I have some very exciting – and much anticipated – news to tell you today. The latest novel from award-winning writer Amanda Addison has finally landed on Kindles all around the country. An Amsterdam Affair was launched on Amazon on Thursday and I’ve been lucky enough to interview Amanda to find out her inspiration behind the novel and how she likes to work. Having thoroughly enjoyed reading her first novel Laura’s Handmade Life, I couldn’t wait to see what Amanda would come up with this time!Supported by the Arts Council, An Amsterdam Affair is a bitter-sweet family saga about searching for lost love and how families come undone and are re-made. At the heart of the story is a family secret. If you enjoyed the inter-generational themes of romance and second-chances in Last Tango in Halifax; or the artistic and seaside motifs in Notes for an Exhibition this may be the book for you. I’m sharing an extract from the novel below so have a read and see what you think! In the meantime, I’ll crack on with questioning Amanda about the inspiration behind her art, crafts and novel.
Whereabouts in the country are you based and how does the location inspire your art and writing?
I live in the countryside in South Norfolk, not so far from both the Norfolk and Suffolk coast. My favourite all-time place to be is beside the seaside. I’ve always had a real ‘call of the sea’ – my mother now lives a few minutes’ walk from the sea in Cornwall – so it must be in my blood. I love to paint and write about the sea – it’s a constantly changing subject and therefore one I never bore of! As an art student I made an artist’s book – entitled The Sea for my final show at Chelsea School of Art. It included paintings and poems and I covered it with blue silk. I’m a great admirer of the artist Maggie Hambling, who painted the sea every day for a year. Her shell sculpture, on the beach in Aldeburgh, is a key location for a romantic tryst in An Amsterdam Affair.
In many ways the settings in An Amsterdam Affair are almost characters in themselves, reflecting the main characters’ changing moods and emotions. Sam, one of the story’s narrators uses a beach hut as her studio. I write about East Anglian big skies, the sea, windswept beaches and flat landscapes both sides of the North Sea. Great Yarmouth, a town on the edge and Amsterdam, a city I lived in briefly many years ago, with its warren of streets, canals and cosmopolitan galleries.
Your new novel An Amsterdam Affair is being publishing soon – what inspired this book?
As with Laura’s Handmade Life I very much wanted to write about ordinary people and their need and fulfilment in being creative. The ‘bare bones’ of the story began with you Cassie (a big thank you!) and your blog Inspiration Challenge on the theme of beach huts. Always one for a challenge, I set about writing a story about a woman who used a beach hut as a studio. I am a great admirer of Elizabeth Gilbert’s (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) Big Magic, a non-fiction book on creative living and its wonders. This time round, I wanted to have a wider scope – hence a bigger cast of characters in what has become a family saga, rather Last Tango in Halifax in the bitter-sweet inter-generational mix! With the three generations of one family: Nan (an avid baker and crafter) her daughter Sam, (a painter and art blogger) and grandson, Matty (baker, sketcher and wannabe architect) I was able to explore all of this creativity within the structure of a family mystery/secret.
In addition to the arty/crafty and seaside inspiration I’ve always been intrigued by the historical, cultural, land and seascape links between Norfolk and Holland. I have used this and the nugget of a true story (need to be careful here that I don’t include any spoilers!) about a Yarmouth family and its ties across the North Sea in Holland.
How much of yourself (if any) is reflected in the characters you create?
I think all my characters have a little bit of me, a bit of people around me and a very big chunk of my imagination. Although I need to see the world through my characters’ eyes, if they are too close, too similar, it would become impossible to let them develop the way they need to, to tell the story. And of course so many of the characters in An Amsterdam Affair are connected to the visual arts there has to be a bit of me in there somewhere! The story has two narrators, one of them, Matty, an 18-year-old art student, who works part-time in a bakery – and I can reveal that as an art student in London, I too worked in a bakery!
When you’re not writing, what creative activities do you enjoy?
My writing sprang out of my illustration work for books and completing an MA in Writing the Visual. At the moment I am painting quite a lot. I work in oil paint and also collage-in vintage fabric scraps, as I collect fabrics and like the idea of being thrifty with my art materials. I have moved away from exhibiting solely in galleries and in 2015 set up a website to sell smaller artworks. www.artgalleryonthegreen.com Almost forgot to say, I am a keen baker, and love to make up recipes as I go along. I am also working on a children’s fiction book with a baking theme.Extract from An Amsterdam Affair – Making art in a beach hut
I hang up my wetsuit and throw on a fleece over my tunic and jeans. I grab a towel and wrap it around my dripping hair and gaze out of the hut window and see my own reflection in the glass. For a moment my mother’s face sneaks a look back at me. I sink into my deckchair and my breathing returns to normal. A warm wind whistles in through the gaps and circles my feet. This space. My space. Would Virginia Woolf approve of my room? I bet she didn’t have a beach hut in mind when she wrote A Room of One’s Own. She certainly wouldn’t have foreseen the internet, giving us no haven from the outside world.
Usually, after my swim I feel cleansed, relaxed and ready to take on the world. But not today. Today I’m restless. The email. Why? Why now? I sit back in the deckchair and try and focus on work, not my day job of issuing books in the college library, but my artwork. I wonder if Virginia’s essay, “…a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction”, equally applies to an artist. But what happens when you have the room, some space, a little bit of time and you can’t actually start? The metaphorical and literal blank canvas. I don’t know if I have anything to say.
Several months back I’d promised myself I’d use all the bits ‘n’ pieces I’d hoarded over the years, so underneath the table are carrier bags of fabrics, papers, primed boards which have waited years to be used. I could post thoughts on inertia, motivation, distraction on my art blog and convince myself that the beach hut, my ersatz studio, is earning its keep. That I’m doing something! I get up, light the Primus stove and return to the deckchair and imagine paintings, mixed media pictures inspired by deckchair stripes.Author Bio
Amanda Addison is a graduate of the Chelsea School of Art and holds an MA from the Norwich School of Art & Design. She lectures in Art & Design and Creative Writing and taught art and design for a number of years, winning awards for her paintings, illustrations and textile works. She had been the Travel Writer/Illustrator for a range of articles for the Archant Newspaper Group.
Her only previous full-length novel, Laura’s Handmade Life, was published by Little, Brown to great acclaim and has been translated in several languages. Following consultation with library staff and the public, Laura’s Handmade Life made it into final 12 works of fiction for Norfolk Narratives 2014. Amanda’s hand embroidery featured in public collections, including that of the Redditch Needle Museum, and provides inspiration for much of her novels which taps into the popularity of vintage fashion, the love of handicrafts and the drive for creative identity and self-sufficiency.
Download the book for your Kindle via Amazon today – enjoy!