Amy Harmon is a USA Today and New York Times Bestselling author. Amy knew at an early age that writing was something she wanted to do, and she divided her time between writing songs and stories as she grew.
Having grown up in the middle of wheat fields without a television, with only her books and her siblings to entertain her, she developed a strong sense of what made a good story.
Amy has been a motivational speaker, a grade school teacher, a junior high teacher, a home school mom, and a member of the Grammy Award winning Saints Unified Voices Choir, directed by Gladys Knight.
She has written six novels, Running Barefoot, Slow Dance in Purgatory, Prom Night in Purgatory, the New York Times Bestseller, A Different Blue, Making Faces and her newest releases are Infinity + One and the Law of Moses.
Amy Harmon Interview
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Books by Amy Harmon
Amy Harmon Transcript
Amy Harmon is a mom, a teacher, a motivational speaker, and a gifted singer who was a member of the Grammy winning group Saints Unified Voices Choir, directed my Gladys Knight.
Amy also happens to be a USA Today and New York Times Bestselling author.
Amy Harmon has written six novels – the USA Today Bestsellers, Making Faces and Running Barefoot, as well as Slow Dance in Purgatory, Prom Night in Purgatory, and the New York Times Bestseller, A Different Blue.
Her latest novel is called Infinity + One and her next release is called The Law of Moses.
This was a fun interview. Amy is such a sweet genuine person who has more talent in her little finger than most of us have in our whole bodies; myself included.
Here then is my interview with the wonderful Amy Harmon; mom, teacher, singer, and author on today’s Interviewing Authors.
Tim Knox: Amy, welcome to the program.
Amy Harmon: Thank you so much for having me.
Tim Knox: I’m excited to have you here. You and I have tried to do this before and Skype got in the way. The gods are smiling on us today. Before we get started though give the audience a little background on you.
Amy Harmon: I am a teacher. I taught a little private school in Las Vegas for several years. I’m a mom of four, big spread with my kids – 19, 15, 10 and a 4 year old on the tail end. Actually it was the 4 year old coming along that forced me to change careers and pull out that rusty, dusty manuscript that I’d written years ago and kind of gave me the impetus to publish.
I’ve been married for 20 years. I’m a country girl. I like horses, like small town living. So that’s just kind of a little bit about me. Very musical, started writing lyrics before I wrote books, was singing before I decided to try my hand at novel writing. That’s just me in a nutshell I suppose.
Tim Knox: So you’re a very creative person. Did you think your child rearing days were over and then this 4 year old comes along?
Amy Harmon: Yes. It was really, really a surprise. Not on the radar at all. It was the first week of school and I just switched to teaching 6th and 7th grade and was really excited about this group of kids that I had and found out that I was pregnant the first week of school. Yeah, it was really an emotional upheaval but what a blessing. Of course all kids are blessing but he’s blessed our lives in a myriad of ways. One of the ways was that it forced me to, like I said, change careers. I changed my focus from what I was doing to what I feel like I need to do.
Tim Knox: How long had you been a teacher?
Amy Harmon: I’d only been teaching for three years. My next youngest, when she was four I started teaching at this little school. They had a preschool program there at the school and I was able to bring my older two as well. It went all the way up to 9th grade, from preschool to 9th grade, a little private school. It was just ideal for us.
We would go to school together each day, all of us together and I got into teaching and really loved it. The fact that the little one came along… I was on my career track. I was ready to stay with that. So I hadn’t been teaching that long but that was part of the problem I think. I hadn’t been teaching for more than three years. I wanted to keep on.
Tim Knox: I’m reading your bio and you grew up without a television.
Amy Harmon: Yeah, no TV.
Tim Knox: That would be considered child abuse I think today. How did that happen?
