Author Interviews, Blog, Sweet Romance Blog

Author Interview: Amy Schisler, Romantic Suspense/ Inspirational

I’m Amy Schisler and I write inspirational fiction on the side of romantic suspense. My most recent release is Seeking Tranquility, Book One in my Chincoteague Sunsets Trilogy, a spinoff of my Chincoteague Island Trilogy. 

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. As a young girl, I wrote poetry to express my thoughts and emotions, and I always said I’d like to write a book someday. After fifteen years as a librarian, I told my husband I was tired of shelving other people’s books and thought it was time to write my own! Here I am, seventeen books, twelve novels, later, and I still have so many ideas for more!

How long did it take you to finish your first book? 

Author:      It took about five years to write my first book. The writing part was easy. The editing and rewriting were tricky, and after a disastrous year with a small press publisher, the final rewrite was pretty painful. 

If you’ve published, how long did your first book take?

Author:      I received so many rejections for my first book, but I did eventually have it published through a small press in Texas. The experience was not what I expected, and I was completely disillusioned. A good attorney helped me get my rights back, and things have gone much smoother ever since. 

Has your publishing timeframe improved at all since your first publication?

Author:      Now, I can write an entire novel in about two weeks. It takes another month or so of editing and rewriting, and then I put it aside for several months before going back and polishing it off. At that point, it goes to my editor for the final edits. 

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:      Today, I’m an indie writer. I did seek out other small press publishers for some of my later novels, but the ones I spoke with felt that I was successful on my own and didn’t need a publisher to do all that I was already doing. However, I am currently seeking a publisher for a Bible study I’ve written, so we’ll see what happens with that! 

How did you determine your target audience?

Author:      When I first began writing, my target audience was romantic suspense and mystery readers. The more I wrote, however, the more my books gravitated toward inspirational fiction. I didn’t really do it on purpose. My books still all contain elements of mystery and suspense, intrigue at the very least, but they all have a faith-inspired backstory that I never intentionally set out to write but happened gradually and continues to be a major theme in my books. 

What is your publishing process?

Author:      I’m not a planner when it comes to my books. I always know the beginning and ending, but I rarely know how I will get from one to the other.  I don’t always write one scene after another linearly either. Often a scene will come to me, and I will write it down then and figure out where it fits in later. I write the first couple drafts over the course of a month or so. I use a few really good beta readers to help stay focused and streamline the plot. After I put it down for several months and then come back to it, I will polish it and send it to my editor. Once she puts her stamp of approval on the finished manuscript, it’s off the audiobook narrator. During that production process, I often find small things that we will work together to tweak. Hearing the book read aloud can make such a difference! Once the audio is complete, the cover and back matter are ready, and the discussion questions are written, it’s ready for publishing! 

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

Author:      I use all platforms to publish my books. They are available anywhere print, audio, and ebooks are found. I distribute through Ingram, Draft2Digital, and Findaway Voices. 

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author:      I use beta readers, proofreaders, and a great editor. 

Marketing

Do you have a platform? What does it consist of?

Author:      I do a lot on social media, especially Facebook and Instagram. My daughter is a professional media marketer, so she has been instrumental in helping me establish a brand, construct a website, and manage posts. I also write a weekly blog focused on everything from family life to favorite recipes to my latest work in progress. 

What is your launch plan for your works?

Author:      I typically launch one book in the summer and one in fall or winter. I love to do big book launches that fit the theme of the book and bring in a crowd. Once, I held a launch at a horse rescue farm to go with my Colorado suspense, Summer’s Squall. Last year, I held a Book and Wine Paring and Dinner to launch my book, The Good Wine. I advertise on social media and my website as well as newspapers and radio. 

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author:      Getting reviews is so hard! I often ask friends and family to post, but I also engage blog tours and send ARCs to readers on listservs I belong to.

How do you promote your content?

Author:      I promote through regular media and social media. Recently, I was on an afternoon talk show, and I do lots of interviews and guest spots on podcasts.

What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?

Author:      I think it’s critical to reach out beyond my faithful readers. I’m always looking for ways to connect with more people and get the word out about my books. I attend a lot of festivals and non-book related events where I can spend time talking to people one-on-one about my works. 

How do you define success as an author?

Author:      Success is simply having someone say they loved something I wrote. 

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic? 

Author:      I primarily write novels because I love to read and I love to write stories. However, I write just about anything that comes to mind! 

What genres and subgenres do you write in?

Author:      My main genre is Inspirational Fiction, but within that, my books are filled with suspense, mystery, intrigue, and almost always, romance. 

What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?

Author:      My brand is writing something that inspires. My message is that there is a Higher Power out there Who sends family and friends into our lives to help us discover who we are and what our purpose in life is. This isn’t just a main theme in my fiction. I’m often asked to give talks or lead retreats on discovering one’s purpose and making it the focus in life.  All my books really contain the same theme—love—but not in the way you expect. My books are about much more than romantic love. They’re about love for family, friends, community, and faith. 

How many works have you published? 

Author:      I’ve published twelve novels, two children’s books, two devotionals, and a book for parents and children on saints. 

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Author:      After the end of my first Chincoteague Island trilogy, readers continued to ask for more Chincoteague books. Knowing I still had some characters lingering in the background, I decided to create a new trilogy. Being familiar with both the island and nearby Wallops Island Flight Center, I thought it would be fun to add some NASA characters and make their space explorations efforts part of the storyline. 

Setting Christy’s own struggles against the backdrop of an island struggling to regain its place in a world gone mad felt like the perfect fit. After two years of living with fear and uncertainty, when few visitors ventured across the causeway and businesses shut down, everyone on the island is ready to live again. Two years after losing her parents then being forced to sell their home, Christy and her younger sister move to the place where their family found rest and refuge. She feels as if she will never live again, but the island that brought miracles, promise, and hope to many, proves once again the place to go for those Seeking Tranquility.

