Welcome to Six Questions Amy!
1. What made you want to be a writer?
I never thought I'd be an author. I still can't believe that I have actually accomplished it. I read a lot of books and when those books end, the stories don't end for me. I find myself still living in the world the author created. In 2007, I was inspired to write after reading Markus Zusak’s book entitled I Am The Messenger. There was a message at the end of the story that struck me as if it was written just for me. It says, quote: “Maybe everyone can live beyond what they’re capable of… I’m not the messenger at all. I’m the message.”
I knew instantly that I had to try to write a book because maybe I was able to live beyond what I always thought I was capable of. I didn't realize I wanted to be a “writer” at first; I only knew that I wanted to see if I could produce a story worth reading. I know it sounds counter-intuitive because you'd think that it would be a logical conclusion that I wrote a book so I could be a writer, but for me, it was more like I became a writer because I had to write a book—I had to tell a story.
I didn't have “be a writer” aspirations, maybe I did when I was younger, but when I began writing Inescapable there was no real fantasy of becoming an author. Inescapable just began as an experiment to see if I could write a book—I wanted to see if I was capable of writing a story and then LIKING what I wrote.
2. How much time goes into planning your novel before you begin writing?
First of all, let me just explain my writing style for a second. I’m what most people in the industry refer to as a “Pantser.” There are “Plotters” and there are “Pantsers.” Plotters meticulously plot out the outline to their stories chapter by chapter or plot point by plot point and adhere to them. Pantsers, on the other hand, start with maybe an idea of what will happen and then they write something completely different. I’m definitely a Pantser. No question. I am often surprised by what happens in my stories. I start off with just a general idea of the plot of the story and I work from there. If the setting needs to change, then I research the location as I go along. It generally takes me about four months to write the rough draft for each novel.
3. Do you edit as you write, or wait until after your first draft?
For my first novel, Inescapable, I wrote the first draft and then I edited it after I was finished. Now, I try to edit as I go. I also usually do several rewrites before I publish.
4. Did you start your career by querying?
I did start my career by querying agents and there’s a very good reason that I decided to self-publish my manuscript. Beside the obvious reason: I couldn’t find an agent to represent me, there was a more humbling reason. It has to do with a dog. When I first wrote Inescapable, I had a different working title for it: The Evolution of Evie. Evie was 170,000 words, more or less, and for about the first three or four months I sent out query letters to literary agents touting this. (A query letter is like a résumé for a manuscript.) Needless to say, I rarely got a response and when I did, it was a form rejection letter. Then one day, an agent sent me a rejection letter stating that my manuscript was “way too long.” I did some research and discovered that, unless you are a previously published author, you have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting your book published with that word count. (Naïve thy name is Amy.) By this time, I was almost finished with my second book that was longer than the first. (Lucky me.)
Anyway, I did a few rewrites and got my manuscript down to around 135,000 words, but I still wasn’t getting any interest. Finally, I pared my book down to 105,000 words. I sent out about 20 queries and I had an almost immediate response. One of the agencies asked for a query, twenty-five pages of the manuscript, and a brief synopsis. I sent it. A week later, this agency requested the entire manuscript. So, I’m totally geeked, right! You bet your ass right! Someone was finally reading my novel! Furiously, I researched this agency that was considering representing me and found that one of my most favorite authors (I mean, he is a book-writing machine) is a client of this agency. You notice that I haven’t named this author or the agency; this is because I respect the author and his work and do not wish to taint it. I also do not bear the agency any ill will, so they will remain anonymous, too. Anyway, it’s really not about this amazing author, it’s about his dog. You see, this author has a dog; I think it’s either a yellow lab or a golden retriever and this author’s dog is also a client of this agency. A client…as in: the dog is an author. (I am so not making this up, if I was, I would have to make it more believable, but because it is nonfiction, it doesn’t have to make sense.)
Apparently, this talented canine has penned a manuscript that reveals the “true spirit of Christmas.” Good for her! At this point, I’m super psyched, right, because these people are giving book deals to dogs! (I can’t lose!) They have to give one to me, too! (Naïve, thy name is Amy.) About a month later, I received my rejection letter stating that I was not a “good fit for the agency at this time,” which left me to think: I must be the worst writer in the world if a dog can get a book deal and I can’t. That was my first thought. My next thought was: maybe I've been too harsh with my criticism. Maybe this dog is really talented and mystical and has discovered some insight on a holiday that most of my relatives manage to screw up annually and with aplomb. (Ha, ha.)
Mystical dogs aside, it was for me the deciding factor in my decision to self-publish. I could have sent out more queries, but I didn’t like my book at 105,000 words and I was trying to please people I don’t understand. At the end of the day, I want to like what I write and it took a dog to teach me that. So, maybe it is a mystical dog after all.
5. How do you find and stay in touch with readers?
I’ve become a social media freak. You can usually find me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Goodreads, and my website (). I answer questions and respond to comments that readers leave me. I love it. It takes me longer now because there seems to have been an explosion of comments lately, but I try to respond to as many people as I can.
6. If you could start all over again, what would you do differently?
If I could start all over again, there are so many things that I’d want to change, but I don’t think I should change them, even if I could. I have made so many mistakes in my writing career, but it’s those mistakes from which I have learned the most. With each error I’ve learned to pick myself back up and prove how much I truly want this. So, no, I’ll cherish my gaffs, my missteps, my flaws—my warts. I wouldn't change them because they've taught me how to fail better and to persevere.
What has happened to you in your writing career that has taught you the most?