A writer like you: Amanda Luzzader
Amanda Luzzader has earned millions of dollars from her writing. Most of that has come from her work as a grant writer for a nonprofit family support center. When she’s not writing, her hobbies include reading books, rewashing the same load of laundry, reading books, buying rock hard avocados to discard when they become mushy, reading books, photography, and reading books.
Amanda writes mainly upmarket science fiction and horror, and she is a self-described ’fraidy cat. Things she will run away from include (but are not limited to): mice, snakes, spiders, bits of string and litter that resemble spiders, most members of the insect kingdom, and (most especially) bats. Bats are the worst. But Amanda is first and primarily a mother to two energetic and intelligent sons, and this role inspires and informs her writing, which frequently involves mothers and women as main characters. As Amanda likes to say, “Moms are people, too.” Last year she married her favorite editor and they make their home together in northern Utah. She is a devout cat person and cat-mom to Simon. Amanda is currently working on the final book in her dystopia series Among These Bones.
You’ll love Amanda’s relatable writer beginnings, her belief in our important role in society, and her tips to overcome writers block from her experience as a grant writer.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
When I was a girl, I was always writing little stories. I even bought an old typewriter at a yard sale (yes, we had a computer, but a typewriter seemed more writerly). However, by the time I graduated high school I’d developed this idea that only the most brilliant individuals could be writers. I felt that I wasn’t clever enough or interesting or famous, and so for a long time, I let the dream go. Many years later a local photographer held a Christmas essay contest to win a free photography sitting. I entered, hoping to get pictures of my boys, but didn’t win. My mother insisted that I send the story to Chicken Soup for the Soul, which I did. They ended up publishing the story and when I received my copies of the book, it was one of the best moments of my life. I was hooked. If I wasn’t good enough to be a writer, then I would work to get better. I’d discovered my life’s calling, and I’ve loved it ever since. It’s brought so much into my world. In fact, I met my husband at a writing critique group!
What is the role of the writer in society?
The writer has two jobs. First, to entertain. Secondly, and I mean this seriously, to solve all of the world’s problems. Books are a microcosm of our world. It’s a safe place to examine human nature, serious ethical dilemmas, and to stand up against wrongs. We learn more about ourselves through stories, and I believe we become more empathetic and brave as well.
Do you have any tips for overcoming writer's block?
For a long time, I thought that if I just had more time, I’d be able to get so much more writing done. I had a million stories I wanted to tell, but not enough time. Then, a series of events in my life ended up opening up quite a bit of time. I remember thinking, “Finally! I’ll get to tell all the stories!” But instead, I’d just stare at my blank computer screen and come up with all kinds of excuses for why I couldn’t write. I felt like such a loser. I had time, but I still couldn’t get the words out.
I’m a professional writer for a living. As a grant writer, I write every single day I’m at work. I began to wonder why I never had writer’s block at my job as a grant writer, but had it extremely often when I was trying to write fiction at home. I realized there were several things that kept me from getting writer’s block in my grant writing position:
I had a routine. I did the exact same thing every time I went to work. I’d make myself a travel mug of tea, drive to work, greet my coworkers, and start up my computer. I did this every time I went to work.
I physically left my messy home and all of its distractions and had set hours that were devoted to my grant writing. I didn’t ever use that time to do other things that weren't related to my job. It wasn't an option.
My livelihood depended on me doing well as a grant writer. If I couldn’t get the words down and meet deadlines I’d lose my job.
I always had a plan in place for what I was going to work on, and I always had a general idea of what I would write.
Social media and other online distractions were not allowed, so they were non-issues.
When I wasn’t working at my job, I wasn’t working on my job. I had time off and was able to recharge.
I took grant writing classes to improve my skills, which boosted my confidence and made me less intimidated by the work.
When I was at my job, I always made some progress. I knew having something down was better than nothing.
I had a supervisor to report to and I kept them informed of my progress.
I never worried about what people would think about my writing because I wasn’t personally connected to the writing. I knew I was doing my best work, so if someone didn’t like what I’d written, it wasn’t a reflection on me.
I’ve since tried to implement these same ideas and practices into my fiction writing and it has made a world of difference. I don’t have a problem with writer’s block anymore.
What are you currently working on, and what makes you excited about it?
I’m currently working on the last book in my Among These Bones trilogy. This was my very first series, so it will always be very special to me. When I began writing the series, I was newly divorced, broke, and in a really difficult and scary place. So much has changed in my life since then and this series has been part of that. I want to finish the stories for my characters and for my readers. I guess I just want to give them closure. I’m also working on Creep Factor 2, which is a fun collection of short horror stories I’m working on with my husband. When those are finished, I really want to write a young adult series.
What authors or books are inspiring you lately?
I am inspired by authors who tell powerful, interesting, and beautiful stories—the kind that stay with you always and maybe even change who are as a person. I’ve experienced that with Ken Kesey, Cormac McCarthy, Joyce Carol Oates, and Stephen King. I’m definitely trying to learn from them—about life and writing.
Where can we connect with you?
To free the writer today, let’s apply at least one of Amanda’s suggestions to overcome writer’s block. Her observations about the differences between her context while grant writing versus fiction writing are genius!
In order to have someone to report to, I’ve reached out to a creative friend and we are going to be accountability partners. What about you? Feel free to share in the comments below.