Interview with author Amy Lillard
Tell the readers a little about yourself: (short bio)
I grew up in the deep South, but I now live in Oklahoma with my husband and son, three cats and a hyper beagle. When I’m not doing someone’s laundry or taxiing the teen to baseball or guitar practice, I carve out a piece of my day to put on the paper these people who live in my head. I guess you could say I’m an avid reader, but I also enjoy gardening, cooking, and pretty much anything else that can get me out of doing housework! I’m a classic Virgo, I love tacos, and I’m shamefully addicted to everything Harry Potter. Please don’t ask me how many times I’ve read the series, it’s embarrassing! LOL
Why did you choose your genre?
I have loved romances since I was in the seventh grade. My grandmother and I used to share them, the old white cover Harlequins, Janet Dailey— Charlotte Lamb. I had a friend who would bring them to school in a brown grocery sack. I could read an entire book in one sitting. I LOVED them. Once I was finished with it, I passed it to my grandmother to read. So I guess you could say romance was the only choice I could make.
As for Amish fiction…well, I sort of fell into that subgenre–feet first. Basically my agent at the time suggested that I write one. I can make no claims to any familial ties to the Amish, but I find the culture charming and fascinating. Since beginning to write books about these peaceful people, I have made many friends in the Amish community in Lancaster County, PA, and go to visit them every chance I get.
Mysteries came about in a backhanded sort of way, but I have enjoyed learning to craft these tales (almost) as much as romance. :)
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? How has that childhood dream affected your current career?
I had to write a descriptive paragraph in junior high. The teacher praised my use of alliteration, and I was hooked! Of course, at the time I had no idea what alliteration was and had to look it up, but I was tickled all the same. I knew that I had found the one thing in life I wanted to do most.
What do you do for fun?
I love to spend time with my family—my husband and my son. Anything that I can do with them makes me smile. I also love going to visit my sisters, spending time with my mom, and my niece and nephews, even my brother. :P
How much of your work is real? How much is fantasy?
Once upon a time I would have answered, ‘Fantasy, all fantasy,’ but since I’ve started writing books about the Amish, I find myself using more and more tales from my friends than ever before.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?
Overcoming distractions. Sometimes it’s hard to sit down and get words ‘on paper’, especially when there are dishes in the sink and clothes that need to be folded. But all things have their time. When they lay me to rest and friends come around to tell what they know about me, surely someone will remember that I wrote books. No one will mention the lack of cleanliness in my kitchen—I hope!
What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up. Write what’s in your heart, but listen to the critiques and suggestions of others. It takes a lot of practice and patience to learn what to accept as your own and what to leave behind. Only by putting your work in front of others can you learn the difference. Enter contests and find a good critique group or partner. By good, I mean someone who’ll tell you the truth and not just what you want to hear. And don’t give up! Don’t ever give up. Did I already say that?
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
If I get ‘stuck’, it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate the scene. Most often times writer’s block for me means that I’ve moved the characters into an unnatural situation for the plot, and I can’t get them to react like themselves. They’re forced, and the reader will pick up on this. When this happens, the best thing to do is scrap the scene and start over. But I keep the scene in a separate file—just in case. It might come in handy later.
Who is your favorite author and why?
That’s such a hard question. There are so many great writers out there, and in this age of digital releases, I’m discovering more and more fabulous authors almost daily. But I have to say that Susan Elizabeth Phillips is my all-time favorite. I had the pleasure of meeting her not too long ago and she’s as gracious and humorous in person as she is in her writing.
How did you deal with rejection letters?
The first ones are always the hardest. But as time goes on, I’ve learned to use them to line the birdcage. Seriously though, the form letters with the copy-freckles are no good to a writer. They don’t say why the manuscript was rejected. There’s nothing to gain from them. They’re not personal, so you can’t take them as such. The ones with some sort of critique, with a reason why, can be a great tool for an author. But it requires an objective eye to glean any help from these and that’s very hard for most writers—our baby has just been told it’s not good enough. I’ve had to learn to look past that and to the business side of it in order to change tactics, word count, sub-genres, and the like in order to find the right publisher.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
Every writer is different and should cater their work space to their own personal needs. Must haves for me are a notebook and pen within reach, a ‘baby name’ book and the internet open and ready to go. Oh, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
Have a question that’s not answered here? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with individual questions or use the ‘contact me’ form . I’m always happy to give additional information.