Friday, March 22, 2013

Interview With Amy Wallace

  by Jeff Reynolds

  I had the honor of interviewing my favorite author last month – Randy Singer for those who missed it. This month, I have the honor interviewing another author who's in my top three (with Allistair MacLean being the other, but I'd have to conduct a séance to interview him, and most of you would frown at that.) This author is Amy Wallace, who wrote the excellent Defenders of Hope series, and has released the second book last fall of her latest series, Place of Refuge.

Jeff Reynolds: Welcome, Amy. I've noticed you have a bachelor's degree in Counseling and Guidance from the University of Louisville , and also are a graduate of the Gwinnett County Citizen's Police Academy . Where does your writing journey coincide with these degrees? How has your education affected your writing and your Christian life?

Amy Wallace:
I graduated from U of L ( GO CARDS!) ages ago and the Citizen's Police Academy about nine years ago, both a fantastic experience. I attended the CPA, a volunteer, sixteen week, behind the scenes look at the police department, when I was working on my first suspense series about FBI Crimes Against Children agents. I wanted to better understand and honor the law enforcement professionals I highlighted in my novels.

My counseling degree has served me well in life and writing, to better understand human nature and observe in the real world what I write about in my stories. Not only that, but also to see how vital healing is to a healthy, loving relationship with God and others.

JR: If asked what my favorite fiction series is, your Defenders of Hope trilogy would be towards the top. I'm now reading Hiding In Plain Sight, the first in the Place of Refuge Series. Could you tell us about the series, and if you approached the writing any different between the two?

Thank you very much for that high compliment!

The Defenders of Hope series is a suspense series about the FBI Crimes Against Children Unit in DC that focuses on hope and healing amid life’s most challenging storms. The Place of Refuge series is a Mennonite romantic suspense series focusing on a small town police officer protecting her loved ones, her town, and the surrounding Mennonite community from uncharacteristic violence in Hiding in Plain Sight, and, in Nowhere to Run, a stalker who forces Ashley to put happily ever after on hold to protect and defend those she loves.

Writing these two very different series included tons of research, interviewing FBI and other law enforcement officers, and plenty of editing! I tried a few new things with plotting in the Place of Refuge series after having read James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure. But the biggest writing difference between the two series came in dealing with theme.

For Ransomed Dreams, Healing Promises, and Enduring Justice, theme grew as I wrote the stories. Ransomed Dreams' theme of healing through forgiveness became a deeper life lesson that forgiveness unlocks the future. For Healing Promises, the theme began as healing and hope amid life-shattering circumstances. The story grew out of a question I asked a Secret Service Agent: What would an FBI agent do with a cancer diagnosis? The theme grew and became Faith Under Fire and tackled the questions: Where is God when life hurts? Can God be trusted? For Enduring Justice, the theme deepened from healing from past abuse to secrets can’t last forever. Justice isn’t enough. Healing is.

The themes for the Place of Refuge books began with a simple theme and stayed pretty true to the original ideas. Hiding in Plain Sight’s theme is control. Who is in control? Can He be trusted? Nowhere to Run is about protection. Is God powerful enough to protect His children?

JR: In October, 2011, you taught a course on Plotting. Does this mean you're a committed plotter? Or do you ever try Seat of the Pants writing? After all, you have done great plot twists in your story that I didn't see coming.

I’m what James Scott Bell calls a Borg plotter. I'm a full time homeschooling mom, my first and favorite career, so I don't have time to just sit down and see where the story takes me. Which, according to my pantser friends, requires plenty of rewriting. I love doing the research and character charts and outlines that help me know my characters and story so well that when I sit down to write, I have a good idea where I'm going. Plus, to honor law enforcement officers who serve us well and many of whom have been a fantastic help to me with each of my stories, I feel compelled to get my facts and twists and suspense plot right and reasonable before I sit down to write. And even with all the plotting I do, there are always surprises along the way, which keeps the journey fun.

JR: Your books are full of heart-warming, feel-good topics like losing one's family, child-killing, cancer, and racism. What reaction have you had both from the publisher/editor end and from the readers?

