Amanda Thrasher describes herself as sometimes hyper, a tad ADD, highly self-motivated, and continually thinking. She wrote her first manuscript for no other reason than “it was fun.” I had to put on my (virtual) running shoes to catch up with her and was happy she slowed down enough to chat via email.
LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE: You are a mother, a writer, an award-winning author, a philanthropist, and the CEO of Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, which just celebrated a very successful year. Did the story behind one or more of these hats you wear land you where you are today?
AMANDA M. THRASHER: Great question. There’s always a story behind the story, and you’re right: the decisions that I’ve made over the years did merge areas of my life that ended up having a snowball-like effect on each other. My mom, whom I adore and miss, is the person I credit to this day for turning my path from writer to author. Mom was from England and loved fairies and collected them. While she was terminally ill, I wrote her a fairy story, Mischief in the Mushroom Patch. She read the first seven chapters, but I hadn’t finished the book, so I sat and told her the ending. She made me promise to finish and to submit it. When she passed, I finished the MS and put it up — it made me ill to look at it.
I’m so sorry for your loss and know that pain all too well. I know there is more to this story since you have now published three books in the Mischief Series. What happened next?
Literally a year after Mom died, I woke up in the middle of the night and knew I had to pull the book out. I reworked it and submitted it over and over as writers do, and it was the first book of mine that was picked up and published. That book has since launched at Barnes & Noble.
During one of my signings at B&N, a lady purchased the book and then sent me an email. In short it said, “Could you possibly create a fairy character with a disability because my daughter would have loved this book.” When I read the email, I was both flattered and concerned because 1) I didn’t want to disrespect the book that I specifically wrote for my mom, and 2) I didn’t want to disrespect the lady or her daughter. I ended up creating a character named Pearle, and I sent sample chapters to the woman, Beverly Hutton, with the note, “Meet beautiful little Pearle; though she cannot walk she can fly with ease.”
And Pearle appears in A Fairy Match in the Mushroom Patch, book two of the series. Being at Barnes & Noble and meeting Beverly led to more than your writing another book, though.
Beverly bought so many books that I had to ask her why. She said she was donating them to the Scottish Rite Hospital because her daughter Jeni had had fifty-four surgeries there before she passed. That started our charity together. My publisher donated books, I donated books, B&N donated gift cards and books, and Build-a-Bear donated bears in wheelchairs. Together, Beverly and I went to the Scottish Rite Hospital, the Texas Lions Camp, the Texas Pythian Home, schools, and libraries. Each time, hundreds of books were donated, sponsorship money was raised, and of course along with spending time teaching the kids about writing, I signed as the books and funds were donated.
It sounds like you had a supportive publisher, which is so important to an author’s success. Yet you didn’t just leave your publisher, you became a publisher. That’s quite a leap!
After being with my publisher for three years, and they did treat me well, I had this ridiculous idea that publishers made money, bookstores profited, the printers/distributors were in the black, but the authors that were signing, speaking, and doing the selling were still struggling. I wanted a company that was equally balanced, meaning there was a profit share more equally divided after overhead, print, and distribution had been paid. Since I personally believe that authors need representation, and I believe there’s a need for more of a balance between author share and publisher share, I felt the only way that could happen was to create a company that I had envisioned in my head. I pulled my titles from my publisher and chatted with a colleague of mine, who is now my business partner (Jannifer Powelson), and together we founded Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, LLC. It has taken time, sacrifice, trial and error, and money, but we are now going into our seventh year and are seeing all of it come together and finally working the way that it should. It’s the organization that we’d envisioned, for the most part, and it’s improving daily as we teach our authors about the industry, selling, and marketing.
You’ve said your business motto is “A rising tide lifts all boats.” What does that mean for PRPP?
Our label was designed specifically to encourage all of our authors to work together as one. After all, owners included, are authors. To ensure that this happens we share information, encourage unity; show our authors how to promote their work and how to work with each other to sell all of the titles under one label. Working as a label instead of a single author, for us, is key and we stick to the motto. We also stick with the policy of only working with thirty authors at a time. This allows us to manage our label, still write, and produce quality work.
Time for writing! It is incredible to me that in the midst of your very demanding day (night, weekend) job, you have published award-winning books. We’ve met at various book events over the last few years, and every time we meet, you hug your book The Greenlee Project, and tell me it’s your special book. Why is this one your baby?
I remember watching the Amanda Todd video back in 2012; it was so sad. It made me cry. My daughters at the time were ten and twelve. That was when I started to pay attention to how kids talked, really talked to each other, and quite frankly it disgusted me. What I realized, as most in today’s world do, was that social media made everything hundred times worse. Insults could be spread faster. Kids were bolder, and they could gang up on each other without much consequence. News reports of tween and teen suicides were everywhere, and I was stunned. What inspired me to write The Greenlee Project was the rise in tween and teen suicide over, of all things, words. Bullying. Kids today routinely tell each other to go and kill themselves or to drink bleach — and that’s to their friends. I know this because I spoke to hundreds of teens, teachers, and doctors for my research. Because I believe that anybody’s kid could be a victim or a bully, The Greenlee Project remains near and dear to my heart.
You were born in England, and you’ve told me that growing up, you had numerous moves and attended numerous schools. How does being a Texan work its way into your world?
I absolutely love Texas. I feel grounded here, and I genuinely believe it is because we moved around so much when I was a kid that Texas to me represents stability. I moved here with my immediate family, became a U.S. citizen with them as a family, had my children in Texas, and my mom loved Texas, as does my dad. I’ve achieved several milestones here in Texas, and my memories of mom. many which occurred here in Texas, are precious. I used Texas in Greenlee, Bitter Betrayal, and What If because so many things about Texas were familiar and represented this state (such as football, big trucks, family, friendly people, and Texas heat).
I follow you on social media and for the past year or so, you’ve been teasing followers with a screenplay you are adapting to a novel. Can you share anything more about that?
Absolutely. I’m excited about this project, and in fact I will reveal it at TLA19 (Texas Library Association Annual Conference). I feel very blessed to have this piece for several reasons. Director, writer, and actor Kevin O’Neill asked me to adapt his screenplay into a novel a few years ago. I love the script, but screenplays are very skeletal, so building a novel based on someone else’s idea has been challenging, exhilarating, and a brand-new experience for me. This book is about loss, discovery, forgiveness, and hope. I look forward to sharing it with the world.
And now for the lightning round…
Favorite book? Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Number of books on the nightstand? 21 (should really clear that off)
Strange habit? Will not sit on a hotel bed, chair, or couch without putting a towel down first (regardless of how nice the hotel), and I have to write in silence.
Team Oxford comma? Yes, I do tend to use that, but I don’t think about it when I write. Um. Now I probably will. Thanks.
AMANDA M. THRASHER is the co-founder of independent publisher Progressive Rising Phoenix Press. As CEO, she assists authors and shares what she has learned as a publisher with people of all ages. PRP Press currently has ninety-nine titles and more under contract and review.
As an author, Thrasher is a multiple Gold recipient of the Mom’s Choice Awards, and a winner of a 2017 International Book Award, an NTBF award, and a New Apple Literary Award. She’s authored children’s books including picture books, middle-grade chapter books, YA, and even a reader’s theater titled “What If…A Story of Shattered Lives,” which was published by the Texas Department of Transportation. She conducts workshops, writes a blog, and contributes to an online magazine.