When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book? Was that first thought related to writing romance?
After I finished the long, difficult slog that writing my graduate thesis entailed, I wanted to read something less academic and more entertaining. I picked up Outlander and discovered the genius of romance novels. Oddly enough, Outlander is not shelved in the romance section at bookstores and libraries, so in my hunt for similar works, I read lots of fantastic historical fiction and fantasy. Eventually, I found the romance section and discovered the many brilliant historical romance writers there. I was hooked. I don’t know if you’ve heard (;-)), but romance readers are voracious readers. I can attest to that! After a year and probably a hundred or more romance novels, I’d become that stereotypical budding writer with my head full of elaborate daydreams, mini-stories, or snippets of scenes. One day, while reading a Susan Elizabeth Phillips novel, I thought, I want to write a book like this. Just a pure, simple wish and so, so naïve!
What was your path to getting this book written and published? What type of research did you do?
I wrote Beautiful Ruin, start to finish, at least three separate times. Technically, it’s the first book I’ve written, but in truth, I’ve written three complete manuscripts, all with the same premise and two of which are an abomination to the craft, before producing this last version of Noah and Mina’s story. It took me years to learn story structure (A plot? What’s that? Do I need one?) and to discover my writing process (still discovering). During those years of writing and rewriting, I moved across the country, started a new job - twice, had a baby, and lost my dad to illness. Sometimes, I think about that naïve wish to write a romance novel, and then I start laughing.
Where did the idea for your story come from?
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment this story idea occurred to me. Instead, it sort of evolved over time as I wrote (and rewrote). I knew I wanted to write about a woman struggling with a past trauma, and ultimately, I wanted it to be a story of healing and redemption. From there, I just wrote. Not something I would advise, by the way (see previous answer). J
Why did you pick the setting you did?
I lived in the south (Georgia) for several years while attending graduate school, but I always pined for my home in Michigan. Mainly, I missed my family and friends, but also I missed the little things about the state where I’d grown up. I missed the way it smells. I missed the four distinct, oftentimes intense, seasons. I missed the beaches, the freshwater lakes, the quaint harbor towns. I missed the vibe. We have two Big Ten universities within an hour of each other. Of course, we’re bitter rivals (football and basketball season are particularly exciting!), but it’s created this diverse community of intellects and scholars, students, and working class families. The film industry is growing in the state and has only enriched the already large community of writers and artists. Michigan is such an interesting place and I knew I wanted to write about it.
Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself?
I’m a sucker for the tortured soul so, thankfully, most of my characters are completely imaginary. Of course, they share my likes and dislikes, and my love of history and travel and old homes, but that’s about it. The characters populating my stories are more tormented and larger than life than anything or anyone in my personal reality (and that’s a good thing!).
Did you face any blocks while writing the book, and if so, how did you handle them? If not, what's your secret?
I SO wish I could say no way, not me, never. Alas, I have days when I’m uninspired, or bogged down, or just plain stuck. I wish I had the mental toughness to power through on those days, but I only ever ended up getting nowhere fast.
What has worked for me most reliably is to try something surprising in the story. I’m a plotter, so rather than pushing out an uninspired scene, I might look for a plot twist at the point where I’m stuck. Or, I might let a character go and see what kind of trouble they wander into. So far, they’ve always come through for me and either did something unexpected or said something surprising or revealing. A small spark is all it takes and every time I’ve tried this, I’ve wound up with a more complex plot or a previously undiscovered layer to one of the characters. I’m learning to trust my inner-panster! She’s the best at getting me unstuck.
What have been surprises you've encountered while writing the book and after?
I am constantly amazed at how supportive romance writers are of each other. Maybe my surprise stems from the fact that I come from academia, which is not exactly what I would call supportive. I’ve thought a lot about the differences between the two communities and, for the most part, remain baffled. Maybe the supportiveness in romancelandia is due to the fact we’re a community of mostly women (with more and more men joining all the time!), or maybe it’s because we write to entertain and not to convince or persuade or prove our worthiness for tenure. Maybe it’s because we don’t actually have to compete against each other. I think of those voracious readers. They want more books!
On top of that, I was initially surprised to learn, in contrast to the ridiculous stereotypes of romance readers and writers, we’re an open-minded, highly educated, professional community. Now, I take tremendous pride in belonging to a community that we gives voice to women while at the same time champions fellowship and love. Oh, and we’re HUGE. All the haters can suck it.
