Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Amy. Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Well, I taught English in California Public high schools for nearly twenty years, I’ve been married for twenty-three years, I have four children, and my lack of housework is legendary.
What was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?
My first book was self-published—it’s called Vulnerable, and I wrote it partly in response to the requirements for a MA in Creative Writing. I dropped out of the program because I was working full time and I had two kids, and I sort of decided they were more important than my need for upper level education, but writing the book? I could do that on my own time! I finished it and my husband said, “Why don’t we self-publish it.” I was like, “So we can give it to my family and friends?” So when it came out, I was really not too perturbed about ALL of the HUMONGULOUS editing gaffes. I was like, “This is for friends, right?”
And then… ohmigod! Suddenly people I didn’t know were reviewing it. And most of them loved it! But then the people started ripping apart the editing, and I was suddenly aware that I’d had my literary pantyhose tucked into my egotistical underwear in front of the WORLD. I worked on the editing for five more self-published books and it finally got better for the last two.
When did you start writing m/m romance? What about this genre interested you the most?
My first six books were urban fantasy and epic fantasy. I love that genre, but even then I had an m/m slant and m/m relationships in the books themselves, which made them very different to publish. I loved the idea of a perfect equality—which is something you don’t find in het romances or almost any other genre. I also loved the idea of strength and vulnerability—too often our tropes trend toward “alpha males” who have very little softness and how men can screw up because they can’t admit that love is not weakness. It seemed that in m/m, we can go beyond that trope, and there is something really tender about strong people allowing themselves to be kind. So I had already explored m/m themes when I answered a prompt on a whim for DSP. It was a Ketel 1 Vodka commercial, and I wrote 750 words for Lynn West—she put it in the newsletter and asked me if I could write some more baby stories in an arc for those guys—they put that in the Curious anthology, and my relationship with Dreamspinner—and m/m romance—had begun!
How long did it take you to get published? How many books have you written thus far?
Well, I’d been self-publishing my work for six years before I submitted to Dreampsinner, but I’m not sure if that counts. My first works were accepted by Dreamspinner within weeks of submitting them, so I guess not long! So far, I’ve got thirteen full-length books in print (with four pending, one of them a compilation of novellas), and twenty-two novellas that have been released. I also have a number of short stories available both in anthologies and by themselves. So, uhm, a lot!
Do you write full time?
I do now. When I started I was teaching high school full time, and then I had my fourth kid and I was teaching part time. And then the school found out I was lending copies of my books to students and they freaked out and plotzed, and just like that, writing was my full time job!
Looking back was there something in particular that helped you to decide to become a writer? Did you choose it or did the profession choose you?
I have always written, even if it was just “writing” the stories I saved up to tell my husband at the end of the day. I remember being four or five and telling my stuffed animals a story and then asking them questions about what happened. Teaching and writing—they are in my blood.
On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?
Get up early, check my e-mail, take care of some writing business, get the kids ready for school, write for two hours, go work out, come home, write some more, go pick the kids up from school, spend time with the kids, and either help with after school activities or write a little before dinner. After dinner I’ll spend time with the family, but once the kids are in bed I’m back at my computer until twelve or one in the morning. Lucky for me, my husband wakes up when I go to bed, or I’d be a VERY frustrated romance writer!
Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?
Mostly I write straight through, unless I come to a plot point that makes me scream things like, “Oh my God! He can’t have been training to be a priest! He grew up in Methodist country!” or something like that—then I go back and make my original vision match the way the story is going. I do trust my characters—if they’re taking the story in a direction, it’s because THAT’S who they are, and I may have planned a plot, but they’re living their lives. They do get final say.
When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
Mostly it’s all in my head. I often compare it to a road. I sit down with a rough idea of beginning, middle, and end, but I make allowances for side roads, greasy spoons, tourist traps, and lovely interludes in daisy fields. Such is life, right?
What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?
I usually don’t research until I’m eyeballs deep in plot and I know what’s relevant to the book. Sometimes I have to revise, but until I know what’s going on plotwise, I don’t have any context to put the information—it’s completely free floating in my head and I forget it completely. And then, it’s often interviews, mining the Ethernet, Wikipedia, checking out library books—the same stuff school kids have been doing for years.
