Codename: Amanda Brice!

My talented and clever friend AMANDA BRICE is here and we’re pirouetting over the release of her brand-spanking-new YA novel, CODENAME: DANCER. Heroine Dani is centre-stage in a reality TV show but soon finds herself embroiled in a sabotage plot…and she’s the prime suspect. I loved the story’s fast pace, and there’s plenty of fancy dance action to go around. Gemma Halliday says it’s “a must-read for every girl who ever danced — or wanted to!” Amanda very gracefully stepped away from the barre to answer my questions today.

1. Amanda, you’re one of those amazing people I look at and think, “How does she do it?” You’re a mum, a wife, a Ruby-Slippered Sister, a writer, and an attorney in Washington, DC. What’s your secret? And are you going to patent it? 🙂

LOL, I’m not sure I’d describe myself in as glowing terms as you are, but hey, I’ll take it! And now that you mention it, yeah, actually I am pretty busy. I’m tired just reading that list! But I’ve always found that I do best when I’m running around like a crazy girl. It’s when I have a ton of downtime that I get twitchy and don’t quite know what to do with myself.

2. Like your heroine, Dani, you’re a dancer. (See the evidence here, folks!) Apart from providing the backbone for Codename: Dancer, how has ballet enriched your writing life?

Dance has always been a part of my life. It sounds cheesy, but it’s in my blood. I don’t think I could ever not dance. Not only is it a wonderful creative outlet, but it also instilled a sense of discipline and confidence. And being a performer taught me that I could be any different character that I wanted, which helps when I’m trying to really get into the head of my heroine.

3. Dani faces some pretty daunting threats to life and limb. If you could whisper in her ear, what advice would you give to keep Dani on her toes, so to speak?

Honestly, I’d tell her to butt out and stop snooping! Sure, she only gets involved because strange things are happening all around her, but it’s her nosiness that escalates the situation. But of course, we wouldn’t have a story if she listened, would we? Like any self-respecting humorous mystery/romantic comedy/chick lit YA author, I like to torture my heroines. LOL.

4. What was the most challenging aspect of writing the book?

This was the first YA I ever wrote, so I wasn’t certain whether I could do it. I was more than twice Dani’s age! But I guess I never grew up, because it turned out that I was able to channel my inner teen pretty effectively. I ended up writing the first draft in just 6 weeks….but then it was time for the revision stage. And um, it took longer than just 6 weeks. LOL

5. Codename: Dancer was a Golden Heart finalist in 2009. Tell us about its journey to publication.

After I finaled in 2009, my former agent shopped Codename: Dancer widely, and we actually had a lot of positive feedback from editors. They loved the premise, loved the writing, loved the characters, loved the voice. It even made it to the final acquisitions meetings at a couple of publishing houses. Sounds great, right? Only problem was that marketing didn’t know how to characterize it. The YA imprints all said it was Middle Grade, but the Middle Grade imprints all said it was YA. And since traditionally published books can only be shelved in one place in a bookstore, ultimately they passed.

In reality, it’s kind of both. I consider it “Younger YA” and I think there’s a whole segment of kids out there in the roughly 11-14-year-old age group who aren’t being served by the current classifications. They’re ready for something meatier and hipper than MG, which they consider to be too babyish for them. (And let’s face it. It is.) But they’re not quite ready for the more mature emotional themes of, say, Twilight.

So I decided to take a chance and do it on my own. The publishing houses deemed this a niche book, but I can afford to market it to a niche readership. That’s the beauty of indie-publishing. In a virtual bookstore, I can cross-shelve it and I’m not tied to what bookstore buyers say.

6. Who should consider indie/self-publishing, and what do authors need to be aware of when striking out on their own?

I think if you have a niche book, indie-publishing is perfect for you. Or anything out-of-the-box. I do love NY, and I hope to have a traditional contract one day, but sometimes the definitions are a little too rigid. And I can understand their reluctance to take a chance, because that’s their risk on the line if a book doesn’t sell out its advance.

But I don’t think you should simply bang out a book and put it up on Kindle. Ultimately it’s your professional reputation at risk, so just like a traditionally-published book, you must put forward the absolute best product possible. And that’s the problem. The best thing about self-publishing is that anyone can do it. The worst thing about self-publishing is that anyone can do it.

I hope I don’t sound elitist, but unfortunately, there are a lot of self-published books out there that never should have been published. It’s not that they’re not good books, or their authors aren’t good writers — they’re just not ready. But there are also a lot of really excellent self-published books, and the revolution of the last year has shown that it’s a viable career choice.

So I guess my advice is that if you’ve gotten excellent feedback on your manuscript (and not from your mom!) and you think that NY is not quite right for it for whatever reason, then indie-publishing might be for you. But please do yourself a favor and give it as close to a traditionally-published experience as is possible.

