Author Interview: Amanda Muratoff and Kayla Hansen

Biography

Kayla is a Shakespeare fanatic. Give her a quote, she can tell you which play it’s from. She studied theatre in university with a focus on directing while harboring a deeper desire to write. Creative writing has always been there for her after a long night like a comforting mug of earl grey tea.

Kayla Hansen

Art has always been a staple in Amanda’s life – from creative writing to painting. She is an award-winning published artist, and she left her career in VFX to return to the passion of her childhood. The memories of late night writing binges brought her back to the fantasy worlds she created.

Amanda Muratoff

They’ve been writing together since they were preteens, and the decision to publish the Pantracia Chronicles came from the desire to share their love of the characters and their adventures.

Your situation is fascinating because you are co-authors. Briefly tell the readers how you started writing together and why you continue to do so. And please identify who is writing because we want to learn about each of you.

Amanda: We actually started writing together when we were preteens. We met online on the Neopets site, and we fell in love with writing stories together. Over our teenage years, we went through phases of writing -every- waking moment, and then sometimes we hardly wrote at all. I think writing was always there for us when we needed it, and we were (and still are) very lucky to have each other as an outlet for it. We wrote in a text-based roleplaying format for a long, long time. It wasn’t until 2018 that we decided to start writing these stories into a bookish format, and by then, we’d already written over 1.5 million words in Pantracia.

Kayla: Text based roleplaying was a huge part of my life in my teens, and it was an activity I shared not only with Amanda, but also with a group of real life friends as well. However, there was something about how Amanda and I worked together that kept bringing us back together no matter what other projects I was also involved with at the time. She said it though, we had our dry spells, but there was always something about how our characters would interact and the adventures we could create together that was almost addictive. Which is certainly one of the reasons why when we finally started writing in book format, we were able to get it done so quickly! We just love doing it.

All of your books are related to the Pantracia Chronicles. Tell us about them.

Amanda: So the Pantracia Chronicles currently has ten books published (will be thirteen within a year), and they’re broken into smaller series—a trilogy, quadrilogy, and another trilogy. Each set of books has its own main characters, but because it’s all one story, one timeline, the characters overlap and entwine. So you see characters from the first three books in book 6 and 7, and you see characters from book 4 in book 3, if that makes sense. There are lots of easter eggs and hidden cameos, and moments where you’ll be like “Wait… is that person… THAT person??” As you read further down the series, the characters come together more and more as their fates irrevocably intertwine. Kind of like building the fantasy avengers, fantasy romance style.

Kayla: And all of this was really born of the original text based RPs that we used to write. The truth of it is that the first series are characters we created in our first adventure into Pantracia, then the second came from when we decided to restart a new story after getting a little bored of the first pair, and then came the third. By the time we wanted to start story #4, we realized how much we missed the old characters and wanted to bring them back. We were about to start a new ‘retelling’ of Kin and Amarie in a text based format again when we realized we should just be writing books, so we changed it up knowing we wanted to revisit all the characters we had created over the previous 10 years. And here we are.

You mentioned in an e-mail how you write together (in the same document at the same time). Will both of you describe what that’s like from your perspectives?

Amanda: So we sit on Discord, which gives us the ability to actually speak to each other, and then we have a google doc open (usually several, actually. Book, outline, timeline, previous book, etc.) and we kind of… “control” different characters. Some characters are mine, some are hers, and some are sort of shared. But for the most part, we always take one side of dialogue or interactions, which makes what unfolds very authentic. For example, Amarie is mine. Kin is hers. So when they’re talking, interacting, or even just in each others’ presence, we try to only control what one person does. So for us, writing isn’t just writing, but reading, too.

Kayla: Amanda described it perfectly. I think this style for us is another reason we’re so prolific. We both get hooked to the book in the same way our readers do. I don’t know what Amanda’s going to do next, so it keeps me engaged and excited. The writing is fresh and isn’t something I’ve come up with myself, so it makes it more interesting in a way. There are definitely times where we both push the boundaries of controlling each other’s characters, but for the most part, we tend to defer to whoever originally created the character as the final decision maker. Because each chapter is from a different character perspective, it also is a nice trade off to who is ‘leading’ each chapter, so we each get a chance to sit back a little more, or really be the one steering the ship. It’s a nice balance.

I noticed on Amazon that neither of you has published anything on your own. Do either of you have plans to publish solo or are you both all in on writing together?

