catholic fiction

#7QT: An Interview with Author Amy Bennett

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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 ( 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!


#7QT: An Interview with Author Leslie Lynch

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We’re just a couple of wild ‘n’ crazy Catholics here, participating in 7 Quick Takes Friday, hosted by your friend and mine, Jennifer at Conversion Diary.  Go on over and jump on the link-ridden bandwagon!

Today I am excited to host Leslie Lynch, whose first novel, Hijacked, dropped last weekend.

You don’t know Leslie?  Allow me to introduce her!


Leslie lives near Louisville, Kentucky, with her husband and her adult children’s cats.  While not engaged in wrestling the beautiful and prolific greenery of her yard into submission, she flies as a volunteer for the Civil Air Patrol, loves the exuberant creativity and color of quilting and pottery…and, of course, writes.  Her first love is fiction.  She has completed two award-winning, book length manuscripts along with occasional nonfiction articles.  She is a dedicated member of Romance Writers of America and has served as President of her local chapter, Louisville Romance Writers.

Here are my thoughts on her recently released Hijacked:

From the very first chapter, I was hooked on Hijacked! I don’t think I’ve ever read a stronger first chapter–one that grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let go. Throughout, the characters Lannis and Ben are complex: endearing yet never saccharine. The plot veers from heart-pounding action into tender introspection without missing a beat. In Hijacked, Leslie Lynch shows us how two very imperfect people brought together under perhaps some of the least romantic circumstances one could imagine could in fact find themselves while finding love in each other. I’m greatly looking forward to reading more from Leslie Lynch! Read Hijacked, and you will be, too!

So Leslie wrote a heart-pounder, is in the middle of promoting it, and still she had the time to stop by and visit us Tomato Pie fans?  What a sweetheart!  At least, I think so, and after this interview, you’ll probably think so, too.  Let’s chat with Leslie.


Tell us about your most recent work.  How did the idea come to you?  How long did it take you from start to publication? 

Hi, Erin! I’m delighted to be here, and am excited to be interviewed on your blog for the first time as a published author! (Deep breath! That’s a pretty heady feeling!) Thank you so much for inviting me.  Hijacked, my first novel, just launched. I am embarrassed to say how long I’ve been working on it. This has been my “learning” manuscript, and has been through so many revisions that I lost track years ago. Okay, that sort of gave it away, so I’ll own up to the fact that I began writing this story in 1998 or so. Of course, the first draft was so terrible craft-wise (insert technical stuff that authors need to know in order to make your reading experience seamless and engaging) that I immediately embarked on a quest to fix the numerous and glaring errors. Along the way, I taught myself/learned other useful skills, from how to use a computer to how to format a book for publishing.

The idea for Hijacked came to me one morning as I was pre-flighting a Cessna for a seven a.m. departure for a traffic reporting flight. (My other passion is flying, and I am a pilot.) For being in the midst of the city of Louisville, Kentucky, the general aviation airport is deserted at that time of day. Being blessed—or cursed!—with an overactive imagination, the thought of being hijacked took root, then wouldn’t let go. The characters sprang into my mind pretty much fully formed, but as I wrote, I discovered they had secrets. And then things got interesting.


I was wondering  if you had flying experience, after reading your book.  Thanks for giving us an example of how our real-life experiences can bring us inspiration.  Okay, next question.  Idea, research, editing, design…What was your favorite part of working on this project? What was your least favorite?

I love the writing process. I try to write stuff that doesn’t require a lot of research, because I find it boring and time-consuming if I’m doing it online or in books. Now talking to people is a different story, so I draw a lot on what I’ve seen or experienced, and ask questions of anyone who might be able to shed light on the subject at hand. I’m a little shy about contacting people out of the blue—“Hey, I’m writing a book about… Would you be willing to answer some questions?”—but I don’t have any trouble asking that of people with whom I’ve established a relationship.

My least favorite part is marketing. I’m an introvert and I do not like to toot my own horn.

Honey, can I relate or what?  


Back to you, Leslie.  

Being the center of attention is intensely uncomfortable. Then I realized two things: Readers are interested in the product—the book. It’s much easier to talk about my book than it is to talk about me. The second, more important, at least for my sanity, is this: Marketing is about creating relationships. Now that I can do! It’s even fun! My life is immeasurably enriched by getting to know so many wonderful people whose paths I would never have crossed otherwise.

I’ve been blessed with awesome team partners. No author can do this on her own. Many writers have been incredibly generous in sharing their time and expertise on a wide variety of issues. Pam Berehulke, my editor and the owner of Bulletproof Editing, is wise, kind, and a taskmaster. I couldn’t ask for anyone better, and she has made the editing process a lot of fun. I found my cover artist, Marion Sipe of Dreamspring Design, by looking at freelance cover artists’ sites. Her work had a depth that appealed to me, and I haven’t regretted a moment of working with her. Rob Preece helped me with some sticky formatting issues and taught me a few tricks to make the next project go more smoothly.


