Amy Bennett’s debut mystery novel, “End of the Road”, started as a National Novel Writing Month project in 2009. It went on to win the 2012 Dark Oak Mystery Contest and launched the Black Horse Campground mystery series, followed by “No Lifeguard on Duty” and “No Vacancy”, which have both been awarded the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval. “At the Cross Road” is the fourth book in the series.
When not sitting at the laptop actively writing, she works full-time at Walmart of Alamogordo (not too far down the road from fictional Bonney County) as a cake decorator and part-time at Noisy Water Winery in Ruidoso (where you can find some of the best wines in the state of New Mexico, including Jo Mamma’s White!) She lives with her husband and son in a small town halfway between Alamogordo and Ruidoso.
BMH: What is something you wish someone would have told you before you became an author?
AB: I wish someone had told me that writers get better the more they write. I think every author thinks their work is the very best it can be. How else would we have the audacity to submit it to an agent or publisher? But time and practice make writers better at their craft. On the other hand, perhaps knowing how lousy my writing really was 20+ years ago may have discouraged me from continuing to write!
BMH: You can go back in time, meet and chat with anyone, who would it be? What would you talk about?
AB: I was captivated by the “Little House” books when I was a young girl, especially when I discovered that the stories were based on the author’s real life. I would love to spend time talking to Laura Ingalls Wilder and ask her about the stories that didn’t make it into her books and find out how she decided to tell the stories that she shared.
BMH: Why crime fiction?
AB: I’ve always been a huge fan of the mystery genre—from Nancy Drew, to Agatha Christie, to Mary Higgins Clark and many others. I get a great deal of satisfaction from seeing a puzzle and working to solve it. And I love to see the interplay of characters and see justice done. Sometimes this doesn’t happen in real life, so it’s gratifying to see it in fiction.
BMH: Have you written in other genres?
AB: I have written a couple of romance and YA manuscripts, but right now, I’m so engrossed in writing mysteries that they will have to wait for a while for me to focus on the possibility of getting them published.
BMH: What is something you’ve never written about, but hope to some day?
AB: I wish I had the time and patience to research and write about my parents’ lives. My father passed away at the age of almost 90 and my mother just turned 89. They lived in a world that is so different from mine and I grew up listening to the stories of their lives that I wish I could share with others.
BMH: How big a part did your upbringing have on your writing?
AB: My father loved to read and loved to learn. Books were one thing he never minded spending money on. He encouraged me to read and shared his favorite books and magazines with me (we were both huge fans of Reader’s Digest). My mother always encouraged my creativity—arts and crafts, cake decorating, ceramics, needlework, and imaginative play. I think becoming a writer brought it all together!
BMH: Who is you hero/heroine? Why?
AB: I admire anyone who goes after what he or she wants, does what needs to be done, and has a positive outlook even when things are tough. Anyone who doesn’t whine or make excuses is someone I want to emulate.
BMH: What two words best describes your writing style?
AB: I’m not even sure what “writing style” means! I suppose, since I get a lot of comments and compliments on my characters, I’ll say “empathetic” and “insightful”… I want my readers to really know what’s going on under the surface and really understand my characters.
BMH: How do you create your characters?
AB: I don’t know if actually create them or if I discover them. When I set out to write my Black Horse Campground mystery series, I knew the bare bones facts about Corrie, Rick, and J.D. They have surprised me throughout four books with revealing details (for instance, I didn’t know J.D. had been a foster child until I started writing “At the Crossroad” and another detail about Rick has come to the forefront of my mind—sorry, no spoilers!–that I haven’t revealed yet but explains a LOT about his character!)
BMH: Outliner or seat-of-your-pants writer?
AB: I try to outline and it would probably make my life and writing easier, but I’m definitely a “pantser”!
BMH: How much editing do you do as you write your first draft?
AB: I do my best to write straight through without editing as I go. It’s too easy for me to lose the thread of the story. If something occurs to me—say, I suddenly realize that I should have set up a revelation or event that occurs in chapter eight back in chapter six—then I either write myself a sticky note or go back then and there while it’s fresh in my mind.
BMH: How do you use social media to promote yourself?
AB: Facebook helps me keep the locals aware and up-to-date on any book events and I also belong to several mystery author groups and Catholic Writers Guild. This month, my first Black Horse Campground mystery, “End of the Road”, was selected for their monthly book blast in which the members use Twitter, Facebook, and other means to promote the chosen book. I’ve seen an uptick in sales on Amazon, so I’m guessing that it works! And I never turn down an opportunity for an interview or guest blog post!
BMH: What do you think of the new faces of publishing….ebooks, POD, indie-publishing?
AB: I go back and re-read Olivia Goldsmith’s “The Bestseller” to see just how far the publishing industry has come in the twenty years since that book was published. Finding an agent in order to find a publisher, sending a paper manuscript with an SASE (remember when Writer’s Digest used to publish ads for manuscript mailing boxes?), no multiple submissions and waiting six to eight weeks for a rejection letter, retyping a manuscript after every edit… I wouldn’t go back to those days, but I also think that the process helped weed out the hack writers from the serious ones. It’s almost TOO easy to get published these days. I’m glad I experienced it, though… it helped me learn to be a better writer and it makes me appreciate how “easy” writing is now!
BMH: Do you blog?
AB: Once a week on The Back Deck Blog! http://amymbennettbooks.blogspot.ca/
BMH: What comes first for you, characters or plot?
AB: Usually characters. I want to meet someone before I get into their story.
BMH: How about some hard-earned advice.
AB: If you really want to be a published author, then realize from the start that the most fun part—actually writing—isn’t all you have to do. Promo work, marketing, editing, all are necessary! That being said, you have to do the fun part every day if you really want to be a writer. Write. Every day. Even if it’s lousy, you can always fix it.
BMH: What do you do to cut loose and have some fun?
AB: I love to hang out with my husband, we love to travel and visit wineries and all kinds of new places, we love to entertain at home. I love to spend time with friends, and I love to have some alone time, too.