Kayla: We both have our own solo projects that we plan on working on, but right now the main focus is Pantracia. However, we’ve also realized how strong the two of us are together, so it’s hard to make that leap and work solo. Our accountability to each other is part of what makes us so prolific, and I wonder at my own ability to write anything in a reasonable amount of time without Amanda there to pester me and keep me on a schedule. Right now, it’s all in for working together, but it’s hard to say what the future will lead to.

Amanda: I have a few manuscripts that I’ve started, and one that I’ve even finished (though it’s waaaaay too short and needs a lot of love), but at the end of the day—like Kayla said—we’re focused on Pantracia. We put all our writing energy into it. As much as I’d like to publish solo, too, my projects with Kayla are my priority.

How often do you disagree (in writing and/or publishing/marketing) and how to you work through those issues?

Kayla: We disagree all the time! There’s a lot of things that come up while we’re working and really it comes down to compromise. We both get some wins and some losses, but it’s pretty even across the board which is what keeps us working together well. Mutual respect is super important, and occasional breaks so we both can come back to an issue with clearer heads.

Amanda: I agree with what Kayla said. We disagree a lot. But sometimes, as we’ve come to realize, that really works to our benefit. Because if she doesn’t like something I’m proposing, or vice-versa, then it has a chance to be better. We improve each other, and push each other to come up with ideas that make us both happy, which in turn makes for a better story.

You have quite an extensive map on your website. Share what it took to put it together.

Amanda: Wow, the map. The first version of the map was created by us when we were teens, and it was very basic compared to what we have now. It has gone through many stages of development. Kayla created the first one, laying everything out, and giving Pantracia actual substance and terrain—bringing it to life as a real place. The most recent version is one I hand drew in Photoshop, using our previous versions as a template.

Kayla: The truth behind the map was there was a point in our early roleplays where I was getting super confused about where our characters were and what cities they were visiting and returning to. This was during a phase where I was obsessed with creating maps, and Pantracia came out of that. It also created this foundation of a world that Amanda and I decided to keep coming back to, flushing out more details and building more cultures and history. In a lot of ways, for me at least, the map is what really cemented these stories for me into something more tangible. That’s probably the visual side of me.

Amanda, your bio said you are an award-winning artist. Tell us about your background in art. How does your artistic side affect your writing? Is art something you still pursue?

I’ve been an artist as long as I’ve been a writer. My work in 3D Modeling has been published, and my robotic mouse model (completely virtual 3D) won awards and landed me some pretty great jobs in the VFX industry for film and television. While I no longer work in that industry, I still pursue art in more tangible ways. I paint (following my own whims, or by commission), do resin work (you’ve seen those ocean charcuterie boards, I’m sure), etc. Art will always be a part of my life, even if it’s not as prominent as writing.

Kayla, your background is in theater. Tell us about your experience. Does your theater background influence your writing? Is it something you are still involved in?

My experience in theatre 100% influences my writing. I love being a visual storyteller, putting action and emotion to words on pages. Shakespeare is definitely my favorite to stage, just because he’s so timeless and his stories are always relevant. I also have a soft spot for the language and the importance of the visual story on the stage to help get the meaning and intention of the words across to an audience. And all of this plays out in the books for me too. I tend to apply a lot of my stage combat knowledge to fight scenes, helping me really lay out where characters are in the room. Pacing is another huge thing in theatre that translates into my writing. It’s all about storytelling in both mediums, and my experience in both influence each other. I admit I haven’t been super involved in theatre since Covid, but worked as a technical director at a high school before that (which overlaps with the first 2 series in Pantracia). I’m hoping I’ll be able to jump back into the world again soon.

Amanda, what is your favorite thing about working with Kayla?

I love how close it’s made us as friends. I mean, we’ve always been really, really good friends. Best friends. But there’s something about writing together on a regular basis, and working towards common goals together that’s brought us so much closer. Our careers are so entwined with each other, and she’s just such an awesome person that I can’t imagine doing this with anyone else. Our writing time is so important to me. It keeps me sane, amid the chaos of my life, and helps this oh-so-isolating career feel a lot less so.

Kayla, what is your favorite thing about working with Amanda?

The best part is having a partner for sure. And not only that, but my best friend as my partner. We really have grown closer throughout this entire process. Gone through the highs and lows of it together, which is really what makes up the strongest of relationships. We’re like sisters, and it’s crazy sometimes how we can finish each other’s sentences. Literally. We do it all the time when writing. And there’s always moments of ‘that’s exactly what I was going to say.’ She keeps me honest and on track, which I need sometimes, and we’re always there for each other.