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? 

I’ve shopped Hijacked around to traditional publishers of all types for years. Admittedly, the first few years it wasn’t ready, plus it took me a long time to discover my voice (rather than copying writers/styles that I like). Responses have been very positive in terms of the strength of the writing, but publishers know their readers and have very specific guidelines for reaching their audiences. My books don’t fit the templates. When I realized I wasn’t willing to compromise (i.e., add sex scenes, cut my very gentle mentions of God, or remove any hint of Catholicism), I decided it was time to step up and get the work out there myself. There is no better time to be an author. After much prayer, I was “nudged” off the cliff by the Holy Spirit (once described by a good friend as wearing a hard hat and driving a bulldozer!). Many hours of toil later, Hijacked is available.


I love that description of the Holy Spirit!  Thank your friend for me!  What other things in your life do you juggle in order to keep at your writing?  How’s that working out for you?

<sigh>  I just juggle. Sometimes I get up early and write. I write in the spare minutes I can eke out during the day between my own responsibilities—and I will say right now that my house is in dire need of dusting and my paperwork in dire need of filing, and soon my garden will be in dire need of weeding, then harvesting. But providing care for grandkids and support for adult children as they strive to meet their goals takes precedence. Honestly, when I look at my life, I wonder, too, how in the world I ended up with three completed books! The other day I was overwhelmed and tempted to skip daily Mass (which I have taken to attending in order to keep calm and my priorities correct during this publishing journey), but the Holy Spirit delivered a clear thought to me: Make time for Me, and I will make time for what you need to do. Hey, if God created time in the first place, He can help me out on this itty bitty project (in the grand scheme of things), so I’m gonna take Him up on that and quit worrying. One step at a time…


Great insight there–an approach I try to take myself.  As for setting, characters, plot, mood, tone… What would you describe as your greatest strength as a writer?

Picking the right words. In my critique group, each of us has a strength that the others lack. I’m the go-to person for “what word should I use to convey…?” I’m also good at picking out what is important in a paragraph or scene or a characterization and keeping everything focused so the end result is coherent.


Conversely, if you could change one thing about your writing style, what would it be and why? 

I’d write faster!!! Because I’m slow. Maybe that should translate into: I should trust myself more. On the occasions (NaNoWriMo) when I’ve pushed myself and thought, “Oh, well, it’s drivel but I can revise later,” I’ve been stunned to find that the writing isn’t nearly that bad when I look back at it.


Lastly, where can we find your work, a. k. a. give you our hard earned cash?  

Hijacked is available on Amazon in either print or ebook form. Look for Unholy Bonds in a few weeks, and following it, Opal’s Jubilee. Those two will be available on other formats as well, like Nook and iPad, etc., and Barnes & Noble (print).

Again, Erin, thank you for inviting me to be a guest on your blog today! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being here!

And thank YOU for visiting us!  I’m honored to have had the opportunity to be the first to review Hijacked, and I’m looking forward to reading more from you!  


My Writing Process Blog Tour

First, I must thank Leslie Lynch for inviting me to participate in the My Writing Process Blog Tour.   She’s a delightful colleague and a skilled writer, and I’m glad to be getting to count her among my “writing friends!”

Here’s the part where I actually talk about my, you know, writing process.


Here I am with La Virgen Morena Papel at CMN 2013.

1)     What am I working on?  Spinning plates, that’s what I’m working on.  In between homeschooling, marketing Don’t You Forget About Me, and trying to figure out how to eat with hypoglycemia, I’m working on First Disciples, a series of books that will teach girls 8-15 the daily life skills that young Mary would have used as a girl living in Herodian Israel.  I’m also, slowly and painfully, drafting Never Let Me Down Again, the sequel to the aforementioned Don’t You Forget About Me.

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2)     How does my work differ from others of its genre? I’m not even sure I have a genre.  Theology of the Body murder-mystery isn’t exactly a category on Amazon.

3)     Why do I write what I do?  Because it hurts when I don’t.

4)     How does your writing process work?  I’m a planner but not in the traditional outline-y way.  Writing Jane_E, Friendless Orphan:  A Memoir got me into a writing habit that works rather well for me.  Since Jane_E needed to follow the same essential plot structure of Jane EyreI made a “To Do” list of narrative tasks that each chapter had to accomplish.  I’ve been using that technique ever since, putting the list at the bottom of each chapter and deleting each task as I write out its narrative.  It’s very satisfying to watch each list dwindle as I write.

I’m also supposed to give you my Facebook page, web page (which you already have if you’re reading this), and the link to buy my books. There ya go.

And now I tag the following writers:

Ellen Gable is a Catholic mom, writer, editor, blogger, Catholic Writers Guild president, and all around great lady.

Barb S. is a Catholic  mom, cook, blogger, technowizard, and busy feeding a child with Type I Diabetes.

Laura is another Catholic mom, blogger, and proponent of faithful environmental stewardship.

Enjoy, tomato pie fans!