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Nominated for Storyteller of the Year by Romantic Times, Amy J. Fetzer lives a 'rather ordinary life' in South Carolina with her husband and sons. When she isn't writing her latest novel, she's either curled up with a book or frantically trying to keep her herb garden from becoming scented compost for the front lawn. She loves to hear from readers and you can visit her web site www.amyjfetzer.com or write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or PO Box 9241, Beaufort, SC 29904.
Highly prolific author Amy Fetzer has delighted her fans spellbinding novels for quite a while now. Last month, she presented us with THE IRISH ENCHANTRESS, a captivating historical romance set in amid the mystical beauty of Ireland. This month, Amy's new release is entitled TAMING THE BEAST, by Silhouette Desire. I was delighted to have the opportunity to have a Heart to Heart with Amy and hope you'll enjoy reading the following interview as much as I did.
THE IRISH TEMPTRESS
Amy's book list:
A Heart to Heart with Amy J Fetzer
Jacqui: When did you first start writing? What made you want to become a writer?
Amy: I started writing, or rather learning to write in 1989. I had a three-year old and a newborn baby and had organized myself into complete boredom. A friend gave me a romance and I inhaled it and about 50 more before I was so hooked and I wanted to learn to write one. I wanted to be the one who made the reader breathless or scared or tense. I wrote a few pages, gave them to my friend, who was an avid romance reader and the only authority on romance I had. She said that they were good, so I kept going. I don't know what I would have done if she'd said, "don't quit the day job."
Jacqui: Did you always know you wanted to write romance novels?
Amy: No. I'd never written a word that I didn't have to, like papers for school or letters. It was a shock that I actually COULD write. I'd never read a romance till the moment my friend gave me one.
Jacqui: What satisfies you about your writing?
Amy: Creating worlds and people out of thin air. Being able to be a home with my kids when they were young. Oh yeah, and wearing indecently sloppy clothes while I work.
Jacqui: What and/or who inspires you?
Amy: Anything and everything. It can be a line or a word that will start the kernel of a story.
Jacqui: Do you have a preference for one period of time over another? Why?
Amy: No real preference. I've written books in the 12th century and in the 18th mostly, though. Those time periods just happened to be the best ones for the story and characters.
Jacqui: Do you have a preference for one setting over another? Why?
Amy: Since I write in both sub-genres, the contemporary arena gives me the chance for something new with less research. I set most of my Desires in the South Carolina and Georgia, because that's what's familiar to me.
Jacqui: What do you find comes to you first - the characters or the situation/plot for a new story? Once the basics are in place, what do you do next?
Amy: First, that's a toss up. The story comes sometimes, then the characters to best fit the tale or vise versa. Its what I like about writing, nothing is ever the same way twice. Although for years I got the first line and the last line of every book from 1 through to about 10. Often I know the last lines, since they are the final goal of the story. Once the story is fleshed out in a detailed synopsis, I start typing.
Jacqui: Of all the books you have written, which story or character is your favorite? Why?
Amy: Hum? That's too hard to pinpoint, since every time I finish a book, I like those characters best. As stories go I'd say The Irish Princess and its spin off The Irish Enchantress. I'd had the idea for The Irish Princess for about 5 years before I had the chance to write it so it 'brewed' in my mind the longest so it had more time to grow into a great story.
Jacqui: Have you created any secondary characters that you'd like to feature as the main character in a book yet to be written?
Amy: I do that all the time. In Irish Princess there were two secondary characters, Fionna O'Donnel and Raymond DeCLare… their story is The Irish Enchantress, and after that, hopefully will be one more story with characters from that book. With regrad to other books, I have books that have a group of bastard brothers (the Monetgomerys) that keep turning up all over the world. The Montegomery's brothers appear in Lion Heart, Rebel Heart, Timeless Masquerade (Timeswept Summer novella collection) and most recently, Renegade Heart. All sea captains, 2 are pirates. There are a couple brothers left and a sister I haven't done yet. Each book stands alone, by the way.
Jacqui: How important is research in your writing?