What does success look like for each of you as authors?

Amanda: This is success, as far as I’m concerned. I get to travel to conventions, selling and talking about our books, and when people rush back to find me the next day just to tell me they are obsessed with the first book and NEED to buy the others before the con ends… it’s just perfect. One day, I’d love to see Pantracia on screen, along with other lofty goals, but those are the cake. The bonus. For now, we’re successful. Because we have ten books published, soon to be thirteen, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive from readers. I love it. It’s the dream. And whatever comes next is gravy.

Kayla: Ditto to what Amanda said. Success is getting these stories out there. Being able to finally share these characters we love so much with the world. Plus it’s a great excuse to get to go to cons and fairs, haha! But yes, lofty goals would be seeing it on the screen. Netflix series (or whatever streaming service really) would definitely be a HUGE cake. Maybe a video game? I am that kind of geek and I think aspects have potential for that for sure! But no matter what, I can still say I’m a published author. And not only one book, but thirteen (soon). That’s always been the dream and we did it!

Is there anything additional you want to share with readers?

We’d love you to join in and be part of the discussion! We have a reader group on Facebook – The Rebel’s Hearth, and also a newsletter if you’d like to join and get a free digital copy of the prequel novella. You can sign up on our website – www.pantracia.com.

Website: www.pantracia.com

BookLocations: Signed copies are available from us, directly, just contact us through our website or facebook page. Otherwise, all our books are available on Amazon, starting here with the first one.

Excerpt

Kin held the sword steady while he dared the sharpened blade closer to Amarie’s neck.

“Cole.” Amarie’s voice came again in a gasp, and she grabbed Kin’s forearm, pulling it with a feigned amount of strength.

Coltin’s mouth opened to answer, but Kin spoke instead.

“Hello, Coltin.” His tone shifted to be far more sinister than he once believed possible. He gripped Amarie tighter, forcing her to squirm within his arms. “Might I have a word?” A wet drop hit his wrist, encouraging a glance down at his victim.

Amarie’s eyes brimmed with tears as she looked at the young heir before her.

Another wave of panic coursed through Kin, but he swallowed it. He ignored any doubts and kept his hand steady and his gaze locked on the dumbstruck nobleman before him.

Coltin stood stone still. His face paled in the flickering blue light, eyes wild and pinned on the blade at Amarie’s throat. “Don’t hurt her, please.” His gaze shifted to her captor. “I’ll give you whatever you want, I swear.”

Kin eyed Coltin and twisted the hilt of his blade, rocking it under Amarie’s chin for extra effect. He leaned in, pressing his temple against hers, and listened to the rasp as the edge of steel grazed over her skin.

She pressed harder against him, freeing her other hand to clasp a fistful of his tunic at his side.

Coltin rocked forward, but caught himself before he lunged when Kin twitched in response. Carefully, the bachelor took a step back, seeming to realize his helplessness.

“That’s a good boy.” Kin drew his lips near Amarie’s ear.

A little squirm interrupted Coltin’s stance.

Kin reveled in his discomfort, but there was business to take care of. “The great purple creature out there…” He kept his chin low. “She has a fancy necklace I’d like you to fetch for me.”

“Please, Coltin.” Amarie’s voice shook.

Another tear hit Kin’s skin and rolled down his wrist.

Coltin nodded vigorously. “Of course, the necklace. Just, please, don’t hurt her.” He didn’t turn to leave, despite his understanding. He stared, encouraging Kin to further torment him.

He turned his head into Amarie’s hair, taking a long inhale for Coltin’s benefit.

Amarie’s eyes closed with an added whimper of fear.

“I tend to get impatient.” Kin pulled Amarie farther back into the room. “So, I’d be quick, boy.” He squeezed her waist, lifting her from the ground.

Amarie’s foot caught on the lavish fringe of the rug, jerking her in his arms. His grip tightened to stabilize her, and she hissed.

Blue and white light reflected off the flat of his sword, glinting across Coltin’s face, forcing the nobleman to blink and turn his eyes away. Without another word, he hurled himself back through the doorway.

As soon as the door closed to nothing but a crack in Coltin’s hasty exit, Kin’s arm relaxed. It fell to his side, sword pommel thunking on a display case.

What kind of monster have I become for this to feel natural?

He couldn’t drop the act for long. Coltin would be back soon.

Hopefully, with the necklace.

He didn’t release Amarie’s waist, drawing in a steadying inhale. “Sorry,” he whispered.

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