Amanda Downum on THE DROWNING CITY

Prior to becoming a published author, what other professions have you had?

I’ve been a book buyer for a medical bookstore and a library supervisor, and spent years as a retail minion. I’m currently dayjobbing as a bookseller in a used book store, which isn’t at all a bad way to spend eight hours of a day.

When you aren’t writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?

Besides selling other people’s books, I make jewelry and rock-climb (outside whenever I can, but mostly indoors). I’ve tried gardening, but that turned out to be depressing for me and deadly for the plants. My next hobby may be something involving sharp objects, like knitting or crochet.

Who/what would you consider to be your influences?

My mother read me Tolkien, Lewis, Le Guin, and L’engle as a child, and they carved permanent channels in my brain. Later on I discovered Lovecraft and binged on horror novels, and now magic and monsters are pretty much my favorite things. My favorite modern writers are Elizabeth Bear, Barbara Hambly, and Caitlín R. Kiernan. Besides the literary influences, I’ve always loved to travel, and get a lot of inspiration from visiting or reading about other places.

The Drowning City is a novel with an amazingly lush setting and unique world.  How did you derive the idea for this novel? 

Several different ideas had been floating around in my head for a while: the character Isyllt, a spy novel, and second-world fantasy (I’d been working on several contemporary fantasies previously, and wanted a change of pace). And then in 2005 Hurricane Katrina came, and as I watched all the horror and ugliness and heroism and grief, I thought of the title The Drowning City, and all the disparate ideas started to come together. Which makes me feel a little like a vulture.

In writing the novel, were you particularly influenced by your time living in Southeast Asia?

Having lived in Arizona and Texas since I moved back to the States, I really miss rainy seasons. So as soon as I had a book with monsoons, a South Asian-inspired setting seemed perfect. The most specific influence on TDC, though, was in the scene with the pigs. That was something I heard too often, living up the hill from a pig farm on Yap.

Do you have a favorite character?  If so, why?

Definitely Isyllt. She’s one of my oldest characters, and survived an unfortunate juvenilia project that will otherwise never see the light of day. She can always be relied on to run straight into dangerous situations–or crawl into them in the dark–and otherwise get herself in trouble, which I’ve discovered is the most useful thing a character can do when I’m trying to plot a novel.

What can readers expect in The Bone Palace?

Intrigue, heartbreak, and more forensic necromancy. And vampires, though not the oversexed variety.

As a debut author, what has been your favorite part of the publishing process?

Seeing my cover art! Book covers have fascinated me ever since I started to read, and even the bad ones are often very entertaining. That I really like the preliminary cover art for TDC is just an extra helping of awesome.