Amy Harmon: Well part of the problem was we lived a good three miles outside of the nearest town. The town that we did live outside of was just a blip on the map and there wasn’t very good reception so we wouldn’t have been able to get cable or anything like that where we were at anyways. My parents both were school teachers as well and both raised in the city so the fact that we ended up where we ended up was an interesting story in itself but I think they just decided we don’t need it. That’s been a real blessing. There are six of us, three boys and three girls, my sibling. We all are very, very independent, hardworking, do it yourself kind of people and I really think that not having the television – of course I have four in my house so I haven’t followed my parent’s lead – but I think not having the television was really beneficial and really groomed us for other different things. I don’t know.
Tim Knox: It made you entertain yourself.
Amy Harmon: It did.
Tim Knox: I can remember I was the same way. I grew up in the middle of nowhere in Alabama and of course this was a few years ago and there was no cable. I can remember my dad climbing up on a telephone pole trying to put an antenna up just so we could pick up the three local channels. If the president was on, you’re screwed.
I find that interesting. So I would assume back then you spent a lot of time reading. Is that what started your love of books?
Amy Harmon: Totally a huge reader. I would go through so many books in the summertime. My parents really couldn’t keep up with me. We had a book mobile where it comes to our little town and we knew which day it was and it came every two weeks to the church in the nearby town. I think I read everything in that book mobile. They could not keep up with me. My mom actually probably let me read books that weren’t really appropriate for me. I think she got desperate. I read Jane Eyre when I was 12. I just consumed everything that I could consume.
I still don’t watch television. My kids like it and my husband watches it to relax. I’m not interested and I think that’s a big part why. I’d much rather read.
Tim Knox: The time you’re not spending in front of the TV you’re spending writing, which is a good thing.
Amy Harmon: I am. I don’t have time to watch TV.
Tim Knox: Even back then when you were younger were you ever a writer?
Amy Harmon: I was always. Poetry, music was a big thing so I wrote a lot of song lyrics. I wrote short stories but I find even now I don’t love short stories. That’s one thing I’ve never been crazy about. I don’t read novellas. I don’t write them. Most of the time it was poetry, essays, that type of thing.
Tim Knox: Was the poetry romantic poetry, was it…?
Amy Harmon: Oh sure. I’m a girly girl. I told you I read Jane Eyre when I was 12. I’ve loved Mr. Rochester since before high school. Anyways, I’m a girly girl and romance plays a big part in my makeup.
Tim Knox: Did you continue to write as you grew and went to school and college and beyond?
Amy Harmon: Yeah I was the English Sterling Scholar in my neck of the woods. They would pick a student that was the student in a particular area – English, history, overall, that type of thing. I was the English Sterling Scholar. I actually won regionally and graduated second in my class. That was always kind of my thing. I could always make that work for me. I wasn’t great at math but I could always make the writing work for me.
What a blessing it’s been in my life. I think if you can write, then you can do just about anything.
Tim Knox: Most authors make more than mathematicians so that was a good move for you. At what point did you move from writing poetry to fiction?
Amy Harmon: You know what, it wasn’t young. I was probably 32 when I decided. I had always wanted to write a novel and I had never written one. I just decided I was going to give it a go. It took me about a year. I have a life and I was teaching at the time. It was completely for me and it still remains the most enjoyable experience I’ve had of writing a novel, that first one, because there was absolutely no pressure. There was no sense of I have to get this done or who I was writing for. I was writing for me. I wrote a book set in the town that I grew up in and it was wonderful but I didn’t have any plans for it. I finished it and I just tucked it away.
Tim Knox: What was the name of this book?
Amy Harmon: It’s called Running Barefoot.
Tim Knox: What was it about?
Amy Harmon: It’s about a girl who much like me grows up in this small town called Levan and she’s very mature for her age, which again was kind of autobiographical, very musically inclined and it’s about her growing up. She’s 13 years old and meets a boy who’s moved to the town who’s half Navaho. He’s come to the town to live with his grandparents for his senior year in high school. He’s kind of had a difficult growing up and she befriends him.
There’s a long bus ride to school every day in this town. There’s no school in the town where I grew up and so we would all, junior high and high school, pile on this one bus and they would ship us to the next town. That bus ride growing up was the time where I read a lot, where I did my homework. So that’s the setting for this book, these bus rides back and forth where these two become friends. Even though she’s very young she really helps him.