How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters? How do you approach development of your characters? Where do you draw the line?
A lot, actually—but probably not in any way that a stranger would recognize. I’ve named secondary characters after real people, but once I do that, that character usually becomes COMPLETELY his or her own entity—and I’ll often forget that such and such inspired this particular character in my brain. For some reason, anyone who’s going to star in a love scene is the love child of my conscious and subconscious mind—I guess that’s the “line” you spoke of. I really don’t want to picture anyone I know in real life having sex. Squicky squicky squicky.
How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read? Do you write straight through, or do you revise as you go along?
I have a number of beta readers who get the book after the first pass—and I listen to what they say, but I have to be pretty confident about what I’m giving them. My main beta reader, however, has become that way because she’s demanding—she knows what’s on my queue, she knows what I should be working on, and she’s frequently going, “Send me—“ whoever it is I’m working on. Right now it’s Dex. So I’ll get a phone spamming of porn, and Mary screaming “SEND ME DEX. NOW!!!” and I’ll be writing my ass off until one in the morning to make that happen.
Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?
I don’t have writer’s block—but my brain does, at some point, say, “I want to mull on this thing your characters have done for a while.” And then I usually have something to do—pick up kids, clean the house, do laundry, work out—that gives my brain a break. Since I do generally know where the work is going, if I’ve written the moment out, I can jump to the next plot point in the story and back fill from there
When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they gain, feel or experience?
Kindness. Generosity. Something genuine and moving. Laughter.
Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?
Editing is not for pussies—it’s for professionals, and I should never take it for granted.
Never do anything because I think it would be cute or easy—only do things that are as emotionally authentic as I can make them. Love my people. If I love them, SOMEONE out there will love them too.
Does the title of a book you’re writing come to you as you’re writing it, or does it come before you even begin the first sentence?
Both, actually. Sometimes, like with Truth in the Dark, I had to finish the book and play with the idea for a while. Country Mouse started out with that title. My books are a complete mix of titles that were inspired and titles that were perspired for.
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
Everything makes me laugh. My humor can be both pretty sophisticated and worthy of any twelve-year-old kid. I’m a big fan of puns and word play, but I never kick a sight-gag or physical humor in the teeth if it has comic value.
What is the most frequently asked Amy question?
How do you do it with four kids and how bad is your house really?
What are you working on now?
A sequel to Chase in Shadow, called Dex in Blue.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve received with respect to the art of writing? How did you implement it into your work?
A colleague once told me that all writing is personal. He was right. If all writing is personal, then the message reflected in my fiction needs to be about highly flawed people (such as myself!) doing their best as human beings. That one thing meant a lot.
When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase reader-awareness of your work?
When I started out seven years ago, I committed all of the classic newbie blunders—sock puppet reviews (long since removed), pimping my books on forums ad nauseum, begging people I met to buy my book. Fortunately, a few people put up with me, and once we got over that embarrassing “I’m sorry, I’m not going to buy your book,” problem, I realized that they were VERY fun people to hang out with. And then as I hung out with them and chatted and got excited about other people and was generally a vocal, engaging member of my community, people began to buy my books because they thought, “Hey, she doesn’t SEEM like an illiterate psycho—maybe her book isn’t bad!”
And that was awesome—and it was an epiphany. The best marketing tool I have is being myself—not annoying book-pimping woman, because that was not particularly fun for me—but just me. Cracking jokes, being kind to people who need a cyber-hug—that makes my day enjoyable. I like to write characters that make people feel that same way, so when I’m the best version of myself, I’m the best spokesperson for them as well.
Writing is obviously not just how you make your living, but your life-style as well. What do you do to keep the creative “spark” alive – both in your work and out of it?
Read other people’s work, and live a very fast paced life! If I’m bored and boring, my work will be too. I started writing because I loved stories—I never forget that other people’s stories are incredibly interesting to read.
What kind of books do you like to read?
My own genre, of course, but also urban fantasy and epic fantasy, as well as a dash of non-fiction (very often humorous) and some murder mystery or het romance thrown in.