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author:      My writing always contains a hero and/or heroine to root for and, of course, a villain. Typically, the villain is a person, but sometimes it’s a disease, a traumatic past event, or other incident that is getting in the way of the main characters finding peace. All my novels, not just the mysteries and suspense novels, have red-herrings and twists that make the reader say, “Oh! I didn’t expect that!” 

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author:      My goal at first was to become a best-selling author, but my goal now is simply to inspire readers to go where they’ve never been physically, mentally, and spiritually. 

Do you have other supporting services like a podcast, blog, webinars, courses, video channel?

Author:      I have a weekly blog and a growing YouTube channel. I also do lots of public appearances, talks, workshops, and retreats. 

What do you want your readers to get out of your works? 

Author:      I want them to realize that there are all kinds of love just waiting to be found. 

What part of the author process are you working on or studying most now?

Author:      I’m trying to get more public appearances and talks. I love talking to a room of people about my writing and my journey, and I love connecting with readers in person. 

What has been your favorite part of the writing and querying or publishing process?

Author:      I love discovering new people and places through my writing and research. 

Which authors write similar books to yours? How did you find them?

Author:      I’m often told that my writing reminds people of Mary Higgins Clark, which I consider the highest complement of all time. I’ve also been compared to Debbie Macomber and Sheryl Woods, whom I love! I read anything and everything I can get my hands on, so I’m constantly discovering new authors, and they all influence me in some way. 

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author:      I read just about all genres, but I do like to read genres similar to mine to see how authors handle the same types of conflicts, traumas, or character growth. I’m not sure it changes the way I write, but it does give me different perspectives. 

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:      I’m not a planner when it comes to my books. I always know the beginning and ending, but I rarely know how I will get from one to the other.  I don’t always write one scene after another linearly either. Often a scene will come to me, and I will write ii down then and figure out where it fits in later. I write the first couple drafts over the course of a month or so. It typically takes me a couple weeks to write the first draft and a few months to finalize the manuscript. 

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author:      I network with other writers mostly through Facebook groups but also through local and national author associations. 

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author:      I’m definitely a sprinter! 

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:      Time! For many years, I wrote between field hockey games and tennis matches and PTA meetings. Now that my three girls are grown and my writing has expanded, I find that I’m in more demand as a speaker and pilgrimage leader, so it can be difficult to carve daily time to write. However, I do try to write or work on some aspect of my work in progress every day. 

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author:      Write, write, write. Write every day even it’s just a list of ideas or a sketch of a scene. It’s not always easy, but it’s necessary. 

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author:      Just do it. I tell people all the time, if there’s a book inside trying to get out, all you have to do is take the time to make it happen. 

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

Author:      I don’t think I’d change anything. God’s timing is perfect, and everything in my life and career seems to be coming together just as it was supposed to. I’ve learned so much from my mistakes; I’d never want to miss those growth opportunities that have led me to where I am today. 

Are you a driven & self-advocating author, a gun-shy promoter, or a total marketing procrastinator?

Author:      Maybe all three? I’m not a natural at self-advocating, but I’m getting better all the time. I have a wonderful author friend who has helped me learn to put myself out there. It’s not easy, but every event, interview, etc. does help me get better at it. 

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author:      I love what I do, so that makes it easy to stay motivated.  The more I write, the more I want to write, and the more stories and characters come into my mind and heart.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:      I’ve honestly never had writer’s block. Once a story is forming, it just comes without stopping. My husband is wonderful and knows when to just call in a pizza for dinner and bring a slice of pie and a glass of wine to my office! 

How did your family and friends react to your writing? Was it what you expected from them?

Author:      My friends and family have not been merely supportive but active promotors and advocates of and for my work. Sometimes I think my father sells more of my books than I do! My friends are constantly tagging me on book pages and telling others about me. 

What assumptions about writers and authors do you think are myths?

Author:      I often hear that authors are loners or don’t deal well with people or crowds. I haven’t found this to be the case with myself or many of my author friends. 

Fun Stuff 

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      Nothing. I like absolute silence to think and to hear the characters speaking to me.

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      I have an office that used to be my oldest daughter’s bedroom. When she moved out to go to law school, she and I had a wonderful, bittersweet time cleaning out and redoing the room. We painted it light yellow, and it just feels happy and sunny even on a gloomy, rainy day. 

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:      I just finished James Patterson’s 22 Seconds, the latest in his Women’s Murder Club series. I love a good series, be it crime, romance, or small town. 

What is your favorite literary trope?

Author:      Probably time travel. From epics like Outlander to anything by Susanna Kearsley, I love a good time travel book. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author:      I once attended a writer’s conference in Milwaukee with my dear friend, Alexandra Hamlet. One evening, as Alexandra and I were hanging out in our hotel room talking girl talk, swapping family stories, and comparing writing notes, Alexandra said something to me that was so profound, it completely changed the way I look at my writing. I was telling her that I was a having a hard time with some in the “romance” community because my books don’t always fit the bill, so to speak. 

My dear and wise friend said, “Amy, you do not write romance novels. You write love stories.”

Alexandra and I talked about this at length that evening and continued to come back to it all weekend. She is absolutely correct. All my novels have a romance or two, but it’s rarely the main thrust of the story. More often, there’s an abundance of love going around that doesn’t even involve the love between two people. My books are often about love between man and woman, but they are actually more about the love of family, love of community, love of Country, love of God, and more.  All my books share the common theme of discovering love of oneself.

I wish there was a genre that was simply for readers looking for books about love, not romance, just LOVE!