This week, we had the pleasure of interviewing the very talented and very funny Amy Vansant, author of several novels including the cozy mystery, Pineapple Lies, free on Amazon this week! Love romance? Love mystery? Love pirates and senior citizens? Then you’ll love her work!
Check out what she has to say:
In your bio, it says that you’ve been writing since high school, have you always wanted to write? Or was it something that you kind of fell into?
I’ve always written. At maybe seven I wrote Winnie the Pooh, complete with crayon drawings. Oh, those idyllic days before I knew what copyright infringement was… In middle school I wrote short stories about my friends and sold them to them for twenty-five cents.
You’ve had a long career as a writer, including some freelance work and a stint as the East Coast editor of SURFER Magazine. Has freelancing and journalism influenced your creative writing? Or are they two completely different animals?
Writing non-fiction probably helped me avoid writing fiction too flowery… helped me learn that economy of words tells a better story that blathering on about nothing just because you can. I don’t write huge descriptive paragraphs because when I read a novel, slogging through page after page of scene description makes my eye skip ahead to get back to the story. I wouldn’t want to do that to my readers!
Why comedy? What appeals to you the most about this genre?
Everything I write ends up comedy. I didn’t intend Angeli to be a comedy, but some definitely slipped in there. I don’t think I could ever write a very serious romance—I’d get flustered and start adding jokes. I guess comedy is what I use to navigate my own life, so writing someone else’s requires it as well.
Right now, you have three different series running: Slightly Stalky (a romantic comedy), Pineapple Lies (a cozy mystery series), and your urban fantasy series, Angeli. Is it hard to juggle these three very different worlds? Can you tell us a little about your writing process?
I think if I tried to write about the same characters over and over in a row I’d start to get bored or feel forced and that would show up in my writing. Shifting genres allows me to return to a series fresh and gives me time to develop new ideas.
Generally I write in scenes; I think up strong scenes that will help drive the story and then stitch them all together. It’s not unusual for me to write chapter one, two, thirteen, seven, twenty… Then I start to fill in the gaps that take the characters from big scene to big scene. Then the picture begins to come together, I see what’s missing and then write more scenes! I don’t do outlines. I start with a general idea and see where it takes me.
I also dream on things a lot. If I know I need a scene to demonstrate the relationship between two characters, for example, I’ll throw out all the obvious choices and go to bed trying to think of something clever. Often I’ll wake up with an idea. Sometimes it will take days or weeks of thinking on that scene, but it keeps it in the forefront of my mind… Then something I see at the store or on television might trigger something and boom! It’s like suddenly realizing Professor Plum did it in the library with the hammer.
In Angeli, you write about pirates, ghosts, love triangles and the mysterious Angeli, while the heroine in your cozy mystery series, Pineapple Lies, is a girl who spent her childhood in a senior community in Florida. How do you come up with such unique and fresh ideas?
At the risk of sounding like all I ever do is sleep, Angeli came to me in a dream. I hadn’t written in over a decade (I was busy making money so I could eat. SUCH an idiot!) and I had such a vivid dream I thought I should turn it into a novel. The end result was almost nothing like the original dream but it returned me to my true love (writing) so I’m forever grateful for that stupid dream!
Slightly Stalky is the sorta-true story of how I met my husband, so that was easy. The Pineapple Port series came about because I was visiting my mother-in-law at her retirement community in Florida and I was having so much fun there I thought, “what a cool place to grow up!” The lightbulb went off above my head.
Readers seem to love your characters, what advice can you give to new writers about creating memorable characters?
That’s nice to hear! I’d say: Make them act like real people. People are crazy. Nobody wants to read another mystery where the plot is kept alive by characters who don’t talk to each other. If the whole mystery could have been solved if Joe had just told Sally he was in town that night, and the reader knows it, then the characters are revealed as the puppets they are. I try to make sure my people act and talk like real people. Sometimes I’d love to have someone do something against their character to try and move along a moment, but I can’t. And wooden dialog kills books for me. People don’t talk like robots.
