AMY: Write what you love and love God more than your writing. Simple to say and hard to do when you’re anxiously awaiting THE CALL, I know. But if you can do those two things, you’ll find the dream God has for you and live it well.
LISA: Any writer’s resources you could recommend?
AMY: My favorite writer’s book is Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life. ;-) It’s really very good and makes me laugh. Others on my desk for reference are: Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird, and The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them by Jack Bickham.
For writing about the FBI, my favorite book is Cold Zero by Christopher Whitcomb. He’s an FBI agent who writes like a novelist. Great read and a great insight into an FBI agent’s psyche.
LISA: What is the process you use when writing a mystery/suspense?
AMY: I do a lot of reading FBI biographies, FBI bulletins, and researching possibilities as I start to fashion a story. I also do extensive character charts. Then, God and I spend a large chunk of hours creating a chapter by chapter outline. That process requires a lot of sweat and tears, but in the end I have a strong plot outline which gives me the confidence I need to jump into the story and take off. As I’m doing the chapter by chapter, I see if my timeline works and if I’ve given my characters enough time and space for their growth process. I also catch plot holes and get a feel for the pacing of the story. In addition, I add information to my character charts as scene ideas and snippets of dialogue come to mind.
LISA: What is your system to keep the story/clues organized?
AMY: Some days I’m not sure I keep things organized at all. LOL My chapter by chapter outline is my best tool for keeping me pointed in the right direction at the right pace. I tend to jot notes on my hard copy outline as I get into the actual writing, so I keep track of the important clues and where they land in the story. That way, at a glance, I see the clue progression and can tweak things here and there as I’m editing. Above that, I have an awesome group of pray-ers praying for me on my writing days. At the risk of sounding cliché, I honestly believe the only way I stay on track is by praying continually and asking the Lord what He wants to do with each story.
LISA Tell us a bit about the research you had to do for this story?
AMY: God and my husband teamed up to have me meet a wonderful Christian Secret Service agent who was a huge help in writing my first novel. He continues to provide on the spot guidance which is an amazing gift from God. In addition to his input, I read a huge stack of FBI biographies and books about the FBI. Those were gold in terms of figuring out who my characters were professionally and learning interesting tidbits about federal life that found their way into my writing. I also spent a huge number of hours simply reading online at forensic sites or other websites related to main topics covered in each book.
One of the most outlandish things I did for research was to go through a citizen’s police academy where I received an inside look at the police force and all the fascinating things that go on behind the scenes. My favorite part was the CSI class where I dusted for fingerprints and had an incredible instructor who walked us through a dozen crime scenes from information gathering to conviction via very graphic photos and case specifics. I also really enjoyed riding a full shift with an officer and being part of a homicide scene. The best part of that night, though, was sharing a time of prayer with the victim’s brother and getting to see God work in very unique ways.
LISA: Thanks so much for joining us, Amy!
AMY: Thanks for having me here today! I pray my answers are helpful and encouraging for other writers. Dream big you all! God has more in store for us than we can ask or imagine as we trust Him and walk in step with our heavenly Daddy.
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