The book skips forward 10 years. Half of the book is set when they’re children and then he leaves town. Of course he’s much older and comes back 10 years later. She’s suffered a series of tragedies and their roles are kind of reversed at that point and he’s the one that helps her.
So it’s a romance. It has since hit the USA Today list. As I continue to have success with my other books, my readers would go back and check out my backlist and that book has done very, very well for me.
Tim Knox: What year was that?
Amy Harmon: Let’s see. I didn’t publish it until 2012.
Tim Knox: What was the process of writing it? You said you wrote it for yourself and I’ve heard this a lot. On first books there’s less pressure because there are no expectations.
Amy Harmon: Sure.
Tim Knox: So you’re much more free to do what you want. How long did you say it took you to write it? And once you did have it finished did you run it past an editor or what did you do?
Amy Harmon: It took me a year of writing, not steadily but I just kept coming back to it and writing when I could. I had to do a lot of research. Even though it’s set in the town that I grew up in, Samuel, the male love interest in it was half Navaho and I didn’t… even though there’s a lot of Navaho Indians in Utah, I didn’t know much about the culture and I wanted to get that right so I did a lot of research. I actually love research.
That took me a year and when I finally decided to publish it, it was because we were in dire straits financially. My oldest got very sick. I was at home so I wasn’t bringing in any income. I just pulled it out and I begged my mom to read. My mom didn’t want to. I think she was afraid it was going to be garbage and then she was going to have to tell me it was garbage, and she will. That’s the kind of mom she is. She’s always been really straight with me.
So I finally twisted her arm enough to read it and I remember that call when she finally finished it. She had it for a while. She teaches school as well and I didn’t expect much as far as a quick return. She got back to me and she said, “Amy, it’s really good.”
At that point, that gave me the confidence to go back over it, clean it up. Big mistake right there. I needed someone else to edit for me but literally I had no money. I’m not one of these people who say, “I had no money,” and I still had $10,000 in my savings account. I didn’t have any money. I mean nothing. I just thought, you know what, I taught English. It will be alright. It really wasn’t. You know how you miss things. It was a mess and that’s why it’s amazing that it’s done so well.
I stuck it on. I researched how to do it, how to self-publish. I’ve seen a lot of self-published books come through Amazon and most of them were terrible, terrible books and I thought I know I could do better than that. So I just put it on. It wasn’t formatted for eBook. It had a cover. My daughter at the time was messing around with some photography. She’d taken a picture of a piano and that was the cover of the book. I mean it was really, really primitive. But I put it on and had some success. I started to garner a little… people were surprised when they read it. That actually worked in my favor because people didn’t expect anything and it was so much better than what they thought.
So yeah, I don’t know if I’m missing a part to that question because I’ve talked for so long.
Tim Knox: I think you answered it. You self-edited it. My books have been out two years and I got a review this morning that said, “It had a typo in it.” I’m like why don’t you send me the page number? I’m not going to read it again.
So you uploaded it and you put it on Amazon and somehow it garnered notice. People just started buying it. Any idea why?
Amy Harmon: I think a big part of what got the wheels turning or the ball rolling with this book was that I told you I’m from this little town called Levan and there’s another town not too far from it that I went to school in. The community as a whole, the community where I went to school in this little town that I grew up in, the word started getting out that I had written a book set in that community and people were really curious. I did get quite a few buys just from the curious and then when one person would read it and it was good, that was the key. They would tell someone else. It just kind of started getting some momentum.
I think I was smart in one regard. Instead of putting it out by itself, before I published it in 2012 I decided I needed to write another book and have something else so that if they liked it that it would lead to another buy. So I had an idea for a completely different type of book, a young adult paranormal Twilight-esque book. I’d written it and that one only took me three months.
Tim Knox: What was the name of it?
Amy Harmon: It’s called Slow Dance in Purgatory.
Tim Knox: I love the cover by the way on that book.
