#IndieFallFest: Amy Dunne

I am over the moon excited to share the wonderful Amy Dunne for Indie Fall Fest today!
Don't forget to stop by the kick-off post and enter the huge giveaway!

On Kira Adams' blog today, she's featuring Kai Strand!

Describe Season’s Meetings, your upcoming release, in one word.

Do you have any favorite LGBT books that you’d like to tell us about?
There are so many incredible LBGT books it’s almost impossible to answer this question. However, I will certainly give it a go.
Curious Wine by Katherine V. Forrest was the first LGBT book I ever read. It blew my mind. For the first time, I felt truly represented in a story. My thoughts, fears, dreams, and feelings were all shared by the two main characters. This book gave me the courage to accept who I was and go out and live the life I wanted.
Pretty much everything by Gill McKnight! I love Gill’s work. To be able to write humor and make people laugh out loud is a gift. If I had to choose my absolute favorite stories by Gill, I’d go with The Garoul Series. Werewolves, romance, tension, and laughter. I’ve reread the whole series many times and know I will return to them again and again.
KE Payne has written a number of awesome lesbian YA books. Some of her books are truly hilarious and deal with the trial and tribulations of accepting your sexuality and experiencing first love. 365 Days and Another 365 Days are definitely worth checking out, regardless of your age. Juliann Rich’s debut YA novel, Caught In The Crossfire is the first in a trilogy. I read this book in one sitting. I was hooked. It deals with realising sexuality, experiencing first love, while struggling to deal with intense pressures from religion, family, and peers. I grew up in a religious household and went to Catholic schools, so Jonathan’s journey was something I could relate to. Jonathan’s struggle to reconcile his faith with his newly discovered sexuality deeply resonated with me. I’d heartily recommend this book to everyone and anyone.
Justine Saracen writes fantastic historic LGBTQ novels. I’m a huge fan and eagerly read every new release. One of my favorites is, Sarah, Son Of God. This was the first novel that I read which starred a transgendered protagonist. The story was so good, I can still remember it now and it’s been years since I read it. If you’re a fan of Dan Brown’s work, then you’ll adore Justine’s novels.
Finally, other authors you should totally check out are: Radclyffe, Gerri Hill, Georgia Beers, Sarah Waters, and Kim Baldwin.

Do you think your degrees in philosophy and psychology influence your writing?
I think they do influence my writing. I’ve always joked that I chose the two opposite subjects to study at university. In philosophy, you question everything, all of the time. There’s never one absolute definitive answer. Psychology is a science and therefore, everything is scrutinized and tried to be proven through scientific studies. I like the juxtaposition.
I invest a lot of time in writing in depth profiles of each character. This is where the psychology comes in handy. I want to know their background, what makes them tick, their thoughts, hopes, dreams, and faults. It’s through this process that they become real in their own right. In my debut novel Secret Lies I addressed the issues of self-harm and abuse. From my experience of working with vulnerable young people, I went on to research each topic in depth. I wanted to know how it would affect someone (although it’s important to state that everyone’s experience is totally unique to them). I learnt about the professional help available and where this help can be accessed. The most important thing to me was that under no circumstances did either topic come across as gratuitous. They weren’t included just to add a shock factor, they were included to raise awareness and perhaps offer solace and help to those who are experiencing similar situations.
Bizarrely, with Season’s Meetings, I’ve had feedback from a few people that claim the main character, Catherine, is very similar to me. Upon reflection, there are a number of similarities but it was never my intention. Although, I suppose my subconscious may have had a different intention altogether.
The philosophy side is usually helpful when deciding on the storyline and the setting. I argue with myself back and forth until I finally decide upon what I believe is the best course of action. With Secret Lies, I found myself continually questioning if everything was happening in the right way. I didn’t want the story to be too dark and gritty, but at the same time I wanted it to feel realistic. With both novels, I found myself obsessing about even the tiniest aspects of the story and setting, and would usually decide on something when I was just on the brink of falling to sleep and then have to get up. It could be the most obscure thing, like a drink or meal they’d eaten, or a turn of phrase they’d spoken.
My third novel, The Renegade is speculative / dystopian fiction. After the Red Death epidemic destroys most of the human population, only a few survivors remain. The story explores the interaction of a few of these survivors. The philosophy is really coming into it’s own with this story and setting. There’s politics, ethics, religion, sociology, psychology, technology, and morality all being explored. It’s fascinating, but also exhausting. On occasions, I wonder if I’ve taken on too much. I worry about what readers will think. What if my ideas differ so differently from their beliefs of what would happen? I have to remind myself that as much as I want to, I simply can’t please all of the people, all of the time. I just hope the majority will enjoy the story, setting, and characters as I’ve come to see them.

