Author Amy Dawson Robertson ~ Interview

The 2010 GCLS was the first time I met Amy. I’d read her book and was gobsmacked! It was unlike any other. More importantly, Amy is a warm, genuine person who took time with a shy newbie. When I recently asked her to participate in a blog swap, she readily agreed and it’s been a fun dual-interview. My half of the interview appears on her site: Amy Dawson Robertson.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. PLUS, you may win a copy of “Scapegoat” 
Without further ado….
JBM: And now for your question: what inspired you to write your first book?
ADR: I had been dabbling with writing for a long time. Mostly just abandoned paragraphs or openings. Then after 9/11, I got the idea for a story involving a heroic woman and started writing. That beginning eventually became Miles To Go and though it takes place prior to 9/11, I think it served as the outlet I was looking for.
JBM: And a terrific idea it was.
So, can you tell me What kind of relationship did/do you have with you main character?and How did it evolve and was it difficult or did it form easily?

ADR:  Writing Rennie can be tough sometimes because she isn’t very wordy. She’s very internal which means I have to figure out how to communicate her thoughts in an interesting way. Especially in the first book, there is a long section in the middle where she is on her own. I was really pleased by the feedback I got from readers — that they didn’t have a problem with that long stretch of narrative. I really don’t remember how I fleshed Rennie out — it’s a decade now that I created her. My first draft of Miles To Go is a painful read — I was essentially learning how to write as I went. I think it was through the process of deep editing that she came to life.

JBM: Rennie’s internal workings were intriguing to me because my protagonist, Zeke, is very similar. I really enjoyed the narrative and was amazed how fast it moved with so little dialogue. So, did you find that “Scapegoat” was easier or harder than M2G? and why?

ADR: M2G was hard in that it was my first and I really didn’t know what I was doing. But aside from that it is a very straightforward and linear narrative. Scapegoat on the other hand has a more complex plot. I think that thrillers in general — and I expect you’ve found this to be so — are challenging to deal with because of the subterfuge and the twists and such. For me, it can sometimes feel like I can have way too many balls in the air. Otherwise, in many ways, Scapegoat was easier since I already had a well defined cast of characters in place.

JBM: Well your very first was a thrilling jump out of the gate. The pace of that book was amazing. I haven’t started “Scapegoat” but can’t wait until my edits are done so I can retreat to my reading chair for a month!
I guessing you are a meticulous “plotter” and researcher. Can you take us on a little tour of your process from how a story is born through its birth and development?

ADR: Thanks, I’m really glad you felt that way! Regarding plotting and researching: yes, I do a lot of research and really enjoy it. I’ve read things I never would have picked up before I started the Rennie series. Plotting on the other hand… Writing M2G and half of Scapegoat, I did essentially no outlining in advance. With M2G, since it wasn’t particularly complex, that wasn’t so bad, but once I was half way into Scapegoat I knew I had to stop, figure everything out and write myself a road map for the way forward. It convinced me, at least when writing thrillers or mysteries, to always plot in advance — it saves a world of trouble.

JBM: I agree, especially with a mystery. Somebody really needs to know “whodonnit” up front.
Let’s try another area, if you will. Would you describe what you find most challenging about your own writing?
And then how did those challenges change once you were contracted for the first then second book? Essentially, how have you changed since becoming a “published author”?

ADR:  I think initially the biggest challenge was insecurity. Before you have the faith of an outside body that isn’t a friend or family member, you don’t always trust your own judgment (and, often, for good reason).  I think that remains my biggest challenge in large part. I’ve always thought it interesting that of all the arts, writing gets the most editorializing. When you think about painters or composers, I’ve never heard of the other arts having a sort of institutionalized system of editors weighing and having a fundamental impact on a work. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing at all. I think most of us feel that we have benefited greatly from our editors — I know I have. But I do wonder why writers seem to need so much more hand holding than other “artists.”

In regard to other challenges, I think that with each new book, there are always going to be new hurdles — at least I hope there will — since I like to try new things, look for new ways to impart information in an interesting way.

JBM: That’s an interesting observation. It’s true, painters, sculptors, musicians, all have seem to be able to express their vision without much input.  When a piece is “ready” to the artist’s satisfaction–it goes out. The public can judge it or not.

