Family reflects on millionaire’s fame

Published 10:58 am Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Austin’s Amanda Hocking has come a long way since publishing her work electronically. Her first published novel, “Switched,” is now out on wide distribution. -- Eric Johnson/

At heart, Amanda Hocking is still an Austin girl.

The self-publishing paranormal romance giant sold millions of books online, secured a $2 million book deal with St. Martin’s Press and had one of her series, the “Trylle Trilogy,” optioned for film in the last year. The first “Trylle Trilogy” novel, “Switched,” was re-released in print Tuesday. Hocking is fast becoming a household author.

The cover for Amanda Hocking’s novel “Switched.” -- Photo provided

Yet as she continues her writing career, she carries with her friends and family who support her and are just as amazed at the fame she’s getting.

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“It’s just surreal,” said Lorraine Felt, Hocking’s mother.

Felt remembers Hocking always telling stories, even when she was little. As a mom, Felt watched Hocking tell stories, then write them down, finally typing them so she could keep up with her ideas. It’s always been that way, Felt said.

Yet neither Felt nor Hocking were prepared for her sudden rise to fame early last year.

“I was really proud and happy for her, but I was also kind of scared,” Felt said. “You don’t know what to expect.”

For her part, Hocking finds fame to be thrilling and quite busy. With so many projects, novels and other media to explore, not to mention the increasing demand for interviews, Hocking leads a somewhat hectic life.

“It’s really exciting,” she said. “It still seems unreal.”

What’s unreal is Hocking’s schedule. She’s working on the “Watersong” series about sisters and sirens (the Greek monsters who lured sailors to their deaths), hoping to wrap the series up soon.

She’s finishing the second book in the series and has one more before she finishes her contractual obligations to St. Martin’s. She’s working with a publishing company to turn her “Hollowland” series, which involves zombies, into a graphic novel. On top of that, Hocking’s keeping track of other ideas she has for other book series.

“I’ve never seen anybody work as hard as she has,” said Eric Goldman, Hocking’s best friend and assistant. Goldman and Hocking grew up together, and always joked around that they’d end up being a famous author/assistant pairing. Goldman stepped away from his data entry job for Hormel’s research and development division last February just as the public interest in Hocking grew, thanks in part to USA Today and other outlets, who put Hocking’s online novels on their bestsellers’ lists.

Today, Goldman coordinates with Hocking’s agent, her publicist, and media to help Hocking manage her schedule. When she’s not working, Goldman and Hocking will examine and discuss her latest work. In other words, Goldman is the second half to Hocking’s successful coin.

“I just told her to keep sticking with it,” Goldman said as he talked about how Hocking became famous.

Goldman will be working overtime this upcoming month, as Hocking begins a large media campaign with the release of “Switched,” the first “Trylle Trilogy” book to go into print.

Hocking said the “Trylle Trilogy,” which was originally published online, will go into print this spring, in part to build suspense for her “Watersong” series and in part due to the series’ film optioning.

“Switched” was released Jan. 3, the same day Hocking and Goldman spent in New York giving interviews, doing book signings, seeing the Empire State Building, and preparing for her upcoming appearance on “Anderson” with Anderson Cooper on Jan. 5.

She’ll be back in Minnesota for a book signing at the downtown Barnes and Noble in Rochester Jan. 10 before heading to Europe for a month-long media tour which will take her to England, Ireland, Italy and more.

Though she’s busy now, she hasn’t forgotten to give back to the community. She’s donated to several local causes, from the Mower County Humane Society to the art mural project on Austin High School’s south side.

“It’s important to me to give back to the community,” Hocking said. “It’s a small enough town where I feel like if I do stuff, it actually does something.”

What does Hocking do after all this attention? Make it last, for one thing. With all the work piling up, Hocking strives to make herself a household name and as she said, “Not just some kind of indie sensation, flash in the pan.”

“I feel kind of like it could go away at any moment,” she said.

She enjoys the success she has now, along with her family and friends.

“We live in Austin, Minn. Things like that don’t really happen around here, things this big,” Felt said. “I think she thought it would take a lot longer than a few months to hit it as big as she did.”