Good Morning, Amber! How do you take your coffee?
AMBER: Black, no sugar.
Ally: An excellent choice and very easy to do. I'll pour if you show readers your bio, plus that something extra that is unique to you.
And something unique: I had my first short story published when I was twelve. I’d forgotten about it until about six years ago. My sister and I were sorting through a box of family papers and pictures our father had left us—and there was that story, as well as one I’d written for a high school English class. After this encounter with the family archives, I got serious about writing. I’ve had several events in my life when I felt as if my father’s spirit was giving me a nudge to do something. This was one of them. He was strong believer in following your bliss.
AMBER: I’ve wanted to invent a new genre, the way some chefs like to experiment with recipes, putting together ingredients that aren’t normally combined in ways that end up tasting wonderful. The books are mysteries in the sense that there are puzzles to be solved, and paranormal because my protagonist is a psychic and energy healer, while the overall feel of the books is like general fiction. They are realistic novels with paranormal elements. Shamans’ Blues has some elements of romance, as well, with an unconventional twist.
The mysteries are about missing people, secrets, or unusual spiritual phenomena. In The Calling, the first book in the series, Mae Martin tries to understand mysteries in her own life—why her father disappeared and the mystery of her own unasked for gift. In Shaman's Blues, the second book, the mystery starts with requests for Mae to find two missing people, but these people themselves end up being a greater mystery than their whereabouts. They have layers of secrets. A ghost plays a part in this plot, as well. In the third book (not yet released) a missing pet will end up being a key part of a much more tangled mystery. I’ve got four books more in various stages of progress, and the mysteries range from how a group of healers and psychics lose their gifts, to an attempt to undo an apparent voodoo curse.
Ally: Tell us about Mae’s unusual talent. Do her psychic experiences spring solely from your imagination or have you or someone you've known had similar experiences?
AMBER: I’ve had some psychic experiences but they are not like Mae’s. I dream the future, which seems to be, in my reading and in my encounters with people who are willing to talk about this kind of thing, the most common type of psychic ability. My gift is random—I’ve only been able to dream the future on purpose once. It was 100% accurate, but I don’t know if I could achieve that again.
The inspiration for Mae’s gift came from someone with a more unusual ability, a woman who could read something of your past or present by holding an object that you had handled a lot. She had a vision from holding something of mine that was surprisingly personal and important to me, when I had just met her that evening and she knew next to nothing about me. This ability was perfect for my books. It gives Mae both insights and limits. She can’t see the future, only the past and the present, and she has to access an object for its vibration that connects it to a person. I didn’t want being psychic to be too easy, but I wanted it to be something she could control with skill and discipline.
Ally: What is your writing process? Pantser or plotter?
AMBER: I’m a pantser, but I also plan a lot once I get started. As I write, new characters show up, and plot ideas occur to me. It’s like improv acting, playing all of the roles. I’ll improvise a scene, and then scribble some possible next events. Typing on a keyboard and writing by hand seem to access different thinking processes, so I hand write those tentative outlines. Drawing accesses yet another aspect of my mind. I do some plot-tightening with charts and outlines after the first draft or two, to make sure there are no holes or loose ends.
Ally: When and where do you write?
AMBER: I have a home office dedicated to writing, and I write for anywhere from an hour to eight hours a day depending on the day of the week, day job demands, and travel. I made a commitment years ago never to let a day pass without writing and I’ve kept it. I don’t set goals that can be measured in words or pages, because sometimes I have to spend a lot of time polishing a tricky transitional paragraph, and other times ideas flow so rapidly that I don’t stop to spell-check or polish. It takes no will power to make myself write. The hard part is making myself stop and go to bed. I’m nocturnal, and my creative flow picks up after dark.
Ally: I'm always interested in how other writers handle revisions. How much do you do on your own before involving your editor?
AMBER: The number of revisions is uncountable, I revise so constantly. Each scene I write gets revised immediately. Then I move on to the next, and then I go back to the beginning and revise it all before moving on again. I think every chapter may have been revised a minimum of three of four times before it even goes to the first critique partner. Before anyone sees it I print it out and mark it up. I’m brutal with myself as my own critique partner. I revise again and then I start with a partner who’s good with plot and gives detailed feedback, working one chapter at a time. After the first critique, I revise and send the whole book to the next beta reader. Revise again. Next beta reader. Revise again. I like to have three readers before I send it to my editor, and then I still find myself making last minute fixes when I think it’s done. My books take years.
Ally: What do you do when you're not writing?
AMBER: I read, of course. I love art, and like to go to museums and galleries. I’m a runner—my barefoot shoes are probably my favorite thing I own. I like to go out dancing, and to go hiking in the desert. And I practice yoga daily.
Ally: Let's try a few quick answer questions:
- favorite mystery author: it’s a tie between James D. Doss and Nevada Barr
- high heels or sneakers: Do my Vibram Five Fingers count as sneakers?
- favorite after five drink: decaf green tea (It would be more fun if I said green chile lager or pumpkin ale, but I’ll leave those to one of my characters to enjoy.)
- an item on your bucket list: Make a bucket list! Or maybe the following is the answer.
- your dream vacation would be: retirement. There is so much I want to do traveling around New Mexico, so many events that I miss because I have to work my day job. I want to have the year when I go the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, the burning of Zozobra at the Santa Fe Fiesta, Santa Fe Indian Market, the Gathering of Nations and the Gallup Intertribal, Route 66 Summerfest, and even the Deming Duck Race and Roswell Alien Chase. The year when I don’t miss a thing!
And speaking of books, here are her current covers and blurbs...
A down-to-earth North Carolina country girl, Mae Martin-Ridley is a former high school athlete whose interests run to sports and fitness, not spirituality or mysticism. The last thing she ever expected to be was a psychic or a spiritual healer. Obeying her mother’s warning, Mae has been hiding her gift of “the sight” for years. When events compel her to use it again, the unforeseen consequences spread to affect every aspect of her life—work, marriage, and family. To qualify for a new job Mae takes a class in Norfolk, Virginia, where she meets people who not only accept her abilities but push her to explore them further. She struggles with the shadow side of her gift. Though she wants to use “the sight” to help people, it gives her access to secrets she could regret uncovering. Torn between those around her who encourage her and those who condemn or doubt, Mae has to find her own path.
Barnes and Noble
Mae Martin gets a double-edged going-away gift from her job as a psychic and
healer: beautiful music by a man who’s gone missing, and a request to find him.
When she arrives in her new home in New Mexico, aiming to start life over as she
comes to terms with her second divorce, she faces a new challenge in the use of her gift. Her new neighbors are under the influence of an apparently fake psychic who runs the health food restaurant where they work. When Mae questions the skills of the peculiar restaurateur, the woman disappears—either to Santa Fe, or another dimension. The restaurant’s manager asks Mae to discover which it is.
Finding two missing people proves easier than finding out the truth about either of them, or getting one of them, once found, to go away again.
Mystery crosses between the worlds and romance gets turned upside down in Santa Fe, the City Different.
Barnes and Noble