In the show, How I Met Your Mother, there is an episode proclaiming nothing good happens after 2 am. It’s the time most people are (or should be) asleep. Though, Amanda McKinney wakes up at 3:30 am (just a little after 2 am) every morning to write. This is impressive. The only time I get up that early is for a rare morning flight. My brain doesn’t usually function until at least 6 am. But Amanda is up at 3:30 with her coffee creating.
Who are you?
My name is Amanda McKinney, wife, mother, nature lover, Tito’s enthusiast, and professional dreamer disguised as an author.
What do you write?
I write what I love to read — Romantic Suspense and Mystery. I love the delicate mix of romance, intrigue, suspense, and of course, the happily-ever-after ending. The swoon-worthy hero doesn’t hurt either, let’s be honest. As a reader and a writer, pacing is very important to me. One of my favorite things about the genre is that the stories are fast-paced. Nothing pulls me out of a book more than slow pacing or that ever-dreaded lagging middle section. When I write a book, I focus on creating a page-turning experience and making the reader feel a mix of emotions — fear, anticipation, shock, lust; you name it. If he, or she, goes to bed thinking about my book or stays up all night to finish it, I’ve done my job.
Where do you write?
I write in the same place, every day, surrounded by sunlight, plants, candles, and dozens of Post-Its. Literally dozens of multi-colored sticky notes — each having a specific place and purpose on my desk. Armed with coffee and a tightly strapped back brace, I settled in, click on my essential oil diffuser, open Scrivener and dive into whatever crazy world I have created in my head. And I love every freaking second of it.
When do you write?
I’m someone who loves schedules, plans, and consistency. Spontaneity scares the crap out of me. So I keep myself on a tight schedule packed with deadlines. A typical writing day for me is waking up at 3:30 am, stumbling to my desk — coffee in hand — to get in as much writing time I can before the kiddos wake. For better or worse, this my most productive time of the day. I have a daily word count goal and write every day, no matter what. I find this helps to keep the same tone throughout the book and the creative juices flowing. When I begin a book, the first thing I do is write a detailed outline — bulleted of course. And although the story develops as I go, I try to stick to that outline as much as possible. I’ve realized that if I don’t, the story becomes scattered, filled with major plot holes. And no one likes a massive plot hole.
Why do you write?
I write because I am passionate about it. Like many creatives, I was someone who wandered aimlessly through life until I found writing. I’d always struggled with what I was meant to do professionally. After college, I spent a decade in sales and business management. My world was cheap power suits, grey cubicles, PowerPoint presentations, quotas, and butt-kissing. I knew this was not my path. I wanted to be the person who said, “I love what I do so much that it doesn’t feel like work.” After years of sending positive energy into the world, hoping I would find my dream job, the quest finally ended after I wrote the first paragraph of my first book (that was so terrible it never saw the light of day). I fell in love instantly and never looked back.
I write for my family, with the goal of building a nice little nest egg for my children. I also write for my mother — my best friend, my hero, my everything, who passed not long after I wrote my first book. Her support and encouragement are the sole reasons I had the confidence to write that first paragraph and chase my dream. Looking back, I can say with complete confidence that writing was the one thing that got me through that loss. It became my therapy, my escape. Every book I write is dedicated to my mother because every book I write is a testament to the biggest thing I learned from her — to never, ever give up.
How do you overcome writer’s block?
I step away from the computer and take a walk outside. I focus on my breathing and simply still myself. I truly believe in the healing power of nature. If it’s epic writer’s block, I go for a run. Get those endorphins flowing and ideas pumping. And if all else fails, there’s always vodka.