Long and Short Reviews welcomes Amy E. Lignor whose first book in her Angel Chronicles series, Until Next Time, was released in February.
For Amy, characters are the main thing.
For a book to be good, in her opinion, the author has to really love their characters-whether they be evil and dark or heroic and romantic. If the writer doesn't feel the characters and understand what they are going through, Amy believes the reader will know it.
"I’ve seen some situations where a writer has chosen to deliver a book with a plotline that is simply 'in vogue; at the moment, to perhaps ride the wave of that particular pop culture phenomenon that’s making money at the time. And, you can tell - the reader can always tell if the author and the characters simply don’t mesh, so the most important element is to love the subject you’re writing about," she explained.
When Amy is developing her own books, the characters are the first thing that she works on.
"I want to know what they look like, how they walk, the tone of their voice, etc. I need to know what makes them tick - everything from their favorite foods to how they would carry a sword, to their emotions to whether they are a ‘head’ or ‘heart’ kind of person. My biggest need is to know exactly what they have faith in," she told me.
After that, it's the location. Where would these particular characters go in order to do the job that needs to be done. Then, the plot comes from everything else blended together.
"Only after I’ve met and gotten to know the characters can I even begin to know what they’re going to do. I always believe it’s fate," she said. "I start with a small premise and build everything around it, but the plot is what essentially changes. You can have a complete blueprint in front of you, but when you sit down to write the tale, the twists and turns can come on you at a moment’s notice and you have to be willing to alter the plot at any given moment."
"Do you ever suffer from writer's block?" I asked. "If so, what do you do about it?"
"Okay, this may sound like I am ready right now for that mental hospital, but I swear there’s nothing to worry about (and my daughter will put me into one sooner than you think). I sit in my room, in the dark, in peace and quiet, and I talk to the characters. I ask them what they think they would do in this situation, or what’s wrong with them, etc. I figure, this is their life and I’m just telling their story, so I get them to help me through the writer’s block."
Amy doesn't come up with her titles until the end of her book.
"It has to be at the end. I need to know and be beside my characters as they go through their adventures and ups and downs, heartbreaks, etc. before I can even attempt to throw a title on it. The title is just like the cover. It’s very important and has to really sum up your entire novel in just seconds. So it always just comes to me when the characters and I say goodbye or, Until Next Time," she said.
That's the hardest part of writing for her—when she has to say goodbye. She always wants to stay with her characters. It's one of the reasons she's happy about the fact that both The Angel Chronicles and Tallent & Lowery are series—she gets to stay by their side for a long time.
I asked Amy about her writing space.
"I love emerald green; I think it is the only soothing color in existence. So I write in a room with emerald green walls, and a turbo fan in the corner because I need the noise. I lived in a city for a long time and this desert life is a little too quiet for me at times to concentrate. I have shelves and shelves of books because they’re inspiring, and I have a great big black dog on the floor who sits by my side day after day and night after night - most likely wondering what the heck I’m doing and why I refuse to shut the light off."
It's hard for Amy to find time for her own writing, because she is also a reviewer for many sites as well as writing articles for magazines, companies, and newspapers.
"I made a rule a long time ago that I WILL give two hours a day at some point in the 24-hour period to just be with my characters and get it done," she told me. "It’s a good rule, even if you’re not up for it or you’re tired from the job, kids, work, school, whatever it may be - it is SO important to give yourself the gift of time, and that’s what I’ve always tried to maintain."
"What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?" I wondered.
"I feel all the emotions that my characters are feeling, so I cry (which requires tissues on the computer table); I get mad (which means a stuffed animal has to be in the vicinity to throw, because I don’t want to hit the dog by mistake with anything too hard); and I laugh a lot - so my family tells me. Apparently, I have a very deep laugh so they join in all over the house and the dog gets really confused by that one. I also have to have that fan on - if there’s absolutely no noise I might as well turn to Spider Solitaire because my brain will have nothing to work with."
When Amy was a young adult, her favorite author, hands down, was Judy Blume.
"When her 'controversial' book, Forever, came on to the market, I remember that the library board in our town made my mother put the book into the adult section because the townspeople thought it was absolutely atrocious that their sons and daughters could read about a girl’s first love and first sexual experience," she said. "Of course, now that book is one of the most tame books ever created. YA covers every subject across the board in this day and age. As a reviewer I read about suicide, drug abuse, AIDS, sex, violence - every subject that used to be taboo can now be brought to the surface. To me, this means that at least we’re talking to our kids this time around. The violence is far worse in the world, but no one has to bury their head in the sand anymore which is way healthier."
"As an adult, how do you keep your finger on the pulse of today’s youth?" I wanted to know.
"I’m lucky because I tried to never grow up in the first place," she said with a laugh. "I mean, I do the whole job/pay the bills side of life, but my daughter and I have always been a team. We’ve run the roads of America and lived in various cities and towns across the country, and have been able to hear people’s stories. Now, with the internet, I can do the same thing from my own home. It’s an amazing gift to be able to talk to people and see what’s going on in their lives. You can also keep up with everything from music to books to pop culture, and as long as you never forget what it was like to be that age, then you’ll always be able to understand. And for good YA writing, I think you must understand."
Finally, I asked Amy, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"
"Please don’t quit. I’ve said this before in so many interviews, but I’ve seen so many good writers call it quits because of the fact that their query letter was turned down by agents or publishers. That really drove me nuts because, yes, it is a real pain and you need an iron will for this career, but you have to stick with it through all the ‘negative’ replies. You’ve got to remember that people like Stephen King, J.K Rowling - these writers got turned down by hundreds, but they did not throw their books into a filing cabinet and forget about it. And, thank goodness, seeing as that I could not even imagine a world where the Overlook Hotel or Harry Potter didn’t exist. Actually…I don’t think I’d want to live in that world. So, please, no matter the rejection, do NOT give up!"