Amy: Very. I want to be as historically accurate as I can. There is nothing more jarring to the reading than to come across a line that you know is wrong. For me, it detracts from the reading and the expertise of the writer. I researched The Irish Princess and Enchantress for nearly 5 years off and on. I even spoke with the Dean of Medieval studies, at Trinity College in Dublin to get it right.
Jacqui: When is your birthday?
Amy: December 4th
Jacqui: Do you have your own list of favorite authors?
Amy: Oh yes, Kathleen Kane (aka Maureen Child), Katherine Sutcliffe, Laura Kinsale, Teresa Medeiros, Julie Garwood… (There are more but that would take up a page)
Jacqui: In your writing career, have you received any awards or nominations for your work you'd like to tell your fans about?
Amy: I've been a RWA Rita finalist, and my books have won the Colorado Award for Excellence, the Holt Medallion, the GRWA Maggie award and I've been a finalist with the National Readers Choice Awards, the Holt in the last year. And I'm nominated by Romantic Times for Story Teller of the Year.
Jacqui: What did it feel like to sell your first book?
Amy: Thrilling! It was 3 books contract for my first sale. I was living in Okinawa Japan at the time so I heard at 7 am, (there is 13 hours difference in the time zone) I promptly screamed my head off, ran outside with a bottle of Champagne I'd been saving, shook it and took a shower in it on the front lawn. My neighbors had always thought I was a little strange, now they knew it for sure.
Jacqui: Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing?
Amy: No one really. An Author's voice is developed within, its part of who you really are.
Jacqui: What is your writing schedule? Could you briefly tell your fans about a typical day in your life?
Amy: I get up at 5 AM and answer email while having coffee, till 6. Then I get my sons off to school, and after a shower and sometimes a workout (I've been really lax about that lately) I get to work. Its about 7:30 or 8 around then. I work till 1, take a break, then go back to tinker and save or print out what I've written that day. At 4pm I stop for the day and start the wife and mom life. You know, dinner, laundry, homework help, etc. It's easy to get obsessed with writing and forget everything else. You have to have a life and be with people, do non-writer things or you'll get lost and not notice what you're missing. Most often I don't get to sit back down till 9PM. I don't work on the weekends, unless I'm behind on a deadline. I've learned to live on 5 hours sleep, anymore and I get cranky. Go figure that?
Jacqui: What would a perfect romantic evening or weekend constitute of for you?
Amy: Take out Chinese and a good action adventure flick. I have so little time to spend doing nothing that I relish it and any one who helps me get there.
Jacqui: What type of author are you? Do you plot and plan the story before you actually sit down to write it, or are you more of a "fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants" writer?
Amy: I plot first. In detail. I use the synopsis like a road map and have learned that its the best way for me. Although, quite often the characters take the story places I never expected and it changes.
Jacqui: Is there anything in particular, like music, etc., that helps you get into the mood to write?
Amy: I can't wait for the mood. I'm a working, selling writer. I have to make the 'muse' work for me, no the other way around. I read over what I wrote the day before and that gets me back in the story. While I write, I listen to Clannad and classical music. No lyrics. They distract and end up in the dialogue.
Jacqui: Almost every author at some point or another suffers from writer's block. Have you ever had that problem? How do you deal with it?
Amy: I don't believe in writer's block. Firmly. It's all a matter of how to handle a story and from which character's direction to take it. A clogged mind is another thing, though. Stress and outside influences can stagnate a writer's creative flow. I mentally and physically clear away the rubble in my life before I start work, so I don't get bogged down. Its one reason I get up so early and have time alone or dabble in my garden. Working with my hands, frees up the mind. And I'm never at a loss for ideas. Just for time to write the ones I have.
Jacqui: What is the best advice you have ever received in regard to your writing/career?
Amy: "Your last book is only a garage sale away." -- Erma Bombeck.
It keeps me firmly planted in the reality of life.
And…"Write, even if its crap, keep writing. You can't fix a blank page." --Nora Roberts.
