Today I’d like to welcome Amanda Skenandore and her new historical fiction release BETWEEN EARTH AND SKY to Daring Debuts!

“Sweeping, epic, heart-wrenching, and powerful . . . This thought-provoking novel illuminates the plight of Native American children and the planned destruction of a culture and a people. It’s a well-written, carefully researched, compelling novel for anyone fascinated by this hidden piece of our history.” RT Book Reviews

“A beautifully written debut, Between Earth and Sky is an eye-opening reminder of the United States’s attempt to assimilate and oppress Native Americans by stripping them of their identity and culture, and the tragic aftermath that left them lost between two worlds. This novel is, by turns, brilliant, heartbreaking, and haunting. I wish I had written it!” —Ellen Marie Wiseman, author of The Life She was Given

BETWEEN EARTH AND SKY is coming of age story set at the tragic intersection of white and Native American culture in the years following the Indian Wars. The main character, Alma, is the only white child at the “savage-taming” boarding school run by her father. The school was intended to assimilate the children of neighboring Indian reservations. Instead, it robs them of everything they’d known—language, customs, even their names. As an adult Alma must reckon with the school’s destructive legacy; with love, racism, and betrayal; and the sacrifices made in the name of belonging.

————–And here’s a teaser:

A loud whack brought silence to the room. Alma flinched and glanced up from her stew. Miss Wells stood at the end of the dining table, her ruler flat against the wooden surface.

“English only, children,” she said.

“But the Indians still don’t know any English,” Alma mistakenly said aloud.

Miss Wells turned and flashed that crooked-toothed smile Alma had come to hate. “Then they should refrain from speaking altogether.”

———————

Sharon: I am so excited to share your new release, Amanda. Where did you get the idea?

Amanda: I came across black and white photographs from the late 1800s of Native American children dressed in military garb. My mother-in-law, herself a Native American, explained they were pictures of boarding school students, taken from their homes and stripped of their cultural identities so they might assimilate into white society. I had never learned about this dark and tragic part of US history and wanted to bring it to light for others.

Sharon: I’d only heard bits and pieces of this history before and look forward to learning more about it. What’s the story behind the title? Did you come up with it yourself?

Amanda: I’m terrible with titles. The story went through two working titles before my agent and I settled upon BETWEEN EARTH AND SKY. I didn’t love the title initially and thought the publisher might change it, but my editor really liked it. Seeing it now on the cover of the book, I’m glad that’s the title we went with.

Sharon: I think it’s a beautiful title! Can you tell us about your favorite character?

Amanda: My favorite character is Askuwheteau. He meets my main character, Alma, at the “savage-taming” boarding school run by her father. I love Askuwheteau for his bravery and conviction. Yet he’s vulnerable too—a little boy so far from home and all that’s familiar. And he’s imperfect, the way we all ultimately are.

[bctt tweet=”My favorite character is Askuwheteau.I love Askuwheteau for his bravery and conviction. Yet he’s vulnerable too—a little boy so far from home and all that’s familiar. And he’s imperfect, the way we all ultimately are. ~ Amanda Skenadore  #Authors18 @ARShenandoah” username=”sharonbwray”]

Sharon: If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?

Amanda: If I could spend a day with one of my characters it would be Hįčoga. Of all Alma’s friends, she’s the most fun-loving and sanguine. We’d sneak out into the night, as she and Alma do, to dance and sing and eat stolen apples around a bonfire.

Sharon: That sounds like so much fun. Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?

Amanda: While I endeavored to make the story as true to history as possible, Stover School for Indians is a fictitious place and all my characters are likewise imagined. The circumstances of Askuwheteau’s life after leaving Stover were inspired, in part, by the real-life experiences of a Lakota man named Tasunka Ota, who attended the Carlisle Industrial Indian School in the 1880s. My hope in writing this story was to bring to light his struggle and those of the many Native American children whose lives were damaged or destroyed in the name of assimilation.

[bctt tweet=”My hope in writing this story was to bring to light his struggle and those of the many Native American children whose lives were damaged or destroyed in the name of assimilation. ~ Amanda Skenadore  #Authors18 @ARShenandoah” username=”sharonbwray”]

Sharon: How long did you take to write this book?

Amanda: I began writing BETWEEN EARTH AND SKY in 2012. It took four months write the first draft and another four years to revise and edit. After I found an agent and publisher it was two years (almost to the day) that the book was released.

Sharon: What a great story! What kind of research did you do for this book?

Amanda: Research is one of my favorite parts of the writing process. It’s not only reading history texts and biographies, but also visiting museums and cultural sites. It’s trying foods your characters might have eaten and walking the streets where they would have lived. It’s watching documentaries and talking with language experts. It’s learning how to lace a corset and start a fire in a coal-burning stove. These were all part of my research process for BETWEEN EARTH AND SKY.

