Interview with Amanda Muratoff & Kayla Hansen
Hey, ya'll! Sorry for the impromptu break in posts. I've been trying to manage the chaos of summer but I'm back now! For my first post back, I thought it would be a good idea to bring you guys an unique author interview. Today, we have co-authors Amanda Muratoff and Kayla Hansen with us! This was my first time interviewing co-authors and I'm not going to lie, I was a little nervous. Mainly because I wanted to be sure that I captured these two lovely ladies as individuals. Luckily, Amanda and Kayla were willing to help me out by both answering questions. These two met online many years ago. Both of them were writers before meeting. As I'm sure you are, I was really curious about how they managed to work together on books. Turns out, it takes a lot of communication and compromise. Whenever one of them disagrees with a plot point, they work together to find a suitable compromise. As they write their scenes, they each 'control' a character and almost role-play to get the scene out in a realistic way. I've read their first book "Embrace of the Shade" and I have to admit their method really works. The story is gripping and realistic enough that I felt like I was on the wrong planet when I finished it. It was a serious book hangover. I don't want to give away any spoilers but do yourself a favor and put "Embrace of the Shade" on your TBR list ASAP!
How did your writing journey begin?
Amanda: Well, my writing journey is super tied to Kayla’s. I wrote before I met her, of course, but it was elementary school short stories and fiction with some poems. At 12 years old, I met Kayla on Neopets, and it evolved from there. We started building Pantracia, and twenty short years later, we have a series!
Kayla: I’ve always been a writer, as long as I can remember. Ask my old elementary teachers and they’ll tell you about the stories I used to type up on my old computer for any assignment I could possibly justify. Just before meeting Amanda, I was nicknamed Great American Novelist by my 7th grade teacher because I took a 1-3 page short story and wrote 13 pages. And this has genuinely stayed with me (shout out to Mrs. Miller!) But it really took off when I discovered text based role playing, which I evolved through my late middle school and high school years with my friends. Then I met Amanda and we have the history of our writing together for our own enjoyment that led to Pantracia. Writing has always been an escape, as soon as I knew how to do it.
If you could be a fly on any wall, who would you want to spy on?
Amanda: Hmm, this is a tough one for me because I generally care very little about what other people do. If I had to choose somewhere, I’d probably pick Gordon Ramsey’s kitchen so I can soak up all his cooking genius.
Kayla: If we could go back in time (which I assume with the statement of any wall) it would absolutely be Shakespeare. I’d want to know everything about how his mind worked and how and why he wrote what he did because it continues to remain so timeless. I’d want to learn absolutely everything I could. I also am a huge fan, haha.
What is your writing quirk?
Amanda: Probably that we’re so opposite on some things. I like to write sappy, romantic stuff. Reunions, stuff like that. Kayla likes to kill characters. :p
Kayla: Absolutely agree with Amanda. If it wasn’t for her, some very key characters in our books might not have made it to the final installation of the series! But it’s good, we balance each other out to make sure that the sap doesn’t get too thick and that we don’t go full Game of Thrones. I also drive Amanda crazy when I obsessively seek and destroy specific overused words (and it rotates to which one I’m currently obsessed with). The most common are ‘that’ and ‘was’, even if they do have their purpose and place sometimes!
Tell me something that you wish more people understood about you.
Kayla: I actually have a ton of issues with self confidence. I think a lot of artists do. We always are doubting what we create and whether or not it is actually worthy of other people’s eyes. I tend to convey myself in a way that suggests otherwise, and I’m sure this would shock a lot of people but I’m filled with self doubt at every step. This is why meeting our readers means so much to me and Amanda. We love to know who the stories have impacted because it helps re-cement why we decided to write them as a sharable series in the first place.
Amanda: I’m right there with Kayla. Sometimes I have a tough skin, and other times I’m super self conscious. It’s part of why I love our characters so much. I see similar mental health issues that I have in them, and helping them cope helps me cope.
What does the beginning of the writing process look like for you?
Amanda: Lots and lots of outlining and brainstorming. Lots of getting on each others’ nerves. It’s not always a pretty process in the beginning.
Kayla: Absolutely getting on each other’s nerves, haha. Amanda and I do think fairly differently, and we’ve both known each other for so long we know each other’s tells when we’re getting frustrated. But it’s all part of the process. We both throw crazy ideas out there that may or may not work and hope that it encourages the other to come up with another idea. Then it all grows from there.
If your life was a sitcom, what would the theme song be?
Amanda: Don’t Kill My Vibe - Sigrid
Kayla: Believer - Imagine Dragons
Are your books inspired by aspects of your real life?
Amanda: Most definitely, but perhaps not in the way you’d think. Most of the real life inspiration comes from the mental health/women’s health aspects of our books. Also, “my” characters (ie. Amarie, Rae, Matthias) have parts of their personalities that are inspired by my life. Singing, art, banter, and tattoos.
