THE WRITER’S ALLEY INTERVIEW BLITZ—AMY LEIGH SIMPSON
THE WRITER’S ALLEY INTERVIEW BLITZ
“Amy writes Romantic Suspense chalked full of grace
that is equally inspiring, nail-biting, and hilarious.
And a little saucy!
Okay fine, a lot saucy.”
“Her greatest ambitions are to create stories that inspire hope,
raise up her children to be mighty warriors for Christ,
invent an all-dessert diet that works,
and make up for years of sleep deprivation.”
rem: Welcome to my blog, AMY. Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
AMY: I’m a Midwest girl. A lifelong St. Louis resident. Even went to college here.
rem: I passed through St. Louis a million years ago! Tell us three things about yourself.
AMY: The three most important things… 1. I’m a Christian. 2. Marriage is the best thing I’ve ever done. 3. My greatest dream realized is being a mommy.
rem: What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? What’s your favorite cookie?
AMY: This is a two for one answer since my favorite ice cream is chocolate chip cookie dough and homemade chocolate chip is my cookie of choice. (usually served a la mode.) And… now I need a cookie break. Be right back. J
rem: Well, that’s convenient! (I’mma need an ice cream break shortly… ) If you could have any super power what would it be?
AMY: That’s tough. As I’m always juggling kiddos and groceries and diaper bags (and coffee mugs) super strength would be awesome. Telekinesis would also be incredibly handy. Could you imagine what a time-saver that would be? But ultimately I think flying takes the cake for me. I’m a wee bit timid of heights but if I could fly I doubt that would be a problem.
rem: Oh my goodness, YES!!! ‘specially when you sit down and realize you need something in the other room! Coffee or tea? Sweet or un? Flavored or not?
AMY: COFFEE! Black and in large quantities.
rem: yes and yes! (also tea) Kids or pets? Names and ages?
AMY: I’ve got a brood of blondies. My poor husband is grossly outnumbered. My oldest tender-hearted son is almost 7—Kael Archer. My middle rascal is 5 and a half going on 15—Rafe Isaac. My miracle princess baby is 2 and a half (sniff sniff)—Eisley Violet. And my nervous little rescue pup (3 years old)—Rosie Roo.
rem: You have a brood of adorable blondies! What do you most value in a friend? What quality do you most admire in a man or woman?
AMY: I think loyalty encompasses so much of what I need to feel secure in any relationship. If you have loyalty you have trust. With trust comes comfort. Comfort fosters genuine transparency, fun, and effortless chemistry between two people because they can let their guard down and be themselves. It’s a hard thing to come by, and it makes you completely vulnerable, so when you find a loyal friend, you hang on.
rem: Quite well said, Amy. When reading, what makes or breaks a story for you? Your fiction pet peeve?
AMY: Hmm… well, I have a really difficult time reading stories that lack a romantic thread (or at the very least an inkling of one). Sad, but true. I stick to that genre almost exclusively. My fiction pet peeve is “head hopping.” In fact, I even go so far as to label my own chapters so the reader doesn’t have to figure out whose POV they are reading in. If the head hopping happens seamlessly within a chapter or a scene I just feel exhausted. Totally ruins it for me. One dimensional characters (or self-sabotaging ones) tend to dull my enjoyment as well. But give me a bit of romance (or a lot!), some genuine, flawed characters, and distinguishable POV’s, and I’m easy to please.
rem: You know what you like! I admire that. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?
AMY: Other than my bible, hands down it would be my own books. Between writing, re-writing, editing, polishing, and all the way to publication, I’ve probably read each of my books at least two dozen times. And they are BIG books.
rem: Never thought of it that way! LOL What would you do if you weren’t writing?
AMY: Being a mom keeps me pretty busy. As it is, I find it extremely difficult to find time to write! I have more stories in my head than I have time to write them. It’s a real problem. If I wasn’t writing I assume my house would be cleaner and I’d have more time to read for leisure again. 😉
rem: Writing is rather consuming, isn’t it? How long have you been an Alleycat? How did you become an Alleycat?
AMY: 3 ½ years! Wow! A facebook/ACFW friend (the delightful Ashley Clark) took me in when I needed a roommate for the 2012. We joked over the course of the conference that the Alley Cats had taken in a stray. J I met the rest of the crew and we all had such great chemistry. Rooming with them was a blast! It wasn’t until after conference, and a previous Alley Cat had decided to leave the blog, that the girls reached out to me. It has been such a huge blessing and I can’t imagine this journey without my writing sisters and the community at TWA.
rem: What a fun story! (ps, I love the delightful Ashley Clark, too) Tell us a little about your writing journey.
