When I moved to New Jersey sixteen years ago, I did not have a friend in the state–it was a slightly random move based on which post-grad-school job my husband chose. Not too long after we found ourselves here, I received an email sent by a local writer via the Authors Guild. This woman said she was looking for a community of writers and suggested a meeting in the near future. I checked her out (wouldn’t you?) and discovered she was the author of the perennial bestseller Having Our Say: The Delaney Sisters’ First 100 Years. She is one of the founding members of my writing group, the Atomic Engineers (so named because we thought any mention of writers would attract unwanted attention, where this would surely repel it.)
Over the years, Amy has become a very good friend. And I am all kinds of excited for the world to read her fiction debut, Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society. Be sure to check the end of this post for your chance to win a signed copy.
Without further ado….
I love when authors switch genres successfully. What made you decide to try your hand at fiction?
I never thought I’d write fiction. I was taking a breather from the publishing business, that’s all. I started what I thought might be a short story, but then something strange happened – I fell in love with my characters. I kept writing and writing, and I began to wonder, Could this be a novel? The title character was inspired by my late mother-in-law, a Boston beauty who was a very intelligent woman but also restless, flirty, and a bit vain. As a middle-aged wife and mother, circa 1962, she moved with her family to a sleepy town in Collier County, Florida. She managed to ruffle the feathers of the town fathers almost immediately. That was the springboard for the novel. It must have been a story I really wanted to tell, because it just poured out of me.
How many towns/cities can count you as their hometown girl? Please explain.
My dad is a retired executive at General Electric, which meant we moved every five or so years when I was growing up. What this means is that I have a bunch of places I call home and where I have maintained friendships for decades. In terms of the place that had the greatest impact on my life, I would say that was Columbia, South Carolina. I was six years old when we moved there from Schenectady, N.Y. in 1965. Oh, how I loved South Carolina. I thought I was Huckleberry Finn. I even tried to build a raft. On my first day of school, I came home and announced that I couldn’t understand my teacher, but within a week, because I was so young, I had acquired my teacher’s Southern accent. We lived in South Carolina for six years. To this day, I love the South, I love the North, and frankly I could live happily anywhere in the East, from Maine to Florida.
Were you a childhood reader? What books and characters did you love?
Let me tell you a story. (This is a Southern way of answering your question.) A few years ago my parents “downsized” and moved to an apartment. This was great for them but a crisis for me. My three older siblings had long since taken most of their stuff but somehow I had missed the memo. At the age of 47, I was summoned home one last time to clean my room (my mother actually used those words). I had to sort through all of my treasures. My dad started bringing down box after box from the attic with my name carefully written on the side in his handwriting. I would say 90 percent of those boxes contained books. And so I was reunited with books I hadn’t seen in years.
I think my favorite picture book was The Story About Ping, the little duck who lives on a boat on the Yangtze River in China. Another favorite was Blueberries for Sal, about a girl who goes berry picking, drifts away from her mother, and encounters a bear. My Dad read aloud to my sister and me every night before bedtime, and there were several books, like Ping and Blueberries, that we would beg him to read over and over again.
Most of my books were hand-me downs: Dad’s copy of Treasure Island and Mom’s Nancy Drew mysteries; my cousin’s copy of Cheaper by the Dozen; my grandmother’s copy of Gone with the Wind, which I read the summer I was 13; an ancient copy of Little Women (I was named after the character, Amy) and much, much more. I was frantic, however, when I couldn’t find the old set of Little House books until I remembered that, some years earlier, they’d been passed along to my nieces.
I know you have a major publicity schedule for this book. Have you started yet to think about what’s next?
I’ll let the narrator of my novel, Dora, respond to that question. Over the course of the novel, Dora learns that life should not be over-planned or lived too cautiously. “I could see the genius in allowing the future to evolve,” she says. “You could create momentum. You could launch something and see where it goes. You couldn’t line everything up, like so many dominoes, and make everything fall into place.”
Like Dora, I think it’s wise sometimes NOT to make future plans. Other than traveling to promote Miss Dreamsville and meet my readers, I will wait and see where the road takes me.
Thank you so much, Amy, for taking the time to visit here.
Readers: All you need to do for a chance to win a signed copy of Miss Dreamsville is leave a comment here. The winner will be randomly selected on the book’s on-sale date, October 2. Good luck! (And be sure to check back next week to see if you’ve won!)