Kayla: I love complicated and painted pasts for the characters, and I think that’s definitely a big theme in real life no matter what way you look at it. Particularly for Kin, I relate so hard to mistakes made at a young age having an impact on your life later. I also agree with Amanda. We work hard to touch on subjects that are important to us in real life regarding mental health and women’s health. Because they’re important topics to us, they’re in the books, too.
What is your favorite meal to cook and why?
Amanda: Omg I like to cook everything. Some of my favourites (because I can’t choose just one) include seared tuna, fancy burgers, lasagna, sushi…
Kayla: I confess I’m not much of a cook. I prefer baking (yes, I am a pandemic baker), and I make some killer bread. Sourdough is definitely my favorite just because it represents years of work on the starter, which is still helping to make the new loaf. Something new with history behind it. And that went way deeper than I intended, haha!
Out of all your books, who is your favorite character and why? What about your favorite book?
Amanda: I knew you’d want me to choose, but you can’t make me! I love them all for different reasons. I absolutely adore Rae’s wit, Amarie’s resilience, Jarrod’s bravery, Dani’s spirit, and Matthias’s loyalty. They are all perfect in their imperfection. As for my favourite book, I tend to reread scenes from book 6, Heart of the Wolf, the most. But It’s hard to choose a fave book too.
Kayla: Oh man, this is a hard one for me, too! My instinct is to say Kin just because I love what he represents and overcomes, but if I had to pick I’d say Damien (and I don’t think that’ll surprise Amanda). I love his growth through the books. After being thrown into a situation no one could have expected, he figures it out and moves on. He avoids responsibility only to keep getting it put back on him. And in the middle of all of it, he still finds a way to be himself and love Rae. As far as favorite books are concerned, that one is harder for me. I love them all for very different reasons, like what Amanda said with her characters. They all have their own themes and stories that are all equally important to tell.
Whats the worst life advice you’ve ever been given?
Amanda: That I need to be 110% independent. That I can only ever rely on myself. While I believed it, it made itself true, because I didn’t let anyone help me. I didn’t listen or take advice. But now I know the truth, and the truth is that it doesn’t matter how independent you are or can be, independence will never feel better than community. Than friends and family and support. Than help. At the end of the day, just because I CAN do it alone, doesn’t mean I want to. Or that I should. Perhaps that’s why I write books with Kayla instead of by myself. Because it’s just more effing fun that way.
Kayla: That everything needs to be perfect. I’m still grappling with appearance problems that were molded into my brain at a young age, but I was always obsessed with perfection because of how ingrained it was by people around me. As I’ve grown older, I see the fallacy with perfection, but also the sheer unattainability of it. Failure is good sometimes too. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful either. Sometimes it’s about walking away at the right time.
Is there a book genre that you’d really like to explore in the future?
Amanda: I love love, so I could see myself writing romance someday. Though I also have an urban/second world YA fantasy novel I need to finish.
Kayla: Urban fantasy and sci-fi for me. I have ideas! I confess I have always been a huge Trekkie and I’ve been impacted by these genres a lot throughout my life. I would love to delve more into it. I wish I was a little smarter to really get into the possible science of sci-fi for writing it.
Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
Amanda: Keep writing! Writers are often told most of us fail, but the only way for you to fail is to give up. So keep getting those words down, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Kayla: Find inspiration and motivation anywhere you can. You never know what might catch your attention and make you want to write. If you’re passionate about it, nothing can stop you. I would also find someone to be accountable to in writing. Friend, family, anyone who is willing to possibly read as you write who’s going to be bugging you for the next page. That’s one of the things that makes Amanda and I so prolific. We’re accountable to each other.
Amarie’s legendary magic could incinerate her enemies, but it’s her sword she trusts. While running from the men who killed her family, she learns of an ancient text locked within the Great Library that might be the final key to understanding her curse. During the daring theft, a stranger inserts himself into her scheme. Kin’s roguish good looks and boundless charm threaten to distract her, but she has no intention of landing in the city jail. Kin’s life, riddled with shadows and death, is as dark as his soul. He embraces his power, given by a wicked master, but when he meets Amarie... She shatters the walls he’s built, piercing his solitude with vibrant light. But if she learns he hunts the power cursing her family, he will lose her forever. Trusting him could risk her heart and her life, but it might be the only way to destroy the world’s most sinister evil. Unless Kin’s master finds her first…
Kayla is a Shakespeare fanatic. Give her a quote, she can tell you which play it’s from. She studied theatre in university with a focus on directing while harboring a deeper desire to write. Creative writing has always been there for her after a long night like a comforting mug of earl grey tea. Art has always been a staple in Amanda's life - from creative writing to painting. She is an award-winning published artist, and she left her career in VFX to return to the passion of her childhood. The memories of late night writing binges brought her back to the fantasy worlds she created. They've been writing together since they were preteens, and the decision to publish the Pantracia Chronicles came from the desire to share their love of the characters and their adventures