Today on the Mother Hub Meets we are thrilled to be chatting to international best-selling author and proud Essex girl, Amanda Prowse. We always hoped this series of interviews would provide women with a pool of inspiration to reach their full potential and follow their dreams. And hearing Amanda talk about her own journey, it's impossible not to come away feeling that if you want something badly enough, the world really is your oyster!
Since quitting her day job as a management consultant to finish her first book, Poppy Day, six years ago, Amanda's career as an author has gone from strength to strength. She has recently published her sixteenth novel, The Food of Love, and her books have been translated into a dozen languages and regularly top bestseller charts all over the world. Amanda has been dubbed 'The Queen of Domestic Drama' and writes about ordinary women and their families who find their strength, courage and love tested in ways they never imagined.
We are so grateful that between writing, book tours, press, charitable work, and a trip to the jungle to support best friend Carol Vorderman (and that's just in 2016!), Amanda was able to take the time to share her thoughts and advice with us here at The Mother Hub. So if you want to find out more about stepping out of your comfort zone, quitting the day job and following your dreams, keep reading...
Could you tell us a little bit about your career journey and what inspired you to write your first book?
Writing is my therapy, I have always written notes and scribbled short stories, and have always loved to write. Six years ago I started my first book, Poppy Day while my husband was working in Afghanistan. I didn’t want to be left alone and writing allowed me to put my fears on to paper. The story is about an army wife whose husband gets taken hostage in Afghanistan and then follows what she does to bring him home. The emotions that I went though and captured in the story struck a chord with thousands of partners of service personnel who were away in Iraq and Afghanistan who bought the book and then told their friends that it echoed how they felt.
When did you know it was the right time to give up your 'day job'? Was it a difficult transition?
I felt that I had to give up my job to concentrate on writing full time to complete my first book. It was a massive decision because my salary was a bit more than my husband's and there was no guarantee of success but he convinced me to do it and was so supportive that it persuaded me to take the plunge. It was a really difficult transition and it turned out to be a real roller-coaster and we had to sell our house to fund the project and nearly went bankrupt in the process as we didn't fully understand what we had gotten ourselves into. It is one of those things that seems like a real adventure looking back at it but if you had told me that it would mean that we weren't going to be having any holidays for the next five years, would be buying second hand clothes from charity shops and ebay and would be selling our furniture at auction to put food on the table then probably wouldn't have started in the first place!
How did you go about getting your first book published?
My first book ‘Poppy Day’ was originally self-published on Amazon Kindle and when it started selling we worked with the Royal British Legion as a charity partner to produce and sell paperbacks. This was a really good arrangement that generated funds for them and also raised awareness of the work that they do amongst an audience that they didn’t usually connect with (women in the 30-50 age range). About this time I managed to get a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style pitch to Sainsbury’s which was really scary but went so well that they immediately placed an order for ten thousand copies. My husband sold thousands more copies through British Legion branches and I also did a tour of signings at Waterstone’s branches around the UK that broke some records and that got me noticed by an agent who came along to one of the events to offer me a publishing deal. The first thing that they did was to give ‘Poppy Day’ a new cover and a professional edit then re-released it as a much more polished product. Self publishing worked for me but it is very hard to sell copies when you aren’t well known so anyone who is thinking of going down the same route has to be prepared to be in it for the long haul!
Can you tell us about a time during your career as an author when you had to step out of your comfort zone?
I have to step out of my comfort zone almost daily. Even though I have faith and confidence in my ability as an author and am very comfortable with people whom I know well, I am actually quite shy and very unconfident about myself physically. When I have to go and give a talk to a large group of people or attend a book signing or work on TV I am plagued by nerves in the lead up to it. I overcome this by reminding myself that people are coming to see me because they want to, because they love my books and therefore I'm going to have a lovely time, which I always do!
With an ever-growing number of best-selling novels and novellas under your belt, what’s next for Amanda Prowse?
I have very exciting things happening in 2017, most of which I can't talk about but what I can promise is at least three more novels that I hope you love as much as I do and there might well be the chance to see my stories come to life on screens large and small.
We really appreciate your support for the Essex Girl campaign. Having grown up in Essex yourself, why do you think it's so important to shake off the negative stereotype?
I find it bizarre that a whole swathe of society can be categorised simply by the county they live in. This wouldn’t be so bad if the gross generalisation of Essex women were not so demeaning and insulting. I speak up in support of this campaign because I was once a little Essex girl with a fairly low level of edcation living in an area where there was no priviledge. It is therefore important that for all the girls in Essex and beyond that we teach them there is no barrier, no postcode that can limit your dreams. Essex girls like any other should dream big and work hard to achieve all that they are capable of #ProudToBeAnEssexGirl
One of the goals of our campaign is to inspire the next generation of young girls growing up in Essex. If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self?
Listen to your voice of instinct, trust it and never lose sight of your dreams. Always let kindness be your currency and when your friend tells you that it’s okay to let go of the wall because it’s only a little drop down, don’t listen to her and don’t break your ankle.
Amanda's latest novel, The Food of Love.
‘The Queen of contemporary family dramas’– Daily Mail
‘A deeply emotional, unputdownable read’ – RED
‘If you love JoJo Moyes and Freya North, you’ll love this’ – Closer
Inspired by Amanda’s own extreme struggle with body image and a family history of anorexia, this is a compelling and heart-wrenching look at family, food and the challenge of raising teenagers in our self-obsessed, image conscious society.