Christine Amsden is the award-winning author of the Cassie Scot series, the story of the only ungifted scion of a family of powerful sorcerers. Her latest novel, Kaitlin’s Tale, follows the trials of Cassie’s best friend as she falls in love with Cassie’s arch-nemesis. Amsden’s other titles include The Immortality Virus, Touch of Fate, and Madison’s Song.
When she isn’t writing, Amsden is often editing or coaching other authors. In recent years, freelance editing has become almost as great a passion as writing itself. Plus, it supports her writing habit.
A wife, a mom, and a foster mom, Amsden lives in Olathe, Kansas, just outside Kansas City.
Welcome to Blogcritics, Christine! Tell us about your new book.
Kaitlin Meyer, from the “Cassie Scot Series”, has made a terrible mistake. At first, the idea of running off with a vampire (who happens to be the father of her baby) sounded romantic, but the vampire’s thrall has worn off and she knows that Jason is no longer human. In a desperate bid to save her son from what she might become if she turns into a vampire, she runs to the Vampire Hunters for sanctuary.
Meanwhile Matthew Blair, telepathic mind mage and Cassie’s arch-nemesis from Mind Games, learns that Alexander DuPris, would-be leader of the magical world, is using blood magic. He travels to Alexander’s compound (which also houses the Vampire Hunters) to find proof and to stop him.
Kaitlin hates Matthew for what he did to her best friend two years ago, but maybe she misjudged him. Or maybe she just needs someone to help her run again – the hunters want her son to become one of them and their mortality rate in the war against vampires is staggering. Matthew is willing to help but Kaitlin is his greatest fear: a woman immune to mind magic.
Can two lonely, imperfect people, looking for love in all the wrong places, set aside their differences and each become what the other needs?
What was your inspiration for it?
When I first met Kaitlin, Cassie’s best friend, in Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective, she came with a theme song: “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.” She slept with Jason in that very first book, a one-night stand that resulted in her son, Jay. But it might surprise fans of the series to know that I never, not even for a split second, considered a real romance between Kaitlin and Jason. Not because there’s anything wrong with Jason – he’s my tragic hero. But they’re not right for one another. They never were.
To tell you the truth, Kaitlin wasn’t supposed to get her own book. She was a secondary character in the Cassie Scot series who I originally thought would have a minor, mostly behind-the-scenes romance alongside Cassie. But Kaitlin, much like Madison (from Madison’s Song), became too big for a footnote in someone else’s book. She demanded her own story.
When your characters start ordering you around, you have no choice but to listen. And really, it was a relief, because I honestly had no idea who would be right for Kaitlin. I love her, but she’s – well, let’s face it, she’s a bit self-destructive. Case in point: a one-night stand with a vampire hunter she knew would be leaving town the next day and who she would likely never see again. And that was hardly her worst relationship. She’s been used and abused, and has convinced herself that in the world of romance, she the woman who “knows the score,” the one the hero discards in favor of the real heroine.
Still, a girl can dream. Kaitlin wants a fairy tale, and I wanted that for her too.
So why Matthew Blair, of all people? Fans of the series will recognize that name from Mind Games, when he tried to manipulate Cassie into marrying him. He was the villain of the piece. But he was never evil in the classic two-dimensional sense. And in fact, the more three-dimensional I made him, the more I realized that for the right woman, he could be exactly what she needs.
Kaitlin is a loyal, kind-hearted, damaged woman with a buried past. Who better to help her heal than a telepath? Who else would even get to know the real her?
As you can see, Kaitlin’s Tale was not the inspiration of a moment. The story developed in the back of my mind over at least 5 years while I wrote the rest of the Cassie Scot series.
What type of challenges did you face while writing this book?
My biggest challenge was connecting with Kaitlin, a character whose past has led her to make serious mistakes. During my early drafts of Kaitlin’s Tale I wrote in my companion journal that when I met Kaitlin, it was from the outside – from Cassie’s point of view. I love her from the outside. Inside, well, she doesn’t even love herself so it was tricky. I went through many rough drafts of this book before getting it right.
What do you hope readers will get from your book?
I hope they get hours of enjoyment! But also, I hope they get a couple of themes I snuck in there. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” would be a big one – neither Kaitlin nor Matthew are exactly who they appear to be. Also “love yourself” has been an important message since the first Cassie Scot book, and it continues into the spin-offs.
What do you do when your muse refuses to collaborate?
I try to listen to her, because she’s always right!
Most of the time when I get stuck, it’s because my muse is trying to tell me that something isn’t working out. I’ve been writing for 30 years now (since I was eight) and in that time I cannot think of a single instance when plunging forward despite my muse’s reservations was a good idea. I know this isn’t what you usually hear from writing groups that encourage meeting daily word count goals and writing daily no matter how you feel. And hey – we’re all different. If that’s what works for you, do it! But as I mature in writing, I find I write less and less while maintaining about the same level of productivity. I have, more or less, one book in me annually. And I will have one book in me whether I force it or not. If I don’t, I’ll be happier and have more time for other things – like my family.
How do you keep your narrative exciting?
I try to keep my characters on their toes throughout the book! I’m not a formulaic plotter, but when I outline a book, I do split it into quarters and make sure there is a major plot point near the end of each quarter. For example, in Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective, there is a major family fight at the first quarter, a vampire attack at the second (also the midpoint), a family blowout at the third quarter, and I’ll leave the climax in suspense. Since I always have main plots and important subplots, such as a mystery, a romance, and family tension, it keeps me busy. Even outside the quarter points (which I only use as a general guideline) there is always something to do. Each chapter has to accomplish something. Each scene.
I have been told that my books cause insomnia. I think that means I’m doing okay. 🙂
Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work?
If you go to Christine Amsden.com you will find information on my books and my editing services. I also have a blog where I post book reviews, movie reviews, chocolate reviews, and writing advice, among other things. I update in spurts – I’ll have three posts a week for a few months then burn out and have nothing for a little while. If you follow me on twitter, Facebook, or Google+ (links on my front page) I do update my blog posts to those feeds.
My e-mail address is on my website under “Contact” – I don’t have a contact form or a publicist for you to go through. If you want to get in touch with me, I want you to be able to do that. It puts a big smile on my face when I hear from fans; in a writer’s life, there are some days when that’s all that keeps you going. So please, feel free to get in touch with me!
George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Comments?
Some days, that sounds exactly right! There are times, though, when writing flows easily and naturally, like an outpouting of one’s soul onto the page. Those days, though few and far between, give me an inkling as to what the demon wants.
Author photo and cover art published with permission from author Christine Amsden.