Saturday, May 13, 2017
Author interview with Amy Clipston
Amy Clipston has been writing for as long as she can remember. Her fiction writing “career” began in elementary school when she and a close friend wrote and shared silly stories. She has sold more than a million books. She has a degree in communications from Virginia Wesleyan College and is a member of the Authors Guild, American Christian Fiction Writers, and Romance Writers of America. She is the author of the bestselling Amish Heirloom series, Kauffman Amish Bakery series, and Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel series with HarperCollins Christian Publishing. Amy works full-time for the City of Charlotte, NC, and lives in North Carolina with her husband, two sons, mother, and three spoiled rotten cats.
The Beloved Hope Chest: Mattie Fisher’s three daughters know that she’s been keeping a secret from them. With each item pulled from the beloved family hope chest, they’ve discovered a new clue about their mother’s past.
But there’s a reason Mattie has been keeping her history hidden, and she’s not sure she’s ready to reopen old wounds. Will dredging up the past change the way her children view her? Or her marriage to their father? And can she handle the pain of revisiting the memories that preceded the last few happy decades?
Mattie’s story is one of grief and learning to love again. But like the best things preserved in a hope chest, it's a story of love and redemption born out of heartache—and it's past time to share it.
Heidi here. Thank you for stopping by to visit with us today, Amy, and congratulations on your newest novel, The BelovedHope Chest. I read it a few weeks ago (reviewed it here yesterday) and am always so interested in Amish novels. They take place in current day, but the Amish live such a different life than the normal American. What prompted you to begin writing novels in the Amish settings? And as you are not Amish, how can you be assured you are accurate in your descriptions?
I was always fascinated with the Amish when I was a child. I remember visiting Lancaster County when I was younger, and my father, who was a German immigrant, told me the Amish speak the same dialect of German as my relatives. I was drawn to their simplicity and faith. Due to my German heritage, I feel a loose connection to the culture. I was inspired by other Amish authors to try to write my own Amish stories.
I have a very dear Amish friend who answers all of my questions. She lives in Gordonville, PA, and I visit her at least once a year. I also speak to her on the phone frequently. I leave her a message on her voice mail, and she calls me back, normally within twenty-four hours, depending upon how busy she is. I try to keep my books as accurate to the culture as possible, but I sometimes take a little fictional license for the sake of the story.
What was your inspiration behind writing the characters of The Beloved Hope Chest?
This book is very close to my heart since it is the last in my Amish Heirloom series. I’ve grown to love the Fisher family, and writing Mattie and Leroy’s story was bittersweet.
The series was inspired while I sat with my publishing team in a conference room in Nashville, Tenn., at HarperCollins Christian Publishing’s headquarters. My publisher shared the idea of writing a series about a family with three daughters, in which I would tell the daughters’ stories in the first three books and then go back in time to share the parents’ story in the last book. Before I started writing the first book, The Forgotten Recipe, I plotted out the entire series and chose each mystery item that I would reveal in each book. Therefore, I knew what Mattie and Leroy’s story would be before I even wrote book one.
I hope readers enjoy The Beloved Hope Chest since it reveals all of the mysteries that have been placed throughout the series.
That is so neat that you have an Amish friend you speak with regularly and visit yearly, that must be why your novels come alive when I read them! Besides writing novels, you work full-time. Given those responsibilities, what’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with all your other responsibilities?
I write for deadlines, meaning I take breaks and enjoy time with family when my books are done. I’ll write late into the night and all weekend long when I’m finishing up a book. My family is very patient and understanding when I’m on deadline. I’m grateful my mother lives with my family, and she keeps the household running. My husband is also very supportive, and he takes the boys to youth group and their music lessons during the week when I’m crashing on a deadline. I couldn’t balance working full-time and writing five books per year without my supportive family!
Five books year, I had no idea, wow! What advice can you give to aspiring novelists to produce a sound novel that’ll sell?
