Amy Sue Nathan
Interview by L.A. Strucke
QFTD: Tell us about yourself. Who is Amy Sue Nathan?
Amy Sue Nathan: Even though it’s not really popular to say nowadays, I really think of myself first and foremost as a mom---even though my kids are in their twenties. Everything comes after that - daughter, sister, friend, writer, blogger, editor. But, whatever I’m doing at the moment is where my head is right then. I try to be present, though that’s really a trendy thing to say. If I’m watching TV with my daughter, I try to be all-in watching TV with my daughter. If I’m writing, I’m all in. If I’m being a friend, I’m all in. Still, I think the most important thing I ever did was become a mother. I believe that I have the confidence to do everything else because I was able to have and raise kids, which I’ve mostly done on my own. I figured if I could do that, I could probably do just about anything. Thankfully, I was right.
QFTD: Tell as us about your background and where you grew up.
Amy Sue Nathan: I grew up in Northeast Philadelphia in a neighborhood with all brick row houses and mostly Jewish families. It was an amazing place to grow up in the 70’s. My memories of it are wonderful. It was an easy time back then. Our parents let us play in the street and we all survived unfiltered water from a hose.
QFTD: What inspired you to become a writer? Was it something you always wanted to do?
Amy Sue Nathan: I was always a writer. I was writing stories as a little kid, stapling pages together and making books. I liked writing poems too.
After college, I wrote PR and marketing materials for corporations and non-profits for a few years. When I had my son I stopped working full-time to stay home, then through the years worked different part time jobs doing everything from being an administrator at a synagogue to a preschool teacher assistant, all depending on the ages of my kids and where we lived. By 2006 I’d been divorced for a few years and realized that I wasn’t doing anything creative at all. I started blogging, and that led to having essays published, and those led to writing for the Chicago Tribune. By 2007 I’d signed up for writing workshops online, and after ditching the idea of writing a memoir, I decided to try writing fiction. It was something I had never considered before, because everything I had done had been nonfiction. I was a journalist. I wrote essays and had those published. I didn’t think I could make things up. I was wrong.
When I decided I wanted to write a novel, I was bound and determined. I learned as much as I could about writing and the publishing industry, which fascinated me, and I dove into every part of it, which led not only to being a novelist but a freelance editor.
QFTD: How long does it take to write your novels?
Amy Sue Nathan: I started writing my first book in 2007. By 2010, I had a finished and polished novel and it was time to look for a literary agent. It took me 10 months and 126 query letters to sign with one and it was worth the wait. Then, I spent a year revising the book with his input. Once it was finished, he was able to sell it to St. Martin’s Press in about a month. Then, The Glass Wives was published in 2013. That was six years from idea to bookshelf. Impatience has no place in publishing, that’s for sure.
I wrote my second novel, The Good Neighbor, in about a year. Luckily, that book was under contract, so I had a deadline to meet. Then, I went through about nine months of editing before that book came out in October 2015. I’m editing my third novel now and sending it back to my editor at the end of July. It’s called Left To Chance, and like The Good Neighbor, it took about a year to write. This round of edits was eight weeks, and it’ll probably be on bookshelves by mid-2017.
QFTD: Your website “Women’s Fiction Writers” has been named one of Writer’s Digest Best Websites for writers. Tell us about how you started it.
Amy Sue Nathan: I started blogging in 2006 when it was the heyday of the “mommy blog.” My kids at that time were older than most of the mommy blogger’s kids who were babies and toddlers, but it was a great space for me to start writing again. From there I moved into publishing essays and articles so veered away from the personal blog posts after a couple of years, If you published an essay or personal blog post you couldn’t sell it to a publication. It was considered already published. That’s when I started writing about writing on a new blog, and on other writing blogs. In 2010, I mentioned to a friend of mine that I wanted to find a blog that focused on the kind of fiction I wrote – character-driven, women’s stories, but not romance – but that I hadn’t been able to find anything like that. She said these words to me: “If you can’t find it, you have to create it.” And in 2011, I started the Women’s Fiction Writers blog. Since then I’ve featured over 200 traditionally published authors, and had interviews and guest posts that run the gamut from writing tips to inspirational “how I got published” stories. I say it’s the ABCs of women’s fiction – the Authors, Books, and Craft.
QFTD: What is your advice for others to achieve success in blogging?