Amy Harmon: Amazon contacted me and said, “Your other books have done really, really well but your paranormal haven’t. Let us do the cover.” They redid the cover on that so that was kind of fun.
Tim Knox: It’s amazing. That’s a good point to make though. I’ve heard this from other authors. John Wyndham I interviewed yesterday and same thing. When Amazon redid his cover, I mean they’re the professionals at this and it really made all the difference in the world.
Amy Harmon: Yeah, exactly.
Tim Knox: I was going to ask if that was you on the cover so I guess it’s not.
Amy Harmon: No but actually Slow Dance in Purgatory has had three different covers. The first cover was just a CreateSpace cover I picked from their stock photos, which aren’t very good. Then I knew I needed to up my game, which I’m constantly doing. I have never set back and thought well this is my offering. I hope people like it. I keep trying to better my product.
So I did redo the cover for Slow Dance. I put my niece and nephew on the front. I actually really liked the cover of Slow Dance in Purgatory and I had a photographer do it and they kind of used that idea for this one. So it did have my niece and nephew on the cover and one of my books still has my niece on the cover and actually Amazon really liked that one and asked if they could use it in some advertising. So that’s funny you is that you on the cover. No but there are family relations on my covers.
Tim Knox: So it took you three months to write this one. I think it’s really smart to have a second book there. That’s one thing I hear a lot. They discovered this book and then they went looking for my backlist.
Amy Harmon: Right. It’s so true. So I did them simultaneously. I published them both in April of 2012. I put them both up there, let family and friends know. I did have a big support group. I lived in Las Vegas for 10 years when I was singing and when I was teaching and I had a big community of people out there that were very supportive. So I had these two little reader groups, a Las Vegas readership and then my little Utah readership.
I put them out and they actually sold a few companies. Instead of getting discouraged that they didn’t sell the way I wanted, I decided that the only thing I knew to do was write another book. So I immediately wrote the follow-up of Slow Dance in Purgatory; I wrote Prom Night in Purgatory. It was intended to be a trilogy but I didn’t want to write a third book when I felt like I could really do it justice with two.
So I finished it up and published the second book to the Purgatory Series in August, so two in April and one in August.
Tim Knox: You were a very busy girl there.
Amy Harmon: And I had a little tiny baby. I honestly don’t know how I did it. I don’t know how I did it. I don’t think I slept. I really was a woman on a mission. My oldest had gotten sick and it was really therapeutic for me. My oldest, he’s 19 now. He was 15 or 16 at the time. He’d been hospitalized for severe anxiety and depression. He was in the psych ward in Salt Lake City and I was driving up to see him and had this baby. My husband was still working in Las Vegas because he hadn’t found work in Utah. It was just such a messy time.
So I look at that and I think how did you write two books in a six month period? I don’t know how I did it. I think I just knew that I had to and I think the writing process for me was doing something when I could do nothing. I couldn’t do anything for my son except be there and I knew financially we were not going to make it. So I guess I didn’t know it couldn’t be done. I think we’ve all heard that before and because of that I made it happen.
I still didn’t make very much money. But it came to August and I had three books out and started writing again. I just kept writing. In March – so this time it took me a little longer – I went back to what I felt had worked really well in Running Barefoot. The paranormal books are a lot of fun and a lot of people love those the most but I think I found that I was a better dramatic writer, contemporary women’s stories. I don’t know how to define my books.
I went back to that emotional story about overcoming trials and I wrote A Different Blue, and that one came out on March 29th of 2013 and it the New York Times list in June of 2013.
Tim Knox: How did that happen?
Amy Harmon: I don’t know.
Tim Knox: I knew you were going to say that. So many times I will ask an author that question and they don’t know. They’re glad it did. Talk about that experience and about that.
Amy Harmon: Like I said, I put it out March 29th and by this time it’d been a full year since I published my first two. I’d learned a few things about Facebook, about the blogs that are out there, the romance blogs. My books are not bodice rippers. Anybody that has read my stuff I think it surprises them that the same people that like my books also like 50 Shades because they are such polar opposites but they are romances.