Where did your inspiration for Season’s Meetings come from?

Last October, my wife and I were discussing plans for Christmas. We’re both huge fans of the holiday and encourage the other to get overly excited. (We’re so bad, we could give a six year with sugar coursing through their veins, a run for their money on Christmas Eve.) We start a countdown from October, eagerly waiting for December 1st, so we can decorate, listen to Christmas songs, watch Christmas films, and wear our favorite Christmas jumpers. While discussing our plans, it got me thinking about how much I’d love to write a festively fun Christmas story. My wife encouraged me, like always, and I came up with the characters, setting, and storyline. Bold Strokes Books sent me a contact and then the writing began.
As soon as December came along, we decorated the house and ourselves with festive paraphernalia. We spent hours putting up the Christmas tree and decorating it, until it was perfect. In the past our furbabies have shown interest of a destructive nature in both the tree and the decorations. Since we got Kimmy, our little cairn terrier, we’d had to cordon off the tree with a dog and cat proof metal fence—which does hinder the view somewhat. Last year, Kimmy and the cats showed absolutely no interest whatsoever. They all completely ignored it. In our naivety, we were fooled by their cuteness and lack of interest. Don’t get me wrong, we still put a barricade up to keep Kimmy out of that room when unsupervised—we’re not that silly. The next morning, I came downstairs to discover Kimmy had taken full advantage of her ninety minute window of unsupervised opportunity. She’d opened the
barricade—we still have no idea of how, and she set to work on destroying the tree. She didn’t even go for the cheap baubles we’d deliberately put at the bottom on the off chance she did get near it. Oh no. Kimmy apparently has expensive taste in decoration, just like her mummies—taste, being the literal word.
All of this got me thinking, and inspired me to add Kimmy and her naughty ways to the story. It was as if the missing piece of the puzzle had finally been found. The story flowed and within three months the novel was finished. Not only is Kimmy included in the story, she also stars on the stunningly beautiful cover.
It’s turned out better than I ever dreamed. It made a nice change to write something that is lighthearted, festive, and fun. Don’t get me wrong—I love Secret Lies, but this shows a different side to my writing repertoire. And that’s what inspired Season’s Meetings.

Coffee or tea?
Coffee. Always coffee. Even thought it goes against my Irish and English heritage.

Your partner and you both love Dolly Parton! Because I live in the same place that Dolly calls home, I have to ask. What’s your favorite Dolly song and/or movie?
You do? Awesome! My wife and I hope to one day make it to Dollywood. It’s on our bucket list. Well, as with the favorite books question previously mentioned, I could go on and on. I have yet to hear a song sang by Dolly or watch a film starring Dolly that I haven’t loved. That said, I love the song “Think About Love” because we danced to it, as our first dance at our wedding. (I also can’t wait for December so we can listen to Dolly’s Home for Christmas Album). As for a film, it has to be 9 to 5. I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen it.

What’s up next for you?
Season’s Meetings is due for release from Bold Strokes Books this December coming! I’m really excited about its release and can’t wait for people to read it. My wife and I are also officially on countdown to Christmas. We’ll soon be donning our favorite Christmas jumpers, decorating the house and tree, all whilst battling to keep the furbabies safely at bay.

As for writing, I’m in the process of writing The Renegade which is tentatively due for release in 2015 by Bold Strokes Books. It’s by far the most challenging story I’ve written so far, but I’m loving the experience. After that, I have a few ideas hounding me that I need to take a look at. I’m hoping there’s going to be another YA novel on the horizon sooner rather than later. So, watch this space.