AMY: No one is more shocked that I’m an author than me. Growing up, I was the only person in my family who WASN’T a bookworm. I wrote well when I had to, but I had never even taken a creative writing class. I was math and science (and music) all the way. It took a dare from my brother, and the right book at just the right time, for me to catch the reading bug in college. Voracious reading led to a restless imagination. I’d go to sleep re-writing someone else’s stories in my head. Finding ways they could have taken more risks, make it more exciting, and grip the reader’s emotions more violently. At some point I realized the stories I was weaving didn’t resemble anyone else’s. They were mine. I wrestled with God about my ability to write a novel. I was completely unqualified. And I had a 17 month old and a 6 week old infant. I had no time. No training. But I had a story that wouldn’t leave me alone. So I wrote it, sure I would fail. That first book became my debut novel with WildBlue Press about 5 years later. I’ve been cranking out stories ever since.
rem: What a wild and wonderful ride! What is your Writing Routine? Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy nook?
AMY: I write when everyone else is sleeping (and I still have to wake up when they do), usually on the couch or at the kitchen table. Occasionally I steal away for an hour or two at a coffee house, but basically I mainline coffee and fall asleep on my laptop. 😉
rem: I mainline my iced tea and fall asleep on my laptop and I don’t even have kids in the house… What makes you struggle as an author? How do you handle it?
AMY: Having more stories in my head than I have time to write them. And learning how to manage everything while being present as a wife and mama.
Mainly, I make sure I prioritize and I cut myself plenty of slack. Otherwise it’s overwhelmingly stressful. I also constantly write little notes to myself on my phone. Whether it’s a broad story idea, or a single line of dialogue or a description that I’ll need to find a story for, I keep a constant log of ideas to be developed WHEN I finally find time.
rem: Oh, yes! The notes! They’re all.over.the.place. Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing? Why?
AMY: The drafting stage is much more stressful for me, but it’s also more exhilarating. But the editing is where the magic happens, over and over and over, seemingly without an end to the madness. It’s hard to say. I love the whole frustrating process. And you can’t have one without the other. I’m just blessed I get to do it. J
rem: Oh, I so agree! I love every frustrating bit of it! What do you enjoy most about being a writer?
AMY: Just one thing? I think I just love dreaming up stories. Getting it from my mind to the page is truly a labor of love.
rem: I know right! What’s not to love? wink wink What was the hardest thing about publishing? The easiest?
AMY: Everything about publishing is hard. Getting attention. Getting a contract. Meshing your vision with a dozen others. Knowing when enough editing is enough. Letting go. Subjecting your book baby to everyone’s opinion. It’s all tough. The easiest thing is signing on the dotted line. Everything that comes after that is a test of your mettle.
rem: ouch, ouch, ouch, and ouch! What are your top 3 recommendations for a new writer? What 3 things would recommend not doing?
- Join a critique group or get a critique partner. Feedback is critical. If you’re not learning and growing, you’re already out of the game.
- Join a writing organization. People think you can hole up in a cabin and crank out bestsellers. Those days are gone. So much of writing today is about connection. Community. Writing blogs, sharing on social media, meeting people (fellow writers, agents, publishers, and industry professionals), networking, and learning all you can so you keep improving.
- Read every great book you can get your hands on. They are the best teaching tools. (and the most fun!)
- Jump the gun. First impressions are important. Take a writing workshop. Edit. Get some feedback. Edit some more. Polish. Edit again. Read some more books. Read yours. Edit again. Get some more feedback. Think about submitting. Pray. Submit. Don’t rush into it. If you’ve just finished and you think you’re ready. You’re probably not. Sleep on it for a few weeks. Go back and re-read. Then and only then, press SEND.
- Don’t be unteachable. Everyone has something to learn and teachable people will learn it better. (And they are much more pleasant to work with.)
- Authors are simply writers who never quit. Don’t give up. J
rem: Such wisdom in there. Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?
AMY: I have NO idea where it all comes from. Some bits and pieces of my own life experiences could account for some. An overactive imagination and an incredibly giving God are credited with the bulk.
rem: As authors we sometimes give our characters one or more of our personal traits. Have you ever taken on a trait of your character that you didn’t have before?
AMY: Not that I know of. But my mommy-memory is not very reliable these days. 😉
rem: I hear ya! You are also a “singer, blogger, runner, coffee-addict, and foodie…” What do you sing? And what is your favorite food? BONUS: Do you cook?
AMY: I grew up singing, from the car seat through college. On worship teams. Local and professional theatre. [rem: ooohhh, ahhhh, theatre!] On studio albums. I started writing songs as a pre-teen and recorded a couple albums. It was always my dream but it didn’t mesh with the life I wanted for raising a family. I still sing. In church, in the car, at weddings, and dancing around the kitchen with my kids. It’s simply who I am.