Invest in a professional cover. Hire an editor (or at least utilize multiple critique partners and beta readers…as well as a qualified proofreader). Teach yourself formatting or hire a freelancer. Set a “launch date” and build up buzz ahead of time by giving away copies in contests and undergoing a blog tour. Send it to published authors in your genre for a cover quote. And send it to reviewers. Call on your networks. Were you in a sorority in college? Ask them to feature your book in their alumni magazine. Is there a particular hobby or activity featured in your book? Contact the various magazines or organizations for that activity and ask if they would help you promote. You never know unless you ask!

But remember that for every Amanda Hocking or Victorine Lieske, there are hundreds or even thousands of indies who will struggle. And it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Even the indies who have hit the NY Times list in the recent months started off selling just a handful of copies. On average, it takes 6 months or more for a self-published author to find a readership.

7. What projects do you have waiting in the wings?

I’m working hard on a Codename sequel, which I’m calling Pointe of No Return. I hope to release this one in late fall, probably November. I already have the cover, and I love it just as much as the first one. I heart my cover artist so much! (Shout out to the uber-talented Amy Lynch of Pens & Needles.)

I’m also writing a cozy mystery featuring a very pregnant heroine. (This one’s aimed at adults, not teens.) I’m having a lot of fun writing it and it’s cracking me up. (Hopefully other people will find it as funny as I do.) My goal is to hit up NY with this book. We shall see!

Amanda, I have no doubt NY is yours for the taking! Thanks so much for performing today’s blog pas de deux with moi.

Amanda is generously giving away an e-copy of her debut book, Codename: Dancer. For your chance to win, leave a comment and tell us what your favourite dance movie is. Amanda’s also happy to answer any questions you might have — she promises not to charge by the hour. The winner will be announced on the auspicious date of Friday, May 13.

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91 thoughts on “Codename: Amanda Brice!

  1. Waving madly to Vanessa and Amanda! Amanda, I LONGED to do ballet when I was a girl so I would have been lining up on the day of release to buy your book when I was 12! Congratulations on your new release. Love the cover (love the photos of you as a dancer even more – how cool!). Love the sound of the story and I hope you sell a million!

  2. My favorite dance movie is Dirty Dancing (but only because I doubt Lord of the Dance would count!) However, put Fred and Ginger, Gene and Cyd, and a host of others on the tube and I am so there!

    Best of luck with CD, Amanda. I have no doubt between heel clicking and toe tapping you’ll be a dancing on the ceiling in no time!

  3. Fantastic post, Vanessa and Amanda!

    There is some seriously excellent advice here for any writer but especially for someone thinking of trying a different road to the book shelf! I wish you every success with this story, Amanda! It sounds like a wonderful read! Congratulations!

    Mmm, fave dance movie… would have to be Dirty Dancing! I really, REALLY want to be able to move like that! I did do ballet when I was very young – I nearly got to play a mushroom in an end of year concert. Sadly I got tonsillitis – nothing worse than a fungus with a sore throat!

    😉
    Sharon

    • Ohhh, a ballerina fungus with a sore throat? That’s so sad, Sharon! Is that what inspired you to write Harlequin Medicals?

      I am right with you on Dirty Dancing. (See above!) I cannot believe it’s almost 25 years since the movie came out. To me, it’s timeless.

      Wasn’t Amanda’s advice so very wise? I think it applies to both traditional AND self-pubbed authors. I especially liked what she said about putting forward the best product possible.

    • OK, you have me giggling up a storm now. A dancing mushroom with tonsillitis?

      (Of course, I know it wasn’t funny at the time. I remember being devasted when I got chick pox during the recital when I was 10 or 11. I danced in the matinee performance, but didn’t make it to the evening show.)

  4. Oh wow, that is such a hard question! I adore Dirty Dancing, but can I place it above Singing in the Rain? And Strictly Ballroom (for an Aussie shout out). Or, since it’s so topical right now, Royal Wedding (the Fred Estaire dancing on the ceiling movie). Or Center Stage which made me lust after scarlet toe shoes. How could anyone pick just one?

    Best wishes with Codename: Dancer, Amanda. Wishing you many sales!

    • Lol! Sorry to make you choose, Vivi! You jogged my memory on some excellent dance films. I must get out Royal Wedding to see Fred dance on the ceiling! Strictly Ballroom is another of my favourites too. Love the scene where Scott and Fran dance on the roof at sunset. Sigh!

  5. Congratulations on the release, Amanda. Codename definitely sounds like it would appeal to adults as well. I’m looking forward to reading it. Here’s to many sales!

