Amanda Fleet is a physiologist by training and a writer at heart. She spent 18 years teaching science and medicine undergraduates at St Andrews University, but now uses her knowledge to work out how to kill people (in her books!). She completed her first degree at St Andrews University and her doctorate at University College, London. She is the author of the urban fantasy trilogy: “The Guardians of The Realm”, published in early 2020, and the psychological thriller “Lies That Poison”.
1. What is your book about?
The Guardians of The Realm series is about finding out who you really are, and where you really belong. At the start of the first book – “Aegyir Rises” – Reagan and Finn are fretting about the fact that Reagan’s adopted step-brother is about to be released from prison, having finished his sentence for assaulting Reagan. They are both convinced he will come for her again, to seek revenge. Unbeknownst to them, something else, something much worse, is about to be released, and it also wants Reagan dead. Soon, the area where they live appears to be the epicentre of a flu outbreak, except no one tests positive for any virus known to man, and the death rate is 100%. There’s a serial killer on the loose too. Bodies keep appearing in secluded areas, but with no obvious cause of death. Meanwhile, Reagan is being plagued by dreams of a different world. Ones where she’s a warrior called Aeron. Ones where a woman keeps urging her to come home because it’s the demon Aegyir who is killing everyone. Ones where she’s sentenced to hang for being a traitor. Aegyir is no dream. He is very real. And he believes Reagan is his old enemy Aeron – the woman he’d sworn to destroy. Reagan needs to figure out who Aegyir is, before he slaughters everyone she loves. And to do that, she needs to figure out who she really is.
2. Every author does something different with urban fantasy, what is your twist on the genre?
The book is set in a small, quiet Cumbrian town, rather than a city, and features characters who are a little older – roughly mid-twenties – and in a settled relationship, rather than young adults who are worried about college and just starting out in relationships. Reagan and Finn are thinking about their careers and whether to get married. They’re pretty settled at the start of the book. They don’t stay settled for long, though.
3. What inspired you to write this book?
I always find these questions hard to answer, because I have no specific inspiration that I can pinpoint with any book I write. I have notions about bits of plot that I chew over for a while, and slowly these start to become more concrete. The characters then emerge in much more detail. Once the characters are there, the plot develops, because different characters will respond in different ways to events. Then the book just burns it way through my brain and I have to write it. For The Guardians of The Realm series, I started out with what I thought was one book, about a woman who was in the wrong place. When I’d finished writing it, it was clear it was two books (at that point), so I split it and reworked both halves. Ultimately, it became a trilogy, with a fourth book due out early next year.
4. Have you ever gotten *reader’s* block?
Yes. Earlier this year in fact. Around the time the UK went into lock down with covid-19. I had (as ever) a gazillion books on my ‘To Be Read’ pile, but I didn’t want to read any of them. Then, out of nowhere, I got a yen to read a cowboy romance. Now, I have never, in all my years (and there are a lot of them!) wanted to read a cowboy romance before. But I downloaded a couple to my Kindle, fully expecting that I would start reading them and abandon them fairly promptly. To my utmost amazement, I really got into them and have read little else for the last few weeks. Why? I have no idea. It can’t just be escapism, because I’ve not felt very inspired to read fantasy. But anyway, it got me out of a complete reading slump.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
It depends on what I’m writing. I’ve published both a crime novel and a psychological thriller before The Guardians of The Realm books. For the crime novel, I needed to do quite a bit of research about police procedure, and for the thriller, I learned a lot about poisonous plants! Don’t check out my Google searches! For the fantasy books, I researched the jobs that Reagan and Finn have: graphic designer and personal trainer respectively, to ensure that I knew what their working days would be like, as well as what level of money they’d be making and therefore what kind of place they could afford to rent. I also wanted to find an imaginary, yet plausible location in Cumbria, and for a variety of reasons ended up researching the geology of the area. I spend a lot of time on research and preparation before actually writing a book, but then things always crop up and I do more research during writing the book, too. I keep a lot of notes for each book – character, plot, setting, background, research and so on. I probably could do that electronically, but I’ve always done it in notebooks, by hand. They end up a great scrapbook and it’s always fun to go back through them and see how the book changes from initial concepts through to the final product.