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Still Here

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an interview with Amy Stuart

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

The most difficult part of the process is always simply getting started. This has always been the case, but with the pandemic and an increasingly distracting world, the act of starting has become more and more difficult. I find that once I start writing, I can stay in a flow. Writer’s block isn’t usually a big issue for me, but I find I’m always searching for tricks and tips to quiet the world around me enough that I can sit down and begin. 

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Fundamentally, it didn’t. I published my first novel at 41, so I think my habits were pretty ingrained by then. The key for me has always been to separate the business of writing from the craft. I can’t control what happens in the publishing world, but I can control how much time and effort, and dedication I put into my craft. I will say that working to a publisher’s deadline is an excellent motivator!

What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

It’s more about what I don’t need. I use a program called Freedom to block out the internet while I’m writing, and I try to keep my phone at a distance. Because I have three kids and my life outside of writing is busy, I’ve worked over the years to be able to write almost anywhere — cafés, ice hockey rinks, the kitchen, parks. But my ideal writing space is sunny with a cup of something warm and a blanket over my legs. I’m all about comfort! I’m very grateful that my office at home fits this bill. 

How do you come up with character names for your stories?

I often mix and match the names of people I know as a form of tribute. Cemeteries are also a great spot to find names. There’s one close to my house where I can walk if I need inspiration. 

If you could be mentored by a famous author, who would it be? 

That’s a tough question! So many options to choose from. I think I would pick Alice Munro. I would like to know how she continued to write and learn so beautifully for so many decades, and how she makes decisions about which direction to take her stories. Her writing may not be the same genre or even format as mine (she writes short fiction only), but her ability to surprise the reader is something all writers could learn from.

Speaking of mentoring, you’re also the founder of Writerscape, which works with emerging authors. Can you tell us a little bit about this project?

I founded Writerscape because I’m a teacher by trade, and when I stepped away from full-time teaching I found I missed that connection. Writerscape is a way for me to meld my two big loves — teaching and writing. I’m planning to start offering single-day writing retreats both online and in-person (I hope!) to allow writers who need that little push to get going.

What’s next for you? Are you working on a new project? If so, can you give us a teaser and/or an expected release date?  

I’m almost finished with my fourth novel, which is my first that isn’t in the “Still” series. It’s a standalone that follows our narrator through a single day of her life that takes some very dark turns. No publication date yet, but I’m hoping I’ll know that soon!