Getting into writing – an interview with Amanda Saint of Retreat West


Amanda Saint is a novelist, short story writer, and features journalist. Her debut novel, As If I Were A River, was a NetGalley Top 10 Book of the Month and a Book Magnet Blog Top 20 Book of 2016. Her short stories have been widely published and long and shortlisted for, or won, various prizes. Amanda is also the founder of Retreat West, which provides creative writing competitions, courses and retreats. In 2017 she expanded it to include Retreat West Books and is now accepting submissions of short story collections, novels, and memoirs. She also helps other writers develop their work through the WoMentoring project.

What got you into writing?

I think it’s more that writing got into me. I always had the compulsion and wrote stories and plays from a young age and then stopped when I left school at sixteen. I’d been told writing wasn’t a proper job, especially not for the likes of me, so I spent a decade lost in nihilism and hedonism and doing any job to pay for a party lifestyle. I didn’t write anything for years on paper but always had a stream of characters, sentences and paragraphs running through my head.

Then in my late twenties, just after I got married, I tired of the hedonistic lifestyle and doing crap jobs so started working with words as a science magazine editor and dabbling with fiction in my spare time. But then the fiction started to consume me and now I write it all the time.

What inspires you?

My stories are inspired by many different things. Overheard conversations, something I read online, documentaries, history books, hairstyles, shoes, photographs, prompts. As a journalist, I write about climate change and environmental sustainability and this has inspired the book I’ve just finished, All Be Forgotten, which is the first in a trilogy set in a near-future England that’s been cut off from the rest of the world (I started writing it long before Brexit came along!) and ravaged by environmental disasters.

Personally, I am inspired by nature – especially beaches, forests, mountains, and birds; humans that do wonderful things; music; reading fiction; and my husband, John, who has always encouraged me and supported me to follow my dreams and still makes me laugh every day after twenty years together.

What makes you write even when the nights are long, your fingers aches and your eyes droop?

Because I go a bit mad if I don’t. If several weeks go by without me writing anything new then I tend to get a bit grouchy and erratic. Because novels take so long to finish I write lots of flash fictions to feed the part of my brain that needs to be starting something new all the time. When I was younger I used to be terrible at finishing anything as I only got excited about new ideas and soon got bored once they were underway. Flash writing delivers the excitement of starting something new and has taught me how satisfying it is to finish, so now I am much better at sticking with things to the end. Handy when you’re writing novels.

Are you a traditionalist (print) or a new-wave (ebook)?

I love books in all forms. But because of the nature of the way I live, I read ebooks most of the time. Between the start of the millennium and 2014 I lived in 13 different villages, towns and cities in the UK and New Zealand, and travelled around the UK on a narrowboat for nine months too. Since 2014 I’ve been homeless and moving around all the time house sitting, mainly in the UK and Ireland but I’ve also spent some time travelling in Malaysia, Cambodia and Australia. So lugging around hardbacks and paperbacks is not really an option. But I do have about 100 in storage, which are the ones I really couldn’t bear to part with when I hit the road.


Do you have a publisher or did you go the self-publishing route?

My first novel was published by an indie press and I have since had the rights returned to me and reissued it though my new imprint, Retreat West Books. But the book I have just finished is out on submission to agents as it would be nice to have that experience this time around. Then I’ll know which I prefer for future books.

What do you aspire to achieve if you haven’t already and how can ‘we’ help?

I’d love to get a short story shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and one, or more, published in Popshot magazine. But so far, I haven’t managed to get myself sorted in time to submit to them. I’d like my novels and short stories to reach many readers and for my writing to touch people’s lives in the way that so many writers have touched mine.  Now that I’ve started Retreat West Books, I’d like that for the authors that publish with me too.

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