Welcome, reader friends! I’m very excited to be chatting to Amanda Stevens today—author of one of my favourite reads of 2018 so far. And David Galloway… well, he’s one of my favourite characters, too. When you meet him, give him a hug from us. 🙂
~ About the Author ~
As a child, Amanda G. Stevens disparaged Mary Poppins and Stuart Little because they could never happen. Now she writes speculative fiction. She is the author of the Haven Seekers series and her debut Seek and Hide was a 2015 INSPY Award finalist. She lives in Michigan and loves trade paperbacks, folk music, the Golden Era of Hollywood, and white cheddar popcorn.
~ About the Book ~
How many lifetimes can God expect one man to live? Over a century old, David Galloway isolates himself from the mortal humans who die or desert him by making a quiet life as a used bookstore owner in Northern Michigan. But then he spots a news article about a man who, like him, should be dead.
Daredevil celebrity Zachary Wilson walked away unscathed from what should have been a deadly fall. David tracks the man down, needing answers. Soon David discovers a close-knit group of individuals as old as he is who offer the sort of kinship and community he hasn’t experienced for decades—but at what cost?
David finds himself keeping secrets other than his own. . .protecting more than himself alone. He’ll have to decide what’s worth the most to him—security or community. When crimes come to light that are older than any mortal, he fears the pressure is more than he can stand. What does God require of him, and is David strong enough to see it through?
~ Author Chat ~
Thanks for being my guest today, Amanda!
Thanks for having me! 🙂
To start with, let’s take a little ‘flight of fancy’. How would you finish these statements:
If I could travel anywhere in time and space, it would be to…
I would travel back in time to meet C.S. Lewis, then farther back in time to meet George MacDonald, and then forward to the 1990s and go to a Rich Mullins concert.
If I could assign one household task to the fairies forever, it would be…
Only one? I guess dusting. But if I could have two (please?), then also laundry.
I’ll allow two if you share your fairies with me!
If I could have one superpower, it would be…
Super-speed. I could clean my house in two seconds; I could catch up on my TBR books in no time at all. I could run to work, run to get takeout and never deal with traffic. Best of all, I could run to visit my friends in other states and never need to fly there again!
Or *ahem* other countries… 😉
When I was a child, I wanted to be a…
I’ve been writing since first grade, and I always knew I wanted to be a published author. But I was taught practicality early, so a day job was part of the fantasy. A few of the options I considered: at a younger age, wildlife biologist; later and more seriously, English teacher or interpreter for the Deaf. I really expected to work in those last two fields, but they weren’t quite for me. I did work for four years teaching comp, lit, film appreciation, and creative writing to a home school academic co-op. I enjoyed it a lot.
You? Enjoy talking about story? Surely not… 😉
My ideal place to read would be…
A forest where I could hear a stream and feel the sunshine and curl up in a big comfy chair with lovely green everywhere around me and be visited by occasional non-aggressive wildlife. . .and never be intruded on by any kind of insects. And since that last part makes it clearly magical, this forest would also deliver me my favorite Panera order anytime I asked.
Can I come if I promise not to talk? On second thoughts, who am I kidding? I can’t make promises like that! 😆
Okay, let’s move on to No Less Days. Where did the idea for this story come from?
Sometimes the first tendrils of a germinating story get my attention by causing dissatisfaction. I’m watching or reading a work of fiction that should be satisfying me, but I’m left with this tug in my head saying There’s more to explore. In this story’s case, that tug happened every time I ingested a story about immortality. Every time, I wanted more. From the Elves of Middle-Earth to Tuck Everlasting to TV shows featuring vampires (yep, really). I didn’t want to miss a moment: how did this writer portray immortality? Were his characters convincingly both young and old? Did he bring out a new layer to the dilemma?
Eventually the tug toward these stories and the tug of dissatisfaction upon finishing them coalesced into the character of David Galloway. As if he’d been waiting all that time for me to notice him.
Which, of course, he had. 😉 He’s patient like that.
The story features a group of longevites—otherwise ordinary people who, for reasons explained in the story, are unable to die. What did you find most intriguing about their situation as you wrote this story?
As I wrote, sometimes I would be struck anew with how hard it would be to live your life pretending; as David says, “Constant lies weary a soul.” I didn’t plan that ahead of time. It was something I learned as I wrote the book. Imagine standing in line at the grocery store and two elderly men stand in front of you, chatting about the “good old days,” and you’re thinking yes, that was a good time for me too. But you look 35, and they’re clearly in their 80s. So you have to stand there and pretend you don’t know what they’re talking about. Or maybe they’re chatting about a tough year, a world event, and their reminisces are vivid and sad and bring it all back to you; but you can’t share their sadness or let them share yours. You have to keep yours inside. And that’s daily life for David and Zac and the others. Over time, it would be like a wound that’s never allowed to close.
