Author Interview: Amena Jamali
Amena Jamali is a double-alumna of the University of Dallas with degrees in politics and cybersecurity. She is an active member of her religious community, her university circle, and professional groups that advance the talents of womxn cyber professionals. She is passionate about serious and respectful discussions in politics and hopes to inspire a different sort of thinking about community and political engagement.
When Amena isn't unfolding the story of her written universe, you can find her fully immersed in her quirky sense of humor (inherited from her father!) and talking superheroes with even the most committed DC and Marvel fans. She enjoys embroidery, reading fantasy books, watching action movies, and long conversations with good friends.
Genre: Fantasy, Epic
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest book is The Resonant Bell, and it is actually inspired by my first book, The Bell Tolling. While writing that story, I grew fascinated by what was occurring behind the scenes, in the minds of side characters, and elsewhere in my world. All of that came together in the form of The Resonant Bell.
What is a significant way your book has changed since the first
One way that it has changed is expanding from a casual, throwaway sort of project, a glorified collection of bonus chapters, into a set of stories with defined narratives of their own.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I would point to a number of books: The Lord of Rings and Beowulf for fantasy itself, Eragon by Christopher Paolini and Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley for the construction of multiple perspectives, and The Chronicles of Narnia for spirituality and the depiction of deep philosophical ideas in literature. My philosophical ideas (and challenges) are drawn in part from Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Politics, Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War, and Machiavelli’s The Prince.
What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book?
I do not actually write to a set schedule. I have a list of chapters or publishing or marketing tasks I would like to complete each week, and I do my best to accomplish them. Because of the demands of faith, family, or work, I may not meet those commitments, but they still keep me oriented towards my goal. I do usually write more productively in the early mornings or very late nights
Q5: What advice would you give to a
writer working on their first book?
Respect your own style! There is a lot of advice about writing ‘best practices’ and guidelines that writers absolutely must follow, and they do have elements of truth to them. But all stories, including the words in which those stories are expressed, are ultimately about the soul of the writer, and sacrificing that deep connection in order to check a list of boxes just because you are told to do so will do nothing to satisfy your spirit. The works of literature most revered through the centuries have often been innovative or even rebellious against the existing dogma of writing at the time. So be true to yourself and choose writing supports who understand what you are trying to say, are excited for your stories, and are willing to build you up rather than break you down.
What is the best writing advice you have ever heard?
The best pieces of writing advice I have ever read or heard were to not think that bigger words make for better writing and to not think that passive voice has no place in great literature.
How do you celebrate when you finish your book?
I eat ice cream and chocolate and tell all of my closest friends! I also go back and read my own writing or talk to my characters about how I hope they enjoyed the way I told their stories. If I have an opportunity, I might also spend an evening watching The Lord of the Rings.
Q8: What do you think is the best
way to improve writing skills?
The best way to improve is to write and to subsequently critically evaluate your own work. I should add here that I think writing a story, versus merely addressing prompts, is more effective because the thread of the narrative gives you motivation to continue trying. A subsequent evaluation helps you be honest about what needs to improve and what needs to remain the same – essentially, that is the opportunity to determine what you want your style to be. A good writer reads a lot of books, but a great writer knows what the combination of techniques that is best for their story and their soul.
What are you working on now?
Since finishing The Resonant Bell, I have started drafting the next book of my series and outlining another side project, a romantic fantasy that continues the story of two characters from The Resonant Bell.
What are you currently reading?
am currently dividing my reading time between romantic fantasies – I need some
context for my romantic fantasy side project – and doing some nonfiction
research to build the intellectual foundation for my next book.
“If we commit to it, we must be prepared for
war. There will be no freedom without war.”
“Then let us commit,” Belona replied. “We must
have that freedom. At any cost.”
I swallowed. “At any cost, my love? Would it
not be better if I left Jurisso behind, abdicating my title to you, and joined
with only my own name and the friends who chose to come with me? I fear to
bring any more retaliation upon our neighbors.”
Belona cupped my bearded chin with her strong
fingers and angled my head so that my gaze met hers, without disturbing
Dorona’s grip. “In any age but this,” she spoke, “that would be wise counsel,
Ciro. But in this age, we cannot do less than devote everything we have to his
cause. We cannot act with half a heart.”
“Even if the war takes us from Dorona?” I
asked, deeply troubled, even our baby’s playful tugs on my beard failing to
evoke a smile.
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