One last comment – I’m surprised how hard it is to learn and master craft (is it even possible to “master” craft?), how hard it is to find the time to write (and study and read), and how, even given that difficulty, I can’t stop trying to do all of it anyway. J
What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself, your process, the writing world; about remote islands and archaeology?
I’ve learned (and continue to learn) an awful lot about the many ways doubt and uncertainty destroy creativity and productivity.
Growing up in Michigan, I didn’t need to do a lot of research on the climate, history, or geography, though I’ve taken full advantage of the excuse to visit Mackinac Island and a number of Michigan’s beautiful coastal towns. Also, I’m a bit of an amateur genealogist and some of my and my husband’s family histories worked their way into the details of Mina’s family history. I’ve worked at two universities, both of which had active archaeology programs where I could observe an excavation and learn about the field.
Tell us about your writing space and how or why it works for you.
I don’t have a designated space. I take my writing with me everywhere I go and squeeze in writing time whenever and wherever I can. My mobile workspace includes a netbook with the manuscript file (which I backup daily) and a notebook where I jot down ideas and scenes. It all fits in my oversized purse and travels with me. At home, I set up any number of places to write - in bed, on the couch, at the dining room table – anywhere I can find some relative quiet!
What are some of your favorite books and why?
There are so, so many books! I love anything written by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, but especially It Had To Be You and Heaven, Texas. Lisa Kleypas (Smooth Talking Stranger, Blue-Eyed Devil) and Julia Quinn (I’ll take any Bridgerton novel, any time) are auto-reads for me. All three authors write with an incredible depth of emotion about characters who are flawed, but honorable, and who always find a way to turn their hurts and disappointments into strengths.
What are you working on now?
I’m editing book two in the Nolan brothers series while also writing book three.
Would you like to try your hand at writing a different genre? Which one and why?
For now, I’m sticking with contemporary romance. Although, I have a dark ages romance about a Welsh-Irish prince and a Pictish princess bandying about inside my head. Maybe someday…
If you were not a writer, what would your dream job be?
A historian. In particular, I find Celtic and British history fascinating. Is it possible to be a professional genealogist? I love to do research and I love researching family histories.
What aspect of writing gives you the most trouble?
I have two: 1.) Starting - sitting my butt in a chair, blocking out the many, many distractions, and putting in the time it takes to write a book – and 2.) editing. I’d rather face the dreaded blank page, where anything is possible, than wrestle with my own words. Having to confront all my doubts and fears about my writing, with no escape, is So Freaking Hard.
Who is your favorite hero/heroine?
I love an underdog and both Penelope Featherington and Evie Jenner come to mind. Both women are insecure and awkward, but also extremely smart and determined with loads of integrity. I relish the way they prove people wrong.
I also adore Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent from Lisa Kleypas’ The Devil In Winter. He’s so naughty, but also extremely vulnerable. He touches my heart, as does Julia Quinn’s charming and easy-going, Colin Bridgerton. On the surface, he appears carefree and playful, but underneath it all, he has a deep-rooted insecurity about his place in the world. It’s probably not a coincidence that both heroes fall for imperfect heroines. *Dreamy sigh*
I have to give a mention to Jamie Fraser! I mean, what’s not to love? He’s smart, loyal, self-assured, honorable and sexy, and he’s a bit of a tortured soul. Oh, my.
When Mina Winslow buys her ancestral home with plans to restore it to the beautiful sanctuary it once was, she discovers more than she bargained for. Soon, she's face-to-face with a man from her past. The one man she never stopped longing for.
Renowned archaeologist, Noah Nolan, swore he’d never return to the small, remote island in Lake Michigan. After agreeing to complete a short-term excavation project, he realizes the site belongs to the woman who inexplicably rejected him years before. A woman he’s never forgotten – or forgiven.
When Noah’s affinity for uncovering all things lost, forgotten, and buried stirs Mina’s repressed memories of a terrifying secret, she must find the courage to unearth the past, or risk losing the treasure of her heart forever.
Amy Olle writes sexy contemporary romances filled with hope, heart, and humor. Her first book, Beautiful Ruin, is the first in a series about five Irish-born brothers sent as children to live with family on a remote island off the coast of northern Michigan. She is delighted to put her Psychology degrees to good use writing romance.
Amy lives in Michigan with her long-suffering husband, brilliant son, and (female) turtle named George.
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