If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
LOL—I think it’s pretty obvious that I’d be a teacher. Literally. I’d still have that job!
Where did you get the idea for the stories you write?
Thin air, the news, a movie I watched, a guy I see in a restaurant, something my husband says, a picture in a book, a trip to the vets, my aqua class, stuff I learn from an art book, taking a walk outside, grocery shopping, watching the next door neighbors argue… you get the picture.
When it comes to the covers of your books, what do you like or dislike about them?
I’m not a very good person to ask—I’ve loved some covers that other people have loathed. For example The Locker Room got put on a list of “Worst covers” on Good Reads, but I maintain that the space between Chris’s lips and the back of Xander’s neck inspired that entire story. I still adore it—when Elizabeth offered it to me for the basketball story I was writing, I almost cried, because I thought it was so beautiful and captured the story. I’ve been totally enchanted by the covers that Anne Cain did for my Green’s Hill novellas on Dreamspinner—I’m such a sucker for hand-drawn, ethereally beautiful characters. And, of course, Reese Dante’s interpretation of Talker was stunning, as was Paul Richmond’s picture of Deacon for Keeping Promise Rock. The Dan Skinner picture on Clear Water gets a lot of lovely compliments, as do his covers for Truth in the Dark and Hammer & Air, and I’m a fan of Catt Ford’s job on the front of A Solid Core of Alpha and The Winter Courtship of Fur Bearing Critters.
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
Knitting, travelling (for short periods of time) and watching movies and television. And, of course, reading. Yeah—I know. I AM the world’s most boring human!
Any special projects coming out soon we should watch for?
Gambling Men: The Novel is coming out in May, and I’m really excited. So far, two short stories (if you count the five sections in the curious anthology as one story) have been released about Jace and Quent, but I had actually written seven. The seven stories made a complete story arc—and equaled about 30,000 words. I sent the stories to my publisher and editor at Dreamspinner for fun mostly—not to be published, because they had plenty of short stories in their queue to be released, but because they had so enjoyed Jace and Quent from my original interaction with them—the guys were sentimental favorites, and we loved them. When I finished the story arc, they both said, “NOVEL. NOW!” So I took the short stories—which were all written from Quent’s point of view, and fleshed them out—using Jace’s point of view. The result is a tightly written, intricately structured full-length work—and if you’ve read the first two releases about Jace and Quent and think you know the whole thing? You’re about 60K short!
Before that, in April, I’m releasing Country Mouse with Aleks Voinov—this one was fun because it was my first co-write, and it happened so quirkily! Aleks and I were chatting on Twitter—and I made him laugh. A lot. One of the people in our mutual twit-stream said we had to write something together. So we did—and we had a blast, and I’d work with him on anything, anytime! We didn’t quite expect it to freak so many people out when it was released though—but wow! People have been really surprised.
And in June, I have a very quirky short called Do-over coming out from Dreamspinner, as well as a group anthology with Mary Calmes and Andrew Grey. I love the story I gave to this anthology—it’s called Believed You Were Lucky—and it makes me very happy.
New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?
Be yourself. Write what’s authentic to you. Don’t oversell—be a part of your community. Love what you write enough to read the best of it.
What future projects do you have in the works?
Well, there’s Dex in Blue to follow up Chase in Shadow, but before that comes out, there’s Sidecar, which is a nostalgic look back twenty-five years ago, as well as Mourning Heaven, which is the Bruce Springsteen-inspired novel that was supposed to be a quick story! When I’m done working on Dex, I’m going to put out some more knitting inspired novellas, as well as a science-fiction Batman inspired story.
Can you please tell us where we can find you on the Internet?
Let’s see—I blog at http://www.writerslane.blogspot.com, my rarely updated website with some free fiction (a lot of it het) is at http://www.greenshill.com, and you can find me on Facebook under Amy Lane, and on Twitter as amymaclane, and if you want to contact me directly? firstname.lastname@example.org
Could you please share your favorite excerpt(s) from one of more of your stories with us?
This is the opening of Sidecar, and I love it. It has yet to be edited, but the book is due out in July/August.
