Welcome to the six hundred and ninetieth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with humorous non-fiction author Amy L Peterson. I first chatted with Amy (click here for that interview) back in April 2012 where we talked generally about writing. Amy is back today, with an update, and to talk more specifically about writing non-fiction. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Amy: I’m an author, wife, stepmom, grant manager and caretaker of pets. Our pet count currently includes two puppies, one middle-aged cat, two mynah birds, seven hamsters, and three aquariums of fish (because the discus fish didn’t get along and needed to be separated).
I’m based in mid-Michigan near the home of the Michigan State University Spartans. It seems I’ve always written, but didn’t think much of it until I won second place in a Law Day essay contest in fifth or sixth grade. The prize was $50 and I realized then that I’d have to be really lucky to make a lot of money writing and that it’d be a good hobby.
Morgen: Which sounds like it then became a career (I use the term loosely, I think most of us who write full-time are still working on making it our careers!). You write non-fiction, how do you decide what to write about?
Amy: When I became a stepmom to four kids and hadn’t a clue what I was doing, I thought perhaps my experience might be entertaining and helpful to other stepmoms and potential stepmoms, so that became the basis of my first book, From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds. Shortly after I got married, my husband began bringing animals into the house and that material evolved into Something Furry Underfoot.
Morgen: A great husband. Many, I would have said, would have frowned on their wives or children doing that. What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Amy: From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds is about becoming a stepmom to four great kids, who were 3, 5, 13 and 15 at the time I met them. All of the kids are big now and survived being under the same roof with me at times, so I guess that worked out okay. Something Furry Underfoot is about taking care of, and trying to spoil, a whole bunch of different pets.
I’m reserving the use of a pseudonym for when I get into a whole bunch of trouble and want to write about it without anyone knowing it’s me. So far, no need.
Morgen: That’s what I thought but I’ve written some very (very) dark crime that I’ll probably use another name for… we shall see. Have you self-published? If so, what lead to you going your own way?
Amy: I self-published because I worked with a literary agent once upon a time and it didn’t have a happy ending. Self-publishing is a lot of work but it puts the writer in control of their own destiny.
Morgen: That’s a shame, but you’re not the first writer I’ve spoken to who has had that experience, but as you say, we have more control going our own way and really, we have to do most of the marketing ourselves these days anyway. Are your books available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Amy: Yes, my books are available as eBooks. I read mostly paperbacks myself but that’s because my husband keeps buying paperbacks, and a paperback sitting around unread is quite sad, really.
Morgen: It is. I have many of those. I tend to read more eBooks but only because I’m in love with my Kindle Fire (and I get a list of <100 free ones each day from http://digitalbooktoday.com/free-kindle-books). Did you choose the titles / covers of your books?
Amy: Yes on both accounts. But while I came up with the titles and covers, coming up with a cover only means I came up with the idea. The real find for me has been my two graphic artists, because they can take my awful description of what I want and turn it into something eye-catching.
Morgen: They’re very striking. Colour definitely helps catch the eye, and the illustrations are fantastic. Which authors did you read when you were younger and did they shape you as a writer?
Amy: I was one of those Newberry award winner kids, reading everything that had that gold seal on it. I was also a Beverly Cleary fan.
Morgen: Not names I recognise. I guess we didn’t have them here in the UK, or not in my era (see earlier reference to Starsky & Hutch). What are you working on at the moment / next?
Amy: Something Furry Underfoot is my humorous yet touching memoir about a bunch of critters that came into my life, starting with frogs and iguanas that didn’t stay long, to lots of long-term critters, including African pygmy hedgehogs, ferrets, hamsters, gerbils, mice, guinea pigs, dogs, a stray cat, rescue rabbits, a domestic duck, and mynah birds. Oh, and those fish I mentioned. As with becoming a stepmother, I hadn’t a clue how to take care of any of these critters, but I soon became chief caretaker and master of spoiling. This book has tips like my first book, and in this case, they’re mostly tips about pets. For example consider Tip #28: It is important (although not easy) to know a boy gerbil from a girl gerbil. There are also some tips related to spouses, like Tip #4: The definition of `clean’ differs between the sexes.