From all the
books you have written, do you have a favorite?
Picking between my books would be like picking
between my children. (In fact, since I don't have kids, that's
exactly what it feels like.) Here's how they're different, and I'll
let you choose: EQUIVOCAL DEATH is both a thriller and a
coming-of-age story, drawing on my own experience as a young
attorney at a swanky Manhattan law firm. THE ANNIVERSARY is not
nearly as overtly autobiographical and is played out on a larger
canvas. THE ANNIVERSARY is about three very different women each of
whom are intimately connected to a notorious serial killer. On the
fifth anniversary of his execution, each of these women receives an
anonymous note saying "Happy Anniversary. I haven't forgotten you,"
and the story unfolds from there.
At what point in time did you realize that
writing was "the thing for you"?
I've always written in one form or another. I was a
literature student in college and then worked as a newspaper
reporter. Even while practicing law, I wrote lots of briefs. The
idea of writing a novel, however, didn't come to me until after law
school, when I started reading thrillers for fun. I thought, I'll be
I could do that. And decided to give it a try.
What advice would you give to
someone interested in becoming a writer?
Here are some tips gleaned from my own
(1) Focus on process instead of results. For me,
that means setting a goal of writing a certain number of words a
day--500, 1,000, 1,500--and then trying to let go of judgments about
quality. That's for another day.
(2) Be sure you have a good
support network--friends and/or family members who believe in you
and your goals. Along with family and friends, I've found help in
writers' groups, organizations, and classes. There are also various
national organizations with local affiliates: Sisters in Crime, for
women mystery and suspense writers (though men can also join),
Mystery Writers of America for all mystery and suspense writers,
Romance Writers of America for those interested in that
(3) Think small. One of the biggest mistakes you can
make is setting goals that are too large. What matters is
consistency. If you write 500 words a day, you'll have 15,000 words
at the end of a month, the first draft of a 90,000 word novel in six
other authors do you enjoy reading?
There are so many wonderful suspense and true crime books
that it's hard to pick, but here are five of my
Loves Music, Loves to Dance, by Mary Higgins
Clark. An early effort by the reigning Mistress of Suspense and, to
my mind, perhaps her best.
The Bone Collector, by Jeffery
Deaver. A masterful novel with great plot twists. Another of the
books from which I learned a lot.
The Firm, by John Grisham.
See Mitch run. The mega-best-selling page-turner that put John
Grisham on the map.
Crossed Over: The True Story of the
Houston Pickax Murders, by Beverly Lowry. A novelist's haunting tale
of brutal murder and personal loss. Part memoir, part true-crime, it
retraces the tragic life of Karla Faye Tucker, whose 1998 execution
in Texas sparked widespread debate over the death
Marrying the Hangman: A True Story of Privilege,
Marriage and Murder, by Sheila Weller. The compelling true story of
how a New York woman's picture-perfect life ended in her brutal
murder at the hands of her wealthy psychopathic husband. Ms. Weller,
a veteran journalist, covered the trial for Ms magazine.
types of jobs have you had?
I sometimes joke that I am a serial careerist who writes
about serial killers. After college, I started out as a journalist,
working as an assistant magazine editor in Washington D.C. and then
as a newspaper reporter in the southern United States, where I
covered education and politics. I went on to work for Mississippi's
higher education commissioner and founded a program called the
Mississippi Teacher Corps. From there, I moved on to law school,
practicing law in Manhattan for four years before quitting to try my
hand at writing fiction. THE ANNIVERSARY tells the story of three
very different women, and I've worked in the same fields as all of
them: education, law and journalism!
What led you to write mysteries?
I started reading
suspense novels as an unhappy and over-worked young lawyer. To me,
they were like adult fairy tales and I was really hungry for
something like that. In the traditional thriller--the sort that I
write--however scary or grim things may get, good ultimately
triumphs over evil. To me that's very soothing and reassuring,
especially during times when we struggle to find such order in the
Do you write on a fixed schedule or do you wait until
thoughts come to you?
very deadline conscious, but unlike many writers, I don't keep
"office hours." My work schedule depends on any number of things:
how close I am to a deadline, how easily the words are flowing,
what's going on in my personal and family life. While I do believe
it's important to develop consistent work habits, that word may mean
different things for different people.
How do you spend your free time?
Reading for pleasure,
outdoor sports (cross-country skiing and hiking in particular),
yoga, cooking, board games, hanging out with family and friends.
Do you have
a message you would like to give to all the readers out there?
I'm writing these books
for you, and I do hope that you enjoy them! If you'd like to drop me
a line, you can do so through my web site, http://www.amygutman.com/