Join Jennifer and all the coolest Catholics for the 7 Quick Takes Friday Linkup.
Well, it’s another 7QT that I’ve gotten somebody else to write for me! I’m thrilled to host author Amy Bennett, who brought us the hilarious and suspenseful mystery End of the Road, the first book (of many, I hope), in the Black Horse Campground Mysteries series. Her second, No Lifeguard on Duty, is the second and latest.
Allow me to introduce you to Amy.
“I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, so that automatically makes me a native Texan… but then I’ve spent most of my life in New Mexico, so I can claim dual citizenship! End of the Road is the first book in the Black Horse Campground series. The Black Horse and Bonney County exist in my imagination, for the most part, but visit the Ruidoso/Lincoln County region of New Mexico and you’ll see how I happened to find it! As for Corrie Black and her friends, I hope you enjoy reading about their adventures as much as I enjoyed writing about them… and I hope there are many more to come! When I’m not writing, I’m a cake decorator at Walmart in Ruidoso Downs, NM; slinging vino at Noisy Water Winery in mid-town Ruidoso; and being a wife to Paul (since 1988) and mom to Paul Michael (since 1994) as well as enjoying life in general in Bent, NM.”
Now let’s hear from Amy about how she writes, why she writes, and so and so!
Tell us about your most recent work. How did the idea come to you? How long did it take you from start to publication?
My most recent work is No Lifeguard on Duty, the second book in my Black Horse Campground mystery series.
I actually came up with the idea for the three main characters—Corrie, Rick, and J.D.—first and wanting to tell their stories, and their involvement in a murder mystery grew from my own love of mystery novels, in particular the romantic suspense of Mary Higgins Clark. And reading novels, particularly mysteries, by other New Mexico authors like Aimee and David Thurlo, Steven F. Havill, Michael Orenduff, and Michael McGarrity, convinced me that my own “stomping grounds” (south central New Mexico) would be a perfect setting for my stories. I started the first draft of No Lifeguard on Duty when I got stuck trying to wrap up the first book in the series, End of the Road… I had no idea how to end it, so I decided to see what the next book was going to bring!
All in all, it probably takes me about a year to draft, write, and edit one of my books.
Idea, research, editing, design…What was your favorite part of working on this project? What was your least favorite?
I love coming up with ideas, letting the characters loose in my mind and seeing what they do and say (really, I’m not that much in control!) and just putting it all together like a puzzle. I know when I get stuck it’s because I missed something important or else I’m trying to force my characters to do and say things that are completely out of character. The least favorite part was sometimes just sitting down and getting it on paper. And let’s not even discuss promo work!
Tell us about how this work came to reach us: did you go the self-publishing route or did you contract with a publisher? What was that like?
My first novel, End of the Road, won the 2012 Dark Oak Mystery contest, sponsored yearly by Oak Tree Press, a small independent publishing company. First prize was publication and a contract. Up to that time, I had resisted going the self-publishing route because I knew that I didn’t have a lot of contacts and that getting the word out would be even more difficult than it already was with my busy schedule. Plus, there is a little more credit given to books published with a traditional publishing house, even if it is a indie publisher, and I had hopes of seeing my books in bookstores, not just online.
What other things in your life do you juggle in order to keep at your writing? How’s that working out for you?
I’m fortunate to have a husband and son, family, and friends who understand how important it is for me to have time to write. I try to keep writing materials handy at the other jobs for those times that inspiration strikes or I have a few minutes to jot down ideas. And I’ve learned to take the writing seriously. I’ll never forget the day I got to meet fellow mystery author Mike Orenduff in person. He offered me a lot of encouragement and I mentioned something about finding time to write in the midst of “the real jobs” (full-time cake decorator at Walmart and part-time “vino slinger” at Noisy Water Winery.) He stopped me right there, pointed his finger directly at me, and said, “The WRITING is the REAL job.” It was the first time someone, besides my husband, had ever taken my writing with that degree of seriousness and I knew that, no matter how busy the other jobs kept me, the writing would always take priority—it would always be “the REAL job”. So now I MAKE time to write instead of just trying to FIND time to write.
That’s so true. Our writing is only as real a job as we make it. Now on to setting, characters, plot, mood, tone… What would you describe as your greatest strength as a writer? (I would say your ability to handle gut-busting humor and spine-tingling suspense all in the same paragraph, but that’s just me….).
Well, as I said before, my characters came before the story and most of the good reviews I’ve received have mentioned how much the reader likes my characters and really cares about them. I find that if I take care of making my characters as interesting and real as possible, then the mystery can be anything from who killed the victim, to how is the love triangle going to work itself out, to a question of who ate the last piece of cake and the story will engage the reader.
Conversely, if you could change one thing about your writing style, what would it be and why?
I think I have a tendency to “script” everything my characters do, instead of just letting the story flow. I’ve tried to learn to let go of controlling my characters’ every move and just let the story flow. Does it really matter if one character says their line, then gets up and walks across the room, or whether they walk across the room, sit down, then deliver their line? What really matters is what they’re saying!And I have to learn to not worry about filling in every crevice in the back story. Time and experience are teaching me that I don’t need a gigantic “info dump” at the beginning of the story… the reader will get it just fine as the story unfolds. I’ve had to learn to trust my readers!
Lastly, where can we find your work, a. k. a. give you our hard earned cash?
I would really, really, REALLY appreciate people going to their local bookstores (indie or big box) and asking for End of the Road and No Lifeguard on Duty. Bookstores will always have a special place in my heart and I really want to see them stay open! But if your area is light on physical bookstores, there’s always my publisher’s website (www.oaktreebooks.com) and you can find both books on Amazon.
Thank you, Amy, for your work and for visiting us here at Will Write for Tomato Pie! I’m looking forward to reading more from you!