Author interview with Amy ~
Tell us a little about yourself and how you started writing.
I guess you could say I’m a bit of a late-bloomer when it comes to writing. After doing a hundred other things with my life (from tutoring the Boston University ice hockey team to acting in plays to moving all over the country and raising three fabulous kids), I got this crazy idea to write a story about an unusual fact about my family: Although my grandparents were married to each other for over sixty years and seemed very much in love, they decided early in their marriage to design a house for themselves with separate his-and-her bedrooms. I was so puzzled by this arrangement as a kid, but never dared ask them about it. It was too personal! So I began to write a novel to invent an explanation for why a loving couple might choose to sleep in separate rooms for most of their marriage.
While I had a great time writing that book—a quirky southern comedy about a sexless, geriatric couple—it was never published (surprise, surprise) and will never be published. But the good news is that writing that flawed book taught me a lot about how to (and how not to) structure a novel. It also taught me how to create believable characters and develop a workable narrative arc. As soon as I finished writing that book, I began the next one, which was published after I turned fifty. I’ve been writing ever since.
What are some things you enjoy when not writing?
I love to cook, take walks with my dog, go to movies and plays, spend time with my grown kids, travel with my husband, wander around museums, and read.
Do you have a particular writing routine?
No! And I wish I did. I’m what you might call a “binge writer” – meaning I spend a lot of time thinking and not writing … and then I write for long stretches and fail to do anything else (like walk the dog, shower, or sleep). I would like to have a better and healthier schedule that would allow time for writing, exercising, and doing things to relax. #goals
Is there anything major that changed in this novel from when you first plotted it out?
When I was writing The Sweet Spot, I made a huge mistake and told the entire story from the wrong character’s perspective. After the book was finished, I had to start all over again, changing the narration of the book from 1st person to 3rd person. Instead of telling the entire story from one (minor) character’s perspective, I rewrote it to give several characters a voice in close 3rd person. Starting over from scratch was so disheartening, but I’m very glad I did the rewrite. The story just didn’t work the way I initially wrote it.
I can’t write without …
… keeping my sense of humor. Also, I need my dog by my side, Scrivener (the software application), and a bag of Haribo gummy bears.
If I had to spend a week on a deserted island, I would need…
… a stack of books, bug spray, white wine, and a hammock.
What career did you think you’d have as an adult?
As a kid, I always thought I would become a librarian. I loved going to my local public library as a kid, and I thought that would be the perfect job for me. But instead of becoming a librarian, I was a high school English teacher for many years, which was another great way to honor my love of books and reading.
If you have written more than one book, in which story would you choose to live?
I have two answers to that question! I would truly love to live in the fabulous Greenwich Village brownstone I made up for my characters in The Sweet Spot (although I’d hope to renovate it before I move in, lol). Or I’d be very happy living right by Central Park in the spacious Upper West Side penthouse that my fictional pop-star moves into while he performs on Broadway in my novel Limelight. BONUS: The condo in Limelight comes with a butler. J
How do you market your work?
Marketing is a challenge for many writers, and I’m no exception. I think the best strategy is to find what you’re most comfortable doing, whether it’s Instagram, TikTok, and/or newsletters, and lean into that. I found that one thing I like to do is to make funny, original book trailers. I write a script that is in some way related to my book, and then I go about filming it, thanks to my oldest son who is fabulous at editing videos. Readers can find my book trailers—for The Sweet Spot, Small Admissions and Musical Chairs—on my website and on YouTube. I hope these videos give readers a laugh and make them want to dive into my books.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on my fifth novel, tentatively titled Far Flung. It’s a story about two families—one in Texas and one in Germany—that swap homes for a year. I grew up in Dallas and spent a lot of time in Berlin, so I’m having fun writing scenes in these fabulous settings.
Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences?
So many things! From my work in admissions to my love of Broadway theater to the shenanigans of my family, many of my life experiences become fictionalized and find their way into my books. The book trailer I made for Musical Chairs is about exactly that: how the elements of my life somehow end up on the page.
Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?
In Musical Chairs, I wrote a big family dinner party scene and introduced a new character named Jackie, an outsider who is seeing all of these characters for the first time. Jackie, a young woman in her twenties, is aghast at some of the things the family members do and say, and her inner monologue was so much fun to write. She notes that the family’s big dog helps himself to the cheese board, that the siblings fail to acknowledge their privilege, and that the adults go back and forth between completely ignoring her and putting her under the magnifying glass. I loved the chance to bring Jackie’s special perspective to the story.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
I never feel like I’m in a position to give advice because I’m still figuring things out. But one thing I tell myself is that writing isn’t magic; it’s simply hard work, just like anything else. The most important thing is to have the willingness and the stamina to sit down and write, to edit the same paragraph over and over again, and even to throw out a whole book and start over when necessary. (I hope that won’t be necessary!)
The only other thing I know for sure is that to be a writer you have to be a reader. Read in your genre, read out of your genre; make sure you’re reading a wide array of books!
Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you! That’s my main message to readers – Thank you so much for reading, for reviewing, and above all, for reaching out. It means the world to authors to hear from you. It’s because of all the wonderful readers out there—whether they check out books from the library or buy them from their favorite stores, download them onto their e-readers or listen to them while they commute—that writers get to keep writing. So thank you, thank you, thank you! And happy reading!
To connect with Amy~
Twitter and Instagram: @amypoeppel