Today I'm interviewing Amy Stinnett, an up-and-coming novelist here in the Treasure Valley.
Chris: I'm fairly familiar with your story, as we've worked together in our critique group from time to time, and have attended quite a few write-in events in the area. Let's start with who you read growing up.
Amy: I read a lot of different genres. When I was young, I loved the classics. Stories about running away and joining the circus or hiding out in a museum, horses kept in secret meadows, anything horses for years – Black Beauty, Misty, My Friend Flicka. In my teen years I read a lot of horror and suspense, Stephen King and Anne Rice, because that was popular at the time. I also developed an interest in sci-fi and existentialism. I read Camus’ The Stranger and a few plays; most of Gene Genet’s works; some Heinlein, Asimov, and Bradbury, Jean Auel, and early sci-fi/fantasy from the fifties and earlier. Over the years, I’ve been very influenced by Harper Lee, Dorothy Allison, and Flannery O’Connor.
Chris: That's a pretty varied reading list.. Who is your current favorite author?
Amy: Cormac McCarthy for sheer power of the prose. I love Molly Gloss, Tom Robbins, and Dorothy Allison. Of genre or series writers, I love Craig Johnson and Stieg Larsson. They inspire me, but I don’t have a similar writing style to any of them.
Chris: What first inspired you to write?
Amy: I have been a writer all my life, but for over forty years, I kept most of the words inside. Even though I’d edited and written several short stories and articles, I had never written a full-length work. A few years ago I finally had the time and was in a space, mentally, to get the words out. My partner was extremely supportive. It took three years for that first novel to come to fruition, but since then, I have written three more and I am currently working on my fourth and the final book of my first series.
I am, of course, inspired by the many great works I read, but also the ones that are all too rare or missing from my genre, works that celebrate the successes and everyday lives of LGBTQ characters. It is changing now, but for a long time, most of what I saw was dark, erotica, or included characters painted with a broad brush. There’s nothing wrong with those stories, but when that’s all there is to represent the lives like mine and a huge part of the population, there needs to be more. I prefer subtle nuances that make you feel like you know the characters in real life or wish that you did. That is what I strive for when I write, to create characters that the reader wants to care about, whether you’re LGBTQ or not.
Chris: How do you come up with the ideas for your stories?
Amy: I’m a firm believer in the phrase “write what you know,” so all of my stories begin with a kernel of something true to my life and run wide from there. For instance, one of my main characters in my first novel works in a group home for adults with developmental delays (something I have done in the past), and the group home features prevalently in the storyline. I hope that my familiarity with the work makes it ring true to the reader.
The plot for my series came as I was finishing up my first novel. I was still getting acclimated to life on a small farm, learning about animal husbandry and mechanical stuff. I was struck with the question: How would I cope with this if I was in my twenties? And voila - the premise was set for four novels/novellas.
Chris: What is your favorite genre to read?
Amy: I still cannot pick just one. I enjoy the subgenre Lesbian Literary Fiction (since that is, at heart, what I write), General and Literary Fiction, Suspense, regional, and anything with a great main character, one with a sense of humor about herself.
Chris: I have mixed emotions about reading in my genre, as I've frequently seen things in other books after I've already written something similar. It's the price we pay, I guess. What are you working on now?
Amy: I am finishing up the final novel in the Chickenshit Series. I find it both sad and liberating to conclude Billie’s story, but it makes sense to end it here. There are inroads to return to the story, should it ever occur to me to do so. Telling her dad’s story, Elliot’s, or Benj’s, I could revisit the story a few years from now, but for now, I’m ready to tackle some other projects that have been on hold for a while.
I am working on an illustrated children’s book with local artist Kas Scholl. The story is about a baby chick who doesn’t fit in with its siblings, a familiar story, but this one will have modern stamp on it. I will be working on some online articles and returning to the story from Lookout Butte to take a look around the next bend in Alex and Kat’s life together. The next book is titled Whippoorwill Springs.
Chris: Sounds like a full plate. What is the next thing you have coming out?
Amy: Volume 4 of the Chickenshit Series. This one is titled Fresh Horses and will be out October 1st. In Volume’s 1 through 4, we follow Billie Hatcher, as she inherits her dad’s farm and learns the ropes of farming and small town life as best a Northern Californian by way of Seattle can. She makes friends, incurs enemies, finds love, and grasps for the possibility of feeling competent in this new place.
Chris: That's coming up pretty soon! You have set an impressive pace. I can't write that fast, and I don't have to maintain an organic chicken farm. There must be something inspiring behind that.
Amy: A quote:
"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you."
--Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing
This is truer now than it ever has been.
Chris: That's a good one to hold onto, for sure. How can we find you, and stalk you in a non-creepy, supportive manner, online?
Amy: A few places:
Amazon Author Page : https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Stinnett/e/B0763VCYDW/
Website : https://amystinnett.com/
Chris: Any final thoughts?
Amy: Thank you for inviting me for this interview. Even though we work in different genres, we have a lot to discuss every time we meet. You were very helpful with website improvements and our first experiences with KDP, and you continue to give great feedback on my work and the writing process. Thanks, Chris. Also, to your readership, buy my book.
Chris: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me about your work, and your life. I look forward to seeing how your writing continues, and how your career goes.