It’s no secret by now that Amy Harmon is my favorite author. She is my “go to” author when I want something moving and wonderful to read. I love all her books and Making Faces is “my best of the bests” among more than 8.000 books I must have read so far.
So when Amy agreed to answer all my questions, I was in Heaven! I could not stop gushing about it and I must have worn out my husband’s patience.
I can honestly say Amy is not only a fantastic writer but she also is a wonderful person. Some authors write marvelous books but sometimes disappoint or even hurt their readers with hurtful or uncaring comments/actions but Amy is NOT among them. You could say the cover is matching the inside of the book 😀
Once again Amy you have all my gratitude for the care and the time you invested in your reply.
Now let’s read all her answers and I do hope you’ll enjoy this interview as much as I did when I got her answers back and discovered “more about Amy Harmon and her books”. She’s been really generous and gives us many details about herself, her writing process, her projects…
Some words about you to begin with maybe? Who was little Amy? And who’s the adult she’s become? Do you have likes/dislikes/quirks? Etc.
As a child I was precocious. At least my mom says I was. I read Jane Eyre when I was twelve, so I suppose that’s a little earlier than most. I was drawn to romance—not sex—but romance, and I’ve never outgrown it. There is something magical about a love story, about the emotional surrender involved. I doubt I will ever write a book without a love story at the heart, simply because it gives me a chance to fall in love over and over again.
As a child, I read voraciously. But though I was writing all the time—poetry, stories, essays, plays—I dreamed of being a famous singer. As an adult, I realized that I wasn’t especially fond of the idea of singing for a living. I can perform if I have to, but I needed something more cerebral, something that would allow me to work when it best suited my family, and eventually I started writing in earnest with the goal of finishing a book.
I’m not especially quirky – not because I mind quirks, but because quirks have conditions, and conditions are usually less than optimal when you are a mother of four and the house is always full and writing occurs when and where it can be squeezed in. I don’t have the luxury of quirks!
I do have a heater at my feet, because sitting cuts off my circulation and my feet freeze. I also wear glasses because my eyes grow weary, and I consume WAAAAY too much caffeine. I rarely write with music that has lyrics, and depend mostly on ambient noise (to drown out the loud house) or classical music.
When did you know you wanted to write books?
It was always in my heart. I think writing is like that. It was the medium that came very naturally to me. If I was upset, I would write. If I was happy, I would write. Being a reader, I found myself craving a certain type of story, and it occurred to me, somewhere along the way, that if I wanted a certain type of book, I should try to write it.
Could you tell us something about your first and current writing adventure?
Running Barefoot was my first novel. It was actually a joy to write because I had no expectations for myself or for my success. I just wrote to see if I could actually do it, if I could actually write a novel. Running Barefoot has a biographical feel to it, and I think that’s why. It was just for me, and my SELF came through.
I am currently writing another book from my fantasy world, Jeru, which I created in The Bird and the Sword. Fantasy is a whole new genre for me, and it came very naturally. The new book will be out in May.
I’m also working on another historical set during the Civil War in Ireland. That one will most likely be released through a traditional publishers, like my novel From Sand and Ash, so readers won’t get that one for a while.
How can you say such deep truths, make us really think about what’s important in life while using simple words?
I am sure that the way I write comes from the novels that I loved and cherished as I grew. I mentioned I have a romantic nature, and that this has always been true. I also have a tender heart and a tendency toward the spiritual. I think an author’s voice stems from who they are. I delight in something well-said. I always have. My goal when I write is not to wax poetic, but to make the language work the way it was intended which, in my opinion, is to communicate effectively. The most effective communication comes when words don’t get in the way but when they open up worlds and ideas and thought.
How do you make us feel your character’s emotions with such intensity and accuracy? What’s the “trick” to do it?
You absolutely must put yourself in the character’s shoes. Don’t imagine him or her. BE him or her. That’s the trick. If something doesn’t feel true to the character, but it helps the story along, then you need to scrap it. Find a path that is true to the character. Let him or her tell you their story.
Do you cry when writing an emotional scene? Or laugh when it’s funny?