Someone Like You
The kid was cold. Casey could see that as Joe puttered past him in the tree-shaded twilight of Forresthill Road near Sugarpine lake. It was November and in the forties this time of night, and the lost thing on the side of the road was not dressed for the weather. He didn’t look good at all. His lips were blue, his thin arms folded in front of him were paler than the grimy T-shirt, and his cheeks were hectically flushed.
And his eyes were dead.
Casey reached from under the fleece-lined leather lap-robe that nestled him in the cozy sidecar (complete with a little space heater at his feet, because Joe took care of details like that) and tapped Joe’s thigh, but he didn’t need to bother. Joe was the same guy he’d been twenty-five years earlier. He could spot a miserable runaway a mile away.
They pulled the cycle over to the side of the road, and Casey took off his helmet, because he knew they looked scary when you were cold and alone on the side of a country road, and called out.
They’d passed the boy up and Casey could see the kid’s shoulders stiffen as they called out to him.
“Yeah?” he asked, like he was bracing himself for a blow.
Casey and Joe met eyes. Casey sighed and got out of the sidecar, walking carefully to about five yards behind the boy. A big enough distance so the kid could run away if he felt like he needed to, and close enough so he could see that Casey, at forty-one, was probably fit enough to catch him, but maybe mean enough to give chase.
“Kid, look. It’s going to dip into freezing tonight. Can we take you anywhere?”
The kid’s eyes narrowed, and he gave a convulsive shudder. “I…” He closed his eyes. “I don’t got nowhere to go.”
Casey nodded, because they’d known that. “We’ve got a spare bedroom,” he said cautiously. “For the night. No strings. We’ve even got some food.”
Oh, God. The eyes on this kid. Brown, deep, and terrified.
“I…” the kid shivered again. “I don’t got no money, but I can—“ He grabbed his crotch uncomfortably, “I can pay.”
Casey wrinkled his nose. “You see that graying bastard on the back of that motorcycle?”
The kid looked up. Joe was sitting there, his comfortably weathered face looked to be sunk into what looked to be a habitual scowl, but was really just a thoughtfulness almost out of place in this century. His gray and white ponytail was sticking out from under his helmet like a barely contained coal-brush, and he had a fairly frightening fu-manchu mustache with matching soul-patch. He was easily six-feet, five inches tall, and his shoulders were (at least to a young man’s eyes) as broad as a barn. He was one of those men who became thick with age, in spite of the best efforts of diet and exercise, and he looked like one hammer swing from his fist would effectively dent the hood of a half-ton pick-up.
The kid’s eyes grew huge. “Yeah,” he whispered, obviously scared of what came next.
“He keeps me plenty busy. And if I slept around, he’d kill me. And if he slept around, I’d geld him. I’d say you’re safer in the spare bedroom of two old queers than you are almost anywhere else in the county.” Casey dropped his voice. “Including, maybe, your own home.”
The kid looked up, and something dropped from his eyes, and what was left was naked, feverish, and damned near to done. “I’ll do anything,” he begged.
“No worries,” Casey said, keeping his voice low and soothing, like he would a wild bear or a rabid chicken. “Here. We’ll let you sit in the sidecar home. We’ve got a spare helmet, it’s nice and warm. It’ll be good. Trust me.”
The kid cast a hunted look at Joe, who was watching the two of them with serene curiosity. “That guy—that guy’s not gonna…” he shuddered.
Casey rolled his eyes. “Kid, you should be so lucky. But no. I worked too hard to make him mine, okay?”
The kid looked dubious, and Casey smiled to himself. Odds were good they’d take the kid home, give him a couple of warm meals, and find somewhere for him to go live. Maybe, if he was like some of the other strays they’d picked up, he’d last a few months, or maybe a few years, but either way, the kid had nothing to worry about from Josiah Daniels. Joe was one-hundred percent decent—and one-hundred-and-ten percent Casey’s. But even if the kid lived with them for years, he probably would never hear the whole story. That story was for Casey and Joe alone.
The kid looked at the sidecar again, and the lines of his face, bitter and saturnine, even at what? Fifteen? Sixteen? Eased for a minute.
“Would I really get to ride in that?” he asked, and Casey got a glimpse of little kid in the bitter, tattered thing on the side of the road.