Jacqui: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Amy: Read, read, read. Study the writers you love, then read some more, then write. Learn the basics of fiction, because they never change. Author voice is a gift from within, sentence structure, spelling, and grammar can be learned. And writing for a living means parking your behind in the chair and your fingers on the keys.
Jacqui: What is it about the genre and sub-genre you write that inspired you to choose it over all others?
Amy: Hard to say when I write historical time travel, historicals and contemporary. I love them all. Gives me the chance to stretch my creative muscles in all directions.
Jacqui: Have you seen an evolution in your writing? How or when did it come about?
Amy: Yes, I have. I've gotten better, thank God. I've learned to combine image and idea and honed my skills. It's only natural after writing and selling for years. I HAD to work alone and learn on my own because I lived too far from anyone who could offer help. Pre-email days and living in Japan for 6 years. Now, I have a critique partner, my best friend, Maureen Child (aka Kathleen Kane), who looks over my work. She's tough and I love it. Who wouldn't want to get better at a job they love?
Jacqui: Have you dreamed of writing a particular type of story or even a story in a different genre that you haven't done as yet?
Amy: Yes. Aside writing full time, I'm working on a couple of big contemporaries. I like thrillers and mystery and though I put a mystery in every historical, I want to do something that is more hard hitting. But I will never give up writing historicals. They have my heart.
Jacqui: What is your most favorite part of being a writer? The least favorite?
Amy: The most favorite is creating the story, typing chapter one. I even like editing my work and making it better. The least favorite? Hum? The rejection of a story proposal that I thought was fantastic.
Jacqui: How do you handle life's interruptions?
Amy: I set aside time to deal with them. I have a lot of obligations to the Marine Corps because my husband is a Sgt. Maj. of a Marine Air Group, which has 10 squadrons. I learned to say no to a lot of things I would like to do, but can't. However with kids in the house, especially during the vacation months, it's really tough. I can't ignore my sons, and won't, but they've learned over the years that until 4, I'm working and this is a business. They respect that. They also understand the word 'deadline' and are old enough now to fend for themselves if need be.
Jacqui: What quality do you most admire in a person?
Amy: Honesty. Without honesty and trust you have nothing.
Jacqui: If you weren't a writer, what would you be?
Amy: Neurotic, repressed. The need to create is so great that when I'm away from writing, I'm still 'thinking' writing. I love my job. I can't imagine getting up in the morning and going to a job you hate. I can't wait to get to work.
Jacqui: What is the most romantic city or place for you?
Amy: Charleston SC. On the waterfront. It's like stepping back in time; carriages, women hawking bundles of flowers, the old Fort Sumter in the distance. I fell in love with my husband in Charleston.
Jacqui: What do you believe are the three most essential ingredients in writing a Romance novel?
Amy: Characters, compassion, and compromise. 1) If the reader doesn't care about the characters, they won't care about the story; 2) the characters must have compassion for each other, no matter what their past entailed, and both be willing to 3) compromise to get where they need to be to be happy, which is in love and happy.
Jacqui: What are some of your hobbies and do you ever incorporate them into your characters' lives?
Amy: I haven't felt the need to do that yet. My hobbies are growing herbs, making flavored cooking oils, teas, candles, soaps.
Jacqui: Did you ever take creative writing classes outside of English class to help improve your writing skills?
Amy: No. If fact I got kicked out of one once because the professor said I didn't need it. Hum? I'd learned on my own, by studying the craft, good books, elements of style, and writing daily to find my stride in writing. Heck I'm still learning. I still can't get the proper use of 'barely' and 'bearly' right and always have to look it up or ask.
Jacqui: Do you have an autograph tour coming up? Could you give us an itinerary?
Amy: No tour at this time, too many books to write.
Jacqui: Do you have a website? If so, what is the url?
Jacqui: How can fans get in touch with you?
Jacqui: Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Amy: Writing one book a year for really big bucks.
Jacqui: I've so enjoyed interviewing you, Amy! It was just as much fun as reading one of your books. Thanks so much for sparing the time to tell us so much about yourself!
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