Amy Atwell’s Story

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.

Amy Atwell

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27 Responses to Amy Atwell’s Story

  1. Edie Ramer says:

    Amy, spending summers on an island in Maine with complete access of the books in a used bookstore is my idea of heaven. Even as a kid, I would’ve loved it. What a great start in life for a writer!

    Thanks for sharing your story with us. I’m looking forward to new books from you.

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Edie, I just got back from visiting Maine a few days ago. I plan to blog about my trip next week. It *was* idyllic for a bookworm like me. I even got to meet E.B. White when I was a child. Mom always encouraged me to read, and I’m so glad she shared her love for books with me.
      Amy Atwell`s last blog was …Guilty Pleasures

      • Edie Ramer says:

        Amy, that is so cool to have met E.B. White! And I’ve always felt drawn to Maine, yet I’ve never gone there. One of these years, I will go there.

  2. Maine…that’s a little like being born in Idaho. Everyone knows it’s a state but isn’t quite sure where it is. There is a blank stare in their eyes as they try to figure it out. LOL
    Pepper Phillips`s last blog was …Pepper Phillips in New Orleans…Eating!

    • Amy Atwell says:

      LOL, Pepper. Yes, Maine is w-a-a-y-y up there. Rocky granite coast, gorgeous pines, salt air and lobster. It was very different from the Midwest where I spent the rest of my year, so it was very magical.
      Amy Atwell`s last blog was …Guilty Pleasures

  3. I love learning more about you, Amy. So glad I met you at the RWA conference in Reno and garnered an invite to GIAM. You’re such a marvelous motivator! I wish you much success.

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Thanks, Melanie. I think GIAM has helped me as much or more than it’s helped any of the other members. I love knowing that the inspiration and motivation cascades through our group. Now, if only I could produce as many books as you!
      Amy Atwell`s last blog was …Guilty Pleasures

  4. Cyndi Faria says:

    Amy, Thank you for sharing such an inspiring story. Cyndi Faria

  5. I swear…There is a story by SOMEBODY about a used bookstore in Maine. It’s a romance. We should all have that title at our fingertips. What was it??

    I grew up in the public library. My mom worked 1/2 days. Her office was across the street from the library. I was IN HEAVEN. I spent days in there and read anything and everything I could get my hands on!

    • Amy Atwell says:

      I’ve always loved libraries, Cynthia. Bet you had a great time growing up (and I know you’re smart as a whip!). In Maine, the tiny local library was only open 2 days per week. Inside was really crowded with very thin aisles and bookshelves that went from floor to ceiling. Picture the wand shop in the first Harry Potter movie–only all hard back books. It was GREAT.
      Amy Atwell`s last blog was …Guilty Pleasures

  6. Misty Evans says:

    I’m with Edie…growing up with summers spent in a bookstore would have been my idea of the perfect summer vacation. What a valuable tool in shaping your love for books and how awesome your mom was right about Ambersley!

    I’m very lucky to have you in my life, Amy. 🙂

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Thanks, Misty! My mom visited church sales, garage sales, other used bookstores–everywhere she could think of to gather books for her store. She’d collect books all fall, winter and spring, then we’d fill up the station wagon and drive them to Maine. And yes, the back bumper rode *really* low.
      Amy Atwell`s last blog was …Guilty Pleasures

  7. Amy R says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, Amy! I would love to have been around a used bookstore like you did growing up. I would love to be able to work in a small bookstore or even in a library. While I read 99% of my books digitally, there is something about a library or bookstore. A sense of peace and getting away from the world since there are so many stories on the shelves. I have Ambersley on my Nook waiting to be read. You have had quite the journey to writing and in your life. You seem to have a ton of patience as well! How are you doing with your running goal? 🙂

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Thanks, Amy! I’ve finally accepted that I’m a person with a wide variety of interests and I find it nearly impossible to commit to one thing forever. Thankfully, my marriage seems to be doing just fine after 23 years, so the fact that I like to change careers, move from city to city or turn a Civil War story into a Regency saga is fine with me.

      And the running is going very well. Working 6-7 miles every other day. Not running the full way, but we’re keeping under the time limitation we need to maintain for the race. We have 3 more months to work up our stamina so that 13.2 miles will be “a breeze.” I just wish it would cool off down here in FL!
      Amy Atwell`s last blog was …My Kingdom for a Horse (Story)

  8. Amy, I love that each time I see an interview about you I learn more about you, even things you haven’t shared with us on the GIAM loop! I am so thankful you are such an organizer!

    Love me some Amy and Edie!
    I’m blogging today, too.

  9. Amy, thanks for sharing your story. You are an inspiration to all of us. Having just finished reading Lying Eyes, I can’t wait for another romp through Vegas with Cosmos and his daughters. So, don’t make me wait too long. 😉

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Sylvia, thanks for the kind words about Lying Eyes. I’m actually having a hard time *not* working on it right now. The book will take place during the month of October, so I’m feeling the tug as I watch days grow shorter, the quality of light changing as the sun moves south, all of that. Can’t wait to introduce everyone to the new animal sidekick, Barnaby.
      Amy Atwell`s last blog was …Guilty Pleasures

  10. Liz Kreger says:

    Hey, Amy. Thanx for sharing your writer’s journey. I love hearing the route authors have to take to achieve their goals and dreams.

    I believe that determination and perseverence are two traits that every writer needs to have. Or is that just a fancy way of saying we’re all stubborn as hell? 😉

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Thanks, Liz. I don’t think of myself as stubborn, but I definitely don’t like being told NO. The worst thing that happens to us in adulthood is we start saying NO to ourselves. I can’t do that, it costs too much money. I can’t do that, I have too many other responsibilities. I can’t do that, people will think I’m crazy. Thank heavens none of those reasons were good enough to prevent me from writing! After overcoming my own list of NOs, facing the rejections from publishers and agents, while not fun, was fairly easy. And finally I got that big, fat YES!
      Amy Atwell`s last blog was …The Classics Are, Well… Classic.

  11. Amy,
    I loved reading about your journey to writing :).
    And congrats again on the success of AMBERSLEY! Exciting to know there will be a sequel!!

  12. Dale Mayer says:

    Hi Amy,

    Lovely interview and I really love the photo. You look great! That’s great that you’re working on a sequel to Ambersley AND a sequel to Lying Eyes.
    Dale Mayer`s last blog was …Blog Tour for Family Blood Ties series – Vampire in Denial and Vampire in Distress!

  13. Great interview and a very inspiring story of your writer’s journey. I saw myself in a lot of what you described. I recently purchased Ambersley and am looking forward to reading it. I’m so happy there’ll be a sequel. 😀

  14. An island in Maine and a bookstore…sounds like perfection to me!

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