“Yeah!” Casey grinned at the kid, and then looked at Joe with the same grin. Something in Joe’s slightly weathered, fifty-ish features softened, and the kid looked quickly from Casey to Joe and back again.
“He really likes you,” the kid whispered, and Casey shrugged.
“Yeah. Yeah, he really does.” The kid didn’t have to know how long it took Casey before Joe admitted to it. “So kid, you want to use our spare room? We got a mother-in-law cottage. You can sleep there if you want.”
The kid looked hungrily at the sidecar, with the fleece lap robe and the spare helmet Joe was casually pulling out from underneath the seat. Then Joe added the kicker—an extra peanut butter and jelly sandwich that they’d packed before they’d set out on the bike that afternoon. They’d ended up eating out at the Oar Cart anyway, but the sandwich had let them ride farther before they turned around. Casey could tell when the kid spotted the sandwich. His tongue must have smacked on his palate about six times. Then Joe pulled out the little takeout box from the Oar Cart, the one with half a pound of meat and sourdough bun in it, and Casey could smell the aroma of world-famous burger from where he was standing. He thought the kid almost swooned.
“I don’t care,” the boy said, swallowing. “Maybe your house… just for a night.”
Casey grinned again and held out his hand. “Casey,” he said. “Casey Daniels.” Somewhere out there was probably a birth certificate and a social security card and a thousand other things that proclaimed he’d been born with a different name, but he couldn’t find them, and Joe didn’t know where they were, and even his driver’s license said Casey Daniels now.
“Austin,” the kid said earnestly. “Austin Harris.” He had brown hair that looked like it had been hacked off in the back, sides, and front, and teeth that hadn’t been brushed in too long. Casey reached out his hand again, and the kid shook it, tentatively.
“It’s not clean,” he said by way of apology, and Casey shrugged, wiggling his fingers.
“Skin washes,” he said with quiet optimism. “Here. You eat on the way, and you can take a shower before you go to sleep, okay?”
The kid shivered all over, and squeezed his eyes tight shut. “I think I have lice,” he said, miserable, like this confession cost him everything.
Casey grimaced. “Well thanks for warning us. We’ll be sure to treat that helmet with the disinfectant shit when we get home.” He pursed his lips. “I think we’ve got a lice comb and some mineral oil—or would you rather just shave it off?”
The kid shook his head. “I don’t care,” he said, shivering. “Food, a place to sleep, a door… shave me bald, I don’t care.”
Casey gestured toward the motorcycle. “Go get yourself settled in. Try not to spill too much on the lap robe. That was a present.”
The kid didn’t hear that last part. He was trotting toward the sidecar like it was a little slice of heaven. Casey followed a little more sedately, wondering if they were going to wake up with their throats slit and their television gone, but thinking probably not. He knew this kid, knew what he wanted—had been this kid.
He got to the motorcycle and planted his hands easily on Josiah’s strong shoulders, swinging his leg around and getting his feet settled on the pegs.
“You know who that kid reminds me of,” Joe told him as they watched the kid fumble with the helmet strap and get settled under the lap robe, huddling down near the space heater using as much play as the seat belt would give him.
“Yeah, I know,” Casey said, resting his cheek against Joe’s back, careful of clunking the state-of-the-art, bright turquoise helmet on his head against Joe’s back, or against his no-nonsense-black helmet, with too much force. Joe could take it—the sonuvabitch was strong—but Casey wouldn’t ever do anything to cause him pain.
“You only think you know,” Josiah said softly. “You’ll never know what it costs me, seeing you in them, again and again and again.
“But you take them in, every time,” Casey reminded him, tightening his grip around Joe’s waist.
“Yeah, well, what else would I do?”
“Not a damned thing.”
The kid had overcome the adjustment shivers, and was starting to plow through the food. They had about a half-an-hour before they got to their own little slice of Forresthill, so Joe didn’t waste any time kick-starting the bike and roaring back onto the road.
He wouldn’t do a damned thing different, and Casey wouldn’t want him to. After twenty-five years, that was saying something.
Because Casey wouldn’t change it either.