I started to discover that there are big blogs out there that would read self-published, indie books and they would promote them. I just slowly started building a bit of a following in those communities. I started with smaller blogs because they were more willing to read my stuff and then when I put out A Different Blue I found out about Goodreads and all those types of things.
It got the attention of a fairly good sized blog. The blog is called Totally Booked and it’s a pair of gals. One of them is in Australia and one of them is in London I think. She lives in London; she’s in the UK. They, for whatever reason, it caught their eye and they read it and they really liked the book and they put it up. It did really, really well. It started to grow some legs. It didn’t hit the New York Times on release and I just kind of… it did well.
Like I said, it grew legs. I put it on sale two months later, Memorial Day weekend, and I was actually camping with my kids and didn’t have any service, any internet. I had to get up to this top of this hill. I was trying to watch my numbers that weekend as the sale hit but it was very interesting. It was a BookBub ad but the BookBub ad didn’t hit until Sunday. So I lowered all my prices everywhere – Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes – on that Saturday and I think I sold 500 copies in a half an hour. It started to spread across these romance blogs that this book is on sale. You know as well that $0.99 books don’t do that necessarily. Just because you put your book down to $0.99 it doesn’t… in fact, I’ve sold more books at $4.95 than I’ve sold at $0.99.
I put that book on sale and it started to spread like wildfire through the blogs. The next morning, Sunday morning, the BookBub ad hit. I don’t know what kept it going because I didn’t have anything else. There was the BookBub ad. That was it and the fact that it spread through the blogging community but it shot up and it was at number eight on the Amazon list. It was at number eight for almost two weeks. I really don’t know what kept it there. I think the fact that it got so high, I think that gave it some visibility.
Tim Knox: Were you on top of the mountain doing a happy dance?
Amy Harmon: Oh my gosh, I didn’t even know what to think. I didn’t know what to think. It was such an emotional time. In fact, I had somebody contact me that knew a little bit about marketing and he said, “Make sure your reviews are up around 250,” because I didn’t even have 250 reviews; it had like 210 when it went on sale. He said, “Get your reviews up and don’t take it off sale. As long as it’s staying up there keep the sale going.”
I didn’t even know how the lists, New York Times and USA Today, I didn’t even know how they did that. I didn’t know that it was from Saturday night at 11:59 until the following. Basically from Sunday to Sunday is the period where you have to keep your numbers up. I didn’t know any of that and he told me some things and that was great, helpful and I tried actually to move the price back down a week later and because Smashwords was so slow and nothing else updated, Amazon wouldn’t change theirs.
So it was $0.99 for two weeks and I’m thinking, “I’m not making any money! I’m selling all these books without making any money.” And my mom was screaming at me, “Take it off sale!” “I can’t! Amazon won’t!” It actually ended up being a blessing because it hit the following week as well. It hit the New York Times list the following week as well. It was just such a crazy, crazy thing. I don’t know how it happened.
Since that book, my book Making Faces that came out in October of 2013 has done better, has sold more copies. It had far more acclaim but it didn’t hit the list so I think there’s a magic combination, that perfect storm where everything comes together just right. You hit the numbers just right and you make it on the list. I don’t know.
Tim Knox: The one thing that you talk about that I thought was really interesting was how you went out and actively sought out these blogs to get your book in front of. Like it or not, you’re now a marketer along with being an author.
Amy Harmon: Yeah.
Tim Knox: That’s kind of funny because most authors hate that but that’s the nature of the beast.
Amy Harmon: That’s right. You have to market but at the same time I think, and I try to remind myself of this every time the whole marketing thing starts to consume or to get depressing. I remind myself that it doesn’t matter how well you market if you don’t have a good book. When I feel overwhelmed and feel I can’t do it all – I can’t be a mom, I can’t market, I can’t write. When I start losing the writing time then I always back off because it’s all about the book.
