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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Interview with Amy Clipson, author of the Kauffman Amish Bakery Series

Today’s interview is with Amy Clipson who has written a book series about the Amish. As I worked through the interview, I found we had several things in common. We grew up in New Jersey, are German by descent, and went to Virginia for college though at different schools. We both learned about the Amish by visiting Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. So now let’s turn to Amy and get more information about her writing.

How did you come up with the idea of your current book?
A Place of Peace is the third book in my Kauffman Amish Bakery Series, published by Zondervan. The book centers on Timothy Kauffman, who was a negative character in A Promise of Hope (Book #2.) I felt that he had to be redeemed and his story needed to be told. Timothy's book came somewhere from deep inside me and was inspired by stories of reconciliation that I have read or seen played out in movies throughout my life. I’ve always loved a good romance, and the more tangled and emotional the story is, the more engrossed in it I become.

This story is personal to you, can you tell us why?
It is very special to me because it includes a subplot of a girl who needs a liver transplant. I’m passionate about organ donation since my husband is on dialysis and awaiting a second kidney transplant. He received a kidney from his brother and it failed after only four years.

So that is why your email signature includes…Donate life!
Yes, I hope this story inspires readers to become organ donors. The book is dedicated to my father, who passed away in October. I’m thankful that he led me to my Amish research and he supported my dream of seeing my name on the cover of a book.

Could you give me a short outline on the story for my readers?
Miriam Lapp returns to the Amish community she once belonged to when she hears of her mother's death. Amidst her grief and some painful lies from her past, she is forced to face the people who rejected her. Losing the man who was once her fiancé and being shunned by her father becomes an excruciating test of her faith.

From the time you sent in your manuscript to your publisher how long was it before you got any feedback?
I first submitted my proposal for the Kauffman Amish Bakery Series to my agent in the fall of 2007, and my agent submitted the proposal to publishers in October of 2007. Zondervan expressed interest in the series almost immediately after receiving the proposal, and they offered a two-book deal in December 2007. They also offered me another contract for four more books in the series in September 2008.

What was the total time frame from the point of submission of the original manuscript to the actual printing of the book?
My first book in the Kauffman Amish Bakery Series, was A Gift of Grace. Since I was a new author, the first complete draft was due to my editor in April 2008, and it was published in March 2009. The editing process includes a macro edit, which is a cumbersome rewrite, and then a few more generations of line edits before it’s published. Now that I’m more established, my books are published closer together and with shorter due dates.

When you wrote your first book, did you have in mind a series of books or how did it actually evolve into a series?
My original proposal included a series of three books; however, my first contract included two books. Later, my publisher offered another contract with four books, bringing the series to six full length books. I also have a contract for two Christmas novellas.

Are you still working with the same editor as you did with the first book in your series? Yes, I still work with Sue Brower, acquisitions editor, for my Amish books. We work together very well, and I consider her a very good friend. Before I begin writing my books, she approves my concept and my synopsis. Once I complete the manuscript, she takes care of the “macro edit,” which is the very first edit that includes a large rewrite. After she approves the rewrite, the book moves on to Becky Philpott, developmental editor. She manages the book through line edits, layout, and printing. She has become a very dear friend. For my Young Adult books, I work with Jacque Alberta in the Zonderkids department. She takes the book from macro edit to publication. We also work well together and enjoy chatting on the phone.

What is the best guidance your editor has given you?

I would say the best advice Sue Brower has given to me was to take negative reviews with a grain of salt. I once was upset with a review, and she told me that it was a minor price to pay for the success of my books. I still dread bad reviews, but I try my best keep her advice in mind.

What type of publicity does your publisher do to promote your book?
Zondervan’s Marketing Department is amazing, and they work very hard to promote my books by running ads in national publications, sending out books to reviewers, running advertisements on Facebook, arranging for radio interviews, and designing and promoting book trailers. I’m very thankful for everything that they do for my books, and I'm certain that they do more behind the scenes as well.

What do you do to promote your book?
I interact with readers on Facebook, guest blog, speak to local groups, keep my website up-to-date, Tweet, and have book signings in my local area.

What do you know now about getting published that you wished you had known earlier in your writing career?
That’s a tough question. I always imagined that being a writer would be chaotic, but I don’t think I knew quite how crazy busy it would be. At times, balancing my day time job, family, writing deadlines and promotion obligations are very challenging. However, I’m very, very thankful to my mother who helps me keep up the house and care for the boys when I’m drowning in deadlines. Since my husband is ill, I would have a difficult time managing the demands of my two jobs without her.

What advice would you give someone who wants to write books?
I wrote for fun as a hobby since childhood. My fiction writing "career" began in elementary school when a close friend and I wrote and shared silly stories. I didn’t pursue a writing career until after I graduated from college. Below I’ve listed the methods I would recommend for aspiring authors.

Join a Writers’ Group
Find a group near you and socialize with other writers. You’ll have of fun and also learn a lot. If you’re not interested in attending local meetings, you always have the option of joining a virtual group. There are organizations that host discussion groups, and a few include America Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America and Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Join the group that best fits your interest and needs and get connected. (She is a member of the Authors Guild, American Christian Fiction Writers, and Romance Writers of America.)

Attend a Conference
If you have the money and the time, attend a writers’ conference, where you can network and attend instructional sessions that cover many aspects of writing and the publishing business. Conferences are fun and informative.

Find a Critique Partner
Don’t write in a vacuum; share your books with trusted friends. Your buddies will not only find your typos, but they may give you story ideas that you hadn’t considered and will make your plot even better.

Find Time to Read
I know what it means to be busy. I balance a day job, a chronically ill husband, two active little boys, and my writing deadlines. However, when I’m between book deadlines, I like to read everything from Amish fiction to young adult to romance. While reading is fun, it’s also a way to improve your skills by seeing what techniques work (and sometimes don’t work) for other authors. Curl up with a book or listen to books on CD during your commute.

Keep Writing
It may sound silly, but writers need to write! Finish your novel and polish it as best you can before submitting it to an agent or editor. Your book represents your best work. Show a potential agent or editor that you’re eager to write for them.

Don’t Give Up
No matter what, believe in yourself and believe in your dream of holding your book in your hand! If you’ve been rejected by an agent or editor, don’t give up. I received plenty of rejection letters and I wanted to give up many times. I’m thankful for my family and my friends who told me to stop whining and keep writing.

I hope you have enjoyed this interview as much as I have. Thank you, Amy, for all your great advice and insight. If you would like to contact Amy, you can reach her at and also on Facebook.
Here’s the books she already has in print:
A Gift of Grace, Zondervan, ECPA, CBA & CBD Bestseller!
A Promise of Hope, Zondervan, CBA, ECPA & CBD Bestseller!
A Plain & Simple Christmas, Zondervan, CBD Bestseller!
A Place of Peace, Zondervan December 2010

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