While my novels do hit on hard topics, the focus is always on healing. I believe to show the light and hope that are ours in Christ, we have to acknowledge the darkness where He shines brightest.

The reactions from publishers and readers have been overwhelmingly positive. In large part because my stories aren't just high intensity suspense, but because they are full of flawed, searching, real characters who connect with readers, and I pray lead them closer to Christ and the healing possible in Him.

JR: One thing all your books have is a set of discussion questions. Was this your idea or your publishers? Any response from people who used those questions you'd like to share?

The discussion questions were something I wanted to include to help readers and book clubs connect even more to the story. One of my favorite responses was a long letter from a reader of Ransomed Dreams that detailed how this story helped her forgive her father and begin the painful process of reconciliation with someone who had abandoned her as a child. It made me cry to read how my characters and the theme of the novel touched this woman's heart to the point her life was changed for good and a vital relationship began to heal.

JR: Besides your fiction, you've been a contributor to Writing Inspirational Fiction, God Answers Mom's Prayers, and Chicken Soup for the Soul Healthy Living Series: Diabetes. (I'm not much for chicken soup -- I'm waiting for the Supreme Pizza with Jalapenos and Anchovies For The Soul books to come out.) What was that like?

Pizza is awesome soul food, but nothing beats chicken soup when you're under the weather. ;-)

I began my writing journey in creative non-fiction and learned how to write well in less than two thousand words. That's tough! I credit my first editors with teaching me how to make every word count and paint a picture.

JR: What do you have planned this year? I'm sure the second installment of Place of Refuge is coming out -- could you give us a preview? Also, am I correct that you'll be teaching a course on the ACFW Course Loop this year?

I’m working on a new suspense series set both in current day Louisville , KY , and in Cold War Berlin , two places I love and miss terribly.

Yes, I’m teaching on the ACFW Course Loop about the gift of words and lessons learned in the writing trenches.

The second book in the Place of Refuge series, Nowhere to Run, came out in October 2012.

Someone’s out there…

Police Officer Ashley Walters is ready to leave behind the nightmares and embrace the future ahead of her. Along with her best friend, Margo, and her fiancé, Patrick, Ashley is planning the wedding of her dreams.

But happily-ever-after is put on hold when Ashley’s worst fears are confirmed: A stalker is watching her, and he’s ready to strike. Forced to flee for her own safety and the protection of those she loves, Ashley finds refuge in a gentle Mennonite community in Shipshewana , Indiana . But danger lurks even there, and Ashley must face the greatest question of all: Is God powerful enough to protect His children? 

JR: Besides writing, you also are a homeschool mom of three, a Bible study leader, a women's group speaker, a co-leader of a young writer's group, and a chocoholic. My guess is your spare time hobbies are eating and sleeping. How do these activities help with your writing, and how does your writing help with these activities?

Yes, eating and sleeping are important to fit into my homeschooling, writing, and teaching schedule. So are reading, running, time with friends, Star Trek, and mom and daughter dates with my precious kiddos. All of those things together make life a joy and gift.

It really helps that I love writing and I love teaching! Teaching is one of my top two spiritual gifts, and I feel alive when I can share what God has taught me. Chocolate of course helps with all of life's difficult tasks. ;-) Teaching also inspires me to write better and understand how I do what I do. I began teaching a high school creative writing course this year and I love it! My students challenge me to write and teach my absolute best.

All of life helps with writing, making me sensitive to emotions, struggles, joys, and triumphs that bring fiction to life. And fiction helps me understand life. I work out my salvation and my wrestling matches with God at my computer.

JR: Thank you for your time. Could you tell us about your very creative website, and anything else we might be interested in?

Thank you for having me on your blog! Thanks too for the kind words about my website~ Dark Chocolate Suspense ( It's a fun, interactive site that includes information about my books, about keeping kids safe, Bible studies, tips for writers, and fun quizzes about my stories. Please come and have some chocolate inspired fun and leave me a note in the guestbook! I love hearing from readers!

1 comment:

  1. Great introduction to an author I hadn't read, but will definitely be remedying that. Nice interview.