Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Amalie’s ‘Alpha Goddess’

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Award-winning author: Amalie Howard pauses for a photo during her book signing at Mohammed’s Bookstore at Teddy’s Shopping Centre, La Romaine, recently.

Mark Fraser


“When life throws you a curve ball, don’t be afraid to take a swing. Life’s not going to be easy at the best of times, and it’s about how you respond to those challenges. Face what comes your way with courage, trust yourself to do the best thing you can do, and don’t be afraid to have an open heart. Sometimes, you just have to take the jump without knowing what’s on the other side” said, award-winning author, Amalie Howard (nee Reshma Gosine).


Great advice Howard has been able to live by and one of the key points she tries to convey to her readers. Crediting St Augustine Girls High School (SAGHS) for igniting her passion for writing, Howard paid a visit to her alma mater recently; followed by a public book event at Mohammed Bookstore in Teddy’s Shopping Centre, La Romaine.


The US based author who has written many young adult novels such as The Aquarathi series, The Almost Girl series and the Cruentus Curse series. Her debut novel, Bloodspell was an Amazon bestseller and was critically acclaimed as a Seventeen Magazine ‘Summer Read’.


The sought-after novelist has enchanted young adult readers with her stories since 2011 and currently has a number of the projects in the pipeline. She just finished the sequel to The Almost Girl (The Fallen Prince) scheduled for publication in 2016. 


The mom of three has also outlined the sequel to Alpha Goddess and has just completed a near future, technological young adult (YA) thriller.


She said: “I’m working on a magical realism project with another YA writer, and I am pitching a new YA epic fantasy duology to my agent. I am also working on a 6-book historical romance series with a co-author. All in all, I have my hands full, and continue to be very grateful for all the readers who support me. I couldn’t do any of this without them.” 


Giving a little insight what appeals to her as a writer, Howard said: “My favourite authors and biggest influencers are JK Rowling, Enid Blyton JRR Tolkien, David Eddings, Anne Rice, CS Lewis, Judith McNaught and Kristin Cashore.”


Before Howard became an internationally recognized novelist, she spent most of her childhood in Trinidad either with her nose buried in a book or being a tomboy running around barefoot, sealing up mango trees.


She said, “My life in Trinidad was pretty normal. We lived in Tunapuna, and then moved to St Augustine when I was 13. My parents were both teachers – my mother taught French at St Augustine Girls’ High School and my father taught primary school at Gandhi Memorial Vedic School. I went to Curepe Presbyterian, and completed O-Levels and A-Levels at SAGHS.”


She said: “My passion for writing stories came from reading great stories. I’ve been a voracious reader all my life, devouring pretty much anything I could get my hands on. I loved being able to dive into someone else’s life, whether it was via a pixie or a willful orphan or a talking lion. My love affair with reading began with Grimm’s Fairy Tales and continued with books like Anne of Green Gables, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and Lord of the Rings.”


While at SAGHS, Howard’s first poem was published in a University of Warwick journal at the age of 12, and she was also a finalist in the Commonwealth Essay Competition at 15. A SAGHS graduate, she received an international scholarship to Colby College in Maine where she graduated with honours in International Studies and French. Throughout her life, she has immersed herself into other cultures, globe trotting through 25 countries in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. 


Though Howard has been to some of the most exotic places on the planet; nothing beats her incredible imagination and the various worlds and characters she creates with her mind.


She said: “I’ve always loved writing. Even at a very young age, I was always scribbling some story or another into a journal.


“Over the years, the pencil may have evolved into a laptop, but writing was and still is a huge form of escapism for me,” she said.


“In my books, I love incorporating the intensity of teenage life - the discovery, the defiance, the self-confidence, the flaws of youth, the vibrancy of it, the all-or-nothing mentality ... because it makes the stakes so much higher and the scenarios far more compelling,” Howard said.


On average she spends roughly two months writing the first draft of her book. Though this might seem to some people like a rather long time to spend on one book, Howard says what she loves most about her job is being able to connect with reluctant readers.


She said: “I had an 8th grader (13 year old) contact me to tell me how much she disliked reading until she read my books. Inspiring someone to read is the best reward for any author.”


What advice would you give young writers?


“For any new writer, I would definitely encourage reading as many books as you can get your hands on – the more you read, the more you’ll understand the elements required to pen a great book. Develop and experiment with your own unique writing voice, and find what moves you. Which writing genres and themes are you passionate about? What drives you? Do you like stories, poetry or journalistic writing? Find your niche – people are usually better at writing about what they love or what inspires them because it comes from somewhere real. Get yourself out there and write regularly - hone your craft. A book that really helped me sharpen my pencil was Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. You should also take part in writing events like NaNoWriMo (an annual (November) novel writing project that brings together professional and amateur writers from all over the world). Enter writing contests. Try to meet other writers and find a critique group. Work on building your brand via social media - make your name known. Learn how to use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ and other sites to develop your own dynamic, digital brand. Connect and network as much as you can because you never know who could be your next editor, agent or critique partner. Lastly, don’t let rejection hammer you. It’s all part of the process. Take in the constructive and make your work the best it can be. Don’t ever give up even when it feels like that’s all you want to do (trust me, every writer has this exact thought at some point or another - you’re not alone). Just believe in yourself and your work and you can’t fail,” she said.


Apart from writing, Howard can play the piano and the steelpan. She is also good at sports and enjoys drawing and painting. Currently she is reading, The Wondrous and The Wicked by Page Morgan which is the third book in the Dispossessed trilogy - a historical YA fiction series about gargoyles in Paris.