I’m thrilled to have Amanda Wen back on the blog this week to talk about her upcoming split-time fiction release, The Songs That Could Have Been. Be sure to comment on her interview by June 21 for a chance to win a signed paperback copy!
So glad to have you this week, Amanda. Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
I am a native Kansan (fifth-generation) who returned to my home state after 12 years saying I’d never live in Kansas again. When I’m not writing, I enjoy watching football (Sooners and Patriots for life), delighting in thunderstorms, drinking coffee, running (after 34 years as a committed non-athlete), snuggling with my cat, and documenting the witticisms of my Boston-born Chinese-American husband and my three hilarious Wenlets (my boys are 13 and 11, and my girl is 9).
In my spare time, I’m a professional musician; I am a freelance cellist with two degrees in cello performance, and but my day job is actually as a pianist, accompanying choirs for a local middle school and high school.
You have a full and busy life. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer, a musician, and a princess. Hey, two out of three ain’t bad!
Well, you’re a daughter of The King, so you scored all three! Are any of your stories inspired by true events or personal history?
Pretty much all my stories are inspired by something in my background or my family, and The Songs That Could Have Been is no exception. Back in the 1960s, a relative on my father’s side fell in love with someone of another race, but both families actively opposed the match. The romance ultimately failed, and my father’s cousin never married.
This story intrigued me for many reasons, not least because I’m half of an interracial couple (my husband is the American-born son of Chinese immigrants), and both sides of our family welcomed our marriage with open arms. I’m sad that this wasn’t always the case, and I wanted to explore that in fiction.
I applaud you for tackling this important topic. What does a typical day in your writing life look like?
On a typical day, I split my time between writing and music (kind of appropriate for a split-time author!). In the mornings after I get all the Wenlets off to school, I generally write for an hour or two, then it’s time to put on my Musician Hat and go play for the choirs. After work and the post-school chaos that is being a mom of three, I try to sneak in another hour or two, especially if I’m in Drafting Mode or on deadline with revisions. I’m also usually able to snag some writing time on weekends, and this summer when school’s out, you can guarantee I’ll be putting in as much writing time as humanly possible.
Sounds like you’ve worked out a great system. Which character in The Songs That Could Have Been was easiest for you to write and why? Which character presented the biggest challenge?
For me, contemporary heroine Lauren was the easiest to write. She was a key supporting character in Roots of Wood and Stone, so I felt like I already knew her pretty well, and I was eager to give her a story of her own.
As for the most difficult, past heroine Rosie was probably my biggest challenge, but not because of the past timeline! Rosie, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, appears in both the contemporary and historical stories, and her contemporary scenes are written in first-person, at her insistence. Entering the mind of someone with Alzheimer’s was a unique but poignant challenge, and I sincerely hope I did her justice.
That does sound challenging. What is one of your favorite quotes from The Songs That Could Have Been?
The past timeline centers around a friendship-turned-more between Rosie and Ephraim James, a Black student who she stands next to in choir. A talented pianist, Ephraim practices in the choir room after school, and that’s the setting for their blossoming relationship, as well as this observation from Rosie.
“White keys. Black keys. Ebony and ivory. A piano wouldn’t be a piano without both. So why couldn’t people get along like piano keys did?”
Oh, how I love that! How do you balance writing with your other life and family obligations?
While a perfect day for me involves doing everything I love—music, writing, and spending time with family—in reality, “balance” means shifting priorities depending on what’s most pressing at the time. So during busy music seasons, like when my choirs are getting ready for contest or there are lots of Christmas gigs on cello, writing gets put on the back burner. Similarly, when I’m deep in drafting mode or on deadline with revisions, I don’t take on quite so much on the music side. And sometimes I make an intentional choice to take a week or two off from all professional pursuits and focus on my family.
It’s tricky, but both music and writing are deeply wired into my DNA, and both pursuits feed each other. I pray for a lot of wisdom in managing my schedule and trusting God to enable me to do what he’s called me to do.
Also? My house is usually a mess.
Seems you’ve learned what’s most important. What’s next from you?
O Little Town, a Christmas romance novella collection featuring stories from Deborah Raney, Janyre Tromp, and me will release from Kregel this fall! Each of our novellas take place in different eras (mine in the 1910s, Janyre’s in the 1940s, and Deb’s in the present day) in the same small town in Michigan. It’s been a blast to collaborate with Janyre and Deb, and I cannot wait to introduce you to childhood rivals-turned-colleagues Frederick and Emma in my contribution, “Hopes and Fears.”
As for the rest of the Sedgwick County Chronicles series, book 3 (which is currently untitled) is being written as we speak and will release from Kregel in Fall 2023. After that, I’m planning a slightly more suspenseful split-time series revolving around some local unsolved mysteries. As my agent likes to say, stay tuned…
Your upcoming projects sound so good! I can’t wait to read more from you. Thanks so much for sharing on the blog, Amanda. God bless you as you continue to write for Him.
Join the conversation. Do you enjoy reading split-time fiction? What about stories with diverse characters? What questions or comments do you have for Amanda?
Be sure to comment by June 21 for a chance to win a signed paperback copy of The Songs That Could Have Been!
The Songs That Could Have Been by Amanda Wen
Click the book cover for Amazon preorder link.
Amanda’s local bookstore also has the book for sale and it’s in stock now for only $8! They’ll ship anywhere.
Two couples in love. Two sets of impossible circumstances. One powerful God of grace.
After a tailspin in her late teens, Lauren Anderson’s life is finally back on track. Her battle with bulimia is under control, her career is taking off, and she’s surrounded by a loving family. Then a chance meeting with Carter Douglas, her first love and the man who broke her heart, leads to old feelings returning with new strength. And suddenly her well-balanced world is thrown off kilter.
Now a TV meteorologist, Carter is determined to make amends with Lauren. After all, she still owns his heart. But the reasons they broke up aren’t lost–and those old demons are forcing him toward the same decision he faced in the past. He isn’t sure he’s courageous enough to make a different choice this time around.
When Lauren’s elderly grandmother, Rosie, begins talking about a man named Ephraim–a name her family has never heard before–a fascinating and forbidden past love comes to light. As Lauren and Carter work to uncover the untold stories of Rosie’s past in 1950s Wichita, they embark on a journey of forgiveness and second chances that will change their lives–and Rosie’s–forever. Along the way they’ll learn that God wastes nothing, his timing is perfect, and nothing is beyond his grace and redemption.
Amanda Wen’s debut novel, Roots of Wood and Stone, released to both reader and critical acclaim, including a Christy Award nomination for First Novel. She also placed first in multiple contests, including the 2017 Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest, the 2017 Phoenix Rattler Contest, and the 2016 ACFW First Impressions Contest, among others.
In addition to her writing, Amanda is an accomplished professional cellist and pianist who frequently performs with orchestras, chamber groups, and her church’s worship team, as well as serving as a choral accompanist. A lifelong denizen of the flatlands, Amanda currently lives in Kansas with her patient, loving, and hilarious husband, their three adorable Wenlets, and a snuggly Siamese cat.
Please share Amanda’s interview on social media to help spread the word about her new book!
If you missed last week’s interview with Rachel Fordham, find it here.