Thursday 13 June 2024

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A Cup of Conversation with award-winning debut author Amy J. Markstahler


When I first joined Twitter one of my first ever followers was Amy; I was attracted to her warm, friendly personality and as time went on we seemed to click on a level more than that relating to our writing, so to say we have been on this writer’s path together from the start is true. I have loved the way Amy’s passion for writing and her story Life Happens on the Stairs has exploded into the publishing world with her fabulous Breakthrough Novel Award 2018…truly deserved and I’m so proud to give this A Cup of Conversation interview with her. I’m sure you’ll love her just as much as I do!


1. When did you start writing creatively?

I wrote a lot in high school, short stories and some poetry. When I went to college, English 101 was a creative writing class and I loved it. My professor was quite taken with my work, but then I set down my pen for many years. I’ve always journaled, but in 2009 I read a popular YA series, and the spark flickered inside of me again. It wasn’t until 2013 that I sat down with the determination to get a full novel written. That’s when Life Happens on the Stairs was born.

2. How has your love of painting and art author influenced your writing and writing style?

Ah, the arts, dear to my heart. I was determined to prove to myself I could draw/paint. I worked on the craft for many years as I stayed at home with my kids. I guess that determination spilled over into writing, my first love. Art History made a huge impact on me and I love to find the “drama” behind the scenes of artwork and creators. I definitely found ways to incorporate that into my writing. This is a fun fact about LHOTS… There’s a scene where Elsie and Tyler are talking about their love of art and history. Elsie’s a fine artist and Tyler’s a history buff. He talks about seeing a painting when he was a kid by Peter Rothermel. It’s a historical rendition of Patrick Henry’s speech, Give me liberty or give me death. I used this because my brother’s name is Patrick Henry Rothermel. I stumbled across this during research and found it fascinating that not only a Rothermel painted it, but the names made up my brother’s name! So much fun!!

3. What was the last book you read and what lasting message did it leave?

The last book I read was Being Indie by Eeva Lancaster. I wish I’d read it sooner. She has invaluable advice for writers concerning the publishing business. I highly recommend it to all writers looking to publish. She breaks down the industry, dos and don’ts, and puts out the warning to writers about the publishing sharks, preying on peoples work.

4. tell us a little about your debut release Life happens On The Stairs.

LHOTS is a story of a young lady all jumbled up with fear and worry. She’s devastated that her dad is terminally ill, as she tries to help her mom make ends meet, cleaning houses for the wealthy. Elsie has to find her inner strength to endure all the pain she’s facing. Then, she meets Tyler. The love story balances the emotional rollercoaster of the heartache the family is enduring. Even though this is a young adult novel, many of my readers are moms who relate to the family aspect. LHOTS truly is a story about family when you get to the heart of it.

5. Are any of the characters in your debut novel based on yourself?

I suppose on some levels, they all do. Elsie has aspects of me, especially her emotions—I’m a very emotional lady! To be honest, I asked myself when I started writing Tyler, if I was a guy, what kind of guy would I want to be? So, Tyler even has pieces of me, such as his empathy and compassion.

6. Which of your characters is your favourite and why would your readers like them?

This is a tough one, I love them all! Even my antagonists. I guess if I had to choose, it’s Tyler. I love Tyler! He’s a true gentleman. I want his example to show young ladies that the way he treats Elsie is the way they deserve to be treated and to accept nothing less. He’s not perfect, of course, no one is, but our daughters need examples of what a true gentleman looks like.

7. How did you come about entering the competition you won recently and how has it helped you as an author?

The Breakthrough Novel Awards changed everything for me. I have a strong network of writer friends on Twitter, and someone along the way retweeted the contest information. It was a minimal fee, so I took a chance. Around the same time, I’d signed with an independent publisher. It wasn’t a bad deal, but as time moved on, I knew they weren’t invested in the story, just sales. In June, I received an email I’d won the BNA! From there, I chose to back out of the contract and let my publicist take the lead in self-publishing LHOTS. Eeva Lancaster and The Book Khaleesi have made my dreams come true! From helping me create a beautiful website, promotions that make the book shine, and the gorgeous cover. And most of all, Eeva edited the book. That was vital to me, something I wasn’t going to get from the small publisher. I wanted someone to work with that was invested in the story as much as I am, and winning the award gave me that opportunity.

8. Is there any aspect of the writer’s life you least enjoy? Why?

The query process. It’s frustrating to get rejected over and over. I’m stronger than I used to be as far as the rejections, but it seems impossible to get past the slush pile.

9. What is your process for ensuring your books are ready for release?

Edit the edits, reread, and edit those edits! It can feel like it will never end. After going through the release, I understand the process better, but I didn’t really have a plan to begin with. This is my debut, so I’ve learned a lot!

10. What three pieces of advice would you give a new writer?

Don’t give up. This is a journey, certainly not a race. Don’t rush into a contract. There are many vanity publishers out there and all they want is your hard earned money. I’m so grateful for the BNA contest, it really saved me a lot of heartache. When you’re an unknown author, you don’t have readers and your story will get lost in the sea of novels. Be patient and keep trying. If you self-publish, be sure you look professional. Know your limitations and hire a professional to help you. It pays off in the end.

       11. Are you a planner or a pantser?

I’m a pantser! I like to get a rough idea of the storyline in my mind, maybe outline a little, but what I love most about writing is not knowing what the characters are going to do. I will always be fascinated by the process. As the character develops, I find they do things I never would’ve expected. Sounds crazy, but as I’m writing, I’ll try to make them do something and it’s like they’re screaming, “No! I refused to go there! I’m going this direction!” I love it when surprises like that happen.

     12. What’s on your current to-do-list?

I have another book that needs significant work, and several more story ideas that I need to get written. I’m promoting Life Happens on the Stairs as much as I can, as well.

Thank you Amy for sharing your writer’s life and I wish you all the success in all the world with your new book! Thank you too, readers for reading! I’ve included Amy’s social media links below so you can continue to follow her amazingly inspiring journey.







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