    Oh, and my favorite dance movie? Like others have mentioned mine would have to be Dirty Dancing. Although, Singing in the Rain does it for me as well!

  6. Hi Vanessa and Amanda – The story of this book has been very inpiring for me. It’s on my TBR list. 🙂

    My question for Amanda is one I’d rather behind the scenes. Do you mind if I contact you off line?

    Carey

  7. Thanks for commenting, everyone! And thanks to Vanessa for having me here today.

    Hmmm…dance movies. Oh man, where do I start?!

    I’m a huge Dirty Dancing fangirl (how could I not be?!), of course. And Grease (not strictly a dance movie, per se, but tons of good dancing in it), Singin’ in the Rain, Oklahoma, White Christmas, Chicago, Center Stage, Strictly Ballroom, Fame, Save the Last Dance…the list goes on and on!

  8. Fabulous post, ladies~
    Codename Dancer has the makings for a great read. Love the premise! Fave dancing movie? Since I was a theatre major in college, it’s a toss up between All that Jazz and Chorus Line.
    Best of luck with your upcoming release!

    • Lovely to see you here, Lynda! Oh, a Chorus Line! I saw that with my best friend when we were about 14. I remember thinking how tough the theatre world is. It’s on par with the publishing world, really!

    • Oh man, how could I forget All That Jazz and A Chorus Line? *smacks head*

      I actually made a reference to “Dance: 10, Looks: 3” in Codename. 🙂

      And I’m a HUGE Bob Fosse fan. Always have been. My former dance teacher was a Fosse protege, so I’ve done lots of Fosse-inspired choreography over the years.

      My mom gave me “All His Jazz” (the Fosse autobiography) for Christmas one year when I was like 12 or 13. Let me just tell you…my mom either CLEARLY hadn’t read it or didn’t know anything about him, because there are many, many passages in that book that NO 12-year-old should ever read. *blush*

  9. I love the premise of this book, Amanda. Girls will love it. Heck, I’ll love it!

    As to my favorite dance movie … that is a mean question. There are so many good ones that I adore. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is hands down my favorite classic dance (musical) movie. The men are manly and exude so much life. Give’s me chills when I watch it. For a more modern dance flick, I like Step it up. Ha! Bet you didn’t see that one coming. Tatum Channing is so incredibly gorgeous to watch move. That boy is physically talented.

    • You will love Amanda’s book, Shea!

      Sorry to be so mean! Tell you what, I’ll let you practise your kickboxing on me and we’ll call it even. I haven’t seen Step It Up, but I did see Tatum Channing in a boxing movie and I recall thinking, “That boy can move!”

    • How could I forget Seven Brides for Seven Brothers?! FABULOUS dancing in that one.

      I love all the old classic movie musicals. They just don’t make ’em like that anymore. *sigh*

  10. Great interview and congrats Amanda. Best dancing movies? Dirty Dancing of course. White Nights with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines. OMG! Tap with Gregory Hines, Sammy Davis Jr. Savion Glover made his debut in that movie. Eric Bana was in a movie-I can’t remember the name of- in New Orleans and danced to Cajun music. Gawd! It was so hot. Love Eric. Wait isn’t he Australian?
    Of course the Ginger and Fred movies. Ginger says many of those routines were done in one take. Yikees!

  11. Hi, Rita! Well, how about that–I had no idea Fred and Ginger worked their magic in one take. That’s amazing. I love this quote” “Ginger did everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in high heels.”

    Eric Bana is indeed an Aussie. He’s come a long way, baby. Before he hit Hollywood, he worked in comedy. I’ve not seen the movie you mentioned. You’ve got me curious. I’ll look it up!

    • I looked and can’t find it. Geeze CRS has taken over. It might have been something on TV. All I can remember is them dancing. Vertical sex comes to mind

      • Heh! You slways crack me up, Rita. This mystery Eric Bana movie is going to haunt my dreams! I’ll do a deeper investigation in the morning. Temporarily signing off now–it’s almost 12:30am in Aussieland. Have a great day, everyone!

      • Watching DWTS this week, the guest judge said that “Dancing is a vertical expression of a horizontal desire.” Looks like everyone knew that but me!

    • That quote about Ginger is one of my all time faves. And so true!

      The founder of the fictitious arts academy in Codename is sort of a cross between Ginger Rogers and Elizabeth Taylor. And that was totally intentional. *grins*

  12. Favorite dance movie? Dirty Dancing is the only one I can recall. Maybe it’s time for another. Codename: Dancer would look good on the screen.

    Amanda, congratulations. Really enjoyed your book:)

  13. Great interview, and Amanda, the book looks amazing! I’m going to show my true age here and say I have fond memories of the dancing in Flashdance and The Turning Point. But the one that holds up best for me over the years is An American In Paris. Gorgeous Gershwin music, Leslie Caron’s lithe grace, and Gene Kelly’s awesomeness.