I loved that line from David. It sums up so much of his burden. Well, until other things start happening!
So, there are definite drawbacks to being a longevite. What would be the biggest drawback for you, personally, if you were a longevite?
Given my personality, I think the wound described above would grow over time and I would be tempted to decide there’s no point in pursuing deep relationships with people when I have to hold back 80 percent of my life story.
And that’s something else that David struggles with. Speaking of whom . . . you’re very fond of your main character—with good reason! How did you get to know him, and what makes him so easy to love?
I started out knowing only that he was old but didn’t look it. The rest is sort of a blur; I made a list of loves/dislikes trivia, probed into his personality type and explored his contradictions, wrote first person stream of consciousness to see how his mind works and how he speaks. . . . Basically when I have a new character, I play with all kinds of methods to figure them out. For David specifically, I also remember being at an ACFW conference—I think it was three years ago?—and looking around the café wondering how we would look to David, all the mortals running around doing what we do and knowing we have only so many years left to do it. I hadn’t written a word of the manuscript at that point; I was still trying to nail down his perspective.
And yes, you and I have talked about how easy he is to love (for me at least!). He’s so earnest all the time. Genuine in his desire to please God, willing to be molded more toward Christ-likeness once he’s been shown the error of his ways. He’s so lonely he’s forgotten he’s lonely because he’s forgotten what it was not to be. And he’s such an old man in his love for books and order and quiet, yet he’s such a young man when joy finds him again. I love the dichotomy in him.
Oh, he’s definitely easy to love. ❤
Was there anything about David’s character that surprised you?
I knew immediately that he was a bookseller and lover of books. I guess I thought he’d be rather … staid? Haha. Oops. I did not know about the warrior in him until threats arrived on the page and he reacted with such scorching intensity, his entire being ready to protect the mortals and neutralize the danger. Once I knew about the inner warrior, he surprised me yet again the couple times he recoils from violence. Five wars have made him willing and able to do what needs doing; but they’ve also made him aware of the toll violence takes. I didn’t see any of that coming.
Well, the reader will probably find themselves saying the same thing! So, if David took you by surprise, does that mean there were parts of the plot that took you by surprise as well?
I can’t give specifics without spoilers, but yes. Almost everything about the second half of the book, because I thought it would end at a certain point and then realized no, David’s journey would be incomplete at that point. And the supporting characters didn’t respond to one of the biggest plot twists the way I expected them to. . .and I didn’t know who the villain was for quite a while during the first draft. . .and I didn’t know why a certain character was—agh, I can’t tell you that!—until I was on, I think, the third draft and suddenly understood this person’s motivation. Once I understood that motive, the tone of the last quarter shifted, which required substantial revision.
I love that! No wonder it’s all such a surprise for the reader!
This story presents an ethical dilemma for its characters. What challenges did this dilemma present you as a writer?
I balked a bit at first, when I realized where the plot was headed. But by the time I finished the first draft, I knew this was the noir-ish tale I had seeded from the beginning (often without knowing it), and I had to “go there” all the way or not at all. It is absolutely a dark and terrible dilemma, and no matter what the characters decided, a percentage of readers would disagree. But finding a way around the dilemma would have been dishonest to the story and to reality, and my goal is always to write stories as complicated and difficult as real life. People will judge the situation according to their own worldview, and that means I stayed true to the world we live in.
And it means it’s thought-provoking!
What did you enjoy most about writing this story?
The characters. (I know, shocking.) I love them all. Of course David sits at the top of the list for this book, but I loved being surprised by Zac as I got to know him along with David. Also with a story like this, where the protagonist is the “new kid” and everyone else has known each other for, well, a century, I had fun measuring out the information David would learn in this book. He couldn’t get to know everyone equally well; real human relationships don’t work that way. And you have Zac, who loves to talk and listen to people; you also have Simon, who can take years to open up to a new acquaintance (and this book takes place over the course of a week or two). So of course at the end, David and the reader know more about Zac than they do about Simon. I enjoyed figuring out which secrets to preserve for now and which ones to reveal.
Ooh, I like the sound of that. So can we expect to see more from these longevites in the future, then?
I can’t say much about Book 2 except that I’m currently working on it! I hope to stay with these characters for a while.
I hope you do, too! Thanks so much for chatting with me today. 🙂
~ Giveaway ~
Amanda will be giving one lucky visitor a copy of No Less Days. Just leave a comment letting us know what you think would be the most difficult thing about being unable to die, and then click here to enter: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/bd61d44b31/?