Author Interview: Amy Trueblood
Amy Trueblood grew up in Southern California only ten minutes from Disneyland which sparked an early interest in storytelling. Her debut novel, Nothing But Sky, was a Spring 2018 Junior Library Guild selection. Her second book, Across a Broken Shore, also a JLG selection, recently won the Gold Medal for Historical Fiction in both the Independent Publisher Book Awards and Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards. It is also an American Library Association’s Amelia Bloomer List Pick for Best Feminist Titles in Children’s Literature. I asked her a couple of questions about her writing process, how she writes her books, what she'd like to talk about in her books and other interesting things. We are so lucky to be able to have some of her time.
What is your writing process like?
I’m a morning writer. I like to get up early and have coffee and get to work while my house is still quiet. In most cases, I consider myself to be a plantser (½ plotter & ½ pantser). My books usually have a loose outline, but I leave things open if I think the story needs to move in another direction. My first drafts are always very messy and I expect that. The initial story you put on the page is essentially taking the idea out of your head and laying it out in its most haphazard form. The real work comes in the next several drafts where you put the polish and zing into the story.
How do you deal with writer's block?
Writer’s block to me means something in the story isn’t working. I’ll often go back to the last scene that feels natural and try to pick through why the next page or chapter isn’t sitting right with me. It’s funny as I think this happens to most writers, but once I get in the shower, or go for a drive, my mind moves to other topics and I usually end up solving a plot problem that’s been bothering me for days.
What never fails to inspire you when you're feeling uninspired?
Reading. I believe that in order to be a good writer you have to read widely. Although I don’t write it, I know that if I read a well-plotted fantasy book (with intricate worldbuilding) I’ll be inspired to work on something new. Music is also a big inspiration. I have one book idea that actually came from a single line of lyrics in a favorite song.
How do you tap into subject matters? Do you use a lot of research for that process? For example, your last book was set in a different time, but it still feels accurate, raw and true to life. How do you manage to tap into that ability while writing from a past perspective?
No matter what genre you’re writing in, you have to do research. This, of course, holds specifically true for historical fiction. There are many times that I go to look up a certain subject and it opens a whole new world of ideas for a manuscript. For example, in my book Across a Broken Shore I had to research early medical school admission procedures. This drew me to the story of Dr. Lucy Wanzer and how she became the first woman west of the Rockies to earn her medical degree in 1876. Her life became the inspiration for writing the Dr. Winston character in the book. As I read Lucy’s tale and how she was hazed during her education, it reminded me that women today still have to put up with society’s belief that they aren’t cut out for certain professions. I leaned into this perception for Willa’s character and her need to fight for the role she wanted to have in the world.
What is your relationship to feminism and would you like to explore more aspects of it in your books?
My goal is to tell stories about headstrong girls who don’t fit into the mold of society. The groundbreaking women who inspire these stories are usually only given a line or two in recorded history. In my books, I want to tell their stories. Show younger readers that in spite of what the community expects your “role” to be, you can always break away from that expectation if you believe in your dream. I think that is a universal message no matter what time period I’m writing about.
How do you separate yourself from your work? As an artist, I feel sometimes it's easy to tie yourself to the thing that you create even though the thing that you create then becomes somewhat of a commodity, but you aren't a commodity. So how do you deal with that? Does it ever feel like you're selling yourself? Or do you feel separated from your ideas in that way?
I’ve made a conscious effort to limit my personal exposure to social media. Today, there is such a desperate need for people to share every facet of their life online, and personally, I feel like that can be very draining. For me, I only share things specific to my work and writing life. Putting up a wall between my personal and private life has kept me grounded and allowed me to have some creative breathing room.
What is your favorite part of the writing process?
I love the research aspect especially when I can include real people into my works of fiction. Readers will often reach out to me and tell me they didn’t know that person actually existed and it’s led them to want to learn more about that figure or time period. Opening the world for people like that is very satisfying.
Do you still think of writing as a hobby? Like, something that you can do just for fun?
I approach writing as my full-time job. My work is a small business that deserves my undivided time and attention. Certain parts of my day are set aside to do research, write, or work on promotion/marketing. This approach helps me accomplish goals for the day but it also signals to others that I take my job seriously.
I know the pandemic has impacted everyone but I was wondering if you found any tips that have helped you make it through and still find the time to be creative?
While things have been rough, the one thing I have relied on during the pandemic is structure. My day is still the same now as it was before the virus hit. I still get up, eat breakfast, write, exercise and take care of my family. There is a certain comfort in knowing those things will not change in spite of what is happening in the world.
Check out her website to learn more about Amy and her books.