The book sells itself and the book is your best marketing tool. I know that everybody has heard that but it’s true. If the material is really good then you will get that word of mouth. You’ll get the people talking about your book on the blogs. You’ll get the bloggers posting and then you’ll have several people say, “I loved that book.” That just goes so much farther than the blogs. The blogs put it up there but it’s the readership, the people that follow those blogs and people that now follow me and follow other authors that I’ve become friends with.
It’s about the product, bottom line. Every time I get consumed by this whole marketing thing and think I cannot do this I don’t know what I’m doing, I remind myself it’s about the book. Then I keep doing the marketing but it’s about the book.
Tim Knox: I think that’s a good point. You and I both know there have been books that have somehow hit it big but they weren’t really that great. Where is the guy who wrote Bridges of Madison County? I don’t know. When A Different Blue started selling what did that do to the sales of your backlist?
Amy Harmon: You know what, it hasn’t helped. For all the success that A Different Blue had and Running Barefoot and Making Faces and now Infinity Plus One, which came out in June. Those books have helped each other a lot but my Purgatory books, because they are young adult paranormal, they have not benefited.
It’s a different genre and when I do a giveaway or I do something like that on my website or Facebook page and I give those books away or this and that, I’ll have those readers that liked my other books come back to me and say, “I didn’t read those two because they were this genre I didn’t like and I actually loved the books,” because they like my writing style. It’s interesting to me that those books have not done as well. They’re a different genre so it’s taken a little coaxing. Some of my readers are like, “Well I don’t have anything else to read and I’ve loved everything else you’ve written so I’m going to give these books a chance.”
Those two haven’t done as well, which has been an interesting thing for me to discover. When I have an idea for a book that maybe doesn’t quite fit into my genre, I’ve got to find a way to market that book in such a way that my genre readers still will pick it up. I have one coming out that isn’t quite the same as these last four have been. I’m going to have to tweak that blurb so I don’t lose those people and yet I can still write what I want.
Tim Knox: That’s one thing I find very interesting about readers. They do get zoned in on a particular genre and if you’re an author who is known for writing this particular genre and then you go over here… if you all of a sudden went over and wrote a Western and then tried to sell that to the people that have been buying your books they’re going to go, “Amy’s drinking. Something’s going on here.”
Amy Harmon: Exactly.
Tim Knox: Talk a little about your process because you are a busy mom. You don’t watch a lot of TV, thank God, but you’re always busy doing other things. What’s your process for writing? Is it something you try doing every day? Do you do it on a schedule? How formal or how regimented is your writing?
Amy Harmon: Unfortunately formal and regimented don’t describe me at all. I wish they did. I wish it was more like that. I can’t remember the writer. He’s a famous writer who talked about how at 9 AM he’s always in front of the computer and I thought, well okay he’s a man because I can’t do that. I would have little people around that need me. I cannot be that regimented in my life and I think I would drive myself crazy if I tried to be that regimented.
However, usually when I’m done with a project, when I’m done with a book, I usually already have in mind what’s coming next although I don’t… I’m not one of these people that work on several different projects at once. I work on one project at once because I find that it consumes me. When I’m not writing I’m thinking about it and the story consumes me.
It’s usually not until I start getting to the end where I allow myself to think about other ideas and start letting those little seeds flourish in my head but I usually know what I’m going to write by the time I’m done with one project, and then I just sit on it for a couple months. I stew. I think about the characters and I flesh them out but I do that all in my head. I don’t spend a lot of time.
Sometimes I’ll write what’s in my head. I’ll do a quick character sketch, just free write and then I just let it stew. I think about the elements of the characters, the characteristics of the character and then I’ll start asking myself questions about the characters. Usually the character tells you the story or the character themselves, for me, reveal the plot. It’s who they are and how they got that way and where they’re going and what they’re doing and what they love and who they hate. It’s all those things that, for me, create the plot.
So I start thinking about the characters. I usually have a seed of a plot, a seed of a storyline and I just think. I do some research. Usually my characters have things about them that I’m interested in but I don’t know a lot about or I do know a lot about but I need brushing up on. In A Different Blue the love interest is a history teacher, a male history teacher. I used all the lessons that I used to teach my 6th and 7th graders.