Thank you so much for involving me in the Author Q&A session. As always, it’s been a pleasure.

My Tips About Writing and Publishing
by Amy Dunne
It’s an absolute pleasure to be invited to take part in the Indie Fall Fest. I’d like to thank Kristen and Krista for all of their hard work, time, and effort. You’re both awesome.

I chose to write this blog about tips and advice I’d like to give to any aspiring writers, as I know they would have helped me back when I started. My debut novel, SECRET LIES was published last December and won a Golden Crown 2014 Literary Award in the YA category. My second novel, SEASON’S MEETINGS is due for release this December coming. I’m still fairly new to writing myself, but it means everything I’ve learnt is still fresh in my mind and I still empathize with writers who want to get their debut novel written and published. So, here are my tips:

1). Enjoy writing your novel. I know it sounds obvious, but from my experience I now know that writing the first draft is the fun part of the process. It’s at this time that you can get to know the characters and the storyline. You can play about, swap, and change things, and find out what works for you. It might help in these early stages to write an in-depth story arc and character profiles: including physical descriptions, personality traits, their psychology, their back story, and how they develop during the story. I now do these for all characters, including secondary characters. It ensures I never have to worry about describing the wrong physical feature (hair or eye colour) and I know what their purpose is in the story.

2). Don’t give up. Again, I know this sounds obvious. Throughout the process of writing your novel and getting it published, you’re going to go through some very tough times. No matter how thick your skin is, you’re going to experience times where you doubt your ability to write and wish you’d never even started on this journey in the first place. This is perfectly normal. Not everyone can write a novel and get it published. Why? Because it takes a great deal of hard work, dedication, determination, reflection, and a willingness to learn, improve, and accept constructive criticism. Basically, it’s not easy. It’s okay to feel frustrated and overwhelmed at times, but the true sign that you’re meant to be a writer is if you persevere. I tried to give up countless times, but something inside me refused to admit defeat. It was like the more I got turned down, rejected, pushed away, or overwhelmed, the more adamant I became that I was going to continue and prove to everyone (myself included) that I would be successful. Please don’t get me wrong, I cried many times, swore, took myself off to bed to sulk, declared I was never going to write another sodding word, ever, again…then a little while later, I sat back in my chair, opened up the manuscript, and tentatively began typing once more. So, perhaps the most important tip of all is quite simply to not give up.

3). Beta / Alpha Readers. When your first draft is complete and you’ve completed the editing to as far as you personally can, then is the time to find beta / alpha readers. These are readers who will read your manuscript and give you constructive feedback to help improve the story, characters, and additional editing (spelling and grammar) you may have missed. It’s advisable for you to have two beta readers. **They must NOT be family or friends.** No matter how much your family and friends claim that they’ll be unbiased, they’re already invested, because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Having impartial beta readers mean that they’re more likely to be honest, perhaps brutally so. You don’t have to follow all of their advice, just use your own judgment. As these readers are giving up their free time to help you, it’s important to be polite throughout your communication with them. It’s also customary to give them a signed copy of the published novel.

4). Research. There are two things that every writer needs to research. The first is the genre that you’re writing. The second is the publishing house you want to work with. You need to do your homework. When researching the genre of your novel, see what titles are popular and read them. Do you think your novel brings something new and exciting to the genre? Does it fit in well with the other titles? Make sure your story and characters aren’t uncannily similar. Who is the publisher?
This brings us on to researching the publishing house. This is very important. There is nothing worse than an author submitting their manuscript to a publisher who doesn’t even publish that genre or age range of books. It shows that you haven’t taken the time to read their guidelines and gives a very poor first impression of both yourself and your manuscript. A few other tips:

A). Don’t sent a generic group e-mail to different publishing houses. This indicates that you’re lazy. You need to write a strong submission letter: discusses the synopsis of your novel, introduce yourself, explains why you’d aspire to submit to them, and be humble—under no circumstances should you claim that “this is the best book you’ll ever read and if you don’t publish it you’re making a big mistake.” You’ll come across as an arrogant arse. No matter how great your writing is, you’re going to need to improve and develop, just like every other writer on the face of this earth. Explain that you’re prepared to work hard, develop, and take on board constructive criticism.

