Author Interview: Amanda McColgan

189417616-176-k549527The town of New Winslow is a small community in the grip of a strange curse. While life tends to go on as normal, residents or visitors will occasionally find themselves unable to move past the town limits. You never when it’ll hit you or how long it will last. But the rent is cheap and the people are nice. So if you can ignore the occasional paranormal phenomenon, New Winslow is a great place to live.

Part One begins when an impulsive promise and family obligations bring two friends back to New Winslow years after they left. Meanwhile, the town psychic looks for answers, the lone bartender quietly mourns, a young mother tries to hold things together, and the pizzeria owner just wants to be left in peace. As all their stories come together, mysteries are pursued, long-buried feelings resurface, and, as always, life carries on.

Trigger warnings for New Winslow include: alcoholism, postpartum depression, mild violence, blood


If you’re looking for a deep dive into friend dynamics, found family, and facing your demons, New Winslow is for you! I enjoyed seasons 1 and 2 so much I binge-read them over the course of 2 days. The story deals with some heavy topics (see TWs above), the characters are wonderfully real and messy, and the specter of something ghostly hangs over it all. I highly recommend New Winslow.

And onto the interview!


Hi, Amanda, welcome to the blog! Tell us a bit about yourself!

I live a pretty quiet life in Massachusetts. Back in another life, I worked in libraries but I’ve been a stay at home/work at home mom for several years now. So a lot of my life revolves around my home and family, which I love. I also spend a lot of time studying local history/folklore, experimenting with cooking and gardening, and hanging out with my sisters and mother.

I can definitely feel the love for your state in your work. What was the inspiration behind New Winslow?

A large part of it was that local history and folklore I mentioned before. Several years ago I got absolutely obsessed with the creation of the Quabbin Reservoir, a local man made reservoir that established safe drinking water for Boston at the cost of four flooded towns eighty miles away. It was eighty years ago and these communities just disappeared, yet surprisingly few people in the rest of the state seem to even be aware of that fact. So a lot of the stories of the reservoir and the surrounding communities made their way into New Winslow. This region is often overlooked when people talk about Massachusetts, but I wanted to celebrate both it and the people who live here.

Drowning towns is super spooky. No wonder that played a bit part in setting the scene in the stories! Speaking of, season 2 ends on a really intriguing cliff-hanger. What can we expect for these characters in season 3?

Yeah, I got in a lot of trouble for that cliff-hanger with some family members haha. Season 3 is going to see a lot of the cast having no choice but to face down their worst fears. For some it might be in the form of literal demons while others are facing their more metaphorical demons. So there’s going to be some painful moments, some reckonings, changed relationships. But there’s also the possibility of redemption and strengthened bonds among the families in New Winslow, both blood and found. And some new characters that I’m really looking forward to having everybody meet.

When it comes to individual characters, I obviously can’t get into many specifics. But I will say I’m excited for Olivia’s development in particular. She’s been stuck in a bit of a holding pattern between her job and her postpartum depression. Season 2 saw her taking a few steps down her own path, but I’m really excited for that to expand in this coming season.

I really love Olivia, so I’m really excited to see her story arc! Switching gears a bit, can you talk about serialized fiction and how it’s working for you? Are you enjoying it?

So I never actually considered doing serialized fiction when I first came up with the idea for New Winslow. But now I honestly can’t picture it in any other format. (Though, Netflix, if you want to call, I’m here haha). I absolutely love it. Originally New Winslow was going to be an audio drama. I actually wrote the first season in script format during Nanowrimo 2018, entirely on my phone and usually while my kid was in his playgroup. I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t have the skills or the resources to do the story justice as a podcast, so I decided to change it into a novel.

But then I realized it was far too episodic to be a satisfying novel. I considered changing it around, but felt that the story just worked best in that style. Which led me to serials. I’d only ever read fan fiction in a serialized format like that, but after discussing it with several friends, I decided to give it a try. And it worked out better than I could have imagined.

