Today I welcome writer Amy K. Nichols to The Hiding Spot to talk a bit about her debut novel, Now That You're Here!!
Now That You’re Here is part of a duology; what about a duology appealed to you, rather than a trilogy or standalone novel?
The idea of a duology actually came from my editor, Katherine Harrison, at Knopf. I’d originally written the book as a standalone. Then, after going through revisions with my agent, we went on submission, pitching the books as a trilogy with all three books set in the same world. Katherine loved the manuscript and wanted to acquire it, but presented the idea of instead having two books that mirror each other, taking place in the two parallel worlds, and working in such a way that reading the second book changes your understanding of the first. It was such a brilliant idea that, as soon as I heard it, I knew it was the right way to go.
Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end?
Stories typically begin with a single scene played out like a movie in my mind. That scene works a bit like a seed. You know how they say an oak seed has the makings of the whole tree inside it? Well, for me, that scene comes complete with the feelings and tone of the whole story. It usually brings with it a sense of the overall arc as well. Once I’m convinced that scene is something I need to write, I create a rough outline using notecards. Then I tackle the first draft, usually writing in sequence from the beginning to the end. I tend to write the first draft pretty quickly, knowing I can clean it all up later. Sometimes alater scene will scream to be written out of order, so I’ll tend to that one before going back to where I was. This is why I find notecards useful; they help me keep track of where I am in the story. I try not to be rigid about any of it, but instead stay sensitive to what the story wants to do and become. It’s when I try to force it in a direction it doesn’t want to go that I run into trouble. Also, without fail, I end up rewriting the opening chapter again and again and again after the whole draft is done. Richard Peck is right when he says the beginning is the end and the end is the beginning. It’s only when I’ve reached the end of the story that I know how the whole thing should start.
What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing or provided inspiration?
Oh man, where do I start? Despite wanting to be an author for as long as I can remember, I put it off for years because I was too afraid to show anyone my writing and face possible rejection. Instead, I worked as a tech writer for corporations, an executive assistant to a county supervisor, a special assistant in the Arizona legislature, a GUI designer at a software development firm, an independent contractor doing graphic and web design. Then I took on the most challenging and rewarding job of all: full-time mom. I think one of the best things a writer can do is live life. All of those experiences we acquire shape who we become and what stories we write. One thing, and probably the best thing, wearing all of those different hats made me realize is that I’m happiest when I’m being creative.
If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why?
I’ve always liked the word ‘bludgeoned’. I like the way it feels when I say it. People always look at mestrange, though, when you tell them it’s my favorite word.
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?
I love working with my hands. Painting, drawing, sculpting, welding. When I need a break from it all, or if I’m stuck on a project, I’ll pull out my art supplies and immerse myself in creating something new. I find it very freeing, probably because there are no expectations attached to it. Just joy.
What can readers look forward to next?
Up next is part two of the duology, While You Were Gone. In the second book, we find out what happens to the other Danny and the other Eevee over the course of the same timeline as book one. It was a really interesting book to write. I hope readers find it thought provoking, especially in how it impacts the events of Now That You’re Here.