Amanda Eyre Ward on Gratitude, Compassion and 'The Same Sky'

Mar 7, 2015


Amanda Eyre Ward is not afraid.

In researching her first novel Sleep Toward Heaven, Amanda sat down with convicted murderers waiting on death row to explore their regrets and hopes. While writing her novel Forgive Me, Amanda traveled to South Africa to experience the ethnic tensions of Johannesburg first-hand

In this episode of The Write Up, we discuss her latest novel The Same Sky her penchant for telling stories of the voiceless and powerless, the importance of looking past political divides to tell the stories of real people and how exploring the lives of others has impacted her own own.

Ward has driven the roads of her characters, stepped into their thinking, and done the dark work of imagining the motivations of the most frightening of criminals.

Her travels and research provide her work with a rich authenticity. The details of her worlds - the smell of a waiting room, the feel of burning sand, the pang of thirst – ring true because she has either experienced them or taken efforts to know and speak with those who have.

As a novelist and short story writer, Amanda traces her characters’ physical journeys as she simultaneously maps out the surreptitious paths in her characters’ hearts, so much so that the Dallas Morning News crowned her “the reigning doyenne of 'dark secrets' literary fiction.”

But don’t expect Amanda Eyre Ward to be a brooding grief hunter. A conversation with Amanda is laced with laughter. Her enjoyment of the simple pleasures of friends, family, and a shared meal come through as clearly as her willingness to investigate tragedy. She is able to hold both life’s joys and horrors in her thinking and that balance is the heart of her writing.

Recently, when offered to an opportunity to travel to the border of Mexico to meet the detained children caught trying to illegally enter the United States, Amanda packed her bags.

The result of her time spent with those children is her latest novel, the beautiful and harrowing The Same Sky. The narrative follows the journey of a young girl and her brother from a poverty-stricken Honduran slum to the Texas border. Along the way she faces violence, hunger and unthinkable choices. She parallels this journey with the story of a young Austin barbecue restaurateur with dreams of beginning a family.

Amanda describes her writing as bearing witness to a tragedy many of us would rather turn away from. She describes how stories enable us to see the humanity behind the headlines. This drive has led to five novels and a collection of short stories. She’s been awarded the Violet Crown Book Award, the Elle Letters Readers' Prize, and found herself on numerous best books of the year lists.