to take them personally? 🙂

So, do you want the politically correct answer or the truth?

Here’s the truth: They hurt. I know, intellectually, that not everyone will like my book, but it doesn’t keep me from feeling down when it’s in my face. Depending upon how bad, I might complain loudly to my husband about how “they just didn’t get it!”

However, life goes on. There are a few positive reviews that blew me away, and that I read for a pick-me-up after the bad ones come in. To remind me that, while not everyone is going to love my book, some people really, really do.

JR: Give us little perspective on your daily routine from writing to promoting your work.

CA: My routine is a bit off-kilter lately, because of the book release. I ended up focusing almost entirely on promotion for a few months, and haven’t been writing as much as I’d like. Also, it’s summer vacation, so my kids are home with me all day.

Once things calm down, here’s what will probably happen: Three hours of writing (or revising, or editing, or critiquing) time in the morning while my daughter is in pre-school. (The quietest time.) One hour of marketing time in the afternoon, while she takes her nap. One hour of social networking scattered throughout the day, when I have a few minutes.

The house, unfortunately, tends to get the short end of this deal.

JR: This is one of my favorite interview questions because most authors can relate. How do you overcome staring at a blank screen, with no motivation to write? What we call writer’s block.

CA: I take a bath. I don’t believe in staring at blank screens. If the screen is blank, then clearly, it’s not inspiring me. So I should go somewhere else. I don’t believe that all writing time has to take place in a chair, although I do endorse BIC (butt in chair). A lot of it takes place in my head. A bath, a walk, or a change of scenery can help a lot.

Also, when I’m in the middle of a story and get stuck, I see it as a sign that I’ve done something wrong. Instead of bulldozing it, I give myself a few days to think and reflect, and almost always come up with the answer.

JR: What advice would you give an author with no knowledge of the industry, except for knowing how to write?

CA: Brace yourself for rejection. No matter how good you are, getting published is a frustrating effort. You’ve got to sent out queries, and keep sending them out until someone says yes.

JR: What is your view on the industry as a whole?

CA: I think the industry is on the brink of a big change, but the giants in the field are afraid, and are holding back. I see this when I log onto Amazon, and see big-name author’s books cost the same (or more) in ebook format. Ebook readers have gotten better in just the five years since I published my first ebook, when I really didn’t know what to tell people about how to read it. Now, my ebook sales have shot past my print book sales. Then again, I went with a publisher who is offering the ebook for a fair price. It doesn’t cost as much to produce, so why should it cost as much to buy?

JR: Where do you see yourself in five years?

CA: Still writing. I’ve got a new urban fantasy series nearly ready to roll, and I hope to see it successful in that time, but I also expect new inspiration to strike.

JR: Your turn. You get to ask me any question you would like.

CA: How do you decide which new books to read?

JR: A lot of times it is decided for me. If I have a ton of submissions, those are the books that I have been chosen to read. My authors suggest books to me all the time from new authors they enjoy, some of which I will read. Other then that, I walk into my local bookstore and buy the first book that catches my attention.

Short Answer:

If I were President for a day I would…Probably say something not PC and end up getting insulted by every media network, with possible veiled death threats from some.

The easiest way to fix global warning would be to…Actually acknowledge that it’s happening and that we can fix it.

One book I would love to see in a movie is…The Immortality Virus!

I think the NFL strike is…I don’t follow football, so I don’t really have an opinion.

One talent is wish I had is…Singing! I do it when I’m alone, just be careful not to walk in on me.

If I could have the traits of one super hero it would be…Teleportation


About Jairus Reddy

I am a fiction publisher who interviews authors and industry professionals about the industry, other authors, politics and even Hollywood gossip. I also have biased thoughts about the publishing industry, which I blog weekly, to voice my opinions to the public. My company, Hobbes End Publishing, is not looking for new submissions, unless stated otherwise in the future.
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