What lessons have you learned the hard way?
People don’t like cursing in books. I mean, some do, of course, depends on the genre, but I try not to do it anymore if I can avoid it. I talk like a sailor at home so it’s tough. 🙂
Oh, and you need more than one editor. Different editors excel at different things. I’ve had two editors who have really helped point out writing/plot issues. But editors who are great at the writing aren’t always perfect at spotting missed words and the tiny errors most people’s eyes read right over. I think that’s two different kinds of minds. My first few books had some typos, so I had them all re-proofed several times by several people just be sure they were as perfect as possible. (There’s always something!) Especially as an Indie author—I don’t want people seeing a typo in chapter one and then assuming the whole book is riddled with mistakes because it wasn’t published by a big house.
How was the publishing experience for you? Did you go it alone or did you get help?
I sent Angeli, my first novel, to a few publishers without success. Then I decided to do it myself and started working with a group, Jackie Weger’s enovelauthorsatwork.com, where I learned a lot of the tricks of Indie publishing. All my other novels went straight to CreateSpace/Kindle self-publishing. I like having control over everything. I have friends who used traditional publishing and their books are languishing and dying. No one is marketing them and the authors don’t have the power. Makes me sad.
What have you found to be the best way to market your books?
Though it is counterintuitive, giving books away works best. I gave away nearly 30,000 Kindle copies of Pineapple Lies through BookBub and other book marketing websites, and then made thousands in actual sales because the book rose on the Amazon best-seller list. Every month I try to do some sort of free or discounted promotion for one of my books to raise awareness of them.
How do you find your courage? A lot of new writers are scared of putting themselves out there to be judged. So much so, that many of them never even take the first step. What advice would you give to them?
Do it! What do you have to lose really? I sat on Angeli for a year looking for a publisher when I could have been selling books. But don’t be stupid. Do it right. Don’t try and sell poorly formatted Kindle books with big gaps between each line of text. Don’t think you can proofread it because you’re a writer/teacher/whatever. Get a professional. Find people who will honestly tell you if the book works or needs work. (That’s a hard one; friends tend to lie.) Don’t let your little cousin make the cover because he owns Photoshop. You could write the best novel in the world but if you slap a hideous cover on it and send it out there riddled with typos people will complain, give you bad reviews, and then you won’t sell any books.
And don’t think you’re going to get rich overnight. Write more books. Avoid adverbs.
What’s next for you? What are you working on now?
The plan was to write Angeli 3, but I was having a little trouble with plot ideas and then stumbled on a novel I’d written in high school. The writing is terrible, but the story is fun. I’m going to take two months rewriting and tweaking it into a YA fantasy novel (Percy Jackson meets Harry Potter type thing). Then Angeli 3, Pineapple 3 and Slightly Sweaty. Probably in that order. Hope to be done all of those next summer but we’ll see!
Is there anything else that you’d like to share with our readers?
My books! If anyone would like to go to my website at http://www.AmyVansant.com and sign up for the newsletter there, I occasionally send out free Kindles and codes for free audio versions of my novels. Plus some fun humor pieces. And if anyone has any questions, feel free to email me! My email is on my site.
Want to learn more about Amy? Check out these links:
Read more of Amy’s humor at her website: AmyVansant.com
Fantastic News!! Starting on November 26, you can grab your very own copy of Pineapple Lies for free on Amazon! This promo only lasts until November 30, so you better hurry!
Growing up in one of Florida’s fifty-five plus communities, Charlotte never expected life to be wild. Golf cart racing with her surrogate mothers Mariska and Darla was about as nutty as life got…until she found the hot pawnbroker’s mom buried in her backyard.
Talk about making a lousy first impression.
Armed with nothing but her wits, Pineapple Port’s questionable cast of characters and a growing crush, Charlotte is determined to solve the mystery of Declan’s mother’s murder.
Hey, at least this guy’s skeletons aren’t in his closet.