Hi, Amy. Welcome to Novel Journey. Let's start by telling the readers why you got into writing:
I wrote silly stories and shared them with a friend in elementary school and then got into writing fan fiction that included my favorite television characters and athletes in junior high through college. Those “books” I only revealed to a few close friends. I began calling myself a writer after college when I finally joined a writer’s group and decided to pursue a career.
What's the most difficult part of writing for you (or was when you first started on your novel journey)?
Finding the time to dedicate to my writing can be a challenge since I work full-time and have two little boys and an ill husband who is on dialysis while awaiting a second kidney transplant. I tend to stay up late at night writing when the boys are in bed. I’m constantly exhausted; however, it’s worth it to receive emails from readers who are touched by my stories.
Do you put yourself into your books/characters?
Yes, I think I do. I sometimes hear my own voice or feel my own emotions in my characters. Jessica, the teenage niece who has trouble fitting into the Amish community, is close to my heart since I remember the feeling of not fitting in during my school days.
At what point did you stop juggling suggestions and critiques and trust yourself (as a writer)?
That’s a good question! I don’t participate in a critique group for my Amish books; however, my mother and a few close friends read my books for me. I never share my draft until it is completely finished because my drafts often grow and change during the writing process. Once I do share it, occasionally I’ll disagree with a comment from a friend. If it’s an earth-shattering comment that will change the story or a character, I may share it with another friend and get her opinion, but I won’t change the book unless I feel completely sure that the comment is valid. To answer your question, I have to go with my gut feeling. In the end, my editor is the expert, and her comments are the ones that matter the most.
Tell us a little about your latest release:
The Kauffman Amish Bakery Series centers on the fictional Older Amish Kauffman family, who live in Lancaster County, PA. In book one, A Gift of Grace, Rebecca Kauffman's tranquil Old Order Amish life is transformed when she suddenly has custody of her two teenage nieces after her "English" sister and brother-in-law are killed in an automobile accident. Instant motherhood, after years of unsuccessful attempts to conceive a child of her own, is both a joy and a heartache. Rebecca struggles to give the teenage girls the guidance they need as well as fulfill her duties to Daniel as an Amish wife.
Rebellious Jessica is resistant to Amish ways and constantly in trouble with the community. Younger sister Lindsay is caught in the middle, and the strain between Rebecca and Daniel mounts as Jessica's rebellion escalates. Instead of the beautiful family life she dreamed of creating for her nieces, Rebecca feels as if her world is being torn apart by two different cultures, leaving her to question her place in the Amish community, her marriage, and her faith in God.
How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific 'what if' moment?
My “what if” moment was when I started thinking about the differences between our “English” culture and the Amish culture. From there, I wondered what would happen if the two worlds collided, and somehow, the idea of the two young girls being thrown into the Amish culture was born.
Tell us a little about your main character and how you developed him/her:
Rebecca Kauffman is a 35-year-old Amish woman who works in her mother-in-law’s bakery. She adores her husband, Daniel, and has a strong faith in God. Unfortunately, she’s not able to have children; therefore, she embraces her teenage nieces when she receives custody of them. She’s a very patient woman, and she is faithful to the Old Order Amish traditions. Rebecca and Daniel struggle with where the girls fit into their lives and their community, causing quite a bit of conflict in their marriage.
In developing Rebecca, I researched the Amish traditions. I also imagined myself in her shoes, thinking of how I would feel if I were unable to fulfill my lifelong dream to have children and how difficult it might be to be thrown into instant motherhood with two teenagers who had lost their parents and were forced into a new way a life.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book? Least?
I enjoyed the research. I read many, many books on the Amish, visited Lancaster, and interviewed a wonderful Amish woman who has become a very dear friend. There wasn’t anything I disliked about writing this book. It was a challenging project, and with the help of my fantastic editor, I grew as a writer.
What message do you hope readers gain from your novel?
I hope that readers will feel a sense of hope after reading the book. Sometimes we may be convinced God has forgotten us or that what we’re experiencing isn’t part of His plan. However, things may not go the way we’d hoped, but God is always in control.
What does your writing space look like?
I don’t have a specific space. I don’t like being chained to a desk. I have wireless and a MacBook. Usually, I curl up on my bed or write on the sofa in my mother’s suite with the television turned down in the background for company. I’ve also been known to write on the deck outside and in the garage while the boys play. Attached is a photo of my toughest editor (Molly) with my MacBook. She supervisors my work and keeps me on track. J
What kind of activities to you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?
I love to read and (obviously) write. I’m addicted to chick-flicks and watch a lot of Lifetime, Lifetime Movie Network, and Hallmark Channel. I’m an avid NASCAR fan (go #88 and #29!), and we used to attend a lot of races before my husband became very ill. I also enjoy just spending time with my boys, watching them race around the yard on their riding toys and dig in the sandbox.
Briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision.
I come up with a concept, such as the “worlds colliding” idea for A Gift of Grace, and then I start a “Notes” document on my Mac, where I list character sketches, including characters’ names, ages, physical characteristics and background (such as what they do for a living, etc.). From there, I come up with an outline of major plot twists and turns.
Once the story is fleshed out, I write a detailed synopsis and give it to my editor for her approval. After she gives me her comments and we talk about it, I start writing. I can write a very rough draft in approximately a month. I then go through the book a few times alone and then have my mom and my close friends edit for me.
Once I feel its as polished as I can make it, I turn the book in to my editor, and a few months later, she sends me her “Macro Edit,” which includes the large rewrites. After I finish those rewrites and it is approved, my book goes to my Developmental Editor, who completes another round of edits and then sees the book through layout and design.
What is the first book you remember reading and what made it special?
I wasn’t actually reading on my own yet, but when I was very young, I remember my parents taking turns reading me Goodnight Moon every night. I’d heard the story so many times that I would recite it as my parents would turn the page. It was special because it was cuddle time with my mom and dad, and I loved the story.
What are a few of your favorite books (not written by you) and why are they favorites?
Oh, there are too many to name! I enjoy books that tug at my heartstrings and are full of emotion. My favorite authors run the gamut, including Robin Lee Hatcher (Wagered Heart), Stephenie Meyer (Twilight Series), Beth Wiseman (Daughters of the Promise Series), Kristin Hannah (all of her books!), and Karen Kingsbury (all of her books!). I also love to laugh, and Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum Series and Metro Girl Series) is great for that!
How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?
By reading other authors, I learn how to do a better job of creating emotion and tension. I also see how to polish my books better.
What do you wish you’d known early in your career that might have saved you some time and/or frustration in writing? In publishing?
Balancing being a mother, working full-time, caring for an ill husband, and writing have always been a challenge. Now that I’m published I have true deadlines, and sometimes it can be stressful. However, writing is my stress reliever. As I mentioned earlier, when the boys are in bed at night, I write until I can’t keep my eyes open.
How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?
I have a website, AmyClipston.com, a Facebook site, and a ShoutLife site. I use Twitter, (twitter.com/AmyClipston), and I write for two blogs,
Tell us what we have to look forward to in the future. What new projects are you working on?
My second Kauffman Amish Bakery book, A Promise of Hope, will debut in April. In the meantime, a romance novel, Betrayed, will hit shelves with Five Star/Gale Publishing in September.
Do you have any parting words of advice?
My advice for aspiring authors is surround yourself with other writers. Join a group, such as American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America, attend local chapter meetings, and sign up for on-line discussion loops. You’ll learn more than you can imagine from other writers, both published and unpublished. Also, it may sound cliché, but don’t give up. Rejection is heart breaking, but you’ll become a stronger writer every time you send out a query.