Sunday, 17 July 2016

Amanda Addison on her writing life and new book An Amsterdam Affair

My first degree was in illustration at Chelsea School of Art and in 2005 I completed an MA in Writing the Visual in Norwich at NUA. Since then I have worked across both disciplines of Art and Creative Writing.

This makes for an interesting working pattern where I alternate between teaching (Art and Creative Writing), writing and making art. This has proved very productive, as it allows me to take a break from one area of work, allow things to mull over in my subconscious and then return with a fresh take on my work – rather like the way an artist/writer often realises the solution to a problem whilst doing the washing up.

As the author I make artworks (as if I’m the protagonist) – in the manner of William Boyd’s Nat Tate. This cross-discipline approach has been supported by the Arts Council, which awarded me a Grant for the Arts to write a novel, where the key characters are artists and use art to sustain and explore themselves. Although, unlike Nat Tate, I made a decision to not include the works in the novel – as I wanted the writing to carry meaning and allow the reader to use their imagination.

Whilst working on my manuscript Picasso, Cream Horns and Tulips for Alice - which is out now with the revised title An Amsterdam Affair - I began to hear more and more about notions of creative living (making art, writing, music). I am a great admirer of Elizabeth Gilbert’s (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) Big Magic, a non-fiction book on creative living and its wonders. This really struck a chord with me as last year I taught the Art Module on the Arts & Wellbeing degree at City College, Norwich.

I write about East Anglian big skies, the sea, windswept beaches and flat landscapes both sides of the North Sea. I paint the landscape too, from memory, sketches, en plein air, and have just had a painting shortlisted for the Holt Festival Art Prize. In many ways the settings in An Amsterdam Affair are almost characters in themselves, reflecting the main characters’ changing moods and emotions. Sam, one of the story’s narrators uses a beach hut as her studio. I also use artistic motifs as settings, for example, Maggie Hambling’s shell sculpture on Aldeburgh beach, is a key location for a romantic tryst in An Amsterdam Affair

As with many writers I’m not too keen on my work being placed within just one genre, which can mean there are difficulties for publishers who tend to like books to come in neat boxes.  However, I have had great support from my literary agent, Sonia Land at Sheil Land, who patiently takes on board the artist side to my work!


An Amsterdam Affair is out now.  It’s a bitter-sweet family saga about searching for lost love and how families come undone and are re-made. At the heart of the story is a family secret. If you enjoyed Last Tango in Halifax: the inter-generational themes of romance, second-chances and how the internet and Social Media can change our relationship with the past and each other; or the seaside and painting motifs in Notes for an Exhibition; or the art & craft themes of my previous novel, Laura’s Handmade Life, this may be the book for you!

The story is based in The Netherlands and Norfolk. Sam and her idealistic teenaged son, Matty, feel constrained by the demands of Sam’s mother, hypochondriac Nan. Phil, Sam’s husband, is unemployed because of a short-lived affair that cost him his job as a geologist.
Sam finds solace in wild swimming and making art in her beach hut studio, while Matty dreams of becoming an architect. He prepares for a college trip to Amsterdam but before he leaves, Sam gives him a book that requires him to look for someone in Amsterdam.

Phil gets a temporary job off-shore and for the first time in a long while, Sam finds herself alone. She starts writing an art blog which attracts the attention of Theo, her Dutch-Indonesian ex-lover from a long forgotten relationship. He emails her and their online correspondence re-ignites their relationship and he wants to meet up with her once again.Matty meets the girl of his dreams, Alice, and both soon find themselves as detectives caught up in unravelling his family’s secret history.

Sam visits Nan who opens up to her daughter and unlocks the true nature of Matty’s search and brings to a head the unsavoury past and the racist morals of the 1960s. She meets up with Theo and realises that it was her husband’s affair that forced her to wake up from sleep-walking through life. Her careless emailing is read by Phil who returns back early to confront her.


Amanda Addison is a graduate of the Chelsea School of Art and holds an MA from the Norwich School of Art & Design. She lectures in Art & Design and Creative Writing and taught art and design for a number of years, winning awards for her paintings, illustrations and textile works. She had been the Travel Writer/Illustrator for a range of articles for the Archant Newspaper Group.

Her hand embroidery featured in public collections, including that of the Redditch Needle Museum, and provides inspiration for much of her novels which taps into the popularity of vintage fashion, the love of handicrafts and the drive for creative identity and self-sufficiency.

Her previous full-length novel, Laura’s Handmade Life, was published by Little, Brown to great acclaim and has been translated in several languages. Following consultation with library staff and the public, Laura’s Handmade Life made it into final 12 works of fiction for Norfolk Narratives 2014.

Amongst numerous awards, her short story, Alternative Renditions, a re-telling of traditional fairy tales, was selected by Bridge House Publishing, and she was runner-up for the Cinnamon Press Novella Award.Currently Amanda is on to the Longlist of the Commonword Diversity Writing for Children Prize with her novel for 9-11 years, Billy's World Class Bake-Off.

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