Amy Sue Nathan: Blogging has changed a lot since 2006. So, if you are actively looking to start a blog, make sure it has a specific purpose. One way to go about it is to have a group blog, where readers can draw on more than one person’s experience, and all the work isn’t up to YOU. But today there are so many more ways to reach an audience than there were back then – so make sure blogging is right for you, and that your expectations are realistic. (You’re not going to have lots of views and likes on a new blog right away, if ever. It takes a lot more time to build a blog following than it does to build a Facebook or Twitter following.) Sometimes I think blogging is a little old fashioned, but at this point, I wouldn’t stop. It’s a big part of my identity as a writer.
QFTD: It must have been so cool for you when Writer’s Digest named your blog as one of the top blogs.
Amy Sue Nathan: It was cool, and it was a total surprise! I wasn’t looking for public validation, but once I had it – WHEW – I almost felt relieved! What I was doing was working and someone (other than I) had noticed!
QFTD: It’s great to get recognition for something you are working so hard at.
Your articles have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, the Huffington Post and many others. What are some of your favorite publications to write for?
Amy Sue Nathan: I loved writing essays for the Chicago Tribune. That was the first time I’d been published in something that was widely distributed and recognizable! My kids and I bought about 20 copies of that issue the Sunday it came out. The best part was that I worked with a really amazing editor, and that it was my first experience being professionally edited. I wrote for them for nearly three years for Sunday Perspectives until the paper went through some changes.
I have an essay coming out in Writer’s Digest this fall, in their section entitled Five Minute Memoir. Before this, I’d had articles about writing published in Writer’s Digest, but there’s always something wonderful and terrifying about having a personal essay out in the world.
I love publishing online as well, but it’s always nice to hold something in your hand with your words (and byline) on it!
QFTD: What’s a typical workday for you.? What is your daily routine, and is it easy to maintain a work life balance?
Amy Sue Nathan: My typical day starts around 5 am when my dog wakes me up and tells me it’s time for breakfast. I try (I say try because my dog wants my attention and I like to give her attention) to stay in bed until 6, and then I’ll read, answer emails, check social media accounts, and plan the day until 7 or 8. I will start my “work day” (though I’ve already been working) by 9 or 10, when I work on my own writing or editing. Mid-afternoon I’ll flip to freelance editing. Of course, all that happens only when I’m not working my part-time job at a friend’s restaurant. I usually work on the blog at night, because that’s a non-paying job, but that doesn’t make it any less important to me.
It all keeps things interesting. I’m not sure I could do the same thing all day every day.
QFTD: Do you have a social life?
Amy Sue Nathan: No. (laughs) Not really. I do have a few wonderful friends where I live who I see occasionally, but there are more who live far away, so seeing them takes some planning, and sometimes a plane ride. That being said, I’m not isolated at all. With the internet, texting, and an iPhone attached to my hand, I am always in contact with someone, or many someones.
QFTD: I loved The Glass Wives and The Good Neighbor. Do you see yourself in any of your characters?
Amy Sue Nathan: Thank you, and -- I definitely do. When you’re writing fiction, you can put the best parts of yourself in, and the worst part of yourself. You can divvy yourself up into different characters and sprinkle yourself throughout the book – or not. It’s up to you. I see myself very much in Evie Glass from The Glass Wives and Izzy Lane from The Good Neighbor. I didn’t set out to have my third novel be the one that felt most personal to me – but strangely that’s exactly what happened. The main character’s name is Teddi Lerner, and I have felt more connected to her than I expected. That made the book both the easiest and the hardest one to write.
QFTD: What do you believe was the secret to your success?
Amy Sue Nathan: I don’t think there’s any secret. I just didn’t give up. I was determined, and I knew what I wanted and learned how to go about getting it. Sure, there’s luck involved – having your book land on the right editor’s desk on the right day when the stars are aligned and Mercury is no longer retrograde (or whatever you believe in). I do believe that being prepared and realistic and patient really helped as much as writing the right book.
If there is a secret, it would be that I accepted help wherever and whenever it was offered – or I asked for it. Writing can be solitary, but it doesn’t have to be. I always participated in workshops, forums, and writing groups. I was always putting myself and my work out there, and connecting with other authors and writers. That has made all the difference for me.
Well, I guess my secret is out!
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