I truly enjoy writing serialized fiction. I feel like you get the best of both worlds with it, where you can write a novel-length work and get the satisfaction of writing an ongoing story, but also get the immediate thrill of releasing it publicly. New Winslow still has a ways to go before it wraps up, but I will absolutely be writing more serialized fiction in the future as well.

It’s always an amazing feeling when you find the perfect format for your project. I would have a hard time seeing New Winslow in any other format, too. What advice would you give other authors thinking about trying their hand at serialized fiction?

Finish your story before you release it. I know it seems to go against the idea of releasing the story in parts, but it makes things so much less stressful if you are done before releasing Episode One. Sure, you might have a few little changes to make as you publish, things like word choice or grammatical errors. But writing everything first means that you have so much more freedom with your story decisions. If you release episode 2, then have a great idea for episode 10 that goes against what happened in episode 2, you can simply go back and edit episode 2. But if you’re releasing episodes as you write them, then you’ve written yourself into a corner. And it’s not fair to your readers for you to go back and retcon episode 2 in order to make it work.

So focus on pre-production, finish your writing in advance, and then all you have to worry about is releasing and promoting episodes.

Also, I would suggest having your story on as many platforms as you can feasibly promote and keep track of. I come from podcasting, which is very centralized. If you upload your show to Apple and Spotify, you’re accessible for the majority of podcast audiences. It’s not the same with publishing online. So I publish on Patreon, along with several other free websites and my own site. And at the end of the season, I also publish complete novel-style ebooks and paperbacks. The downside is that tracking readership is completely impossible. But the upside is that you’re getting your work out to a much wider audience than you would have by just focusing on, say, Patreon and your website.

That’s really great advice. Thank you! I always love hearing about other writers’ habits, so before we go: what’s your favorite place to write?

Currently, my kitchen table. I can spread out all my notes and have plenty of room for snacks. But I’m hoping to have an office area in my next home because I’ve had that before and loved it!

And one last question! Where can we find you and your projects online?

You can find me at EnfieldArts.com or enfieldarts@gmail.com. For social media, I’m mostly on Twitter and Tumblr and I’m working on getting better at consistently posting on Instagram.

My projects are on a few different sites. The primary one is my Patreon. That’s the most popular choice and it’s free, though patrons get perks as well. Beyond that, New Winslow is available on the Enfield Arts website, Medium, Tumblr, and Wattpad. And full season collections are available on Gumroad and Amazon.



6v7zLdxv.jpg small

Amanda McColgan is a writer, performer, and lifelong Massachusetts resident. In a past life, she was a librarian in both public libraries and private research institutions. This led to a passion for research and writing which, combined with her love of New England’s history and culture, formed the foundation for Enfield Arts. She loves getting lost on the back roads of Massachusetts, chocolate chip cookies, and a good slow-burn romance story. She hates pears and driving in Boston. You can usually find her at home with a cup of coffee in hand and at least three pens stuck in her hair for safekeeping. You can contact Amanda at enfieldarts@gmail.com.

Review: Collie Jolly by Leigh Landry

unnamedA sunny dog trainer. A grieving New Orleans photographer. The unruly pup that brings them together.

Ashley’s never owned a dog, much less trained one. But she’s not about to let that little detail stop her—especially during the holiday season—from applying for this dog training job. Her new gig is the perfect way to survive the recession while strolling the festive streets of New Orleans with a cute pooch. The biggest challenge? Heeling a growing attraction to her stunning shut-in of a boss.

When her girlfriend died a year ago, Madison found herself overwhelmed by grief and her girlfriend’s rambunctious puppy. Now the dog is an unmanageable, attention-starved reminder of everything Madison has lost. She’s still afraid to face the world, but her vibrant new dog trainer—with the help of a furry sidekick—is determined to bring light, laughter, and Christmas cheer back into Madison’s life.


I read this book in two sittings, but only because I had to pry myself away to go to bed at a reasonable hour last night. It’s charming, delightful, and full of healing and holiday cheer. I loved every minute of this book.