I do a lot of brushing up. I do a lot of research. I do a lot of thinking. But I don’t write for about two months just to kind of detox, plus my family can’t stand me by that point. I’ve just finished a project. I’m haggard and ugly so I need that two months to see the sunshine and see my kids and all those kinds of things.
Tim Knox: You need a period of decompression.
Amy Harmon: I do totally. That decompression also serves as the chance to kind of let a new story take root. Then I start to write. With a lot of books. I’ve written six books. With five of those books I wrote in scenes. I would write something the characters are doing or thinking or saying, something. I’ll do a scene. It won’t necessarily be in any order. I don’t know where it’s going to happen in the book but something will come into my mind where I think this is a good scene and I will write the scene.
That’s how I wrote a bunch of my books, with scenes that weren’t in any order. It’s such a mess but that’s how my head works and then I kind of connect them. Of course you have to then change things and make things works and sometimes the character you started with in a scene, by the time you’ve gotten to the end, his voice is wrong. The voice of that character in that scene that you wrote on day one doesn’t match later on so you have to fix those types of things.
But with my latest, Infinity, that one came out in a sequential, chronological fashion. I wrote that book in order. It was so strange. It was a road trip. The whole book is a road trip and I knew the opening scene and I wrote the opening scene and the way that these two characters meet and then they continue on to this road trip came about in a very organic… what would have happened first? They left Boston and they would have gone here.
Because I was thinking in terms of road trip and driving and how they came together, I didn’t know what came next and the characters didn’t know what came next either. I think that’s why it worked with that one. That was a very easy book for me to write. It hasn’t done as well as Making Faces. It’s been very steady. It’s gotten very steady sales but Making Faces after A Different Blue has just been crazy. That book has done so well but this one hasn’t as well.
The market feels really strange to me right now. I don’t know. I think there’s some things happening out there. The pulse of the whole thing has felt different. I don’t know. It’s going to be interesting to watch with the next release and to see how things are. That one came out in a very organized fashion, which is strange for me.
As far as the process of writing, I try to give myself a word count that I complete each day once I’m in it. I try to write every day, even if I don’t get a whole lot done. When I see people that say, “I did 5,000 words today or 7,000 words today,” or some people do 10,000 words, I don’t know how they do that.
I write slowly but what I do write, by the time I’m done with that scene or that part, it’s pretty clean. By the time I’m done with a book, I don’t have one of these horrible, messy first drafts that is going to take me four months more to go back and gut. By the time I’m done with a book it is pretty close to where it needs to be, other than the copy editing and things like that. The story itself is very solid by the time I’m done so I do write pretty slowly compared to a lot of the people that are in my same genre.
Tim Knox: You’re six books in now. Are you still self-publishing?
Amy Harmon: I’m still self-publishing. I’ve had some interest but I’m not sold on traditional publishing for several reasons. I have a great agent. I’m represented by Dystel & Goderich. They’re in New York. I have a foreign rights agent and that’s actually why I got an agent was because when A Different Blue started going crazy and I was on the top of the mountain of Amazon I started getting a lot of foreign publishers contacting me and I didn’t know what to do. I actually didn’t answer most of those emails. It was so far beyond what I could even imagine that I just kind of shoved them away. I told my husband about it and he said, “Woman, are you nuts? That’s free money. You have got to get an agent, somebody to help you handle this.”
So I did and I just turned that over and that has been so fun because it’s absolutely zero pressure, zero work. I mean the work’s already been done and so to just have books published in other countries and see… I have had translators that work with the publishing companies and they’ve contacted me and it’s just been such a pleasure. That part of it has been such a pleasure.
As far as domestically, I’m not convinced that traditional publishers know what they’re doing. I see some of the stuff they pick up and I think, “Ugh, okay.” These are books I’ve read within the genre that I write and I just think I don’t trust you or your input because I see what you’re picking up and what you think is quality. I just don’t agree.
