Author Spotlight: Amanda Rawson Hill and The Three Rules of Everyday Magic
I'm so excited to welcome author, Amanda Rawson Hill, onto the blog today! Amanda grew up in Rock Springs, Wyoming with a library right out her back gate. She moved to Provo, Utah, to earn her bachelor's degree in chemistry at Brigham Young University, and today she resides in Atwater, California with her husband and three children. She loves to knit, homeschool, make music, and volunteer in the community. Her debut novel, THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC, releases on September 25th from Boyds Mills Press.
“While familiar unions are falling apart, other surprising connections are blossoming. As Kate struggles to untangle the truth and find her power, she discovers new friendships and the enduring love of her family. The theme of loss is heartrending, the story line fast-paced and compelling. A fine addition to middle grade collections in need of character-driven family stories.” ---- School Library Journal
And now, here's my chat with Amanda!
Hi, Amanda! Welcome and congrats on The Three Rules of Everyday Magic. Can you share a little about the story and what inspired it?
The Three Rules of Everyday Magic is a story about a girl, Kate, who is facing a lot of different losses in her life. Her grandmother is slipping into dementia, her best friend is growing close to a new friend, and her dad abandoned the family a few months earlier. Kate has to learn how to let go and how to hold on, how to love the people who matter even when they don’t seem to want or be able to remember your love.
It actually started out as a story about guardian angel grandmas who come back to help their granddaughter through all the hard things going on in her life at the moment. It obviously, isn’t that anymore. But the original premise was inspired by my kids’ imaginary friends. Two old ladies.
What do you love most about Kate?
I love how strongly she tries to hold on to people. She’s so loyal. And even though this becomes a flaw for her, it is also a strength. The trick is knowing when to hold on and when to let go. It’s something we all have to learn over and over in our life. And so I loved exploring that part of myself inside Kate. The part that doesn’t want to let go. That holds on so tightly it causes problems. But that’s also the same part that says, “I’m not giving up on you” to the people who need to hear that.
Children see the world through a different lens than adults. What are your tips for writing an authentic middle grade POV?
An authentic middle grade POV is so tricky to write. You can’t be too self-aware and yet you are allowed to be totally earnest and insightful in this naive way. And a lot of wonderful MG voices are not really “authentic” in the way of, “Oh, this sounds exactly like a kid I know.” But they are authentic in the way of, “My daughter once described something in the most beautiful way” and you built a voice around that part of a child’s brain. I don’t know if that makes sense. Basically, there isn’t a child alive who always talks in the same voice as literary, lyrical middle-grade, which is what I write. The trick is to not have the character be overly-analytical (especially of themselves) or super aware, and to always preserve this feeling of awe and hope and connection. Basically, dig within yourself and find some of that innocence, that hope, before you saw how broken the world was and let your mind live there. I really think that’s how you tap into an authentic middle-grade voice.
What has been your most rewarding experience as an author?
When a woman I know read my book and told me all about how much it mirrored her own experience with depression and brought her to tears. You work so hard to make sure you are portraying something sensitively and correctly. And with depression, there are so many different experiences with it, no two exactly the same it seems. So to hear that, at least for her, I’d gotten it right, meant the world to me.
From a writing standpoint, which character in The Three Rules of Everyday Magic was the hardest to crack? And how did you crack them?
Sofia and Marisa. Sofia is Kate’s best friend/ex-best friend and Marisa is the friend she’s moving to. For a long time, Marisa was very much a bully and Sofia was claiming she needed Marisa for rides and stuff so she turned a blind eye to how mean she was to Kate. But that wasn’t really working. And over many revisions, I had to soften Marisa and make Sofia much more of a sympathetic character as well. Now, there’s really no bullying dynamic to it at all.
It was really a struggle for me to pinpoint WHY Sofia was gravitating to Marisa (especially, when I kept having Marisa be so mean.) The turning point was actually when I hired sensitivity readers for Sofia and Marisa. One of my readers pinpointed the struggle of a second-generation Mexican American child and talked about what that journey can be like and how having a friend who understands is so meaningful. And how Kate just can’t understand some of the things Sofia is struggling with, no matter how good of friends they are. But Marisa, who is a third generation immigrant from South America, and more comfortable with her heritage and where she fits in, can understand and really help Sofia. Most of this doesn’t show up on the page, but it really helped me fill out these characters and add details and nuances to them that I didn’t have before and that made them much more realistic instead of these flat, one-note characters.
What are you reading, watching, or otherwise currently infatuated with?
I’m currently reading BERNICE BUTTMAN MODEL CITIZEN by Niki R. Lenz to my kids and it is hilarious! Imagine Gladys Herdman getting to tell her own story about trying to change her ways and make friends and that’s what this is. It’s wonderful.
I’m also currently infatuated with DEAR EVAN HANSEN (who isn’t?) I can’t stop listening and just got tickets to go see it in San Francisco this December! It’s my Christmas present…from my husband? Haha I did all the buying. But it’s from him.
And finally, what’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned so far in your publishing career?
Write the best book you can, send it out, and then write the next thing. You can’t control who will love it, who will want to publish it (if anyone), what your reviews will be, your sales, etc. But you can write the next book. And I do believe that if you keep really working and improving, something will eventually stick. Don’t ever give up. Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t throw away your shot. Take it over and over and over again.
Many thanks go out to Amanda for taking the time to tell us more about THE THREE RULES OF EVERYDAY MAGIC, character development, and what goes into crafting an authentic middle grade POV! Be to sure to Amanda's important story about the power of everyday magic to your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) pre-order your copy (WRITE) NOW from retail sites like Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, or request it at your library, or local independent bookstore!
And, as always,