INTERVIEW WITH AMY GUTMAN

AUTHOR'S WEBSITE:  http://www.amygutman.com/

           APRIL 13, 2004

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 experience:

(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 genre.

(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 months.

What 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 favorites:

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 penalty.

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.

What other 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 real world.

Do you write on a fixed schedule or do you wait until thoughts come to you?

I'm 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/


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                                               ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Amy grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. After graduating magna cum laude from Harvard University, she began a career in journalism. Amy's first job out of school was a yearlong stint at the Wilson Quarterly in Washington, D.C. She then headed south, first to Nashville, Tennessee, where she spent two years as a reporter at the Tennessean newspaper, and then to Mississippi, where she spent six months reporting in the Delta town of Greenwood before moving to Jackson, where she served as Capitol Correspondent for a group of Mississippi papers. Eventually, a job offer from the state's higher education commissioner lured Amy away from journalism, and she went on to become the founding director of the Mississippi Teacher Corps, a nationally renowned program that recruits outstanding college graduates to teach in rural Mississippi school districts. After three intriguing years in Mississippi, Amy decided to make her way back to the East Coast, where she enrolled at Harvard Law School. Amy graduated with honors in 1993 then moved to New York City, where she became associated with the firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore. After two sleep-deprived years in Cravath's litigation department, Amy moved on to the firm of Parcher, Hayes & Snyder, a litigation boutique with a substantial entertainment practice. Two years later, Amy left Parcher, Hayes to write the book that eventually became EQUIVOCAL DEATH. Amy's first foray into the world of fiction won resounding praise from established writers. Nelson DeMille (The General's Daughter, Up Country) described EQUIVOCAL DEATH as "a smart and powerful novel of suspense from a gifted new writer." Jeffery Deaver (The Bone Collector, The Stone Monkey) says EQUIVOCAL DEATH is "a marvelous standout." EQUIVOCAL DEATH was a People Page-Turner of the Week, a Redbook Editor's Pick and one of the Chicago Tribune's Best Books of 2001. Amy's second novel, THE ANNIVERSARY, was published by Little, Brown in June 2003 along with the paperback edition of EQUIVOCAL DEATH, which was published by Warner Books. THE ANNIVERSARY tells the story of three women, whose lives are forever changed when they cross paths with a notorious serial killer. On the fifth anniversary of his execution, each of these women gets a private letter--a chilling message that lets them know that in someone's dark imagination the killer's legacy lives on. THE ANNIVERSARY will be featured in Reader's Digest Select Editions and is an alter