With a love of scary stories and folklore, Amanda Headlee spent her entire life crafting works of dark fiction. She has a fascination with the emotion of fear and believes it is the first emotion humans feel at the moment they are born. Most of her work focuses on dark fiction associated with folklore and cosmic horror. The fear of humanity’s insignificance in the vastness of the Universe intrigues her.
By day Amanda is a Program Manager; by night she is a wandering wonderer. When she isn’t writing or working, she can be found logging long miles on one of her many bicycles or hiking the Appalachian Mountains. She’s one of those crazy people who loves to compete in endurance sports.
Q: Amanda Headlee has joined us in today’s hot seat so we can learn more about her and what makes her kick! I’d like to kick things off, if possible, with you sharing a little bit about yourself and what types of stories you enjoy writing as well as which genres you write in?
A: Stories that elicit fear are the kind of tales I like to write. My writing is primarily in the horror and dark fiction genre. I prefer this genre because it’s cathartic by helping people to overcome their own fears. Also, a story is intriguing when it places an ordinary character in an extraordinary situation where their odds of survival and resolve are tested.
Q: I know that ‘Till We Become Monters’ has recently been released. I’d love to find out more about it. What can you tell us past the synopsis that isn’t a spoiler?
A: The novel explores the theme of nature vs. nurture by asking the question “is evil is born or is it a product of an upbringing?”. The story is a bit of a metaphor about the consequences of what happens when one doesn’t see the ‘monster that lurks inside’ by acknowledging their true self.
On the opposite side of the coin, the book delves into what occurs when one takes people at face value and doesn’t take the time to understand the man behind the mask.
Q: As this is your debut novel, how has this been different from your previously released short stories?
A: This novel started out as a short story that had a larger story hiding beyond the initial 10,000 words. Someone had pointed out after reading the short version that there was more to tell. When I heard that feedback, a dam broke inside of me and a larger, more complex story poured forth.
That’s been the biggest difference because the short stories that I’ve previously written had a finite moment of a single plot thread. Till We Become Monsters couldn’t be contained to a limiting factor such as that.
Q: With digital launch parties having become even more the norm since 2020, what can you tell us about how your book’s release went?
A: The virtual release went quite well. What I enjoyed best is that anyone around the world had the opportunity to attend. I’ve friends that live in countries across Europe and Asia. A few of them I believe were able to attend the book release albeit the time being way past their bedtimes. This opportunity wouldn’t have been available to them had this been an in-person book launch.
However, a drawback to virtual is missing out on that in-person aspect. While a virtual platform allows for authors to interact with the audience, there is a slight connection lost when you are not physically standing directly in front of someone. It is also hard to gauge reactions from audience members if you cannot see their faces. Readers, please listen up – if you are attending a virtual book release, turn on your cameras. It makes the experience much more personal for you and the author alike.
Q: Of your short stories published, which is your favorite, why, and where can we read it?
A: My favorite short story will be released later this year from Silver Shamrock Press in the Midnight from Beyond the Stars anthology. The title of the story is “We Still Have Time” and it is a sci-fi spin on a classic horror trope (no spoilers!). There may or may not be a hint of a love story. I think I heard gasps at that last statement! Definitely stepping out of my norm on this one.
“We Still Have Time” was a joy to write and is the first cross-genre story I’ve had published. The story renewed my love for the sci-fi genre. There may be more stories of that ilk in the near future.
Q: Is there anything else that you have in the works that you would be willing to let us know about?
A: For all of those who have asked, I am working on a sequel to Till We Become Monsters. Aside from that, I’m focusing on submitting several short stories over the next few months.
Q: This year you’ve recently taken over as co-editor of The Horror Tree’s Trembling with Fear for a few areas. What can you tell us about that experience so far?
A: Working with Stuart Conover and Stephanie Ellis at The Horror Tree’s Trembling with Fear has been an incredible experience. First off, the pair are an absolute treasure to work alongside. Second, I love reading the submissions. It’s exciting to see the creativity that’s generated by the submitting authors. I’m honored to be one small piece in helping someone have their story published. Also, through the experience of being a co-editor, my writing skills are evolving. It’s a great opportunity to practice and grow as an author.
Q: You are an avid biker. Can you tell us more about your love with biking and has it at all come into play in your writing (either as a story idea or helping you focus?)
A: Bikes simply fascinate me. I think it’s in the same way as to how some people are drawn to muscle cars. I’m gaga over bikes! That’s probably why I have my own small collection of bikes.
Cycling is the most freeing mode of transportation. Also, there is no bigger thrill than speeding down a mountain on two wheels, going over 50 mph. Riding a bike clears my head and enables me to think about my stories or dream up new ones. Cycling is an outlet that helps with story development and sparks creativity.
Q: Where were you born (and/or are you from) and how has that affected your writing?
A: I was born outside of Pittsburgh and lived there until I was 18. I grew up within the rust belt and there is a gothic feel to the Western PA area that haunts my bones. My childhood home is in the woods and I tend to draw upon nature in my writing. As a kid, I always thought about monsters or ghosts stalking amongst the trees behind my house because the woods were so dark and mysterious. I’ve been macabre since childhood!
Q: When someone asks for a reading suggestion, who is your go-to author and/or work, and why?
A: The works of Shirley Jackson are magical. She’s an author who picks the right word and places it in the right spot on the paper. Margaret Atwood and Joyce Carol Oats are literary queens who span multiple genres. Hailey Piper, Lee Murray, Gwendolyn Kiste, Todd Keisling, Martin Lastrapes, and Tim Meyer have all written incredible and haunting tales. Finally, Neil Gaiman will send you into a surreal wonderland.
Q: What inspired you to start writing?
A: I think I was born to be a writer as I was always scribbling something down on paper. Yet, my childhood dream was to either be a paleontologist or marine biologist. Around the age of 13, I read Madeline L’Engle’s A Ring of Endless Light, where the main character is a teenage writer who has spiritual encounters with dolphins. After reading the book, I had my first fleeting thought that I could be an author. Despite having notebooks full of tales written during my teenage years, creative writing never fully materialized into “Whoa, this really is something I can actually do” until I was mid-way through college.
Q: What are your favorite resources and tools for writing?
A: I’m a program manager by day and am obsessively organized. I use Scrivener to write novels because it helps me to contain plot structures, character development, and research into one file. Trello is a tool I use to keep track of my tasks. I have Kanban boards for my writing, personal, and racing life… I’m to the point where I can’t function without this tool.
In regards to writing resources, Tim Waggoner came out with a grand book called Writing in the Dark. Every author should read this one whether you do or don’t write horror there are tips on how to make writing more suspenseful. Merriam-Webster’s Manual for Writers & Editors along with Strunk and White are always within arm’s reach of my desk. Then for anyone who has poor grammar skills like me, Mignon Fogarty is my Grammar Girl. Read her blog, get her books, and stalk her on Twitter.
Finally, if there is anything else you would love to share with our readers, please do so here!
If anyone has any interest, there is a short prequel to Till We Become Monsters that can be found in the CONSUMED: Tales Inspired by the Wendigo anthology.
Finally, always keep your dreams at the forefront of your mind. Never allow anyone to tangle with or get in the way of achieving your goals. Keep on wandering, wondering, and writing.
You can follow Amanda on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and at her website.