The Amy Atwell I know is driven and multi-talented. I’m sure she’d be a success in any career choice. Speaking as a writer, reader and friend, I’m glad she chose writing. Enjoy!
I have always loved books. By the age of ten I was grabbing whatever reading material I could find. Since my mom ran a used bookstore on an island in Maine during the summers, she collected all sorts of books throughout the year as “inventory.” And if I couldn’t find what I wanted in the house, then the library was in walking distance.
But it wasn’t until years later that I seriously contemplated writing a book. I studied theater in college, so I had toyed with the notion of writing a play script. But I quickly decided that I wanted to control more of a story than just the dialogue. With a play, you hand that dialogue over to a director and production team, and who knows what the play might look like? No, I wanted to share my vision of stories and characters. I wanted to draw emotional responses from readers. I wanted to prove I could write just as good a book as any I was buying in the bookstore.
I first flirted with the notion of writing a book as early as 1992. I had an idea for a Civil War era story that would make people forget Margaret Mitchell’s book. The problem was that I had the ideas, but I didn’t have the discipline to get the story down on paper (or in the computer). I wasn’t about to admit to anyone that I was trying to write a book, so I flailed around without much direction. The flailing eventually had me drafting story scenes that had nothing to do with my original characters or the Civil War. Instead, I found myself writing a Regency period saga.
When 2000 hit, I faced the new millennium with one question: what had I not accomplished in my life that I really wanted to accomplish? The answer?— Write a novel. I sat down with my Regency scenes and started counting words. I had nearly 50,000 words written. I figured that was half a book, so all I needed to do was write the other half! The universe threw me a bit of assistance when I met Debbi Michiko Florence, a writer of YA and MG fiction, online. She and I became friends and critique partners. We read everything each other wrote and gave feedback and support. With Debbi’s help, I finished that first book within 6 months.
I bravely handed the manuscript to my mom who proclaimed the story the best thing she’d ever read. She knew one of the top romance editors in New York, and the next thing I had an invitation to submit my book. I was astonished, but felt sure I’d be published by the end of the year. Um, no, it didn’t quite work out that way. I received a rejection some 18 months later. In the meantime, I’d discovered RWA and started taking online classes and realized how much I did not know about writing fiction.
It wasn’t until 2010 that I sold my first book. During that decade of learning my craft, I wrote 5 complete novels—a few of them many, many times. I wrote around a full-time job and numerous corporate relocations (hello Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco and Jacksonville!). I made friends online, many through my WritingGIAM online writing goals group. These writers (including a few MM sisters) helped me through the dark days following my mom’s passing in 2005. I took some time off writing, but in late 2007, I decided I really wanted to give it all another shot. I entered 19 writing contests—and made the final round in 14 of them. I started a completely new project and it helped me land my first literary agent. I challenged myself to work diligently and efficiently, and I wrote a full book in five months. That was LYING EYES, my debut romantic caper with Carina Press. (If you’re a fan of audio books, I recommend Cris Dukehart’s great narration on the Audible edition!)
Two months after my debut release, my father passed away suddenly. Once again, there was grief to deal with, but also the very real details of settling both my parents’ estates, selling their home, dividing property with my siblings. I wasn’t ready to commit to another publishing contract because I didn’t want to have a deadline looming over me. But I did have that first manuscript that my mom had loved so much. I decided to self publish it as a tribute to both my parents. To my surprise, AMBERSLEY hit the #1 spot in Historical Romance on both Nook and Kindle last fall. Readers loved it, just as Mom promised they would. (Moms are always right, but it probably helps that I edited the living daylights out of that manuscript three times before publishing.)
So here I am, twenty years into my writing journey. Lots more stories to tell. I’m currently working on the sequel to AMBERSLEY and hope to return to Las Vegas for more capers with my crazy magician Cosmo Fortune and his daughters. I’m also working on a print edition of AMBERSLEY for later this fall and an audio book edition due out next summer. I haven’t become wealthy and famous, but so many of the authors I now know have enriched my life in such unexpected ways. I can’t imagine not being a part of the writing community. I’ll continue to plug away at it as long as readers continue to ask for more of my characters.