I get teary. I get big ugly lumps in my throat and burning in my chest, and that often tells me I’m being true to my character. I’m living their story. Sometimes the craft gets in the way of the emotion, and it’s always important when that happens to make sure that you don’t let it get in the way.
What makes you decide to speak about something? Where do you get your ideas for the plots?
I have always been fascinated by WWII and have long wanted to write a story set in that time period. However, the scope of WWII is so enormous, that I had to find a small window of time to focus on. I had started stewing over what I could do, just thinking about it, when I stumbled across a story ( I believe it was a news article) about priests and nuns in Italy hiding Jews. It intrigued me, because I knew so little about Italy during the war. I knew they had aligned themselves with Germany, and beyond that, knew nothing. As I started to dig and research and learn, I realized I’d found my setting.
How do you build your characters (main and side)? Are you inspired by family and friends?
Not especially. I think my characters are an amalgamation of a lot of different things. I’m sure my experiences and people I’ve met along the way in my life contribute to building a character, but mostly, I start with a simple thread, a driving characteristic, and I build from there. I ask myself questions. I wonder about how a group of flaws, strengths or weaknesses will contribute to a plot, and I just continually layer. I start with the bones and add the flesh, I suppose. By the time I’m finished, I’ve created a real life human being!
What’s your writing process? Do you have it all in your head from the beginning? Do your characters hijack your story and lead you to unexpected paths?
I wish so badly I could outline. I do have pages of notes and possibilities and outcomes, but somehow, the magic doesn’t happen for me unless I’m invested. I can’t seem to lose myself in the character until I’m putting words on paper. It makes for a very slow, tedious process, but fortunately, with this medium, I can cut and paste and move and tweak without losing the whole project. I just have to be patient with myself and know that the story will unfold if I commit to it.
What‘s the most difficult book you had to write so far and the easiest one? Why?
My easiest was my first (as I explained in a previous question). But the hardest was definitely the historical, because every single detail had to be researched and I had to stay true to what actually happened. I also didn’t want to hyper sensationalize events, so there was the fine line of being accurate and being true while still being sensitive.
Do you have anecdotes you remember for each of your books?
That would take a book all by itself, but I will just say that each book has touched me in a profound way. I’ve learned things about myself in every book. I have very few regrets with my stories, simply because I know I did my best, whatever that was at the time, and I’ve managed to create novels and characters I’m proud of.
Now a very difficult one: who is your favorite male character (it can be a side character) and female character?
I genuinely can’t choose. I spent so much time with each one. I invested so much in each one. I feel intensely personal about all my characters, because each one represents a victory for me. The fact that each character exists, that I’ve brought them to life and put them on paper, that I’ve given my heart and soul to them, makes it impossible to choose. I love them all for different reasons. Bailey was easy to love because he was just so inspirational. Moses was harder to love because he pushed everyone away (even me). Blue from A Different Blue was a challenge, because her foundation and her history was so unlike my own. She was in pieces when I discovered her and I had to put her back together. Finn Clyde from Infinity + One taught me a lot about judgment and about how beautiful a mind can be. Angela and Eva taught me what it means to be brave. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Write as if no one will ever read your work. It will keep your stories honest, it will take away the fear of rejection, and it will put in the headspace necessary to create instead of please.
What authors/ books have you really loved and would you recommend?
I always hate to do this because reading is very personal and I would hate my opinions to be taken as anything more than my preferences. I tend to read authors who are outside of my own circle, simply because when I like a person, I don’t want to critique the work, and I don’t want my opinion of their work to affect my opinion of them. Does that make sense? I do love the oldies, Anne of Green Gables, Jane Eyre, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I have loved books by Dean Koontz, Susannah Kearsley, Penny Reid, Nora Roberts . . . you name it, I have very varied tastes. Mostly, I just want great characters and some attention to the details and to the craft of writing.
One of my favorite books of all time is called The Last Hour of Gann, and it is the strangest premise in the history of books. It is also violent and graphic, which is so opposite to the way I tell stories, but it is incredibly written, and when I think about it, I remember the way it made me feel, like I was splitting in two and falling in love and being turned inside out all at once. That’s pretty powerful.