Writers today ( and in the past) are dependent on the Publishers to act as the middlemen and they, in turn, employ even more layers. Gradually, I think, works are changed in subtle or enormous ways to  “sell”.  Today some author’s are eliminating the middle man, so we may see a change in  our work. Who knows.

If we were to look ahead ( following that model) how would you imagine the writing/publishing model to change “creatively”?  For example, would you change what or how you wrote if you had complete artistic freedom  and knew there was a market?

ADR: That’s a good point about the saleability. When you think of art that is meant to sell to the masses, like pop music, the people who hold the purse strings tend to have the most control. And the product, for better or for worse, ends up the most fiddled with and with more fingers in the pot.

Your question is a really hard one. I find it impossible to envision complete artistic freedom. I mean, we have all been influenced by the market one way or another. There are those who create new narratives styles — I guess that is real artistic freedom. But that doesn’t really appeal to me. I have never been interested in any literature that is particularly avant garde. I just like a good story. I suppose if editors let me have my way I would have a lot more exposition than I even do now. I’m not much of a believer in that classic Show, Don’t Tell trope. I think effective telling can often be much more delicious than good showing.


Thanks, Amy! this has been fun we should do it again.

Next Monday, I’ll draw a name from those who post a comment or question, the winner will get a copy of Amy’s newest release.

For more about Amy or to purchase her books:

31 thoughts on “Author Amy Dawson Robertson ~ Interview

  1. Hi Barrett! Thanks for giving us the chance to hear from Amy about her experience of the “process” of becoming a published writer. I hope you both keep chasing artistic freedom. I have an ebook copy of Miles To Go and am looking forward to catching up with Rennie in Scapegoat in the next couple of weeks. 🙂

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Ann. Artistic freedom seems somewhat more attainable with the changes in the publishing industry. We’ll have to wait and see!

  2. This was an excellent, thoughtful, and thought-provoking interview. I’m a little out of the loop currently, as I’m working on and researching for my second novel, but I’m glad I noticed Amy’s heads-up. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Really did enjoy both of these interviews. Learning a bit more about authors helps the reader appreciate not only the final product, but also the work and dedication that goes in to bringing the book to the shelves. Write on!

  4. You both make some very important points about artistic freedom. In the old days, writers wrote for “the market,” and “the market” wasn’t readers. It was the publishing industry. I think few writers realized how many good ideas they set aside because they weren’t what “the market” wanted. And the stories that did get told were also heavily influenced by the degree of control that traditional publishers had over a contracted work.

    I think artistic freedom will manifest in the kinds of stories people feel moved to tell, and we’re going to hear stories we could never have imagined hearing in the bad old days. Many writers will still write for “the market,” but today “the market” is readers, not agents, editors, and publishers. And many writers will simply write what is in their hearts to write without having those intrusive thoughts like “oh, dear, my agent will never go for this!”

    1. Catherine, I agree. I’ve only been watching the trends for a short time but there seems to be a shift in story telling. I find it exciting and refreshing. There are some wonderful new writers pushing the envelope.
      Thanks for your comment.

  5. As a reader and not a writer I believe both Ms Barrett and Ms Robertson have given readers great books. In the case of ms Robertson a second. MS BarrettI am waiting next month’s release, finger on the buy button. Just my oponion ,I for one will read ANYTHING you ladies write. You now both have a following, I believe your name’s now will sell your books, at least to me. Keep writing ladies

    1. wow, Donna you just made my day, thank you so much for your affirmation. Writing is a field of landmines filled with self-doubt bombs!I look forward to your comments.

  6. This was really interesting. I liked the fact that you went beyond the typical questions you would expect when interviewing an author as well as following up on the answers given. I hope there is a sequel!

    1. Thanks, Erin. I thought we could just exchange questions, Amy came up with the interview. We could have easily continued because it really started to get interesting. Maybe we’ll continue.

  7. Enjoyed the conversation. You should include interviewing in your blog again . It gives insight yet it is lighthearted. BTW I enjoyed both of your first books. I am waiting to order book #2. I won a kindle gift card that I want to use. I’m waiting patiently for the kindle store to have both of your books.

          1. I’m so disappointed that I won’t make it to GCLS this year. This will be the first one I’ve missed since I’ve been aware of it. I hope you have a great time though. I was just telling Jeanne that you were the first person I met at my first conference. 🙂

  8. what a great interview and conversation…thanks McB and Amy. And since I have read all of both of your books and enjoyed them, this was super fun.

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