Yes, I really should start keeping track of how and where I meet authors! I met Amy Hatvany online somewhere at some point in the past five years (how’s that?) and we bonded over sharing a name—that, the fact that she was super supportive and positive before I even signed with an agent or sold my novel really made an impression on me—just like “the other Amy’s” women’s fiction! Today, Amy Hatvany shares with us where she got the idea for her latest novel SAFE WITH ME, how she writes her best-selling novels, and her matter-of-fact (and smart) thoughts on the term women’s fiction.
Please welcome Amy Hatvany back to Women’s Fiction Writers!
Author Amy Hatvany Just Wants To Keep Doing What She Loves: Writing (And We’re Glad She Does!)
Amy H.: It actually came from an article I read over a decade ago, about a woman in New York city who was having her home remodeled. She became friendly with one of the workers and as the two of them got to know each other, she shared the fact that her husband was recovering from a kidney transplant. When the worker told her that he had actually donated one of his own kidneys to a stranger the previous year, they compared surgery dates and doctors names and it turned out that the worker was the person who saved the woman’s husband’s life. I still get chills thinking about the two of them coincidentally crossing paths. The story idea grew from there.
Amy N.: Sometimes authors draw on people we know for both major and minor characters in our novels. Is that true for you in SAFE WITH ME and can you share? We won’t tell anyone!
Amy H.: I pulled quite a bit of inspiration for the character, Maddie, from my own teenage daughter, Scarlett. They both have the same kind of spunk and sense of empathy. But Hannah and Olivia definitely arrived in my mind already fully formed.
Amy N.: You’re a seasoned novelist. And yes, that makes me picture someone dousing you with parsley and oregano. Still, it’s the truth. This is not your first rodeo. So, here’s the question without the western cliches or the herbs and spices — how do you write your books? Do you wing it and write until you find the story and the rhythm and the characters or are you methodical with character sketches, outlines, and calendars?
Amy H.: I’m not one to prepare a detailed outline of a book, but trial and error has taught me that before I begin writing, I absolutely must have a compelling overall question I am attempting to answer or I will waste countless hours meandering down plot-paths to nowhere. The question is what drives the plot; it is what propels the protagonist(s) to action in every scene.
Before I begin, it also helps me to sketch out a basic, three-act structure of the story. I identify the turning points at the end of Acts I and II ahead of time so I have pin-pointed destinations for my characters to reach. In SAFE WITH ME, the first turning point is when Olivia and Maddie enter Hannah’s salon and the three characters meet for the first time, only one of them suspecting who the other two might be. That encounter spins the plot onward, it gave Hannah something to do, an action to take–discovering whether or not Maddie was the recipient of Hannah’s daughter’s liver. It created tension–leaving the reader wondering if and when Hannah will reveal who she is or if Olivia will simply find her out. The second turning point my characters needed to reach came at the end of Act II, and propelled the story into its resolution phase, and ultimately, the final scene.
Amy N.: Does the term women’s fiction ruffle your writer or feminist feathers?
Amy H.: Not especially. I’m not a fan of labels in general, but I understand that they are a necessary evil when it comes to marketing and the business side of publishing. And I’m proud to say that I write for the largest book-buying population in our country: women. Yes, the sociology major in me would love to get down and dirty into a conversation about gender role bias and the belittlement of women’s intellectual contribution to society, but the writer in me just wants to keep doing what I love. And that’s writing.
Amy N.: If you could do one thing differently in your writing career up to this point — something that others might learn from — what would that be?
Amy H.: I’m still a work in progress with this particular issue, but today I am much better than I was in the beginning of my career at focusing on the positive. On the readers I reach with my stories, whose lives I affect in some kind of way. I’ve spent too much time fretting over the one star reviews and negative commentary about a book. Also, I’d say that I’ve learned to focus more on enjoying the process of writing, staying in the moment and pulling whatever kind of joy I can from it. I spent the first years of this career in a constant state of deep-seated anxiety about what comes next, if it will come at all. Today, I’m pretty good at appreciating whatever spot in the process I might be experiencing, knowing that the rest will take care of itself, one way or another. Some days I am better at this than others, for sure.
Amy Hatvany graduated with a degree in Sociology only to discover most sociologists are unemployed. Soon followed a variety of jobs – some of which she loved, like decorating wedding cakes; others which she merely tolerated, like receptionist.
In 1998, Amy finally decided to sell her car, quit her job, and take a chance on her passion: writing books. Her background in sociology inspires and informs much of her writing as she tackles timely and controversial issues in her novels including mental illness, domestic abuse, and alcoholism. She is the author of BEST KEPT SECRET, OUTSIDE THE LINES (a Target book club pick in 2012 and a Costco Pennie’s Pick in 2013), THE LANGUAGE OF SISTERS, and HEART LIKE MINE. Her latest novel, SAFE WITH ME, was published in March by Washington Square Press/Atria Books.
Amy spends most of her time today with her second and final husband, Stephan. (Seriously, if this one doesn’t work out, she’s done, kaput, no more husbands.) She stays busy with her two children, Scarlett and Miles, and her “bonus child,” Anna. Their blended family also includes two four-legged hairy children, commonly known as Black Lab mutts, Kenda and Dolcé.
When Amy’s not with friends or family, she is most likely reading, cooking, or zoning out on certain reality television shows. Top Chef is a current favorite. She eagerly awaits auditions for the cast of “Top Author.” (“Quick Edit” instead of “Quick Fire” Challenge? C’mon, producers! That’s gripping television!)
Here are great ways to find Amy Hatvany online. Just click!