Amanda Wen is an award-winning writer of inspirational romance and split-time women’s fiction and an ACFW Genesis finalist. Her debut novel, Roots of Wood and Stone, released from Kregel Publications last month.
In addition to her writing, Amanda is an accomplished professional cellist and pianist, who frequently performs with orchestras, chamber groups and her church’s worship team. She also serves as a choral accompanist.
Amanda lives in Kansas with her husband, their three children and a snuggly Siamese cat.
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The Author and Creator of our lives often writes in a twist that ultimately blesses us more than our original plan. Have you ever experienced such a “Divine Detour”?
I’ve experienced several of those, but one that proved to be incredibly important was about eight years ago, when our local symphony orchestra had an opening in the cello section. I’d been on the sub list for a while, I took lessons from the section principal, I practiced for hours on end, and I was assured by those in the know that I had a strong chance at the job. I played a very good audition, but another cellist played a better one, and so I didn’t get the position. I was totally devastated.
BUT. God had a different plan for me, and in the eight years since that audition, I’ve seen countless “divine detours” that would never have happened with a regular Symphony job. I wouldn’t be home with my kids in the evening, time that’s becoming more and more precious the older they get. I wouldn’t have my day job as a high school/middle school choral accompanist, a job I never planned to take but one I dearly love. I wouldn’t be as involved in our church’s worship team, a setting that utilizes my musical skill set better than a symphony orchestra ever could. And I very probably wouldn’t have had the time to write books. God knew all of this, and not a day goes by that I don’t thank Him for that “no” to the Symphony job.
If someone asked you to describe yourself with one word, what word would that be?
Let’s talk about your new book, Roots of Wood and Stone (Kregel Publications, February 2021). Please tell us about it.
Roots of Wood and Stone revolves around an 1890s farmhouse that is the home of contemporary hero Garrett Anderson’s grandmother, Rosie Spencer. In cleaning out the house, he finds an old satchel which he brings to the local historical museum in hopes that they might have some use for it. The curator, Sloane Kelley, is initially unimpressed with the satchel . . . until she opens it and finds a nineteenth-century diary inside. That diary, written by past heroine Annabelle Collins, links the past timeline with the present. As Sloane digs into the diary, she wants to find out more, so she ends up going to the farmhouse to help Garrett and his sister, Lauren, declutter.
Subsequent diaries found in the house shine a light on Annabelle’s life as an early settler to Sedgwick County: the love she finds, the losses she suffers, and the God who is faithful to carry her through it all. In addition, these diaries draw Sloane and Garrett together in ways neither could imagine and form the crux of the conflict that arises between the two. Exploring the past has a direct impact on the present for both Sloane and Garrett.
What drew you to the split-time genre? What unique challenges does writing in two time periods present?
One of my favorite things about split time is watching the contemporary characters dig into the past. My mother is a genealogist who’s been tracing our family history since before I was born, and her passion for uncovering our family’s stories has been an important backdrop my entire life. Her research has given me an appreciation for those who came before and a desire to pass along this appreciation to my own kids. Given all this, I think the split-time genre is a natural fit for me!
However, split time doesn’t come without its challenges. Instead of writing one story, I’m writing two, and they have to weave together in an organic way. If you can lift one story line out of the book without hurting the other one, then it’s not integrated well enough. With two stories come two heroes, two heroines, and two plotlines, all of which must be correctly paced and equally interesting to the reader.
A few fun questions…
When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?
Mexican food, definitely. My DNA is 100% western European/British Isles, but my parents grew up in a part of Kansas with a large Mexican immigrant population. As a results, tacos, tamales, and all the rest were a part of their upbringing, and subsequently they were a part of mine, too! To me nothing says celebration like a huge spread of chips and salsa and tacos (along with some tres leches cake for dessert!). But when the words aren’t flowing? Bring on the chocolate. All the chocolate.
This website features musicians as well as writers. You’re a professional cellist, so let’s talk music for a few minutes. If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?
It’s super hard to narrow down a type of song, since I love many genres and will listen to just about anything, so I’ll just say I’d be something by Johann Sebastian Bach. He wrote in the Baroque era of music, which featured complex harmonies (my husband would definitely attest to the fact that I’m complex) and, like modern jazz, involved a lot of improvisation (something I’m good at in my musical life and have been forced to become good at in my life as a writer/musician/mom of three, especially during the pandemic). Bach was also a very versatile composer, writing for large orchestras and choirs as well as solo instruments (including his famous solo cello suites), which lines up with all the different hats I wear in my daily life. Most importantly, he is known to have written “Soli Deo Gloria” (“to God alone be the glory”) on all his manuscripts, which is something I strive for in all aspects of my life.
Are you a major or a minor chord?
As yummy as minor chords sound, I am probably a major chord (something in the A or A-flat range, if I’m being super-specific), since I’m more often than not fairly sunny and optimistic. But since I have a little bit of orneriness to me as well, I’d be a major 9 chord more often than not.
In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?
Probably the Girl Next Door; I find in both my personal and professional life that playing a supporting role is my jam. That’s the essence of what an accompanist does, and it’s what I do as a cellist, too. And if you think about it, that’s what authors do as well. The characters and the story they’re living take center stage; as an author it’s my job to help them tell their story in the most effective way possible. Plus the Girl Next Door also tends to be the Snarky Best Friend character, and that’s pretty much my default setting.
Thanks, Amanda, and congratulations on your debut! It’s nice to have you as a guest at Divine Detour.
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