People often ask me what the secret is to getting published. I don’t believe there is a secret to getting published, but I do have a list of things that will help writers on their journey to publication.
1. Join a Writers’ Group
I accidentally found the website for a local writers’ group while in search for a professional group to join as part of my day job as a technical writer. When I attended one of the monthly meetings, I met writers in all stages of their careers. It was then that I realized I wanted to become a published author. Through this group, I learned how to plot and polish my novels, how to find a literary agent, and how to write a query letter that would pique an agent’s interest.
I strongly suggest you find a group near you and socialize with other writers. You’ll have a great time and also learn a lot. If you’re not interested in attending local meetings, you always have the option of joining a virtual group. Join the group that best fits your interest and needs and get connected.
2. Attend a Conference
If you have the money and the time, attend a writers’ conference, where you can network and attend instructional sessions that cover many aspects of writing and the publishing business. Conferences are fun and informative.
3. Find a Critique Partner
During my journey to publication, I’ve made some wonderful friends, a few of whom have become my most trusted critique partners. Don’t write in a vacuum; share your books with trusted friends. Your buddies will not only find your typos, but they may give you story ideas you hadn’t considered that might make your plot even better.
4. Find Time to Read
I know what it means to be busy since I balance a day job, two active sons, and constant writing deadlines. I enjoy listening to audio books in my car during my commute to and from work. While reading is enjoyable, it’s also a way to improve your skills by seeing what techniques work (and sometimes don’t work) for other authors.
5. Keep Writing
It may sound silly, but writers need to write! Finish your novel and polish it as best you can before submitting it to an agent or editor. Your book represents your best work. Show a potential agent or editor that you’re a professional and also eager to write for them.
6. Don’t Give Up
No matter what, believe in yourself and believe in your dream of holding your book in your hand! If you’ve been rejected by an agent or editor, don’t let that rejection get you down! I received plenty of rejection letters and I wanted to give up many times. I’m thankful for my family and my friends who told me to stop whining and keep writing!
Awesome advice, thank you. How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
Writing is a spiritual journey for me. I pray often when I’m writing and I ask God for both inspiration and for the words to reflect his glory. I add myself to the prayer list at church when I’m on deadline and that always helps me find the words to finish the book. I search for special scripture verses that speak to me when I’m writing and if they touch my heart then I know that they belong in the book.
Amy, I love plotting and am always looking for tips. How do you plot a novel? How close to the final version does the first draft read?
I’m very organized. I start out with a synopsis, and after my editor approves it, I write a very detailed outline, going chapter by chapter, scene by scene. I use this as my roadmap when I’m writing. The story grows and changes, but I know where I’m headed. This helps prevent the dreaded writer’s block.
Each book goes through two rounds of edits before the book is in its final version, and the story usually resembles the outline. Sometimes the story grows or scenes are added at my editor’s request, but the book is normally close to the original outline.
Another author recently said about the same thing, so awesome advice! For fun, if you could take a plane to ONE place, where would you go? If you could bring one person with you, who would it be? And if you could eat only one kind of food during your trip, what would that be?
My dream trip is to go to Hawaii! Since my husband was born there when he his father was stationed there with the Navy. I’d love to take my husband with me and see where he was born and also enjoy the gorgeous beaches. I’d look forward to eating delicious seafood.
Hawaii, sounds beautiful and learning the history behind where your husband was born sounds sweet. Finally, Amy, please tell us about future books planned.
I’m excited to announce I’m working on a new series called the Amish Homestead series. The first book, A Place at Our Table, will debut in November. My new series will center around the Riehl family who live on a dairy farm in Bird-in-Hand, PA. I’m super excited to share more about my new series closer to the release date!
Amy, thank you for your time today, it was fun! And congratulations again on your newest novel The BelovedHope Chest.
Readers, let's keep the conversation rolling. Does anyone have a question for Amy? By the way, she is giving away a signed copy of The Beloved Hope Chest to one of you (US only) ~ so comment away and don't forget to leave your email address too.