Today we have the pleasure of introducing you to Amy T. Schubert. Most of you probably know Amy already, or have read about her at least. She is one of the canon writers in the Engine World, and she participated in the World Builder Summit 2014, where she also demonstrated her talents with a camera. But she is a multifaceted woman with many skills. She edited ALL the stories for the upcoming anthology, and with 24 contributing writers, that’s no small feat. In this interview we talk about her writing, editing, and also touch upon what she has been doing until now – which is a lot.
Thank you for participating. Please give us a short introduction to yourself.
Thank you so much for having me! I’m still not used to this whole being-an-author thing, so I’m flattered. My name is Amy T Schubert, and I plan to publish fiction under my initials (A.T. Schubert). I have been a reader basically my entire life, but only just started trying to write fiction in the last couple years.
In the meantime I studied English in college, even contemplated joining academia and got a Masters degree. I worked in retail, was a wedding photographer for a few years, I worked for years in customer service, and then another handful of years proofreading press releases. Since early 2006 I have been blogging, some personal/lifestyle blogging but mostly with in the crafty, scrapbooking industry, and its many aspects.
In the summer of 2013 I quit my day job. I was absolutely miserable and could not wait to escape. At the time I had only kinda, sorta finished the first draft of 1 novel and had no thought of really doing more. The intention was to make my business-and-blogging-for-creatives site into a full-time income. But, then last fall I wrote another first draft. Loved it. In the spring I wrote another first draft and loved it even more. Then came Fiction Unboxed and I decided to go all-in.
I live in suburbs north of Los Angeles with my recording engineer/producer husband and our cats.
So, you haven’t written anything for publication before?
No! Isn’t this exciting? Although, technically, my Master’s thesis is printed, bound and sitting in my university library. Likely pretty dusty. And I have been blogging since early 2006 and all of that is public. But, no fiction ever published before.
What or who are your biggest creative influences?
Like most English majors, I love the classics; I grew up on Anne of Green Gables and Little Women and Gone With the Wind. I particularly love 20th century American fiction (Nabokov, Tyler, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Updike, Bellow), and the class commentary of authors like Wharton, James and Forster. I also just adore more contemporary books that I call ‘literary fiction through a veil of fantasy’ like The Night Circus, The Magicians trilogy, the later Harry Potter books and others.
But I also read a lot of non-fiction (especially history) and it really is true that truth can be stranger than fiction. I have a couple historical fiction books in early drafts, and will probably write more.
I’m eclectic. I’m not picky. I am on track to read more than 100 books this year and I would count it all as influence of some kind.
Historical fiction? Can you give us a hint of the subject? Sounds interesting, especially when following a sentence like “truth can be stranger than fiction”.
I have 3 historical fiction books in first draft — one that is just a quiet drama about a couple in 1960 and miscommunication; one is a faux-memoir by a former Hollywood starlet (born 1930) so I binged on old movies while I was writing that one.
The one that is ‘stranger than fiction’ is actually a book that Sean Platt is super excited to read, so I’m really motivated to finish it soon. I read a lot of U.S. History, and in one George Washington biography, the author said something like, “Once again, George Washington benefited from the death of a loved one.” I thought, well that’s interesting. Full disclosure: I read a lot of true crime too, and (true story) about 6 or 7 people died that George Washington personally benefitted from their death. He would not have been elected to the Continental Congress without his inheritances from all these deaths. Which means he would not have been General, or President or the most beloved Founding Father in America unless these half-dozen people had not died and left him their wealth.
It’s called George Washington: Serial Killer, and I love it. It’s actually a ‘hidden history’ not unlike Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, where about 85% of the book is very very close to historical fact. It’s just the serial killer bits I made up.
How do you find time to read 100+ books within a year, and still find time to write, take photos, write blog posts, be active on social media, be creative and tend to both husband and cats?
Well, for starters I read pretty fast — reading is my main hobby. And you should also know that my husband works even more than I do and all my closest friends are internet friends and/or far away. So, really I just work all the time. No special productivity secret.