Both main characters were lovable and fun to read about. I was rooting for them the whole time, and even though happy endings are guaranteed in romances, it never gets old waiting for them to realize they’re perfect for each other.

The book deals with some heavy topics (the death of a former partner, being laid off, near death experience), but that only added to the book’s appeal to me. I love it when romances reflect real life, and I got plenty of that in this one.

This is the queer Hallmark story my queer heart has been longing for. I can’t recommend it highly enough.


COLLIE JOLLY will be available for purchase on December 1st, and is available for pre-order now!

Barnes and Noble
Kobo
Apple
Amazon

Recent Reads

It’s summertime, and that means plenty of time for me to read without feeling guilty! Homework is a thing of the past (until September), so I’m enjoying the time to read for fun.

I’ve been reading a blend of new things and old favorites, and it’s been wonderful revisiting loved places and discovering new ones.

What are you all reading this summer? I’m always looking for new recommendations!

Recent Favorites:
STRANGE GRACE by Tessa Gratton
51qnM9oEh-L._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_
This book tugged at my heart in all the right ways. It’s beautifully gruesome in the way only Gratton can write, and I loved every agonizing second of it. The most surprising thing about this book was the polyamorous triad that was so well done, I couldn’t see any of the characters without the others. Highly recommend this gorgeous book.

 

 

 

TECHNICALLY YOU STARTED IT by Lana Wood Johnson
9781338335460
Full disclosure: I helped beta this book when it was still under construction, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. But even that hadn’t been the case, this is a fun, light read for the summer and it comes out tomorrow! It’s another beautifully queer book with both main characters discovering themselves and each other, and I just love these nerds so much.

 

 

Books That Missed The Mark:
THESE WITCHES DON’T BURN by Isabel Sterling
43071689
I wanted to like this. I really did. Queer witches is usually a fierce SIGN ME UP, but the first 1/3 of this gave me anxiety because the adults refused to listen to the teens and the middle 1/3 was pretty forgettable. It was only in the last 1/3 that the book picked up and left me wanting more. (Which is good because this is the first book in a series, and ends on a cliff-hanger!) The queer rep in this was awesome, and I enjoyed the casual diversity in this. (Ex/ non-plot-advancing description of a little girl on the street with two dads!) Overall, not a successful book for me, but mostly due to personal preferences.

DISAPPEARANCE AT DEVIL’S ROCK by Paul Tremblay
61kVTtyM8sL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_
I was expecting paranormal horror, and I got some weird “maybe it is, maybe it isn’t” horror instead. If I hadn’t been expecting something different, maybe I’d feel differently. But I was looking for some creepy devil action, and all I got was the horrors that humans inflict on one another instead. Which is much more frightening, but not what I wanted when I picked this book up.

 

 

Book In Progress:
THE LUMINOUS DEAD by Caitlyn Starling
40696751
I. LOVE. THIS. BOOK. I’m halfway through, and I’m enjoying every terrifying second of this book. It hits on a bunch of things I love: caves, horror, and character-driven sci-fi. Wonderfully written, engaging, and suspenseful. Highly, highly recommend you don’t miss out on this one.

 

Dating by the Book — Review

71im--6M06LIs love just something you find in books?

Six months ago, writer and bookstore owner Maddie Hanson was left at the altar. Since then, she’s had zero interest in romance—despite the fact that she runs a book club full of sexy eligible bachelors. But when her latest novel is panned by an anonymous blogger who goes by the name Silver Fox—and who accuses her of knowing nothing about passion—she decides to prove her nemesis wrong by seeking a romance hero in real life…
 
There’s the smoldering rock musician, the bookish college professor, and her competitive childhood friend who may want to steal her bookstore more than her heart. Even Silver Fox is getting in on the action, sending Maddie alarmingly—and intoxicatingly—flirtatious emails. And that’s not all. Her ex wants her back.
 
Now Maddie is about to discover that like any good story, life has twists and turns, and love can happen when you least expect it—with the person you least expect…


I’m not usually one for enjoying romance novels (*waves in asexual*) but when I heard the synopsis of DATING BY THE BOOK, and the author put out a call for reviewers, I wanted to get in on the fun. I received an ARC several months later in a hot pink polka dot envelope, and I knew I’d made a good decision.