Sharon: What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

Amanda: I removed entire chapters during the editing process (and added others in). I merged characters and reworked the sequence of the narrative.

Sharon: I know how much hard work that is. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Amanda: I’m a plotter. I outline my entire story—scene by scene—before I sit down to write. That’s not to say that things don’t change as I write and revise, but the overall story arch usually remains intact.

Sharon: What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

Amanda: I love the research phase of writing because history, especially the quirky details of day-to-day life in bygone eras, fascinate me. I also really enjoy the revision process. It’s both creative and analytic. It’s where that lump of coal of a first draft becomes a diamond.

[bctt tweet=” I love the research phase of writing because history, especially the quirky details of day-to-day life in bygone eras, fascinate me. I also really enjoy the revision process. It’s both creative and analytic. It’s where that lump of coal of a first draft becomes a diamond. ~ Amanda Skenadore  #Authors18 @ARShenandoah” username=”sharonbwray”]

Sharon: What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

Amanda: As much as I enjoy the revision process, it is also the most challenging for me. I struggle to fend off complete despair (this novel is terrible and needs so much work!) while at the same time not give into laziness (this novel is fine the way it is and doesn’t need another pass).

Sharon: I’m the opposite! I much prefer revising to drafting. Can you share your writing routine?

 Amanda: I work part-time as a registered nurse and unusually write on my days off. I like to have several hours of interrupted time to devote to my story. When I’m under deadline, however, I’ll go to a coffee shop or library after my shift at the hospital and write then too, even if just for a few hours.

Sharon: Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?

Amanda: I make a deal with myself whenever I get writer’s block: Just sit down and write for 30 minutes. I also remind myself it’s okay to write a crappy first draft. That’s usually enough to get the words flowing again.

[bctt tweet=”I make a deal with myself whenever I get writer’s block: Just sit down and write for 30 minutes. I also remind myself it’s okay to write a crappy first draft. That’s usually enough to get the words flowing again. ~ Amanda Skenadore  #Authors18 @ARShenandoah” username=”sharonbwray”]

Sharon:  If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Amanda: The process takes a lot longer than you think, but it’s worth it.

Sharon:  Amen, sister! LOL. Do you have any writing quirks?

Amanda: Whether in my home office or at a coffee shop, I like to write facing a window. Were it not for the glare of sunlight on my computer screen and 115-degree heat of Las Vegas summers, I’d write outside.

[bctt tweet=”If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? The process takes a lot longer than you think, but it’s worth it. ~ Amanda Skenadore #Authors18 @ARShenandoah” username=”sharonbwray”]

Sharon: How did you get into writing?

Amanda: I’ve always been a daydreamer and lover of writing, but it wasn’t until my late twenties when I took a short-story class that I decided to make a real go of it. I quit my day job and wrote a novel (not a very good one). I queried it to several agents but got nowhere. I found another day job and kept writing. I read craft books, joined a writers group, attended conferences. Eventually, after several years and numerous revisions, my second novel sold.

Sharon:  Which book influenced you the most?

Amanda: A few come to mind: Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Sharon: Great choices! What are you working on right now?

Amanda: I’m working on a story about an undertaker’s assistant set in New Orleans during the waning months of post-Civil War Reconstruction.

Sharon: I can’t wait to hear more about itWhat’s your favourite writing advice?

Amanda: “Writing is a miserable, awful business. Stay with it. It is better than anything in the world.” – Ann Patchett

[bctt tweet=”What’s your favourite writing advice? “Writing is a miserable, awful business. Stay with it. It is better than anything in the world.” – Ann Patchett (and Amanda Skenadore) #Authors18 @ARShenandoah” username=”sharonbwray”]

Sharon: Thank you so much for spending the day with us, Amanda, and for sharing your new release! I know we’ll be hearing so much more from you in the future!!

————–

Amanda Skenandore is a historical fiction writer and infection control nurse. In writing Between Earth and Sky, she has drawn on the experiences of a close relative, a member of the Ojibwe Tribe, who survived an Indian mission school in the 1950s. When she’s not writing or chasing germs, Amanda gardens and volunteers with her local writers group. She lives in Las Vegas with her husband and their pet turtle Lenore. Readers can visit her at www.amandaskenandore.com.

You can find BETWEEN EARTH AND SKY here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

You can find Amanda here: Website | Facebook | Twitter  Instagram | Goodreads


Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets meet their match in smart, sexy heroines who teach these alpha males that Grace always defeats Reckoning.

Her acclaimed debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beret determined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife.

It’s available on: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | IndieBound | Kobo.

And adding it to your Goodreads TBR list is also always appreciated!

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One Comment

  1. This sounds really good! The title and the cover caught my eye and that excerpt… powerful! We’re learning something like this happened in Canada, also. Indigenous children were taken from their homes, thrown into schools to ‘Americanize them’ and instead, many were abused.
    It’s sad how superior the white race deems themselves.

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