We got the chance to ask Amy Harmon some of the questions that have been bouncing around our brains since we’ve read her novels. If you haven’t already bought and read Amy’s books, you should get right on that!
Sissy: A Different Blue has a very strong Native American theme. Are you Native American? What Native American influences have you had in your life?
Amy: My husband just found out that his great great grandmother was full-blooded Cheyenne, and he has been making me call him Chief all week. I’m not kidding. He’s absolutely thrilled. But no, I am not Native. In my first book, Running Barefoot, Samuel is Navajo, and that book has an even stronger Native American theme than A Different Blue. Honestly, I don’t know why I am so fascinated by the Native American culture and history. Maybe it’s because it’s such a mystery to so many Americans, and it is such a large part of our American history and heritage. After Running Barefoot, I just wasn’t ready to set it aside, although the two books are very different stories.
Bubby: A common feature in your novels is artistic ability, in this case, Blue’s sculptures. Are you a sculptor or painter?
Amy: My art is limited to my writing and my singing. My children have inherited those same artistic talents. We all draw like we were born without hands….and eyes. However, I imagine that the inspiration for all artistic ability comes from the same place, and it is very easy for me to write about artists. My dad describes inspiration as “thoughts wrapped in light.” Those thoughts wrapped in light can manifest themselves in music, literature, art…whatever you are blessed with. I did meet with a sculptor who uses hard woods like Blue does in the story. His art inspired her art.
Sissy: This new book addresses some much darker issues than your previous books, but it is ultimately (in my opinion) a story of redemption and hope. Life does not always turn out so well, however, so are you ever tempted to go total reality with a story (i.e. Blue turns to prostitution and dies of a drug overdose, leaving a crack-addicted baby to be raised in the foster system and probably follow in her mother’s footsteps…)?
Amy: I’m never tempted to completely surrender to the dark side. I am, after all, a complete, optimistic romantic. But you’re right, Sissy. Life does not always turn out so well, so books need to. Happy endings are a must for me. I have worried about how my readers will react to this new book because it is grittier. Sometimes, in order to tell certain stories, you have to use the language and situations that are authentic to the character because it is the character who tells the story. I still didn’t surrender to certain obscenities – no F word, no Lord’s name in vain, no descriptive sex scenes, etc. I really hope readers who loved my other books will give A Different Blue a shot, because it does have a great message. I believe it is my best book.
Bubby: How do you think growing up in a tiny town influenced your future novels? What would have been different if you’d grown up as a city girl?
Amy: Growing up, we didn’t have a television and I read voraciously. We actually lived in the fields about three miles outside of Levan – the setting for Running Barefoot – and that more than anything shaped my writing, simply because my vocabulary and language skills became very well-developed at a very young age. I think if we had lived in a big city with access to cable and more diversions, I might not have read as much. I still don’t watch TV….except for the dance shows. I’m hoping to become famous enough that I can be a “star” on Dancing With the Stars. Hey, a chubby middle-aged mom can dream, can’t she?
Sissy: You are also a songwriter. Which is more difficult for you–coming up with a story that can be told in the parameters of a lyric and a melody, or writing a full novel?
Amy: Nice research, Sissy! I am a song-writer, and my son is following in my footsteps. He is a brilliant wordsmith, but I always give him grief about his “story line.” The greatest songwriters tell a story. That’s why Taylor Swift has been so successful, in my opinion. In that regard, writing songs and writing novels are very similar. As far as what is more difficult, I’ve written a song in a couple of hours before. That will never, ever happen with a book, so I would have to say writing a novel is ten million times more difficult.
Bubby: How do you balance home/family/music/children/etc. with writing? What’s the first thing that gets left by the wayside when you are in full creative mode? (For Bubby it’s laundry . . .)
Amy: Aw, Bubby. Laundry is always easy to push aside. Especially putting it away. For me, the first things that get pushed aside when I’m in a full creative press are sleep and personal hygiene. Yuck, I know. I do brush my teeth and my hair, but I might remain in the same sweatpants for two or three days. My poor husband. I write about beautiful women, but I get uglier and uglier as a book draws to a close. It’s a good thing my children don’t require me to be pretty. They just need me to be present and available, and that is a definite perk of working from my kitchen table. I’m very grateful for that and so far, I’ve been able to be a decent mom and still write four novels.