B). Check the publisher’s website for submission guidelines and information. Follow these exactly. By doing exactly as they’ve asked, you’re showing that you’re prepared to take the time to follow their rules. If there aren’t any submission guidelines, check other publishing sites, and use their advice.

C). Be patient. If they say it might take them 14 weeks to get back to you, unfortunately, you have to wait. Don’t keep sending e-mails or harassing them. If the date they’ve given you has passed, only then, should you send a polite e-mail inquiring. This is a difficult time. I’ve never known a period of time go so slowly. I didn’t hear back until spot on 14 weeks to the day. I admit that patience is not one of my virtues. I don’t think I’ve ever checked my e-mails so many times a day. It’s a waiting game.

5). Rejection. It happens. How do I know? Because it happened to me three times. It was gutting and I pretty much did exactly the same things I described in #2. DO NOT send the publisher an e-mail explaining that they are wrong to reject your masterpiece and that they will one day regret it. DO send a polite e-mail in response, thanking them for their time, and asking for constructive feedback. There’s no guarantee that you’ll get a response and that’s life. But if like me, you do get a response, take their comments under serious consideration. Will what they suggest dramatically change the story for better or worse? Are you prepared to make the changes suggested? If you are, go ahead and get on with it. Once you’re completed the edits, send a resubmission request, asking if they would be interested in reviewing your manuscript since you’ve made the relevant changes that they kindly suggested. If they accept, send it, and wait. If they decline, thank them, and look for another suitable publishing house to contact. My debut novel, Secret Lies was accepted upon its resubmission and that made everything worth it.

6). Editing. If your novel is accepted for publication the next stage is going to be hard work. Prepare yourself. I was fortunate in that I got to work with two editors on each of my novels (three editors in total). All three are incredible women and have helped me improve my craft of writing. I owe them a great deal. But it didn’t stop the process from being a tadd soul-destroying . You’ve slaved over this manuscript for months (years in my case) and then the edits begin and you realise just how much of what you’ve written is wrong. I’m still getting things wrong but fortunately, my editors have the patience of saints. Maybe I’m a masochist—but I quite like doing edits. I enjoy learning new things and I get a thrill from watching as my manuscript transforms into the best possible version of the story. The editing is then followed by cover and page proofs. I’ll admit that I was previously very naive about the publishing process and just how many people are involved. It really is a honour to be a part of the Bold Strokes Books family and have so many people contribute to help make each of my books the best it can be.

7). Self-publishing. I’ll be honest, my knowledge of self-publishing is extremely limited. There are a number of great websites and blogs that offer advice. There are also many LGBTQ authors who are self-published and I simply adore their novels. I’d always had my heart set on joining BSB, but if that had failed, self-publishing is something I would have seriously considered. The major flaw would have come from a personal level—I’m a complete technophobe. Those people who are technologically savvy would probably do just fine. The biggest issues I’ve heard from readers with regards to self-published books are issues with the formatting and edits (spelling and grammar). I would advise that no matter how hard you’ve worked on the edits, please, employ an editor to work on your manuscript. They’re trained to spot spelling and grammar mistakes, and know about character development and the story arc. It may be costly, but that last thing you want is for your novel to be riddled with simple mistakes. Readers are paying money and they expect a certain quality in the novels they purchase.

Right, I’ve gone on far too long already. I hope my tips have helped and I wish you all happy writing and reading. Please remember…enjoy writing and never, ever, give up. There’s nothing quite like holding the first copy of your novel. It’s amazing.

Amy was raised in Derbyshire, England. She attended Keele University and graduated in 2007 with a BSc in Philosophy and Psychology. After graduating she worked for a while with vulnerable young people. Her debut YA novel, Secret Lies won a Golden Crown Literary award in 2014. She is married to her beautiful wife, Lou. They share a love of Dolly Parton, have two gorgeous cats, and a very mischievous little dog.

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