“The written word is mankind’s greatest accomplishment.”
Seated in the offices of the Daily News Tuesday morning, novelist and Decatur County resident Amanda Browning, 28, offered that opinion with complete conviction.
In the last 17 months, that belief has become a bedrock of Browning’s life. In that time, the written word has opened new worlds for this young woman — worlds populated by vampires, Greek deities and Ancient Roman Caesars; by werewolves, Hellhounds, griffins and harpies. The written word has provided her with escape and hope and inspiration.
Most importantly, during one of the darkest periods of Browning’s life, the words flowing from her imagination onto the printed page provided salvation from an existence set adrift by pain and loss; from a life that had lost meaning and direction.
Since November 2011, Browning has completed two adult novels and four short stories — all self-published. She’s currently at work on more and sees no end in sight, having stumbled into a career she described as “about as far from any profession I could’ve imagined.”
In fairness, she didn’t come to professional writing completely inexperienced.
“I’ve been a huge reader my whole life,” she said. “I once read an instruction manual cover to cover because I didn’t have anything else to read at the time.”
She wrote a number of short stories as a child, too — at least 10 — and even won a DARE essay contest in the sixth grade. Plus, she won a poetry contest in the eighth grade, earning the right to have the work published in an anthology.
Still, long before she became a published author, she aspired to a far different path.
“When I was eight,” she explained, “I broke my pinky finger. My mom took me to an orthopedist. I was such an independent, inquisitive child. I wanted badly to understand the injury as much as I could so I could take care of myself in case some emergency popped up. I wanted to be able to rely on myself.
“I can’t remember the doctor’s name, but I’ll never forget him. He showed me the x-rays and explained how it had broken. He explained step-by step how the splint would be applied, how it worked and how long the break would take to heal. And he explained everything so that I, as an eight-year-old girl, could understand completely. By the time I left the office that day, I was an eight-year-old who didn’t have any questions, and that’s a big accomplishment.”
The orthopedist’s kindness so inspired the young Browning that, from then on, she set her sights on becoming an orthopedic surgeon.
“I became so focused on being an orthopedic surgeon,” she said. “My whole life, I never considered doing anything else.”
To that end, she was attending IUPUC in 2004 and was just at the outset of studying to go into medicine, when a funny thing happened on the way to the OR: She and her husband, George, conceived their first child. A second child came along in 2006.
By that point, Browning still harbored some thought of becoming a surgeon, but mostly gave up her goal when she gave birth to twins in 2008. Being a good mother was more important to her than becoming a surgeon, and she didn’t see a realistic way of accomplishing both.
She hasn’t worked outside the home since, and for a while life sailed smoothly along.
Then came tragedy.
In July 2009, one of Browning’s twin sons — Gabriel — died from a form of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Browning was devastated. “I lost all will to become a doctor. Having spent my entire life planning for a career in medicine, I had no clue what I wanted to do. I was filled with all sorts of dark feelings I didn’t know how to handle.”
Browning plunged into books like never before; she found in their pages a place to “get away from my pain and step into another world.”
“When I started writing as an adult, I channeled my real-life feelings into my characters. I like to write people who’ve experienced loss. Their worlds have been torn apart by tragedy at one time, but they’ve chosen to carry on and start over. I made that same choice. I chose not to let my pain destroy me. My journey through loss and grief has given me an unbreakable core of hope. There’s a beauty in quiet strength and perseverance. I often take the inner strength that my experiences have given me and give it to my characters.”
Browning wouldn’t take the plunge into creating her own fiction, though, until November 2011, when a gift from her husband, a novel by South-Central Indiana Author Candy Crum and some sage advice from her brother drew her onto an entirely unexpected path.
The gift was a Kindle e-reader, and the aforementioned novel was “The Eternal Gift,” a vampire novel set in Seymour, North Vernon, and Louisville, Ky.
Browning discovered Crum’s novel around the same time her brother offered his advice — at a point when she’d seemingly exhausted reading material for her Kindle. “I simply didn’t know what else to read, and one day I was complaining to my brother about that.”
His advice? “Shut up and write something of your own. Write the kind of story you’d like to read.”
“The Eternal Gift” opened the door further. Browning described it as “that not terribly common type of fiction with a make-believe world that completely pulled me into the story to the point that the real-world completely faded.”
She attributed the book’s appeal to “incredibly relatable characters” and to well-drawn settings and vivid descriptions.
“I’m a big fan of setting and description, of being able to experience the world and live through the experiences with the characters,” she said. “When I read, it plays out in my head like an ultra-high-definition movie and ‘The Eternal Gift’ was incredible for that.”
Browning was so impressed, in fact, that she contacted Crum via Facebook to thank the author for the experience of reading the book. A friendship ensued, and, a short time later, Crum invited Browning to contribute an original story to a horror anthology she was compiling, entitled “The Withering Darkness.”
Browning hungrily accepted the offer, and her first-ever published short story, “The Legacy of Lilith,” was born.
To write the story, she started with a simple question: If vampires are inherently evil, why so?
Her answer involves Hades and his half-god, half-demon daughter, Lilith, both prominent figures in Ancient Greek mythology. Browning also wove real-life Ancient Roman Caesar Caligula into the story.
“He was so twisted and demented anyway,” she said. “Vampirism was a great, plausible explanation for his evil.”
“The Legacy of Lilith” opened an entire new universe in Browning’s imagination, a universe that’s filled the pages of all her published stories to date.
She hasn’t completely restricted herself to the vampire realm, though. She also has a web series about zombies soon to go into production. When finished, the series will be pitched to cable TV’s Syfy Channel. “I’m very excited about that. You’d be amazed at the people you can meet at conventions.”
Browning hasn’t limited herself strictly to adult fiction, either. She’s also completed two as-yet-unpublished children’s stories and is currently working on a young-adult novel, entitled “The Wolf Within.”
Her advice to aspiring writers? “Read like crazy; find someone you trust to talk to about plot. A ‘talk-it-out’ writing buddy is the single, most valuable resource a writer can have (for Browning, Crum has assumed that role). Another writer is ideal, but a reader will do just fine, too.
“Don’t give up on yourself, and edit like crazy. Many writers — especially self-published ones — tend to snipe on the editing and it causes readers to completely dismiss the book; they don’t even look at the story. If it pulls you out of the story, it must be fixed. Edit; edit; edit.”
For more information on Author Amanda Browning or her books, visit http://theimmortalchoiceseries.weebly.com/. She can also be found on amazon.com by searching for Amanda R. Browning.
Contact: Rob Cox at 812-663-3111 x7011.