What is your writing environment like and is there anything you’d change about it?
My writing environment changes based on the time of year; I lug my laptop all over the house. I technically have an office, but it’s more for housing my books and doing more creative, crafty projects. It’s not conducive to long writing sessions. Our house gets really hot upstairs in the summer, so I write downstairs, on the couch or in an armchair. In the winter, I like to take my laptop upstairs and write in bed, cozy under the blankets with a cat at my feet. Someday I have plans to put together a proper office with an ergonomic standing desk and all, but that is a future project.
What made you decide to participate in Fiction Unboxed and write in this shared world?
I have been following the SPP podcast since the beginning, jumped in on Fiction Unboxed both to support everything that they do but also to see how crazy you have to be to write that fast. The turning point for me was really committing to participating in the forums and all in Fiction Unboxed. I don’t have hardly any author friends, so meeting a community of writers was gold.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure I would write anything in the world — I gravitate toward literary fiction, much different than what I had read of Sean and Johnny’s in the past, so I wasn’t sure their book would really resonate me. But I loved it, and I loved them and I thought of quite a few ideas for what to write in the world. I feel like being part of this whole community of writers is the perfect way to jumpstart my career as an author — especially since I attended the Summit and my series will be canon.
Do you feel any pressure by being a canon writer in the world? It will be your first published full length novel, right?
Yes, this will be my first published novel. Which, alone is scary enough. But since I have been reading so long and blogging so long I feel like I have enough of a handle on both fiction and writing for audiences that I won’t make a complete fool of myself.
I definitely feel pressure to be a canon writer, but it is also strangely exhilarating to know that someone might read these novels one day and decide to write their own story at my school — The Academy of Appearance and Refinement. What I was most nervous about was matching my details to The Dream Engine, but I decided to set my story almost a generation earlier so any minor discrepancies can be excused away by the passage of time.
Tell us about your story in the “Beyond the Gate” anthology.
My story is quite short, fewer than 900 words. It is just a glimpse at the life of a man who feels driven to visit the Fog every day, as often as he can.
You provided developmental edits on the entire anthology. What was the experience like?
AMAZING. Editing is so much closer to what I have been doing for years, it plays to all my best strengths: big-picture problem solving, logic, critical analysis of text, and (of course) reading quickly! I don’t mind fixing word choice and punctuation, but what I really loved was helping all of these authors craft the best version of their idea. I helped writers identify some tics they have, I helped other writers identify reader confusion, I helped others restructure for greater effectiveness and clarity. Sometimes that was helping them find the through thread that tied their beginning and their ending together, sometimes it was just suggesting that a particular imagery be brought more front and center for symbolism.
I genuinely love it and if I could make developmental editing for fiction writers a regular part of my tasks and income I would be happy.
What do you plan to write next?
I am currently working on book 1 of my within-Alterra series. Set about 20 years before The Dream Engine, my young adult series (currently untitled) is about a boarding school that trains future employees of the Ministry of Decorum. The first book is really more about introducing the world, the school, the very basic overall theme, but future books will get much deeper into the inherent concealment and manipulation in what the Ministry of Decorum does. I know Johnny seemed excited about it, so I am interested to see how that element shows up in The Dream Engine sequels.
I also have a few stand-alone books in early drafts that I will be working on in between my Alterra series.
Will you participate in the next Summit held by Sterling & Stone?
I would love to attend more Summits in the future, as long as I can afford it. I would love for my husband to meet the S&S guys, I would love for Sean/Johnny/Dave to contribute their own ideas to the books I’m writing. I kinda just want to go to Austin and hang out with Sean’s daughter who is the coolest.
Once again, thank you so much for participating. We’re all excited to see what you will write in the Engine World and outside it.
Be sure to check out the Beyond the Gate website, and sign up for the newsletter to be notified when the book comes out. Also, check back soon. We’re publishing a new interview at least once a week (if everything goes as planned). Next up is Jamie Maltman!