I LOVE to cook. I love to dabble and create in the kitchen, usually straying from recipes and finding better results. My favorite foods (besides dessert) is probably pasta or pizza. Though I don’t have a single drop of Italian blood running beneath this pasty skin, I can make a mean Lasagna.
rem: The Creative Force is strong with this one. You have a degree in Sports Medicine. How did you become interested in that?
AMY: This is a bit of a story. Hang on to your hat! Before my freshman year in college, a friend of mine asked if I would consider taking care of one of her patients for the summer. She worked as a hospice home care aid for a wealthy family and needed someone to take her place while she was on an extended mission trip. I had declared my major in Communications with an emphasis in Advertising, but after that incredible summer followed by a semester feeling like an odd shoe in my classes, I decided to switch majors.
Originally I signed up for the sports medicine program because, at the private university I attended, I had nearly a full scholarship. They didn’t have a doctorate of Physical Therapy program but the first few years of the sports med program were very similar. Another consortium university down the street DID have the program and I could take the classes I needed basically for free until my fourth year where I would apply to PT school and transfer all of my credits seamlessly to the doctorate program. It seemed like a brilliant plan. All the classes I needed at a fraction of the price.
I had flawless straight A’s. An awesome PT internship where I worked in a rehabilitation center and saw the incredible resilience of the human body under the right care and with the right motivation. I had stunning references. And I was one of two students selected to be admitted into the highly competitive doctorate program.
BUT, and isn’t there always a but, it turned out they only admitted transfers if they had a student drop or transfer out. Which for me, a few credits shy of my Bachelor’s degree with ALL A’s in every class needed to transfer in as a 4th year PT student in a 6 year program, meant that because of a technicality I would be transferring in with only 30 credit hours (what I had when I walked at my high school graduation) and would have to RE-TAKE every class I had already taken. (And aced!)
I always did well because I was driven to succeed, but I was never someone who loved school. I honestly couldn’t even fathom starting over after that. My hubby and I were months away from getting married back then and it felt like such a waste. I was ready to start a new life, not start over from scratch. I explored more options but decided I’d finish out my last semester and get my Sports Medicine degree. I was sure I would find a career I would love in PT with that.
Well, I was wrong. While I had a Bachelor’s degree and a lot of extra PT classes, I wasn’t technically certified to do anything in the PT field. In fact, if I wanted to be a PTA (physical therapy assistant) I needed to go back to school and work towards an Associate’s degree within an accredited program.
I ended up worked in advertising of all things at a Sports Medicine center where the local professional athletes and celebrities were trained and treated.
Basically I was selling $15,000 gym memberships in a crumbling economy, and I was working under a misogynistic tyrant. Nut shell: It was the worst job in the world and each day was a new lesson in misery.
I decided to stay home to raise my babies, and I started dreaming in stories. And the rest, as they say, is history.
rem: Oh.my.goodness. What a disappointment! (but for your fans, it worked out well for us!) Tell us a little about your latest book? Is there a third Girl Next Door coming?
AMY: From Winter’s Ashes is my sophomore romantic suspense novel with WildBlue Press. Oh, how I love this story! It’s got some danger, some sparks, some sizzle, and a whole heap of banter. Your heart will race one minute, swoon the next, and you might just laugh out loud a few pages later. I loved embracing the fun “rivalry” dynamic between the two main characters. It was exceptionally fun to write! That said, I’m fairly certain book three is my favorite. (I know, I know… we’re not supposed to choose between our book babies) but Sal as the hero made for story magic. I thought it would be difficult to take the goofy sidekick character and give him his own story, but I was wrong. This story, while definitely the darkest of the three, yet also the sharpest, flowed almost effortless onto the page. I cannot wait to unveil it in early 2017!
rem: Oh, how I love this story, too! What is one take-away from your book(s) that you hope readers identify with?
AMY: In a word: Grace. We are all broken and beautifully imperfect. But, by grace alone, we don’t have to be enslaved by our faults and our failures. If my words can inspire even one person to grasp just a fraction of the hope and healing that grace offers, I’ve helped tell the greatest love story of all. And that’s exactly why I’m such a sucker for love stories. Because I’m beautifully broken, yet so extravagantly loved.
rem: Amy, that is so beautiful. And I think your stories accomplish that very well. Anything else you’d like to add?
AMY: Thank you so much for having me!
rem: Thank you so much for joining me today, it’s been a pleasure having on my blog!
Connect with Amy at:
Amy Leigh Simpson, The Writers Alley, Author Interview, Interview Blitz, Chat Thursday, Girl Next Door Series, When Fall Fades, From Winter’s Ashes, Swoon Worthy Heroes