Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Amy. Tell us about your latest book.
Down a country road not far from Charleston, South Carolina, stands an antebellum plantation as old as the oaks arching their leafy limbs over the long drive leading to the great house. Known as Peppernell Manor, the home has seen better days.
Cora Camille Chadwick-Peppernell, the matriarch of the Peppernell family, has finally decided to have her home restored. She offers the job to Carleigh Warner, an old college friend of her granddaughter, Evie. Carleigh, a restoration specialist living and working in Chicago, jumps at the chance to relocate, at least temporarily, to South Carolina and restore the old manor, which she fondly remembers visiting during her college days. With permission from her ex-husband, she takes her young daughter, Lucy, with her to the sultry South.
Once Carleigh arrives at the old manor, it doesn’t take her long to learn that not everyone in the Peppernell family is happy about the direction the restoration is taking. There are certain family members who would like to see the plantation under the management of a firm that would turn the property into a tourist destination. As disagreements begin to take a menacing turn under the hanging Spanish moss and violence visits the manor, Carleigh must choose whether to stay in South Carolina or leave it all behind for her own safety and that of her little girl.
The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor was released on April 28th. It is not a ghost story. There are a couple characters who believe in ghosts, but the ghosts in the story are metaphorical, not real.
Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
Just last week I sent my publisher the full manuscript for my next novel, which is due out in March, 2016. It doesn’t even have an official title yet. For now, its working title is The House of Hanging Jade, but I fully expect that to change.
It’s the story of a young sous chef in Washington, D.C., Kailani Kanaka, who returns to her native Hawaii to take a job as the personal chef to a family living on the island of Hawaii, often called the Big Island.
Kailani is soon called on to deal with more than the job description called for, with a family in desperate turmoil and an unexpected and unwanted visitor from her past. Before long the secrets and the tensions in the home begin to build and Kailani must find the courage to stay and follow her heart.
When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
I am in control when I write. I’m not the kind of writer that can sit down and let the characters take over, though sometimes I wish I were. Before I write anything I have an outline of exactly where I want to go with the story and what situations the characters will find themselves in.
Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?
There are lots of writers I love, but probably my favorite (at least today) is M.C. Beaton. She writes the Agatha Raisin series and the Hamish Macbeth series, and I just can’t get enough of them. The Agatha Raisin books are set in the Cotswolds and the Hamish Macbeth books are set in the Scottish Highlands. I love the books for their humor, their quirky characters, their settings, and their mysteries.
I also enjoy reading anything by Ernest Hemingway or Jane Austen. And I’m currently working on two books: Senseless Acts of Beauty by Lisa Verge Higgins and The One You Love by Paul Pilkington.
Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?
I actually like to promote, but I do wish it didn’t take so much time and I wish the results were instantaneous. I promote on social media, on my blog, on my website, on other blogs, in person (at book signings, conferences, and library talks), in newspapers, on online radio, and in magazines, both online and print.
Promotion takes away from the time I have to actually write, but I’m thankful to have that problem.
What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?
Definitely all the people I’ve met, both writers and readers. There’s nothing nicer than opening my email and finding a message from a reader who enjoyed my books. I am so grateful for all my readers, but especially the ones who reach out to me like that.
And as for writers, the ones I’ve met are an absolutely wonderful group of people. They’re supportive, encouraging, kind, and gracious. I couldn’t ask for a better group of colleagues.
Who were your favorite authors as a child? Have they influenced your writing career in any way?
I read voraciously as a child. Probably my favorite “author” when I was young wasn’t a single author at all, but Carolyn Keene, the group of authors who wrote the Nancy Drew mysteries. One of my favorite books was Down, Down the Mountain by Ellis Credle. And when I was older, I read every word by James Herriott that I could find.
If you could talk for thirty minutes with any author (or person), living or dead, who would it be?
I’d talk to my grandmother. She died several years ago and there are lots of questions I would ask her about her childhood that only she can answer.
What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?
I once wrote a blog post about that question. I followed the advice and wrote what I knew for my first book, Secrets of Hallstead House, which was set in the Thousand Islands region of northern New York, but I also wrote what I wanted to know. The main character was a nurse and I didn’t know enough about nursing to write thoroughly about it, so I did quite a lot of research on nursing for that book. For The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, I researched endlessly the decorating and restoration of Civil War-era plantation houses. I didn’t know anything about those topics when I started planning the book.
How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.
I classify myself as a fiction writer. Under the fiction umbrella I consider myself a writer of women’s fiction with a romantic suspense bent.
Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?
I have a Kindle that I love. I know a lot of people prefer books they can hold in their hands, but e-readers definitely have some advantages over books. First, I can increase the font if I want to. Second, instead of taking a heavy pile of books when I go somewhere, I can put them on my Kindle and have everything on one device at my fingertips. And third, ebooks are very often cheaper than both hardcover and paperback books. Yes, there’s the smell of books and the feeling of pages under your fingertips, and I love paper books, too, but I can’t say that I prefer them to e-readers.
Any books on writing you have found most helpful? Or classes you’ve taken?
The book I’ve found most helpful, the book that is never far from my desk, the book that I have highlighted and dog-eared to death, is Phyllis Whitney’s Guide to Fiction Writing. It takes an aspiring writer step-by-step through the practical and organizational processes she recommends to produce a finished novel. I know her methods aren’t for everyone (there are lots of writers, called “pantsters,” who write without outlines and reams of notes), but they work very well for me.
P.S. Thank you so much for hosting this interview on Dames of Dialogue. It’s been a wonderful experience and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
Thanks for joining us today, Amy. I really enjoyed the interview. For more information about Amy, visit her website at: www.amymreade.com