I’ve made a lot of money. I really have. I’ve made a lot of money, especially in this last year since A Different Blue hit. It has been so awesome to handle my own affairs, to handle the process. Even though it’s tons of work it’s my work and I’m the boss and I decide whether I want a sex scene in my book or what kind of language I want to use or if I want to talk about God. I’m going to talk about Jesus Christ and if you don’t want to hear it… I don’t want to be… what’s the word I’m looking for?
Tim Knox: You don’t want to be governed.
Amy Harmon: I don’t and that’s been hard for my agent but, you know what, she works for me and I’m a nice person and I start feeling a little guilty. I think, “Maybe I should let Penguin publish this book.” Penguin was very interested in Infinity Plus One but I made so much more money than I would have made if I had accepted their advance and I was in the driver’s seat.
There will be a time where something works and fits and feels right and when that time comes I hope I’ll know it. For right now I’m happy.
Tim Knox: I had one of the authors tell me it’s all a matter of zeroes, meaning how many zeroes are on that check and how bad do I want that check? That’s really what it comes down to. Otherwise, you’re right. It’s very freeing to do your own thing and to do it well like you’re doing it. You’ve got the success coming.
Last question here. The audience for this show primarily are authors who want to do what you have done, want to do what you are doing. What’s your best advice to someone who comes up and says, “Amy, I’ve written a book or want to write a book. What do I do?”
Amy Harmon: Well you know there’s all the technical stuff like going to CreateSpace. Check out Kindle Direct Publishing. Check out Nook Press. Check out Smashwords. If I can figure that stuff out – I am not technological and do not have those skills. If I can figure that out anybody can. Don’t let that part intimidate you. There are a lot of great people out there that will format your books for really reasonable prices, people that edit, people that do covers. All of that stuff can be found, especially within the indie writing community. It’s not hard to make that happen.
As far as the writing, I think it was Tracy Garvis Graves who said something that I saw the other day and it was so well said that I think I need to put it up on my wall. She said, “Figure out what’s popular and then don’t write that.” It’s the opposite of what people think. Don’t second guess what people are going to like. Don’t second guess yourself. Bottom line is people like authentic and authentic really comes through when you’re writing that authenticity.
That, for me, I think has been what has set me apart from so many others in the romance genre. I write what feels right to me, what feels right for my characters and I haven’t been afraid of putting elements of faith in my stories. I don’t write Christian literature. In fact I know no Christian publishers would want me because my stuff is a little more gritty and I think more realistic. I think it’s what people’s lives really look like.
That being said, so many people out there are people of faith, whatever their faith is but they are people of faith and they are people that are simple in their approach and they just want to be happy, just want to live good lives and those are the kind of characters that I write about.
I think for people that are writing out there, people that want to put their stuff out there, don’t go out there expecting to hit the list. I never expected to hit the list. It happened for me but I didn’t go into it with that goal in mind. I didn’t want to be E.L. James. I didn’t want to write the next Harry Potter. I just wanted to write stories that appealed to me. I think if you go into it with the idea of I’m going to write authentic me, I’m going to write what I know, I’m going to write what I care about, I’m going to write what I believe in – that will come through in your stories and people will appreciate that and they’ll come back for more.
Tim Knox: I really like that. I’m going to write the authentic me. That’s almost an Oprah moment. That’s very good. Amy, tell the folks how they can learn more about you, more about your books, your blog, et cetera.
Amy Harmon: I have a website. I’m not a blogger. There you go, I’ve completely broken the mold. I do not blog. I don’t have time to do all of that. I do have a website and occasionally I post something that is probably not very witty or good but it’s AuthorAmyHarmon.com and so all of my audio books and the foreign stuff, fun little extras, all those types of things are on the website. Of course you can find me on Facebook, Twitter. I’m always good to return messages and to visit. Find me on Amazon.
Tim Knox: And you can use Skype with the best of them now.
Amy Harmon: Yes thank you, Tim Knox:.
Tim Knox: Amy Harmon, it’s been a pleasure. When you get the next book out will you come back and talk some more?
Amy Harmon: I would love to. Thank you so much.