    • Flashdance is one of my faves, too. Seriously, I blame being tired this morning when Vanessa asked me. How could I have forgotten so many great ones!

      And American in Paris is fabulous, too.

      • Hi, Amy! American in Paris–what a beautiful film! I must be the only person who hasn’t seen Flashdance yet. But that has not stopped me from dancing frenetically to ‘Maniac’ when no-one else can see me.

  14. I loved the opening that I read of Codename: Dancer and wasn’t surprised at all when it finaled in the Golden Heart. It was so fun and fabulous. As a person with two left feet, it’s nice to vicariously be inside a dancer’s shoes.I can’t wait to read the rest.

    Add me to the list of Dirty Dancing fans. I even have “She’s Like the Wind” on my ipod. Dear Patrick. *sigh*

    • Jeannie, you have exceedingly good taste! You’ll love the rest of Amanda’s book. The fun and fabulousness continues, but with the added layer of mystery.

      Ah, Patrick–what an amazing man he was.

  15. Thanks, Jeannie! I think it was your magic critique that made it final.

    The very first concert I ever attended was the live Dirty Dancing tour. “She’s Like the Wind” is such a good song!

  16. Amanda, would you say that studying ballet helped you develop the discipline you need to juggle the different parts of your busy life (I started to say “keep all your balls in the air,” but that didn’t sound quite right. ;-))?

    I’m a sucker for dance movies (Swayze, O’Connor, Kelly, Rogers,anything by Busby Berkely), but my favorite dance number is Fred Astaire hoofing it up the wall and across the ceiling in “Royal Wedding” (http://tinyurl.com/3yltf5z).

  17. Congratulations, Amanda! 🙂

    I love Singin’ in the Rain, White Christmas and Billy Elliot. But like nearly everyone else here, my all time favourite is Dirty Dancing. The bit in the final scene where the professional dancers start moving forward towards the stage still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, after who-knows-how-many viewings.

  18. Favorite dancing movie? That’s easy–Strictly Ballroom.

    I just finished Codename (benefits of being sick–I actually have time to read) and it was a really fun book. Looking forward to the sequel.

    • Thanks, Shoshana!

      And Strictly Ballroom is a good one. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, so I think I need to watch it again. I’ve only watched it once, it wasn’t exactly under ideal circumstances. I was on a bus trip overnight with my ballroom team in college, as we traveled to a competition in Ohio.

      • I’m sorry you’ve been sick, Shoshana! I hope you’re feeling much better. I had no idea Strictly Ballroom was well known in the US! For anyone who hasn’t seen it, here’s the trailer:

        I’m not sure if this is true, but apparently the first house I lived in after moving out of home belonged to Barry Otto, who played Scott’s dad in Strictly Ballroom.

        Amanda, you gotta see SB again!

  19. Nice interview and good advice, Amanda. If I ever get the energy to write again I’ll go the self pub route. None of my stuff can easily be categorized.

    My favorite dance movie is ‘Strictly Ballroom’. Mostly because I really enjoy movies about people who are more concerned with joy and beauty than they are about propriety. Very much a rebel’s movie.

  20. If it’s a dance movie, I pretty much like it. Dirty Dancing of course, White Nights as Rita mentioned and even Dance with Me with Vanessa Williams. I also love Dance with the Stars, or I did back when I had TV. This love of watching dance is because I so cannot dance, LOL. My hands got all the rhythm (I play the piano). As for my feet, I struggle to walk and not fall down, lol. Congrats, Amanda, wishing you all the best for Codename!

  21. Can’t believe I’m admitting it but my favorite dance movie is Center Stage. And the soundtrack is awesome too! 😉

  22. Pingback: Interesting Links for Writers | Kitty Bucholtz, Writer

  23. Hi Amanda and Vanessa
    I loved dance books as a kid and so did my daughter–until they were overtaken by horse books!
    I love dance movies, Center Stage, Step Up, of course Dirty Dancing, even very old ones like The Red Shoes and Fred Astaire.
    Good luck with Codename: Dancer!

  24. My 15-year old is living your heroine’s life, minus the intrigue. Between living 90 miles away from her family, going to high school, doing homework for demanding courses (she’s doubling up in math and science), and dancing 40 hours a week, I don’t know how she does it. But then, she’s like you Amanda. Twinkle Toes gets itchy if she doesn’t have something to do almost every moment of the day–personally, I’d add a ‘b’ to that, but then I’m her mom. She’s home almost every Sunday and the entire month of August. Sundays are fine, but Lord knows what I’m going to do with her in August–maybe you need a mother’s helper–she can start the baby with ballet lessons.

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