Here it is...the final author interview of Small Press Month -- and thanks to everyone, readers and writers alike, for making it such a great one! Please welcome Amber Leigh Williams -- and remember to leave those comments! The winner of the prize pack of books will be announced right here on Wednesday, April 1st (no foolin', I promise!)
Amber, tell us a little about your latest writing project or published title.
Blackest Heart, my western novella for the Wayback, TX series, is now available with The Wild Rose Press. I recently learned that it will be going to print in an anthology called The Way Back Home. I never expected Blackest Heart to go this far so I’m absolutely thrilled! It’s the story of Stella Ridge, an actress who comes home to Wayback to recover from a traumatic car accident. Her arrival uncovers a trail of buried secrets and old wounds within her family and the town. She also finds an unlikely kindred spirit in Wayback’s silent cowboy Judd Black. Still haunted by his black past, he’s drawn by the hurt behind her eyes as well as the spark that kindles between them. When Wayback can’t provide the solace Stella craves, she turns into the arms of its so-called Blackest Heart.
How do you go about developing your characters?
My characters never turn out exactly the way I see them when I start out. I know what motivates them within the story, but sometimes even the back story is a mystery to me. With Judd, I knew something terrible had happened to him as a child to make him mute. But I didn’t decide what until I’d gotten to know him better mid-way through the plot. In the beginning, I usually know appearance, motivation in regard to the twists and turns of the plot, and a few fun quirks to give them individuality. The actual writing of the story fills in the blanks and somehow gives them even more depth than I imagined these already complex beings having. That’s one of my favorite parts of the process: seeing them mysteriously come to life all on their own.
What kinds of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?
I read everything I can get my greedy hands on. The only condition: if it’s fiction, it has to have a HEA. With books and movies, I’m a HEA fanatic. As for authors, I have favorites in every genre. J.R. Ward is hands-down my favorite paranormal author. Larissa Ione comes in close second. For romantic suspense, I turn to Nora Roberts and her J.D. Robb titles if I need to sink my teeth into something grittier. I’m not all that into mainstream contemporaries, surprisingly. It’s got to have something special to really grab me. As for historical romance, give me classic Kathleen E. Woodiwiss any day, Ashes in the Wind in particular. If I need a quick fix, I read a western. It doesn’t matter who the author is, small press or mass market… There’s just something about westerns that make me melt like cheese on pizza, LOL
What do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?
If I’m challenged, I stay interested. When it seems too easy, I tend to stray. The main challenge for me with everyday writing is making the scenes and characters and plot come as alive on the page as they are in the movie reel in my head. Everything comes to me in “movie” form and I try my best to channel that onto the page, make it flow, and give it color. The most rewarding part is seeing my story take others by the heart. I got a message from one reader who said she couldn’t get Blackest Heart out of her head. Hearing that, I knew I’d done my job well and I went to bed with a smile on my face…after a big glass of congratulatory wine, of course!
Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?
Though it can be inevitable, I think writer’s block is blown way out of proportion. People have this mental block when it comes to writer’s block. It terrifies them, freezes them, and I’ve learned the best way for me to get through it. For one, I think of it more as what it really is at the core: burn out. I write the first draft of a manuscript within three months. After that, I go through two to three weeks of nothing. I don’t get anything productive done besides promotions for my published works.
My mistake was thinking that I could wrestle the story from my muse’s hands—just sit down and pull it out, even if it only came an inch at a time. It was so mentally exhausting that I had nothing left for my husband or family for the rest of the day, and I was hurting myself. It felt generally unhealthy. So I’ve learned to give myself those two to three weeks in between manuscripts to lay back, relax, catch up on my TBR pile, spend time with my family, and let my muse and my brain recharge. When I dive into another story at the end of the recharge, it feels so good and I have all this ready energy that drives me through those three months of work!
What is your favorite movie? Did it inspire your writing in any way?
One of my favorite movies is The Italian Job, and it did in fact inspire my debut novel Fox & Hound. A Hallmark movie based on a true World War II love story called In Love and War inspired my first romance manuscript. Good movies give me an adrenaline boost just like any good book. All the movies on my favorites list are pretty high-energy with, of course, that mandatory HEA tossed in.
Amber, thanks for being here today. Anything else you’d like to mention?
I’ve just contracted another story with the Wayback, TX series, the sequel to Blackest Heart. It’s called Bluest Heart and it’s the story of Casey Ridge, Stella’s brother. I’m so happy I get to share Casey’s story with everyone. I know readers enjoyed the part he played in Blackest Heart. I wanted to give them a chance to get to know him better and give him his own journey and HEA. He’s got this good-guy image but it’s bottled in an incredibly sexy package. The combination turns me and his bad-girl heroine Josie to mush! Look for Bluest Heart from The Wild Rose Press soon as well as The Way Back Home print anthology featuring Abbey MacInnis’s Delighting Miss Daisy, Marguerite Arotin’s Return of the Prodigal Daughter, and Blackest Heart which recently earned Five Hearts and a recommendation from The Romance Studio as well as a Fantastic Read seal from Writers & Readers of Distinctive Fiction!