The main character was real and I identified with her living life with her head in the clouds and her nose in a book. I really enjoyed her character arc from expecting people to behave like book characters to really seeing the reality of what was in front of her. Her growth and self-actualization were great to see. I never identify with the sexual pining in romance novels (and is often why I don’t quite enjoy them), but there was enough other plot going on that the pining was sort of secondary, which I appreciated.

One major thing that was really jarring was the subplot regarding the online book reviewer whom Maddie (as a debut author) writes a scathing email to while drunk after the reviewer only gave her 3 stars. It’s quite taboo in real life for authors to respond to reviewers, especially after a real-life author stalked and confronted a reviewer at her home after a bad review. The beginning of DATING BY THE BOOK made me deeply uncomfortable because of how badly this plays out in real life, so I had to keep telling myself that this is fiction (and romance at that!) so everything was going to turn out okay. And it did. But if you’re sensitive to this type of situation, you may want to skip this particular book.

Overall, this was a fun story with characters I enjoyed. I will definitely be picking up Mary Ann Marlow’s other books!


DATING BY THE BOOK will be out June 25. You can pre-order it here!

Shameless: A Sexual Reformation– Review

This post is going to contain discussions about sex, Christianity, and asexuality. If none of these interest you, that’s okay. Just wanted to be upfront.


51OPDMYTizL._SX339_BO1,204,203,200_

When I heard that Nadia Bolz-Weber was writing a new book, I was really excited. I loved her first two, PASTRIX and ACCIDENTAL SAINTS, so I knew that her next one would probably be just as powerful. SHAMELESS takes a hard look at the church’s teachings surrounding sexuality, gender, and the role sex should have in Christians’ lives. Bolz-Weber’s anger at the harm done by these teachings is palpable throughout the book, and she offers the start to a much-needed conversation around changing how Christians talk about and teach sex.

It’s a powerful book with a powerful message, and I hope it reaches the folks who need to hear Bolz-Weber’s loving words the most (mainly allosexual people who were raised in evangelical churches). The book isn’t prescriptive, and doesn’t offer any lifehacks for becoming more comfortable in one’s own sexuality, but it does offer the beauty and love of being seen not only by a Christian minister, but also by God who, as Bolz-Weber reminds us, doesn’t make mistakes. Bolz-Weber does a great job of grounding sexuality and spirituality in the human body, not just as airy concepts one might aspire to, and she also constantly comes back to the idea that God made humans this way. That sex isn’t a moral act any more than shopping or eating are (and that all can be used for pleasure or for harm, depending on the situation).

As I noted above, though, the book read to me like it was written for allosexuals in mind. While Bolz-Weber acknowledges that asexual people exist, she doesn’t seem to know what to do with us, or really, to understand what asexuality is. There’s a footnote on page 143 that says:

“…Some people are truly asexual, in that they do not have a desire for genital contact, and yet they are still sexually embodied people who can and do experience pleasure and connection in other ways…”

So, she’s essentially equating asexuality with the act of sex as many people do, and which is completely and utterly incorrect. In addition, she equates sex with universal human experience in several places in the book, which also shows a lack of understanding of asexuality and an exclusion of asexual folks.

(I’m also not sure what the whole “asexual people are still sexually embodied” means, so if you have some insight into that, I’m very interested in hearing your thoughts.)

The church has and continues to harm asexual people in addition to other queer and generally non-Church-sanctioned Christian people, and I wish that Bolz-Weber had recognized that in a more nuanced way. She does say in the opening to the book that she can’t cover every scenario within its pages, but she could have at least gotten the fundamental definition of asexuality correct (which always stings, especially when coming from someone who seems to be open, understanding, accepting, and kind.)

Overall, though, I really enjoyed the book, and I hope that it will help open up a long-overdue conversation about the Church’s relationship to sex. I didn’t see this work as the final word, but rather an invitation to talk.